Monday, November 16, 2009

Back to the Mountain - for some Mountain Climbing

With a successful deer hunt completed, it was time to head back up into the Beartooth Mountains.

There is a big mountain up above the cabin we love to hike and explore, with several of our expedition flags are still hanging up there. This year, we decided to hike the North Face, where the cliffs are to see if we could get into the big Caves we see up there.

But no one remembers the way up!

Here is the mountain emerging from the weather as we start up.

Sugarloaf mountain isn't a big one, but it is prominant and fun.

You can see all the dead and burned trees. The Yellowstone fire from back in the 1980's burned right up to our property and these are remnants from that fire.

In fact, the cabin is built from salvaged logs from that fire.

It is cool to see how the fire and later wind sculpted the wood.

The hike up the side got very steep and tough in places.

The rock is very rough, brittle, and "rotten". Very tricky to keep your footing!

Great views, though. We've hiked, hunted, and explored most of this basin area you can see.

Finally, we made it! The youngest boy and I got to the top rim-rock at the edge of the cliffs and avalanche shoot.

We were only 30 yards from the caves, but the high winds, ice, and steep, loose rock kept us from making it!

Oh well, we made it close and felt good about turning back. You can see the cabin WAYYYYY DOWWNNNNN below!

At the base of the mountain there is some great country. Alot of deer sign, and a few "bear caves" we had to snoop around in.

It would be a tight fit for the big bears we've seen, but perfect for a smaller, 7-8 foot bear...

Or a 10 year old kid...

Here is a look at how rough it is below the cliffs. If you look up at the top of the cliff you can see the biggest cave we tried to get at.

Alot of deer - big deer, sigh in this area. We watched a small bull moose run out of here while up above. The elk seem to like this area, too.

We called this part of the mountain "Busted Crotch Bench" because of all the "Crotch-busting" timber and rocks.
Great cover for animals, though - they can move fast through it and the wind (and your howls from a busted crotch) will warn them of your approach!

Another purpose for this hike was to find a route off of the upper bench. There are sheer cliffs 100 feet high for miles around these mountains, and all the game trails indicated there was SOME way the animals went down and up...
... and we found a very small, narrow ridge of dirt and brush - we had to hunt a while to find it but there it was! A heavily used gametrail right through the middle of it.
We named the ridge "little piney pass". All the brush and cover - it will be hard to find from down below.
As we hiked closer and closer to flatter land, there were more and more signs of cattle.
I introduced the boys to "Wyoming Frisbee"... and there were alot of frisbees around!
They didn't think I was serious until I flung one at them! They can't catch WY-Frisbees very well... need more practice ;-)

Here's a parting shot of the mountain. It defeated our purpose of eaching its protected caves, but revealed its secret passage off of the lower bench.

A very fun and cool mountain, guardian of the meadow.

Here is a really cool stump. Alot of trees blow-down, pulling up dirt, big rocks, etc in their rootwad when they fall.
This rootwad is old enough that all the rocks and dirt have washed away, revealing a very cool and beautiful pattern.
The tree was at least 60 years old, and had blown down at least 60 years previously.

All-in-all a great hike. Saw new country, top'ed the mountain, learned some secrets, and had some fun. Oh, and didn't "bust" anything, too. Another great day!