Sweet Grass County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Douglas (11,282 feet)

Dates: August 1-2, 2009
Author: Jim Perkins

Once again I seem to be confirming that the only way the Lord will allow me to summit in the Beartooths is with a partner(s). Granite was a no-brainer with Joe, Rich, and Rhyse. I had to go back to Wood after solo-failure with Adam, Ward, and Morgan. AND, having failed just the week previous in a one-man-show attempt for Castle, Douglas was going to be a group effort.

Adam Helman, in the late 4th Quarter of his bid to complete all the county HP’s of the Western States, joined forces with me on this attack in the ‘Tooths. Meeting in Big Timber and gorging on everything from fried chicken with sausage gravy to omelets and cakes, we headed out to the Upsidedown Trailhead, spending the evening at the Hicks C’ground.

With cooperating weather, Adam and I hit the trail with heavy packs at about 6:48 am, made the six miles and 3,156’ to Horseshoe Lake in good time, and then decided to camp at the North end of North Rainbow Lakes after 5 hours and 34 minutes. Since you lose about 100’ on the trail to Horseshoe, and then another 700’ on the way from Horseshoe to the Rainbows, we figured the stats were: 3,156’ + 100’ + 700’ = ~ 4K’ of gain over the 11.5 miles to our campsite.

We set up camp, rested for a few minutes (Note: You will need to bring all the tools of your mosquito arsenal for this spot as these little devils are very, very hungry!) reflected on Tim Worth’s write-up, and the excellent, non-threatening weather, and decided to do what Tim had done: GO FOR IT! The time was 3 pm.

Heeding Tim’s warning to avoid the shoreline of Squeeze Lake and stay high around the Eastside of Squeeze, Adam and I basically enjoyed a fun afternoon of recon as we went up and down the East “cliffline” (not shoreline) of Squeeze before finally cliffing-out at unnamed 11,105’. Hey, there’s Douglas about a mile to the North of us. Good thing we have tomorrow, but will the result be better? Will we make it now after all the energy donation??

In retrospect, we had stayed way too high around Squeeze, on the order of 500’, instead of what Tim had probably meant by saying “Stay High” = 100’ above the Lake. But wait, the story gets even better…

For myself, this night’s sleep was not the relaxed event it should have been as I stressed about another possible failure in the Beartooths. Horse and riders passed by under a near full moon at about 9:30, the temp cooled perfectly for sleeping, and Adam’s pleasant company were still not sufficient to allay my concerns. Funny thing, night always seems to pass…

I have to admit to being extremely focused on this Sunday morning as we consumed the obligatory oatmeal and started out the three miles to Doug’s place. Thankfully, Adam patiently suffered my silence as we decided to start low and work high (if necessary) around the Squeeze. This was dicey to say the least but we finally made it to the unnamed lake at around 9,350’ at the base of our objective.

From here, pretty much all roads lead to Rome as we made the summit at 10 am. Some recommendations would be to avoid the huge boulders and aim for the green, dirt, scree section. No matter how you incline though, you will boulder hop as this is the Beartooths. The total gain was about 1,900’ plus ups and downs around East of Squeeze totaling ~ 750’.

Once on top of Mr. Douglas, we signed the register noting Bob Packard’s and Tim’s entries. The cell phone also worked and I was able to take one pressure off as I told my kid the details of our journey so far and when we should be back to the car. That helped. We also spent a nice 30 minutes in cool weather collecting ourselves and reflecting on the pressure ahead to Squeeze back to camp.

As usual, the down moves pretty quickly over this type of terrain and we were back at the Douglas-base Lake in an easy hour. Then, it was like the Lord said, “Boys, I’m gonna give you a hand.”, as we met four young guys fishing this lake. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then, AND THEN we were gently informed by this foursome that

“No one can make it around the Eastside of Squeeze”.


“There’s a very simple goat path no higher than 70’ above the
WEST shoreline that will easily and safely guide you back to camp.”


OK, I’m taking editorial liberties on the “easily and safely” comment as these young men didn’t really say that. However, the West shoreline IS THE WAY TO GO! Adam and I made the Southend of Squeeze in what seemed to be minutes. We did have to try a few things and then retreat slightly to go just a pinch higher around a snow section just about 100 yards from the Southend of Squeeze. But compared to the Eastside, the Westside is like a handicapped access ramp. TAKE THE WESTSIDE OF THE SQUEEZE LAKE SHORE ON BOTH THE APPROACH AND RETURN FROM DOUGLAS AND GO NO HIGHER THAN ~70’ ABOVE THE LAKE. You will make life so much easier…

Once back at camp, we spent around an hour shooing away mosquitoes, taking down camp and, from my perspective, being very, very thankful for the recent success up Douglas and especially the Westside return around Squeeze. So, with heavy packs back on we started the 11.5 miles back to the TH at around 3 pm.

Somehow the rain and hail and lightening/thunder events on the way back did very little to dampen my spirit. The fact that we did almost 9,500’ of gain over 36 hours and ultimately ~34 miles (about five extra miles “reconning” on Saturday) did make my legs talk to me some. The fact that we made the cars around 8:30 and then I drove 6.5 hours all the way back to Corvallis to be with my wife did prove to be the best move. And I even showed up to work on-time Monday AM, albeit a wee tired.

Thanks Adam for another wonderful memory in the Hills.
And thank you Lord that now only Castle remains… After Gannett that is…

Adam Helman's report