Campbell County Highpoint Trip Report

North Butte of the Pumpkin Buttes (6,049 ft)

Date: June 12, 2004
Author: John Mitchler

General. The Pumpkin Buttes dramatically rise more than 1,000 feet above the relatively flat, rolling, treeless range land of east central Wyoming, about 40 miles southwest of Gillette. These large flat-topped buttes are capped by 20 feet of sandstone and would pose a class 5 climbing problem if it weren't for a few breaches. North Butte is, not surprisingly, the northernmost butte and can be driven by a high clearance vehicle, preferably four-wheel drive, on a road up the northwest flank. The road is for dry weather only. The round trip from Denver took Jobe Wymore, Kathy Dalsaso, and myself about 14 hours. Jobe is the trip hero, not only for driving, but for making the access contacts ahead of time.

Access. You can reach the base of the butte from the south if access is granted by the Mankins (307-939-1361). However this is not permission to climb the butte. The butte is owned by John Christensen who, like many landowners and most ranchers, expects permission to be requested before stepping foot on the property. (307-464-1227 at home and 307-660-2622 on cell). We spoke to him beforehand and met him at the ranch afterwards to thank him. Apparently we are the first highpointers he's met. We spoke about the types of people who access the butte (prospectors, rockhounds, birders, etc.) and how they affect the ranch (e.g., avoid late spring through late fall because of cattle and calving operations). He's friendly and knowledgeable and claims you can see the Black Hills, Big Horns, and Laramie Peak from the top. He hoped he wouldn't be overrun by highpointers.

Please respect ranchers by contacting them for access. The land is their livelihood. Leave gates as you find them, either open or closed, and don't mess with the livestock. Don't collect anything or hunt. Keep vehicles on track so as not to harm the grassland. Enjoy the wildlife, clean breeze, and views of distant peaks.

Highway Approach. From I-25, take Exit 140 at Douglas and zero your odometer. Follow the off ramp road and at 0.3 mile you'll come to a four-way stop. Turn left (north) on WY 59 which shortly leaves civilization as it heads into the wide open range land for which Wyoming is famous. At mile 43.3 pass a rest area. At mile 56 cross the Campbell-Converse county line. At mile 71.8 pass WY 450 on you right and at mile 74.5 come to WY 387 in the town of Wright. Turn left (west) on WY 387. Services are available here. Take WY 387 to mile 93.5 and turn right (north) on WY 50. At mile 110.4 turn left (west) on gravel Black & Yellow Road. Zero your odometer here.

Gravel/Dirt Road Approach. From WY 50, take Black & Yellow Road west. At mile 5.5 turn left (southwest) on a white gravel road marked as private with a white sign for Meritage Energy. At mile 8.2 cross a 4-way intersection, at mile 8.5 pass a road to an oil well, at mile 9.5 cross another 4-way intersection, at mile 9.7 cross a creek, at mile 10.2 pass a 3-tier oil tank, and at mile 10.4 take the right fork of a Y-intersection. The road turns to dirt at mile 12 and at mile 14.5 turn left (south) onto a dirt two-track road which takes you to the butte. Pass a windmill at 14.9 and at mile 15 reach a good gravel road. At mile 15.1 stay left. Note the numerous black boxes of an in-situ uranium field. At mile 15.6 stay left. The road climbs the northwest flank of North Butte. It is mostly dirt and clay so stay off it during rain or snow. There are some ruts and rock outcrops which may stop low clearance vehicles but the grade is not too steep. The road follows the trace shown on the topo map as it climbs from section 10 into section 11. At about 5700 feet it turns right (south) and follows contour for about a mile, staying high, just under a bench below the cap rock. At mile 19.0 the cap rock is breached (in the southeast quarter of section 14 near the word "spring" on the topo map) and a fence gate awaits you on the flat top. A padlock was unlocked during our visit. After passing through the gate, the open, flat butte top lays before you.

Butte Top. Though there are three candidate contour areas, only the 6,049-foot contour area on the west side needs to be visited. It is 0.6 mile northwest of the gate. Jobe and I did much belly-on-the-ground hand leveling and back-sighting to determine that the radio tower with small trailer there is the highest. There is a short radio tower north of the gate about 0.2 mile. The contour along the east rim has a rebar survey marker (with quarter in the post) which is 0.4 mile north of the gate. The BM 6039 feet at the north tip is 1.7 miles north of the gate and is the second highest point on the butte. We estimate that the spot elevation of 6,049 feet is about the highest elevation on the butte.