I just returned from a great trip up Granite Peak over the Labor Day weekend, and wanted to share some information that might help others on their trip.
First off, Frozen to Death Plateau is monstrous. There are plenty of campsites spread over the entire plateau and there seems to be water nearly every 0.25 mile. I camped lower down on FTDP because of concerns that there wouldn't be sites further along. The next day as I headed towards the saddle (and summit) I saw 10-20 more sites that had easily accessible water.
Also be aware that the plateau is a giant dogleg left... in case you don't bring a map just keep following the plateau as it heads left and continues toward Tempest Mountain. A GPS receiver is very useful as the plateau does not provide many memorable landmarks (was instrumental when I returned to camp after summitting).
The snow bridge was non-existent, although there was still lots of snow it is easily bypassed on the South side. There is no need for an ice axe.
Route finding is challenging, try to bring a good route description. The keyhole is located w/in 30ft of the summit, and provides a good landmark. As you head up the last section stay to the right of the direct chimney that heads to the keyhole.
The switchbacks that head up from Mystic Lake are well graded and seem to never end, but they were made infinetly more enjoyable by the profusion of huckle and black berries along the trail.
This peak is spectacular! It is rugged and daunting, but provides a route just easy enough that ropes and technical gear are not necessary (this assumes that exposure does not bother you, and you are a safety conscious climber who meticulously checks holds). The day I climbed Granite there were 7 total people on the mountain. I would not want to be on the mountain if there were more people than that. There is a lot of loose rock and much of the route follows a line where you are partially exposed to rock fall.
The alpine scenery and the challenging climbing made this my favorite HP to date.
If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me and I'll respond to the best of my knowledge. email@example.com
I just came back (unsuccesfully) from Granite and we turned around at Tempest Mountain which is 4 hours shy of the summit.
I was wondering if the proper summit route from Tempest Mountain involves climbing the face of the mountain that is visible to us from Tempest or if there is a more "normal" route from the hidden face (behind) that we don't see from Tempest.
Basically , I was wondering if we would have gone through the col from Tempest/Granite, if we would have seen a more proper route from there.
I am asking you this question because I intend of going back there in mid August 2003 and I would like to be reassured that there is another route beside the 90 degree vertical that we saw from Tempest.
Three must be the charm! After two failed attempts, I finally stood atop Granite Peak, MT on Wednesday, August 28, 2002 at 2:00pm. In August 2000, we underestimated the heat/distance and ran out of time. In October 2001, we ran into knee deep snow on Froze to Death Plateau (FDP) and gave up. All three attempts were via the Mystic Lake/Phantom Creek Trail/FDP route.
We were all alone on the mountain for our two day climb. In case anyone is interested, here’s how long it takes a 41 year old man to climb Granite Peak, MT (elev. 12,799) in the rain, fog, snow, lighting/thunder, and heat of August.
12:20pm, Sprinkling, Left Parking
2:00pm, Raining, Arrived at Mystic Lake
3:08pm, Raining Hard/Foggy, (8,400’)
6:00pm, Raining/Foggy/Cold, Arrived at FDP(10,180’)
8:30pm, Went to Bed, No Rain, No Wind … Perfect Night!
7:20am, Beautiful/38 degrees, Left Eastside of FDP
9:59am, Beautiful, Almost at Tempest Mt. (11,700’)
11:00am, Beautiful, Bottom of Cleaver (10,900’)
12:53pm, Beautiful, Arrived at Snow Bridge (11,600’)
2:00pm, Beautiful, Arrived at Summit
2:56pm, Cloudy/Thunder, Top of Cleaver (11, 400’)
3:15pm, Snowing/Lighting/Thunder, Down in Col Between Tempest & Granite
4:00pm, Cloudy/Windy, Heading Across Saddle at Tempest (11,500’)
7:00pm, Cloudy, Packed up Tents (10,180’)
9:45pm, Beautiful/Stars Everywhere!, Arrived at Mystic Lake
11:36pm, Beautiful, Arrived at Parking Lot
My altimeter is probably short 150’… but it’s all relative. Keep in mind, our team was at best in “fair” physical condition. We might have been able to shave off a few hours, but the weather slowed us down at several points. For planning purposes, I think an “average” climber could plan on “one mile an hour plus sleep time” with good weather. All bets are off if the weather turns bad.
After climbing a grand total of approximately 60 miles in 85 combined hours over three years (not to mention the 12,000+ air miles!), here are some tips to crawling up Granite Peak:
1. Go in August, but be prepared for a cold, wet, and hot weather.
2. Bring a water filter/pump it saves on what you have to carry.
3. Bring a very good sleeping bag, you’ll need it at night.
4. This ain’t a one day hike for anyone I know!
5. Ropes are NOT mandatory, but you will get badly hurt if you slip.
6. Cairns have gotten MUCH better in the past 3 years.
7. There is a short cut at the top of Phantom Creek Trail, take it!
8. Make sure your boots/socks are perfect, it is a LONG hike.
9. Cowboy Bar in Fishtale is awesome.
10. If you get hurt or sick, things could turn very ugly very fast.
They were all three excellent climbs, and the summit was certainly worth the effort. Now that I’ve made it to the top Granite Peak, I feel like I’ve graduated from school and it is time to move on to another challenge. I have mixed emotions, but I’ll never forget this very beautiful and demanding summit.
