Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Beartooths

It looks like the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is on my radar again.  Now I've got two contacts that aren't too far away, and one in particular that looks promising as a "staging area"—so rather than taking my summer 2017 trip in the Uintas again, which I've blogged about here probably ad nauseum, I'm thinking of a GYE hike.  I'm really spoiled for choice in the GYE, but I've kind of focused on four areas as "highest priority" for the area that would trump all other potential options; at least until their done:

  • The Teton Crest Trail
  • The Wind Rivers, including Titcomb and Indian basins, and Cirque of the Towers.
  • An exploration of the Gros Ventre; the least ambitious option is only a night or two in a tent; the most ambitious is a good week and a half
  • The Beartooths
I'm thinking of applying for Teton Crest Trail permits in my window and if I get it, then doing that (a probably 3-5 night outing, so I could do a minimalist Gros Ventre hike maybe as part of that trip) but if I don't—and I think that's the most likely, then I need to have a Plan B (which in many ways is actually the Plan A.)  And for this, I find myself leaning towards the Beartooths.

I long ago came up with a caltopo map that shows a bunch of stuff in the area, and with the exception of marking the Sphinx and Helmet Trailheads, it's all right there in the Beartooths.  However, I don't think these routes would work for me without a bit of modification.  For the most part, they're point to point hikes (Lake Fork Trailhead to Rosebud Trailhead and Rosebud Trailhead to Cooke City/Colter Pass—which is the so-called "Beaten Path" route.)  In addition to the point to point hikes, I've added a few options, but all of them require some kind of car shuttling.  While it's not impossible that I could have access to easy car shuttling, I'd much rather be able to do all this independently on my own, which requires making loops out of these hikes.  I'll need to spend some work and time on figuring out what the "greatest hits" of the Beartooths are, in that case.  

From the attached/linked map, you can see that the purple route can rather easily be converted into a lollipop by simply ignoring the second half where you go over Sundance Pass, up West Fork Rock Creek and up onto Rosebud Plateau to get to Rosebud Trailhead, and heading back to the Lake Fork Trailhead from Keyser Brown Lake.  It's a bit of a bummer, but it's really Black Canyon lake, the actual Bears' Tooth, and then while I'm at it, since I'm so close, Sky Pilot Mountain that I want to see on that hike.  The second half was more about linking the two routes than because anything on the second half was really a "must see."

The "Beaten Path" (the Red Route) can be converted into a lollipop easily as well; if I follow it as far as Fossil Lake, which is almost all of the dramatic portion of the scenery, I can then hop on the light blue route (all of which is actually off trail, although I'm given to understand that use trails make up some of the route) I can rejoin the "stick" of my lollipop near Big Park Lake.  I could even do the green option at this point if I'm not exhausted from all of this hiking and all of these days in the mountains at this point, although I've been told that the pass between Snowbank Mountain and Point 11,848 (that connects Bergschrund and Summit Lakes) is not a fun one; I might do either of those hanging valleys as spurs and not try to link them; assuming I do either of them at all.)

Later when I have more time, I might whip up a caltopo of those two proposed routes and see how many miles it really is.  But for now, it's reasonably easy to see what I'm talking about based on the map above.

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