3 Peaks to Conquer this Summer
3 Peaks to Conquer this Summer
June 21, 2017
Get High in Montana and Wyoming
Summer in Montana means it’s time to get up high. As the snow melts away, the mountains become more and more accessible. From July to September you should be able to reach the summit of many of the peaks in the Beartooths. While there is a ton of climbing and mountaineering within a couple hours of Billings, you can head as far as you want to tackle some amazing mountains and formations.
Here are three peaks that I recommend you knock off your bucket list; if not this summer, then make plans to tackle them in the next year or two.
The Peaks of Montana and Wyoming
Granite Peak – Montana’s highest point isn’t nearly as high as many others in the western half of the country, but it’s in the top four as far as difficulty goes (Denali is the hardest, then Granite, Gannett (Wyoming) and Rainier (Washington) all compete for the next hardest). One reason is that it’s a fickle mountain. You hike in for 12 miles just to get to the base of it, and you then have half a day to climb before thunderstorms roll in… unless they don’t.
The best way to climb Granite Peak is with someone that has been to the top before. You will definitely want to at least find a map and route guide online to carry up with you; and bring a rope. A class 3 scramble doesn’t require ropes, but you’ll want them.
Avalanche Lake is nearby; maybe stop and catch a fish.
The Grand Teton – The Grand Teton towers over Jackson Hole at 13,776 feet. Surrounded by her sisters, there is no shortage of mountaineering in this area… and the crowds show it. It’s a good 8 mile hike before you get to the mountain, and in order to camp in the backcountry you have to get permission from the Ranger Station (call ahead, it fills up fast).
On the day of the climb, you go up. And up. And up. There’s little to judge size and distance when everything around you is made out of granite (check out the thumbnail picture to see the size and scale of these monoliths), so it’s often surprising when you look back and see a fellow climber as a tiny little dot way down there. The Grand is a workout, and to get down you need ropes to shorten the trip considerably. Be prepared for at least 2 very long days of hiking and climbing
Devil's Tower – If mountaineering isn’t your thing, but you do enjoy rock climbing, then head southeast of Billings to Devil's Tower. The unique basalt columns are thought to be the remnants of a past volcano, and provide some of the best basalt climbing in the states. The popular Durrance Route is rated a 5.6, but it looks like a 5.7, and it climbs like a 5.8. One reason is that the rock has literally worn smooth from traffic. Save the hassle and choose one of the many other amazing climbs up the rock.
During the month of June there is a voluntary climbing closure. The tower is a sacred site to many Native Americans, and out of respect for their culture you may want to wait till July. But even then you’re not in the clear. From March to July falcons nest on the outcroppings, and many of the routes are closed to protect their nests. Check the closures page before you climb.
Go Climb Something
Whether you’re heading out to one of the many peaks throughout the Beartooths, knocking off some high points, scaling the Owen-Spalding route up The Grand, or testing your fist jams on Devil’s Tower there’s one thing to keep in mind: stop and admire the view. The higher you get, the more fascinating it becomes, so don’t forget to look around a little bit.
Scott is a writer, outdoor enthusiast, beer snob, and woodworker. When he is not out exploring all of the wonders around Billings, he loves to sit down for a frosty brew at one of the many great breweries we have available to us. You can read about most of his adventures, and many of the fine brews he has sipped right here. Find out more about Scott at ScottSery.com