Madison County Highpoint Trip Report

Koch Peak (11,293 ft)

Date: September 9, 2007
Author: Jim Perkins

Another #46? I thought you said, "Sorry Koch", right after doing Hilgard?? I guess I just canít get enough of a good thing. Or, Iíve confirmed my illness.

Directions to the trailhead are fairly simple. Take Highway 191 either South from Bozeman or North from Yellowstone to just South of MM34. Turn West on Taylor Fork Road, FR 134, which is a normal passenger car dirt road drive all the way to the trailhead. (Note: I drove dry roads in early September with no issues, however, I could see the last few miles turning to mud pretty fast. Might not hurt to call the Gallatin National Forest Ranger Station for current conditions.) Stay right at any decision points and after 5 miles you will pass the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch and airstrip on the left hand side.

After passing a separate log cabin, cross the bridge after MM7, and at the "Y" make a left toward Lightning Creek. After about three miles, I parked after crossing the bridge over Taylor Creek in the horse trailer parking area. The trail for Taylor Creek (#17) and TH sign are just on the other side of the parking lot from the creek. Elevation at this point is around 7,300 feet.

"Koch is as mild as Hilgard is rough." could not have been stated any better. (Thanks, Bob Packard!) Take Taylor Creek Trail about 2.5 miles to Tumbledown Creek: #4, well-signed. Then take Tumbledown another 2.5 miles or so to the sign for "Koch Basin (1.5 miles), Taylor Fork (2 miles), and Madison Divide (1 mile)". Head Southwesterly and make sure you go to the far end, upper basin where there is no more flat land. Koch is the peak on the left side of the range in front of you, to the west. If you do this, then the scramble to the peak, a northwesterly scramble, is "mild", albeit still a worthy climb with trip stats at 14 miles roundtrip and about 4,000 feet of gain. If you donít follow directions well, then you will do what I did and really get your moneyís worth.

First, after parking at the Taylor Creek horse area, I decided that the summitpost.org write-up I had read wanted me to start at 8,000 feet. Since I was only at 7,300 feet, I continued walking on the locked gated road to the East and ended up all the way back at Trapper Cabin Lodge. A very picturesque place, I must say. And the lady of the house was quite friendly for 8 am on a Sunday. She directed me back down Lightning Creek Trail (#7) and that eventually hooked up with Taylor Creek. I guess three miles qualifies as appropriate "warm-up".

From there, I was able to make all the stream crossings without getting my shoes wet so I felt good about that. (The "log bridge" is a bit of a rush, by the way, with "log" meaning a 6-inch diameter stick.) Thereís also a very nice memorial to Sean Miles at the crossing of the Lightning Creek/Taylor Creek trails. I made the Koch Basin sign "no problema", and then saw a trail off to the right after reaching the first "lake". I took this trail all the way to about 300 yards of the peak when an impassable chasm hundreds of feet deep said, "No mas, little chico." !@#$%^&. You have got to be kidding me! Three hours so far and nothing accomplished!?! !@#$%^&. So, unless you have like Spiderman super powers or something, DO NOT take the right (north) approach to Koch. That bitter pill almost choked me. "You know, Koch, youíre not really the Madison County Highpoint anyway," was the sour grape I started to chew and swallow, when I remembered, "Hey, Iím on vacation. Take a Chill Pill, Dude!" Dropping about 1,400 feet and traversing the entire length of the Taylors, the Koch Section, I made the correct entry point and the top in about 5 hours and 25 minutes after leaving the car for my comedy of errors. The one bonus was that I did not get lost even once on the down (Thank you, Mr. Experience!) and made the car in exactly 3.5 hours. The Koch down is a yummy descent I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

You know, it must be time to head home after making three climbs in three days. And, Wheeler Peak, NM in less than seven days.