Date: August 4-5, 2018
Participants: Forest Dean and Brent Maier
For the fourth time in the last 4 years I set out on a trip taking me up to Mink Lake in the southern Bitterroots. The goal this time was to climb the highest of the spires to the immediate east of the 9363’ high point (collectively known as Mink Peak) which lies a couple miles west of Trapper Peak. As I had stated in a trip report this spring from a similar attempt (negated by inclement weather), the highest spire is actually greater than 9363’, thus making it the true summit of this mountain. I had climbed to the (easy) 9363’ point in 2014- now it was time to get the Spire.
(As a brief side note, and without trying to make this all about me, this also happened to be an attempt to finish off the final peak on my goal of climbing all the 9000’ Bitterroot peaks).
Brent Maier again joined me on what turned out to be a fantastic two days in the Bitterroot high country. We left Missoula at noon, drove to the Boulder Creek trailhead, and began the forested slog up the well maintained trail at 2:00pm. For some reason, Brent was carrying a god-awful heavy pack (training?) but we kept up a fast pace for the five-ish miles of trail hiking to the Mink Lake drainage. Here things slowed down as he lugged that pack up 2000’ of off trail hiking to Mink Lake. We arrived about 5:45pm.
A brief thundershower passed over, but then the evening was perfect. We made a small fire, ate food, drank wine/tequila, tried fishing (no fish in this lake), studied the peak/spires, and eventually went to sleep. The next morning dawned partly cloudy with a real light sprinkle, but this soon passed as we made our way to the base of the Spires. Thanks to some good info gleaned off an old trip report, we were fairly confident on which spire was actually the highest and we made good time getting to the base of it. We roped up and I led up the last 100’ (5.4-5.5 by the route we took) to the summit. I belayed Brent up and there we were! Along with West Trapper Peak and The Tusk, I would venture to say this summit has probably seen fewer ascents than any of the other Bitterroot 9000’ers. Looking over to the immediate west at “Mink Peak” we were both totally confident that this point is higher (GPS, altimeter and maps also seem to confirm this). There was some old webbing up here- probably from the guys who provided a TR seven years ago. After congratulations, pics, and just soaking up the awesomeness of the place, we rappelled back down and then had an uneventful hike back to the lake and our camp. We packed up and were heading down by noon. Back to the trailhead at 3:00pm.
This peak can certainly be done in a long day: we wanted to take it easy and enjoy a nice high country lake camp. About 17 miles round trip and 4700’ of elevation gain. No easy way up this spire. Very experienced climbers could certainly be comfortable scrambling it, but we saw nothing less than low 5th class.
Stats to lake: 13 miles round trip and about 3000’ elevation gain.