Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Southern Swan traverse

Driving home from the Swans last weekend, I gazed fondly at the southern portion of the range.  Little did I know that my subconcious was already formulating plans for another traverse.  A week later, Leah and I traversed from Matt mountain to Holland lake, summiting Matt, Fisher, Ptarmigan point, Ptarmigan, Wolverine, and Carmine peaks.

Another late night bike shuttle allowed for a comfortable start at 6:40 am from the Rice ridge trailhead.  We hiked the old roadbed to the toe of the range, up the steep trail to the crest of the range, then up the ridge for a little bit to Matt mountain and a quick break.  The traverse to Fisher was surprisingly quick, and we summited about 3 hours into the trip.  Downclimbing the class 4 north ridge was a little time conuming, and the ridge traverse was long, so we didn't arrive at Ptarmigan point until early afternoon.  After working through some tricky downclimbing on the north ridge, we traversed easily to Ptarmigan peak, then with surprising animosity to Wolverine peak.  Ready to be done, we continued to Carmine peak by early evening, then donwnclimbed the knife edged northeast ridge to treeline.  We decided to bushwack straight down to the grail, bypassing Gordon pass and Upper Holland lake.  This turned out to be a mistake, I think, and we ended up with a good portion of cliffy, thick bushwacking.  We avoided consumption by bear, and were soon back on the trail, alternating between jogging and hiking.  The egress was surprisingly long, but soon enough we found ourselves fixing a surprise flat tire back at the car.

Morning.  Matt Mountain, Montana.  Marvelous.
Leah coming up some 4th class on the bumps south of Fisher peak.
Classy walking north of Wolverine peak.
The southern traverse can't quite match the sheer elegance of the northern traverse, but don't be fooled, the route is high quality and memorable.  Throw in the added commitment of no easy bail options along the ridge, and the opportunity to summit 5 of the 10 highest peaks in the range, and the traverse should be on the list of every ambitious Missoula-based hiker/peak scrambler and/or runner.  I haven't looked too hard at the map, but for stats, I'm thinking just under 6,000 vertical feet, roughly 15 miles, and done in a little under 14 hours car to car at a casual pace.

So the question remains, how about linking the southern and northern traverses into a logical 30+ mile, 15,000+ vertical foot mega traverse?  I'm curious.  And intimidated.  Hmmm... 


  1. Go for the full traverse.! For sure.

  2. Looks like your due for an Alpne Trail ride now...Napa to Hall Lake and you'll have traversed a pretty healthy dose of the Swan.

  3. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Beau.

    Yeah, I've heard about that ride - looks pretty amazing, at least on a map. So much to do...

  4. Great work Brian! The full traverse sounds spectacular...if you need a partner who likes to have type 2 fun you should call me!

  5. Yeah Ben, I'll let you know for sure. Good to see you're summit register on N. trapper yesterday.

  6. Well hell, i think it's a unanimous "go for it!"