American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Montana, Rocky Mountains, Beaverhead Mountains, Traverse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

Beaverhead Mountains, traverse. On August 12, 2003, I finished a 1,362-mile journey that included a traverse of the Rocky Mountains. The journey was completed in segments involving kayaking, hiking, climbing, and mountain biking. I began in Montana on May 12, by kayaking up the Missouri River from the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, then across the Jefferson and Beaverhead drainages down the Salmon River and across the Bitterroot Valley to Lolo Pass. With friends I mountain hiked 150 miles across the Bitterroot Range of northern Idaho and western Montana. I kayaked the Clearwater to the Snake, the Snake to the Columbia, down the Columbia to Wallula Gorge. Then I continued on my mountain bike until I rode onto the beach at Astoria, Oregon.

In late June 2003 I’d crossed the Rockies, but as a climber I wanted to be in the high mountains. I took a break from my westward journey and returned to traverse a portion of the spine of the Beaverhead Mountains, a subrange of the Bitterroots on the Continental Divide between Idaho and Montana. It took four days and reminded me of the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic race, with its endless route-finding while traversing mountain ranges with everything on your back. I started one section in the Big Hole Valley and climbed Peak 10,048', west of Pioneer Creek, then climbed to the CD and traversed west to Monument Peak (10,356'). I then descended to the col east of newly named Sacagawea Peak and hiked out to Salmon, Idaho.

There is a 2.5-mile-long cornice of ice and snow on the north side of the CD here. The route from Peak 10,048' to the CD is 5.3. In my research I could find no description of the route I climbed having been previously done. The rock is metamorphic and unstable. The most technical part is descending couloirs on the west face.

I first saw this range rising from the Salmon River Plains in 1971 when I was a young smokejumper returning from a fire. I wondered what it would be like to climb along the ridge. Now I know. (Note: a complete story and more information on this traverse can be found at www.sierraclub.org/lewisandclark/your_adventures/dixon/index.asp)

Jerry Dixon, A AC

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