Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sweeney peak to creek loop

Looking west along the traverse from the summit of Sweeney peak.
It took a 3:30 wake up call, but I finally, finally, finally got this one done.  Jeffrey and I were thwarted last fall by weather, and a return trip the day after the election was derailed because my soul was crushed. But this time it was going to be great. The plan for the day was pretty simple:  get up early, scramble Sweeney peak, take the ridge west to the head of Sweeney creek, drop to Duffy lake, and take the trail back to the car, then rush home to pack up and head out for a backpack trip in the Pintlers.

Everything went easily.  The climb to the peak was aided by supportable snow, and I summited shortly after sunrise on an impeccable, breathless morning.  The traverse west along the crest is scrappy but never unpleasant, and it went quickly.
Sunrise from the climber's trail to Sweeney peak.
Looking out to Lolo peak from the summit of Sweeney.
I completely bypassed slow gendarmes at the head of the drainage by descending into an unnamed tarn and doing a short snow climb to regain the unnamed summit directly above Duffy lake.  From there a snowy, rock-slabby, bear-grassy descent put me at the lake a little over three hours into the day.  The run out on the trail was great - all runnable and just technical enough to be interesting.  I pushed all day at a slightly bright but sustainable pace, and returned to the car in a little under 4 hours, 40 minutes, elated to have finally done this fine little outing so close to town.
Climbing out of the tarn.
Descending to Duffy lake. Pyramid Buttes and Holloway lake are in the background.
Thoughts:  This is a good, remarkably quick outing.  It is a little too scrappy to be one of the best around Missoula, but it is pretty user friendly for the Bitterroot.  It would be good to add Pyramid Buttes to the day.  This is also the time of year to do a Sweeney to Lolo traverse on foot.  One could bypass slow ridgeline traversing on firm snow at the head of One horse creek, and it would be fun.  A fit mountain savvy runner could get the whole thing done comfortably in five hours, I think.

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