Monday, July 10, 2017

Redstone traverse in the Scapegoat

I have been excited to explore more in the Scapegoat and Bob Marshall wilderness complexes, so when a rare mid-week day opened up, I drove out to Copper creek with plans for a nice long traverse over Red Mountain, the highest point in the Scapegoat. 
Red mountain in sight from about halfway along the ridge.
I rolled out of my sleeping bag in the back of the truck at first light, and was running from the Indian Meadows trailhead at 5:45 am.  The two miles of dirt road went quickly, and I was soon running up the Snowbank trail to Stonewall mountain.  I had feared the trail would be faint and clogged with fire blowdown, but it ended up being runnable with only a dozen down trees.  I eventually topped out on the more heavily used Stonewall ATV trail, and ran up to the lookout.  The pace was probably a little bright.  I arrived at the lookout 2.5 hours into the day.
Snowbank trail at sunrise. 
Rolling up to Stonewall.
From Stonewall, I began working along the seven mile ridgeline to Red Mountain.  In this direction, the character of the ridge becomes more appealing for the duration of the traverse.  The first hour plus was below treeline, and I walked a lot through beargrass, punchy snow, and downfall from recent fires.  But it was never even quite bad enough to count as bushwacking, and I was soon on cleaner and faster terrain.  I worked through countless short ups and downs for the next few hours, taking advantage of late season snow in many places to bypass slower rugged terrain on the ridge crest.  Soon enough, I was at the saddle where the historic mining road intersects the divide.  My stomach was a touch off, so I took a few minutes to eat some real food and regroup.
More fun terrain along the traverse.
Snow made or quick travel.
The section from the saddle over Blonde mountain to Red was sublime and altogether too short.  I did see a grizzly bear, but it ran off when I yelled, and I had bear spray, so the encounter was not scary.
Hey Bear.
Looking back from Red mountain.
Heading home.
As has been the case with slightly lower fitness, I hit the final summit with heavy legs, not sure how the eleven mile run out was going to go.  Fortunately, the legs came around, and I spent a delightful two hours running through well maintained trails, stopping regularly to soak my shirt and generally wage war on the heat.  And soon I was back at the car, happy, tired, and almost two hours ahead of schedule.  26 miles and about 6,000 vertical feet done in 8.45 at a bright pace given the duration of the outing.  2.5 hours to Stonewall, 4.5 hours on the ridge, just under 2 hours on the trail exit.

Thoughts:  Great traverse.  It was fun to do a completely non-technical outing and move fast(ish) all day.  I would go back and do it again for sure.  There are two shorter outings that would perhaps be even higher quality:

1) Park at the Copper creek gate, bike downhill about 7 miles to the Indian Meadows trailhead, run trails to the summit of Red, and returning to the car via the ~2-mile ridge traverse south and mining road extension of the main Copper creek road.  This would be a more condensed and high quality loop.

2) A simple out and back ascent of Red mountain from the Copper creek gate via the main road and long south ridge would be an excellent moderate day hike.

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