|Morning Star Lake - Pitamakan Pass plus, MT|| |
Morning Star Lake - Pitamakan Pass plus, MT
|Hiking||8.32 Miles|| 7 Hrs 40 Mns ||1.43 mph|
|2,624 ft AEG|| 1 Hour 50 Mns Break|
|We had no idea how beautiful this hike was going to be. But first we had to admire the beauty of Morning Star Lake on a blue sky morning. None of the critters were about yet. We had a nice breakfast and then just loaded up for a day hike to the Passes. I was very nervous about the elevation gain as other than yesterday, I hadn't hiked for a month let alone any kind of elevation unless the Stair Stepper at the Club counts? |
I had the elevation gain all written down:
So off we went and it starts up right away. However, the grade was pretty good for most of the trek up to Pitamakan Lake including some flat areas here and there through the forest, along the creek. As you round the first switchback you get to see the seedheads of anemones, they're just so darn cute. They were mixed in with some paintbrush so it was a real pretty area.
- 1000 feet in 1.82 miles (about a Shaw Butte and 1/2)) to Pitamakan Lake
825 feet in 1.26 miles (another Shaw Butte) to Pitamakan Pass
446 feet in .50 miles (1/2 Shaw Butte in 1/2 of the distance) for a total of 2240 feet in 3 1/2 miles
About 3/4 mile into the hike we could hear rushing water and saw a little use trail so we obliged. We got to see a pretty waterfalls over the red rock; this was unexpected and I don't know that I've seen anyone mention it. It's not super big or anything but certainly worthy of stepping off the trail. You eventually get pretty close to the actual drainage and walk alongside of it for awhile as you constantly have your eyes pointed to the prize as you can see Mount Morgan lurking over you. To your right, west, is McClintock Peak altho I thot it was Medicine Grizzly.
About a mile in you get a glimpse of Katoya Lake (Lake #6368) with Red Mountain rising 3000 feet above it. Many years ago there was a backcountry site on the lake shore, but Grizzly activity through the years forced it to be removed. It's pretty foresty through here as you climb a switchback.
After a little more climbing the trail levels off and actually starts taking you down as you get closer to the lake. And what a lake this is. It may not be big but it's glacial. Pitamakan Lake seemed like a perfect place for a break even though we were only into the hike less than two miles. We had all day and the days are long here. So we had a snack and just sat back and admired the beauty of its colorful rock bottom and silty blue top with a huge snowbank at the end. There had been glacier lilys blooming all around here.
Alas it was time to continue the second part of our climb. This part would have some steep sections but they were very short plus it really was beautiful as you elevated above the lake and watched it changed color. Aas you walked up on the usual excellent trail tread of GNP, we admired the flora with more anemones and paintbrush and all sorts of fir trees from little to medium to big. I get so spoiled here. And then to your right you start to get glimpses of the Lake of the Seven Winds. As you get a little higher you get the view of both lakes and they are just spectacular to look at. And then the rising mountains and it's hard to imagine from here a glacier made its way down the Cut Bank Valley. The Cut Bank Glacier was relatively small compared to some of the other valleys but it had to make one heck of a cut when it eventually veered eastward.
We are also seeing different flora as we get higher into the switchbacks until you finally get to the straightaway for that last 1/4 mile. And now on the mountainside the flora gets really small but very colorful and the marmots apparently find it pretty tasty as do the Rocky Mountain sheep we will see on our way up Dawson Pass. From a ways back we were able to see people both on the Pitamakan Ridge and going up Dawson Pass. Before you know it, HAZel said we were at 3 miles at the trail sign. We could look down the 800 feet we had just come up and see others taking a break at the mouth of Pitamakan Lake.
The ridge is fairly wide here as I made my way over to the other side to get my first glimpse of Oldman Lake. I'm not sure why they spell it all as one word since not too far from here is Young Man Lake tucked into the wings of Flinsch Peak. It's finally great to come to a place I've heard about and seen so many pictures. This hike has been pretty amazing and now it was time for a great lunch that Wendy started down at our Pitmakan Lake stop by adding water to some ramen noodles in a baggie. Now up here she added all the other good stuff. It was so good. There was a chipmunk that had his eye on us though. It was a fairly busy place as one guided group passed through. Most people are doing the Pitamakan-Dawson Loop.
