Monday, June 12, 2017

Old Baldy to Rocky Mountain Traverse in the Front

The traverse.  On Old Baldy.  Rocky Mountain still had its head in the clouds.
I have always wanted to spend more time in the Rocky Mountain Front.  We were able to take advantage of good weather and relatively snow-free early season conditions to pull off a quick but successful trip.  Saturday was spent lazily spending time with family, packing up, and driving out to the South Fork Teton trailhead.  I went to bed excited for an early morning jaunt through the mountains.

I was walking just before first light after a rather rude 4:15 alarm.  The approach was all off trail, and the low end Pretty Bad bushwacking started right from the trailhead.  Soon enough I was at treeline, starting up the endless loose scree.  The climb up Old Baldy went quickly.  Near the summit, clouds and biting wind had me shivering in all my clothes.  But I pushed up, tagged the summit, donned micro spikes, and ran down about 2,000 feet of steep snow and scree to the warm basin below.  I passed the next ridge by climbing a steep snow couloir with microspikes and running down scree to the next basin above Our lake.  Another short push up steep snow put me on the high pass south of Headquarters pass, a little tired but generally pleased with the day.  Thirty minutes of tundra running, steep talus traversing, and ridge downclimbing put me at Headquarters pass.
Looking back up at the Old Baldy descent.
Second climb. Steep snow, anyone?
Looking back from the pass above Our lake.
The highlight of the route is climbing the striking 4th class North ridge of Rocky Mountain, and I got right to work.  The climbing head and muscle memory is quite rusty, but the climbing was all easy, and I had a great time moving up to the summit.  An easy half hour of descending with micro spikes put me on the trail, and from there it was easy cruising out.
Excited to start up the striking North ridge of Rocky Mountain.
I met Leah and Sam on the trail, and we headed back up to Headquarters pass and did a great hiking loop to Our lake.  Sam had a great time napping in the baby carrier, trying to eat dirt and rocks, and getting his first sample of steep snow glissading.  It was a great day.
Tricky stream crossing. Sam was unphased.
Leah hiking to the pass above Our lake.
Thoughts:  The running traverse was a blast.  It isn't an absolute classic, but it is quite good.  It would be fun to extend the traverse from somewhere farther off the North fork of the Teton, but this route does not require a shuttle, and is certainly a clean, logical, and highly recommended tour through a high corner of the Rocky Mountain front.  Somewhere around 6,000 vertical feet and not a lot of miles, would have done it in about 6 hours car to car had I run all the way out to the car.  The snow required micro spikes, but it was preferable to negotiating loose steep scree that inevitably emerges later in the summer.
Mountains and lovely people.  About as good as it gets.

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