Madison County Highpoint Trip Report
Date: July 29, 2009
Participants include Dean Molen and the author.
Dean Molen's photographs
note 1: All coordinates employ the WGS84 datum.
Author: Adam Helman
note 2: Photographs by Dean. Click on any image for enlargement.
This effort was part of a larger journey
collecting Idaho, Montana, and Washington county highpoints in late July and August 2009.
The highpoint, Red Butte, can be combined with adjacent
Teton County, and as done here with Dean Molen over a 13 hour 37 minute dayhike
with 4,900 feet of total elevation gain.
One may also combine these efforts with Jefferson County by traveling west on FR218
exactly 10.0 miles from the junction cited below, until reaching a key junction at 6,230 feet
adjacent to a large parking area under Kelly Mountain. See Jefferson County reports
for more information.
Key points for the approach drive not noted in earlier reports.
Begin with the junction of FR218 and FR651 at
(43.67623° N, 111.46750° W), elevation 7,082 feet.
This point is accessed either by traveling east from Kelly Mountain, along FR218,
or from the north using an even longer route after leaving pavement.
Turn southeast onto FR651 and travel 1.9 miles. The road bends east,
and eventually turns north to terminate at a trailhead parking area with bathroom
and coordinates (43.66997° N, 111.44549° W), elevation 7,276 feet.
Useful information for the hike / climb not previously noted.
Ken Jones' trip report suffices for the trio of peaks needed
to secure these two counties - Garns Mountain, Piney Peak, and Red Butte.
I add the following comments.
- There is a map of the ATV trails on the trailhead information kiosk.
Unfortunately the trail numbers on that map (which we both hand-copied)
do not correspond to the trail numbers in the field in several cases.
Take maps from your home research and augment them with the indicated
ATV trail grid with only the latter's general shape and junction locations
as gospel - not the trail numbers.
- The cross-country ascent of Piney Peak, if coming from Garns Mountain,
will find you ascending to the left or right of an obvious talus field
roughly halfway up Piney Peak from the valley floor with its ATV road grid.
Above this talus field the going is really
quite steep for perhaps the final 400 vertical feet before topping-out
on a subpeak immediately east of the summit. You might even be holding
onto shrubbery for support. Once at the subpeak the going is much easier.
- The obvious and impressive rock formations visible from the main, east-west
ATV trail (just north of Red Butte) are not the summit area.
These formations are well east of Red Butte's highest ground.
Dean and I approached Red Butte from the north using a steep jeep trail
that seemingly went straight up the slope without any switchbacks.
Access to this eroding jeep trail is not obvious from the main east-west ATV trail -
you have to locate an obscure side path, take it for maybe a few hundred feet,
until it "opens up" to identify itself as the desired jeep track leading to
The jeep track reaches the summit ridge in-between the slightly lower eastern
bump and the central bump. I recommend that you visit both bumps
to be certain you've nabbed the county. A pint of fruit cocktail atop the
central bump, waiting for Dean to join me, provided the final hydration
on this long, long dayhike.
Atop Red Butte the distant clouds parted just enough for me to see the
top of Grand Teton across the state line. Having climbed it the previous
summer I was most satisfied with this glorious vision - and from another
Teton County! The clouds promptly returned.
If all you want to do is climb Red Butte, an ATV track leads directly to it
from the trailhead. We descended to our vehicles in good time using this track.
For Garns Mountain I obtain GPS-based elevations of 9,055 and 9,056 feet over three readings.
Summit of Garns Mountain
Piney Peak coming from
For Piney Peak I obtain in similar fashion three readings of 9,058 feet.
Dean Molen also obtained slightly higher elevations for Piney Peak.
However in both cases the difference with Garns Mountain was well within the
error range of our respective units.
As noted our hike consumed the entire day. Dean's GPS unit indicated a total distance
of 19.5 miles. We were both tired as the sun sank low on reaching the traihead.
Four quarts was insufficient - I had to refill enroute and estimate a 5 or 6 quart
capacity would have been needed otherwise.
On reaching our vehicles Dean and I parted ways, his wife waiting patiently at a
campsite along the approach road for Kelly Mountain of Jefferson County.
As it was nearly sunset I chose to simply stay put, and, after cooling down enjoyed
a wonderful supper with rice with a very
spicy tomato / vindaloo gravy. Peanut butter made an
excellent addition, as did salted cashews.
It was one of the most flavor-packed TV dinners I've eaten, backcountry or otherwise.
As of this report's composition, in early September, Dean has just seven counties left
in Idaho. With perseverance he can finish next summer.