Monday, December 7, 2015

Bitterroot - Highest 25 peaks

Late in the summer, I made an informal goal of climbing the last of the remaining high points in the Bitterroot before ski season. Armed with insufficient research which indicated I was only four peaks shy, I put in took two link up days to get 'em all.

Since spending and evening or two combing through maps (one of my all time favorite pastimes), I now have a preliminary list.  And a handful of unnamed remote peaks that I didn't previously know about for future adventures. The list is fairly arbitrary since I grouped several peak groups (Como peaks, Shard peaks, Heavenly Twin groups, etc), and left others split (Trapper group, Lonesome Bachelor/Como group).  I also did not include several minor high points along canyon ridge tops with less than 500 feet of prominence.

I also included some off the cuff route information.  Hope folks find it useful, and I would be excited if anyone has knowledge and feedback to sharpen it up.  Most notably, is there a common name for South Chaffin peak/The Tusk? 

Note:  For those seeking summer time Bitterroot route information, Michael Hoyt's Bitterroot guidebook is the best resource out there.  I recommend going local and picking up a copy at the Trailhead in Missoula.  Most of the information is also posted at summitpost.

Peak NameElevationSummer RoutesSki Routes
Trapper Peak10157Most rewarding non technical route is from Baker lake. Cowboy traverse from Trapper.Easy access in spring. North couloirs.
El Capitan9983South couloir on East face to upper South face. Combine with Lonesome Bachelor and Como peaks.Southeast couloirs would be standard. East face is perhaps the best steep skiing objective in the range.
The Shard9883South face. Northeast ridge from Little Tin Cup. Southeast face is skiiable but over cliffs. Doable but not recommended.
Boulder Peaks9804East ridge from Boulder point (or Nelson lake). Or do loop traverse from Bare.East Boulder peak has many great ski lines. Northeast face from summit is a good steep skiing objective. Only the last 400 feet are challenging.
North Trapper Peak9801Southeast face (4th). Or Cowboy traverse to Trapper (Easy 5th. recommended). Or North ridge (5.7 recommended).Southeast face and couloir are skiable from near the summit
West Trapper Peak9772South face from Trapper approach. Northwest couloir (not from summit) looks good.
Como Peaks9624From Little or Tin Cup are both rugged. South faces. North ramp of Middle Como is OK. Northeast faces of the other peaks look challenging but doable.
Little Tin Cup Peak9617East face from Chaffin Creek.East face from Little Chaffin. South face into Chaffin has a few continuous avalanche paths. Possible to combine with Tin Cup chutes?
Saint Joseph Peak9587From Little St. Joe. Or continue out to Stormy Joe and loop back down Bass creek.Skiable on all aspects. Standard approach is up Southeast face.
Sugarloaf Peak9586North couloir. Moderate technical ridges on North face could have potential.North couloir is a Bitterroot classic.
South Chaffin Peak/The Tusk9485West ridge from Chaffin Creek (Easy 5th). South face should have some good harder routes (5.10 and up?)Not skiable from summit
Bare Peak   9459East ridge from Nelson LakeNortheast face. Many north couloirs which look good.
Mink Peak9363South face or Southwest ridge from extension of Trapper approach looks most logicalSouth face?
Mount Jerusalem9355South face.South face looks just OK.
Saint Mary Peak9351Trail up East ridge. Extend to Heavenly TwinsEasy access in spring. Many east facing options. Southwest face with potential to go farther west toward Hevenly Twins.
South Heavenly Twin9282Southwest face. Northwest ridge is dirty easy 5th. East face is 4th. Traverse between summits is not technical. Can traverse in from St. Mary's (recommended).Southwest face. East face is challenging but good. South face from Big creek (not from summit).
Trapper Lake peak9260Southeast face from Chaffin creek?Southeast face from Chaffin creek? This one is a long way back.
Lonesome Bachelor9185Southwest ridge (4th) from upper Little Rock creek lakes is easiest, but it is best to combine this with El Capitan. Not skiable. Except the Northeast face might be skiable but would be very challenging.
Whites Mountain9162From Bear Pass in Lost Horse creek. Probably north side from the South Fork of Lost Horse creek.
Sweeney Peak9161East ridge. Or traverse from Lolo or loop from Pyramid Buttes.Northeast face. There is some skiing farther east of the main summit.
Canyon Peak9154Southeast face is standard. North ridge (5.2) is recommended.South face to within a few hundred feet of the summit. East face from summit ridge is a good steep skiing objective.
Lolo Peak9139Northeast face from Carlton lake. Or loop from Mill Creek and Lantern ridge (recommended).Good skiing on all aspects
Ward Mountain9119Summer trail. Can traverse from Twin lakes in upper Lost Horse creek.Summer trail. Southeast face into Camas creek is OK.
East Whites9095Probably from Como lake approach to Koch.Probably from South Fork Lost Horse creek.
Koch Mountain9072From Como lake road.North couloirs are highly recommended on years when the South Fork of Lost Horse creek has snow.
Little Saint Joe9033Summer trail. Continue to St. Joseph.East face from Bass creek. Many options to continue further West, including Pinball Wizzard.
Stormy Joe9003West ridge from trail above Bass lake.South couloirs. Many options, although not all go from exact summit.


  1. Nice list, it differs a bit from the Rocky Mountaineers' Bitterroot 9,000-foot peak list, which uses slightly different criteria (Steve Niday has done all of them):

    Another interesting one to do would be the top 25 prominent peaks in the Bitterroots, which would include classics such as Castle Crag, Hauf Peak, etc., which are under 9,000'.

  2. @ Ambassador for the Truth: Thanks for the link - this is great stuff! I'll update the unnamed peaks I didn't know about. And of course, hats off to Steve Niday. It is always exciting to pick up bits and pieces of Bitterroot mountaineering history.