Across the Beartooths, Update #4: Day two

A big project has been taking over most of my free time, but I will soon be putting out some well-researched, quality essays on this site- and I’m pretty excited about them! Until then, I am long over-due on an update of my Beartooth fastpacking mini-expedition I undertook last month.

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The second day started with renewed optimism. At first light, I made some coffee, ate some core-warming oatmeal, and set off with the feeling I could cover 1000 miles that day. But reality was far less optimistic…

 

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It was sad leaving the lush green Silver Run Plateau, for the deep forest awaiting me below. I dropped elevation fast, bounding across technical boulder fields at risk of a serious fall, before bushwacking in the dense spruce forests in the Lake Fork basin. It was difficult to route-find where I could not see distinct land-marks, and only using my map and compass. I thought about grizzlies obsessively. Travel ended up becoming painstakingly slow inside the brush, so I opted to wade through the waist-high Lake Fork creek for a long way. My shoes and socks became irreversibly soaked. I was pleasantly surprised to find 14+ inch cutthroat trout in abundance here, darting between my legs.

 

I cannot express the misery I experience the half of the day I began to climb toward Sky Pilot lake, and the mountain pass I would have to cross there. The monster boulder fields leading the way were a nightmare to negotiate, and a fresh hatch of gnats swarmed my face, forcing my legs to keep pumping forward. I stopped at a waterfall, completely emotionally drained. I had struggled all day internally, questioning my reasons for even being there. I had my family of four- including our 6 month old daughter- awaiting me at home. And even though I had planned the trip long before, I still felt selfishly guilty of being there. These doubts were only magnified by the difficulty of the journey.

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I decided the scenic waterfall was a good place to fire up my stove and cook my lunch. Afterwards, like a wild animal, I fell into a deep sleep on a flat rock under the sun. Its amazing the morale boost a quick power-nap can bring, and I set off again an hour later with renewed confidence.

As the hours ticked by, it became obviously clear I would not reach the mountain pass by 2pm, like I had hoped. I had spent all day stressing about this. Eventually, I decided to just relax and enjoy my time. With only one day remaining, I knew I would never make it to Granite Peak, like I had always planned. Instead, I turned my focus to running as far across the main section of the Beartooth Plateau that I possibly could- and then, in the morning I could turn back the way I came.

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By 5pm, I had finally crossed the appropriately named, High Pass, which was the only mountain pass I could see- from the entire north to south of the range- that I could safely traverse. On level ground, I let loose once again, and ran hard through the otherworldly landscape of granite, dominating most of these mountains, on my way to Fossil Lake. I camped just short of the drainage that would eventually lead to Granite Peak, and watched the sun through a haze of wild fire smoke on it’s descent.

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(Montana, Backpacking, Photography)

2 thoughts on “Across the Beartooths, Update #4: Day two

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  1. Fantastic photos, especially the one of the water then spreading out into a valley with a pointy mountain (Granite Peak? I don’t know your orientation and I haven’t seen it in a long time) in the distance. The fire/sun photo is poignant and lovely.

    1. Thank you much. The peak in the photo is actually a lesser mountain- not sure the name from memory. Granite Peak was still far away, and I was actually very surprised how far away everything seemed from me at any given point! I knew the Beartooths were big, but I just couldn’t comprehend the magnitude until i was there

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