Campbell County Highpoint Trip Report

North Butte

Date: May 18, 2009
Author: Edward Earl

Permission is needed to climb North Butte. Previous reports warn that the owner, John Christensen, is concerned about being overrun by highpointers. When I called him at 307-939-1361, he was a little aloof but did not hesitate to grant permission.

From I-90 in Gillette, I took exit 124 and headed S on WY-50. About 25 miles down I turned W on Black and Yellow Rd, which is well-graded gravel. Call this point mile 0.0. At mile 4.2 I went L at a triangle junction. Wags Pinnacle (which has a white upright wand on top) and an oil pumper appear just beyond this junction. At mile 9.3 I went straight ahead where a major side road on the L is the way North Butte is approached from the S. At mile 10.6, cross a cattle guard and enter the Christensen Ranch. At mile 12.0 go straight ahead across a 4-way intersection. Signs identify Windsor Energy and other oil companies. At mile 12.4, go R at a fork. At mile 13.4, pass the main ranch complex, which is on the R. At mile 14.3, go right at a fork where both branches cross a cattle guard and a sign identifies Windsor Energy. At 19.1 miles, turn L toward the butte at 2 cylindrical corrugated aluminum tanks. Up to this point, the road is suitable for any street-legal vehicle, but after this point a vehicle without high clearance may have trouble. At 20.0 miles, cross a muddy gully that would probably require 4WD in wet weather. At 20.3 miles, the road degenerated to a rough 2-track where I decided that the risk of trying to drive any farther outweighed the benefit. I parked between a flatbed trailer with large rubber hose on it and a couple of stacks of large-diameter PVC pipe.

new route...

The top of North Butte is guarded by a roughly 50' high cliff band that runs almost all the way around the butte. Previous reports all describe a route that traversed a long distance S high up on the west face of North Butte at the 5700-5800' level in order to reach a breach through which this cliff can be climbed. For the last few miles of my driving approach, however, I spied a light sandy gully on the rim much farther north, and much closer to where the road ahead climbs most of the butte's elevation gain. If this gully could be climbed, it would save a lot of roundabout hiking. I crossed my fingers.

I hiked farther up the road, which soon deteriorated into little more than an ATV track. It climbed steadily through a maze of buttes and gullies scattered around the base of North Butte. Higher up, the track fades and there are a couple of junctions. I eventually left the road entirely and headed up steep grass toward the sandy gully I had seen from below. I eventually encountered a crumbling barbed wire fence and a sandy roadbed that headed straight for the gully. Would it go? YESSSS!! It was gently sloping sand and talus, with the remains of a road. The gully is the notch seen here.

I soon found myself on the flat, vast, sprawling top of North Butte. A 15-minute hike brought me 0.6 mile S to the radio tower near point 6049, which John Mitchler and others have agreed is the HP, despite the existence of a 6052' point on the E side of the butte.