Powell County Highpoint Trip Report

Dates: August 6, 2009 and August 12, 2010
Author: Adam Helman

note: All coordinates are in the WGS84 datum.

August 6, 2009: Comments about the approach drive

This effort was part of a larger journey collecting Idaho, Montana, and Washington county highpoints in late July and August 2009.

Inclement, threatening weather forced me to abandon an ascent of Mount Powell while still on the approach drive. The distances and road names here are intended to supplement / correct the information previously posted.

From Interstate-90 Exit 187 take the frontage road (on the freeway's west side) 4 miles south, arriving thusly at paved Sager Road. Drive the latter road 1.2 miles west; thence drive paved Yellowstone Trail Road south all of 0.2 mile; thence drive dirt Dempsey Lake Road in a zigzag fashion for 3.5 miles.

Now bear right onto Perkins Road (northwest) at a point where Dempsey Lake Road turns from west to south. After less than 0.1 mile on Perkins Road, turn right and go steeply uphill at FR8507, with sign "No camping for next 5 miles as on Montana State Prison Land".

There was an unusually muddy section about 0.5 mile along FR8507 for about 150 feet that I was barely able to negotiate using four-wheel drive - as a thunderstorm had just passed through the area. Seeing more threatening weather on the horizon, I did not relish the concept of climbing the mountain tomorrow morning and then getting stuck in-the-mud on the drive out. I bailed, and with that you understand why the driving instructions end here.

I wonder if the muddy section has bentonite clay which is notorious for absorbing several times its weight in water.

August 12, 2010: Hiking and Climbing Route Details

This effort was part of a larger journey collecting Idaho and Montana county highpoints in August 2010.

This time I succeed. The following description is relevant to future highpointers, beginning with FR8507.

It is 5.4 ATM (Adam Truck Miles) along FR8507, thence 2.1 additional ATM along FR630 to the low-clearance (and sane) trailhead. My odometer reads 1% low. Hence 1 ATM equals 1.01 statute miles.

The trailhead is here with coordinates (46.31690° N, 112.92370° W) at 6,320 feet. Beyond lies a jeep road that I cannot recommend driving. When I was there it featured huge ponds ... and (see below) eventually deteriorates into an impassible swamp about 1/4 mile from the south end of Lower Elliott Lake.

No previously posted trip report adequately describes how to get from this trailhead to Lower Elliott Lake. There are numerous unmarked road junctions, and one must properly negotiate all of them for success. It herein correct this flaw.

On the ascent:

At (46.31420° N, 112.92583° W) and 6,393 feet take the left fork ("021").

At (46.31212° N, 112.93260° W) and 6,760 feet stay straight - do NOT bear slightly left.

At (46.30899° N, 112.94625° W) and 6,831 feet stay straight.

On the descent:

At (46.30932° N, 112.95004° W) and 6,714 feet bear right.

At (46.31332° N, 112.93108° W) and 6,584 feet bear left.

Bear right or stay straight (i.e. do NOT go left) at two succeeding minor junctions soon thereafter on the descent - and yet before waypoint "021" above.

One-quarter mile south of the south tip of Lower Elliott Lake is a sign indicating various hiking goals, mainly lakes. The "road" was inundated with water beyond this point. I thus begin the bushwhack starting here at (46.33108° N, 112.99785° W) and 7,861 feet with a 60° true heading.

However I recommend heading more east (rather than 60°) to avoid sidehilling on steep boulder slabs amidst trees. It is horrendous. Following this advise one gets roughly to here at (46.33351° N, 112.98830° W) and 8,202 feet. ONLY THEN turn north in the summit's general direction.

The summit has two possible highest areas separated by about 100 horizontal feet. The western area at (46.34992° N, 112.97987° W) and measured 10,186 foot elevation is likely higher.

A summit register is bolted to the east side of a boulder perhaps 20 feet south. Everything just falls out when it's opened - a truly idiotic design. There is some newspaper clipping about a one year old who died in China. I feel like ripping it out as wholly inappropriate content - yet leave it for the sake of those who are more sentimental than myself. Why should there be an obituary at a summit he never visited?

A giant smokestack in nearby Anaconda is highly visible from the summit. This amuses me since I enjoyed a large breakfast there but yesterday (the "colossal omelet", pie and much coffee).

I opt to avoid the cited sidehilling for my descent - and also the wet, nearly impassible road section, by going directly to this waypoint at (46.32480° N, 112.98143° W) and 7,615 feet at a bend in the jeep track. This is a mistake as I end up downclimbing a seriously steep creek bed; followed by a stream crossing that was rendered possible only by "miraculously" finding a log to cross-over.

The net elevation gain is 3,900 feet. The total gain is an even 4,000 feet owing to an estimated 50 feet of downhill on-ascent along the so-called "road". My round trip takes 9.1 hours.

Mount Powell is my 400th mountain with at least 2,000 feet of mean (interpolated) prominence.