Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summiting Lolo Peak

After work on Saturday, Justin and I headed up to a campsite on Mormon Peak Road to meet up with Blake and Joe. We watched an amazing sunset after snacking on bread, cheese, hummus, and wine. We watched Missoula's fireworks display and then headed back to camp to turn in. Sunday was going to be a long and arduous day of hiking.

After a fitful night of sleep, the four of us were ready to hit the trail at 8:30am. We were on a mission: to summit Lolo Peak, elevation 9,140 feet. From where we started it was a 3,300 foot gain in elevation with an average grade of 23 percent and approximately 6.5 miles.

The four of us took pit stops as necessary. The picture above is at Carlton Ridge, elevation 8,252 feet. The peak on the left is our destination, Lolo Peak, the one on the right is North Peak. By this time, we had hiked on smooth trails for just over 4 miles.

The trail leading to the above lake, Carlton Lake, was all downhill (finally), and surrounded by beautiful vegetation and little yellow flowers. We did not linger long here, as the mosquitos were horrible. Instead, we hiked along the lake to where we would start the long scramble across boulders to get to the base of Lolo Peak, where we would scramble up more boulders. Unfortunately, this is where our first injury happened. While climbing over rocks, a large 60 pound boulder fell on Blake's foot. No broken bones, however he chose at this time that he would not summit with us. Instead, he elected to wait in the area for us. About this time, we had our first encounter with the spontaneous mountain weather. It hailed on us for about 15 minutes.

Justin, Joe, and myself carried on. We made it to the top of Lolo Peak just before 2pm without incident.

The view from the top was amazing. Snow covered valleys and mountains that you can only see from Lolo Peak or a plane were right in front of us. We enjoyed the view for about 20 minutes or so and decided to head back down, as another front seemed to be moving in, and it did. This time the hail was larger and seemed to hurt quite a bit more. Trying to move as quickly and as safely as possible, I still took a small tumble. No damage beyond a few bruises and a long scrape on my leg, we made it down to scramble over more rocks to meet up with Blake.

We completed the rest of the hike in a light rain, reaching the trail head at 5:50pm, 9 hours and 20 minutes after starting. From there, we headed to The Jack for a couple of beers and appetizers, then off to Lolo Hot Springs for a much needed soak.

Although I was very tired and sore from my adventures, I had a blast. This is certainly a weekend I will remember for quite some time.

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