Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Northern Swan traverse

Looking north to Holland peak after about an hour on the ridge.

I spent a hot Saturday traversing the crest of the Swan range from the lookout above Holland lake to Smith Creek pass.  I had done this trip as an overnight in the summer of 2004, and it was fun to return almost a decade later with a light and fast approach.  I jogged out of the Holland lake trailhead before first light.  My legs felt sluggish, so I kept the pace relaxed, and enjoyed a spectacular sunrise on the Mission mountains.  I left the trail at the lookout, traversing north before dropping almost 1,000 feet to upper Necklace lake for 3 liters of water.  From the lake, I regained the ridge and continued over Buck mountain to the normal south ridge route on Holland peak.  I continued down the class 4 north ridge of Holland peak as the first cramping sensations began to creep into my thighs.  Having no desire to sieze up into a cramped ball of pain this far from the car, I slowed to brisk hiking pace through the immaculate, extended knife-edge ridge walking north of Holland.  Eventually the knife edge ridge broadened out, and I scrambled quickly across the head of Albino basin and up the south ridge of the peak south of Coney.  Hurrying down the north ridge, I spied Leah and Natalie making their way to Coney peak.  I eventually caught them, and we summited the final peak within minutes of one another.  The run out was enjoyable, if not a bit longer than anticipated.  We all rendezvoused back at the car, swapping stories from another amazing day in western Montana.
Looking out at Holland lake and the Missions.
Looking back south along the clean ridge to Holland peak.

General thoughts:
This traverse is very high quality, especially the portion from Holland peak to Smith creek pass.  I would heartily recommend it as one of the finest long hikes/scrambles in the Missoula area.

Total elevation gain (based on topo map):  10,200 feet
Trip length: 9 hours, 42 minutes trailhead to trailhead
Partial Accomplices: Leah and Natalie 
Sustenance:  Big breakfast (too big).  6L of water with electrolyte tabs and about 2,500 calories of Gu, Honey, Heed, and energy bars.
Fatigue factor (1-10): 7
Cramp severity index (1-10): 7.5 (merely threatening)
Stoke factor: (1-10): 9
Memories to suppress:  Late night bike shuttle, frustrating threat of cramps for much of the time, descending to the wrong lake for water.

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