A subset of our crew from last year's Gannett Peak ascent rejoined for Granite this year. We left the Mystic Lake trailhead early on a Sunday and hiked all the way up Froze-to-Death plateau and setup a basecamp. Monday morning we had the route to ourselves and summitted around 9:30 with blue skies. As we worked on the downclimbs and rappels we ran into one other group on their way up, watched the clouds start to build and nearly hit a goat with the rappel ropes. Back on the plateau we endured a 10 minute graupel storm then relaxed for the rest of the day. On Tuesday (Aug 1st) we hiked back to the end of the plateau then descended toward Avalanche Lake. After all the boulder hopping we headed toward the Snowball Lakes to camp. On our last day we passed Princess and Huckleberry Lakes and reached Mystic for the hike out. This was my 47th high point. Lots of pictures and a full report are at:
This trip was in the planning stages for 2+ years. A job change at the end of 2006 forced the postponement for a year while I accumulated vacation time. Our plan was to drive to Wyoming, climb Gannett Peak, drive through and visit Yellowstone National Park, and then head to Montana and climb Granite Peak. From there we’d drive back to Redmond, WA.
I began an aggressive training program at the beginning of March with workouts 4 – 5 times per week. I included running for cardiovascular and treadmill climbs (with weight) for leg strength and endurance. The net result was a loss of 20 pounds, and what I thought was the best shape I’ve been in for hiking in a long time, maybe ever. Joe is naturally in good shape, but he also supplemented his routine with pack weight exercises.
Joe arrived at SeaTac around 9PM on Friday, June 27. We spent Saturday getting our gear organized, and picking up our food and any remaining items. An early departure was planned for Sunday.
See the Gannett trip report for the beginning of the story.
July 6 – We took 3 days to recover from a brutal but successful climb of Gannett Peak. After a leisurely drive through some very scenic mountains, we arrived in Red Lodge and got a room. This place was nice, and I’d recommend it. It is called the Alpine Lodge, and includes a hot made to order breakfast.
July 7 – After taking care of some business, we thought we had recovered enough to at least attempt Granite, so we drove to the West Rosebud trailhead near Fishtail, MT. We left the car at 1PM, with packs that weighed 48 pounds. We decided to take our crampons and ice axes in case there was snow to cross or climb, and this turned out to be a wise move. We left some of the harness gear, and simplified the first aid kit.
This is a much nicer trail then Gannett, and we quickly reached Mystic Lake at 3 miles, and began up the switchbacks. I count them from left turn to left turn, so the 26 listed in the literature is only 13 for me! There was snow on 3 of the turns near the top, but they were easily passed by following the boot tracks. We reached the infamous Froze To Death plateau, and by 7PM were at the first tent site on Joe Josephson’s map. There were goats and marmots, and a group of 7 joined us later that evening. They planned a summit attempt from there the next morning. After an awesome sunset with no storms in sight, we retired.
July 8 – We awoke shortly after sunrise, and got ready to move camp. The party of 7 was still there, and didn’t leave until a few minutes before we did. We hiked the few miles to 12,000’, where the last of the tent sites are located, and arrived at 10:20. We felt good, and discussed making an afternoon summit attempt. About this time the group of 7 returned from the mountain, unhappy. They did not have crampons or ace axes based on a ranger’s advice, and they could not navigate the snow fields safely. Glad we were prepared! Another couple arrived at camp, looking to summit in the morning. They also didn’t have crampons and ice axes, but were accomplished rock climbers. We told them of our plan, and promised to share our beta when we returned.
We had lunch, napped, and left for the summit at 1:30. This is a bit unconventional as the frequent afternoon storms cause most people to summit early and retreat by noon. We took our chances as the weather was perfect. There were numerous snow fields to climb that required crampons and ice axes. The rest was rock scrambling. We felt like there were sections of 5.4, but we were both comfortable enough that we just scrambled up and back down. We made the summit at 5PM. Number 46 for me, number 15 for Joe. We didn’t spend much time there, took the requisite pictures, and headed down. We arrived back in camp at 8PM, tired but very satisfied.
July 9 – We awoke with the sunrise, had breakfast, shared the route beta with the other couple, and hiked out. This was all uneventful, and not nearly as painful as the Gannett exit. A comment about reports of difficulty navigating on the FTD. On the way in, we stayed higher on the plateau, nearer to FTD Mountain. There were few a few areas of rocky travel, but for the most part it was easy walking. On the way out we stayed closer to the edge of the plateau, away from FTD Mountain. This route was much more difficult, having quite a few rocky sections that require considerable care to navigate through. The warnings to not trust the cairns as a route marker probably comes from the fact that there are many ways to cross the plateau, and if you know the general direction to go, you’ll see cairns along the way. They are scattered across the plateau such that you cannot depend on them to be your primary navigation source. We had perfect weather, so getting disoriented wasn’t ever a threat. However, in darkness or poor visibility conditions, you’ll need your map and compass, and know how to use them.
We made the trailhead at 3, and were on our way towards home. One last moose sighting as we left the trailhead. We drove for 3 hours, stopping at a KOA in Butte, MT for a hot shower and instant dinner.