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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Killer but beautiful; lots of pictures


It was probably foolish, but today I tackled Lewis and Clark Pass at the head of Alice Creek (no problem) and circumnavigated the top of Alice Basin (problem). This picture is from one of the cliff tops and the clearing in the distance far below is a turn-around area near (but not at) the trailhead. The route up the pass goes straight up to the left at about a 90-degree angle from this view. Then the CD trail brings you around onto some high cliffs and peaks (for this area).


This was taken more than three hours after I started this trek, looking back up into Alice Basin. The trail I was on was above the cliffs in the distance. I was a tired (and slightly crampy) puppy by the time I got done, but I did manage to run the entire way. Not gonna do that again anytime soon. The problem is a classic: After you've beaten yourself up for more than an hour and a half and seem to be inclining downward from the multiple 7,350-foot high points — but not remembering or knowing where the trail down from the basin begins — you soldier on because you know you'd have to go back up and over everything you'd already run if you go back. "It's gotta be shorter this way, or at least mostly downhill", right?

Probably what saved me — aside from being in pretty good shape — was that it wasn't a hot day, probably in the 50s and 60s most of the time with a decent breeze. And I carried a full 2-liter Camelback and a bag of gorp with me, so I was OK on that front.

Having said all of that and giving the impression that it was an ordeal, let me say that it was, in fact, spectacularly beautiful and I felt good the whole way. The only problem was not knowing exactly what I'd bitten off. Nora and I hiked this route once many (15?) years ago, and we did it easily in a day. The only thing I hadn't bargained for was that when we did it we parked about three miles closer to the top of the basin than the good ole Forest Service lets you park now. No problem, but a boring and trip-lengthening end to a tiring run.

Now for the pictures.


This is a fave, just because it shows the cliffs, a bit of the trail and Red Mountain (snow) in the distance.


This one I like because it shows the high trail and cool contrail-enhanced clouds. I titled it "OMG I'm going there!"


There were some forks in the road, but fortunately the CD sign pointed the way here — the fork it was clarifying was going the wrong way for getting back to the car.


This is mountain, or explorer, gentian, depending on what book you look at. Either way, I've seen it before, but not yet this year. It was up very high, and there was quite a bit of it.


Looking out, obviously, toward the prairie, you can see Square Butte in the distance. It actually sits south and just a little west of Great Falls, some 80 miles away.


This is the reward for the first pitch up to the pass (which is only 6,300 or so). When I got to it, I was thinking I was maybe halfway done with climbing. Boy was I wrong. Not even close (took 25 minutes to get to it).


This is just a pretty view southeasterly from somewhere along the high route.

Using my usual timing system for estimating distance, I'd make this bugger out to be 17.5 miles, but I know I was going much slower than usual on the steep pitches (I did go up more than 1,700 feet, not counting the many ups and downs along the way), so I'll call it a mere 14. Worth it, but I'll be taking it a little easier the rest of the week.

14; 19; 61; 641
Posted by Mose, 1:56 PM

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