Flathead County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Stimson (10,142 ft)

Date: August 4-6, 2004
Author: Bob Packard

Editor's note: This report documents the final effort required for both the first individual (Bob Packard) and group completion of the eleven state, contiguous western United States.

Day 1: We did a variation on the "Southeast Spur Route" mentioned in A Climbers Guide to Glacier National Park by J. Gordon Edwards, pages 332-333. With day packs Tim Worth and I got to the 7500-foot saddle between Pinchot and Eaglehead. We did the contour of the southwest face of Pinchot just fine but when we got to the corner where one would start the mile long contour of the western scree slope to cross I immediately told Tim you couldn't pay me a million dollars to do that horrible thing. For me at least it would be very slow and very scary and I think dangerous. What we did do was go down a steep slot 1500 feet to upper Pinchot Creek Valley. At this point I told Tim that if we summitted Stimson we would have to bivouac. And this we did.

If Tim, who is 26, strong, tough and a great companion, had been alone he could have easily summitted and gotten back to camp at Buffalo Woman Lake. But he had me with him. We hiked up-valley and before reaching the 7400-foot saddle between Pinchot and Stimson we started up easy slopes to the southeast ridge of Stimson. Only the last 1000-1500 feet are 3rd class and I say with a little route finding there is no 4th class. Saw a mountain goat at the bottom of the 3rd class area on the southeast ridge and it was still there when we returned. We used no rope. The sandstone ledges, while peppered with loose pebbles, are firm and solid. Handholds and footholds can be trusted.

When one tops out it is a relatively easy ridge walk southwest to the summit. Only one or two parties had signed the new register. Most impressive was the 6100-foot drop down to Nyack Creek, the 3-4 class route up Stimson from Nyack. Looking down it's hard to believe it's not filled with 5th class.

While down-climbing the southeast ridge we saw a black bear with cub traversing the southeast face. We bivouacked at about the 6000-foot level next to Pinchot Creek. We had 2 hours of daylight left but progress would have taken us away from water. Just before dusk we looked across Pinchot Creek and watched 4 grizzlies (a huge dark female with 3 tan young of different ages) working their way down valley. They paid us no heed and I doubt that they saw us.

Tim and I each figure we got about an hour sleep. Day 1 totals: 12.5 hours, 6 miles, with 5,600 feet of elevation gain.

Day 2: Worked our way around Pinchot and up to Pinchot-Eaglehead Saddle. For part of this, we were serviced by a very good trail which was probably a game trail but it was so good that it seemed human. On the other hand, it petered out well before the saddle and the last 500 feet or so were very steep indeed. Took me 4.25 hours to get back to camp. A nap, then we broke camp and did 10 miles of the hike out Coal Creek Trail, camping at Elk Creek.

Did 5 crossings of Coal Creek. Day 2 totals: 11.75 hours, 12.5 miles, with 1,750 feet of elevation gain.

Day 3: Back to vehicles. One last crossing of Coal Creek. Retrieved ski poles. Ford of Middle Fork. Day 3 totals: 4 hours, 6.5 miles, with 100 feet of elevation gain.

Grand Totals for Stimson: 42 hours, 41.5 miles, with 10,300 feet of elevation gain.