Next it was up to Dawson Pass. From here is also the trail to Cut Bank Pass which takes you over into the Nyack Valley. That is probably where you will see more bears than people. Sadly a lot of it burned a couple years back. The trails are also not that well maintained. The hike up west up this north part of Dawson pass is a lot what I envision hiking up the Weatherford Trail from the Inner Basin. And the reward, well, pretty awesome. Except here, while hiking up the pass we looked down a little ways to see a rather large herd of female sheep and a couple lambs coming up the Pitamakan Pass Trail. We stopped to enjoy watching them. The little ones were having a good time. I got some pictures and movies.
I expected it to be quite windy as this pass is noted for that but today, it was just right. There were a few people up here enjoying the views both near and far. The next portion where we head south to the western side of Mount Morgan, is a whole other ballgame for Wendy as she has a fear of heights. This really tested her in a couple spots. A hoary marmot jumped on the trail to lead the way and the sun came out so I thought that would help. It's only 3000 feet or so down. The mountainside is pretty bare but I thot the trail was pretty wide for the most part. Wendy was huggin' the side of the mountain though. We encountered a few people along the way. We made it to the west side of Mount Morgan. I wanted her to see Mount Saint Nicholas as it's pretty cool-looking but we could only see one side of it. Nonetheless, this was a neat spot and we hung here for just a bit before heading back.
On our way back (north) toward Pitamakan Pass, a hoary marmot jumped around Wendy and startled her. I presume he was the same marmot that was trying to lead her earlier. He lurked above us for awhile and then we scurried on. I could tell Wendy was anxious to get this over and done with. The nice thing about it is she hikes a little slower so I really get to take in the sights. And once we hit the NW corner of Mount Morgan, another marmot appeared. They sure seemed to be out en masse up here as this was the third one we had seen up close and personal today. We enjoyed seeing more flowers as we hiked down the pass to Pitamakan intersection.
The sun was coming in and out so the colors of the two lakes was constantly changing. They are really a sight to behold. Plus some other flowers had started blooming including these little white flowers that almost covered this nearly bare side of the mountain. We stopped many times to admire the scenery and look back at the folks on the Pitamakan Ridge. A lot of folks seemed to linger there. Once we made it to the Lake we stopped to admire it before heading on our way. We hiked in and out of the forest, got our glimpse of Katoya and hiked along its drainage. We finally came to the view of our lake altho it's just a glimpse. And before you knew it, we were back at camp.
Another hiker was tossing up her bear bag and later the Frenchman Bruno would show up. His English was not the best and he was trying out new cooking equipment that Wendy had to assist with when the stove's fire wouldn't go out. The other gal was a hike leader/guide and had some great stories. She brot the kitchen to cook up her tasty meal. She had hiked quite a distance via a walk-up permit from Red Eagle Lake over Triple Divide Pass to here. Bruno had hiked from Two Medicine and was on a five day backpack I think. Bruno was another coincidence that we would be staying at the same camp ATL the next nite. Oh I almost forogt, a female moose didn't stop for dinner as she was startled by our presence when she came back from the lake.
It was a good day and just as we had climbed into our sleeping quarters the rain started lightly, then the thunder and lightning. The thunder was fascinating as it rolled up the glacially carved valley and seemed to roll back when it hit the cirque wall that was less than three miles from us. And of course with mountains on three sides... it was quite the audio. I did get some of the sound on video.
Here are the videos:
[ youtube video ] Morning Star Lake to Pitamakan Lake
[ youtube video ] Pitamakan Lake to Pitamakan Pass and Ridge
[ youtube video ] Pitamakan Ridge to west side of Mount Morgan and back to North side of Dawson Pass (marmots and sheep)
[ youtube video ] North side of Dawson Pass almost to Pitamakan Lake
[ youtube video ] Pitamakan Lake to Morning Star Lake
||Wildflowers Observation Substantial
alpine paint brush, anemone, bistort, artic willow, forget me not, moss campion, sub alpine fur, death camas lily, lousewort, gentian, pasqueflower, yellow columbine, mountain penstemon
|For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination. |
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.