Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sweeney to Lolo traverse

Bypassing gendarmes about half way through the traverse.
On one of the smokiest days of the year, Leah and I did the Sweeney to Lolo traverse.  I have been meaning to do this one for a long time, and it seemed reasonably prudent to give it a go with the optimistic thought that we might be above the smoke. And we were... for the morning at least. Since a primary goal was to stay as high as possible, we did the full Carlton to Sweeney car shuttle, which took over an hour on both ends, and could be truncated by parking down at Mill creek and stopping lower on the Sweeney road.
Plateau cruising west of Sweeney.
The hike up to Sweeney was quick and enjoyable. Much to our delight, the smoke had cleared significantly, and we were able to see peaks of the southern Bitterroot and sort-of-kind-of not choke on smoke for a few hours. The traverse to Lolo was new to me, and we just nosed our way through it, staying on or near the ridge the entire way except the corner where the Sweeney ridge abuts the crest of the range (which we bypassed on the north). I found the route to my liking, with lots of easy scrambling intermixed with open plateaus and some krumholtz to keep things appropriately scrappy. We hit the main Lolo summit about 2.5 hours after leaving Sweeney peak, and the North summit not much later.  The smoke rolled in during the egress, but was not bad enough to smother our spirits after a good day in the home range.
Leah descending from Sweeney peak.
Weaving around scrappy trees with Lolo peak in the background.

We were back in the smoke by the time we hit the North summit.
This is a good outing.  With the full car shuttle, it is only a few hours longer than doing a simple out and back to Lolo peak. No matter how you skin the shuttle cat, it is very reasonable day as long as you run the downhill trail sections.  Although I believe detailed route description is available on Summitpost, the routfinding is intuitive.  7.5 hours car to car at a moderate pace, except the ridge scrambling, which was relaxed.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to wonder if starting the day farther afield (Bass creek?  St. Mary's to Heavenly Twins?!) would make for a worthwhile long outing...

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