Chapter 1: The Scouting

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I’m not against roughing-it, but I’m not going to make myself completely miserable if there’s no need.

Ben, a friend who I’ve gone many an excursion with in the Anaconda-Pintler wilderness, arrived back in town last Sunday and by the next morning we had formed a plan to hike Senate. We took into account the large mass of neon colors seen on the weather.gov site and decided this would be the best choice as the cabin would provide us more enjoyable accommodation relative to the one-ply polyester and fiberglass used by nomads of today.

Using the cabin as our HQ, we started off for Ivanhoe lake. The beginning of the hike had us traversing a north-facing slope with snow covering more ground than there was bare, losing the trail for a good bit before re-gaining our bearings. The lake was a stark contrast to the conditions of a year before. The water level was at least 20 feel higher and half of if still had a sheet of ice. A few casts with a spinner yielded nothing but popsicles. We trudged through the slush back to the cabin, stoked the fire, and began drying our shoes for the next day’s hike.

Tuesday morning met us with a fresh 5 inches of snow. What else to expect from a Montana summer above 7500 feet? Most of the morning was spend lazily completing crossword puzzles from a September 2004 Montana Post newspaper before summoning enough stupidity to climb Senate mountain in running shoes. By the time we had completed a third of the hike my feet had become completely soaked. Tackling the remaining 200 vertical feet off trail was merely a game of trial and error to see if your next step would place you on 6 inches of nice hard packed ice crust or plunge your leg through 3 feet of slush. A nice warm cabin at the end of the march was a very nice thought to keep in mind.

A Wednesday birthday necessitated our return to Philipsburg, but I was back out the following day to Kaiser lake. On Friday I wanted to scout-out a trail of which I had previously only known a very small portion. I stashed my heavy equipment in my tarp and only packed my day-sack with a few key items for an ultralight hike/run. About 4 miles in I was convinced this path was just a point A to point B, boring, vista-less route and turned around to run the same 4 hum-drum miles back.

For the solstice I did a quick one-night camp on Carpp lake. The cerulean skies and glass water provided some spectacular photo opportunities of Warren peak. A thunderstorm came through on the hike down and there were moments when I could only count a few seconds between the lightning and clap of thunder.

This week’s weather should prove to be a bit more hospitable and allow for some longer multi-night excursions.

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