Two Peaks in One Day as Beth Heads toward 20 Peaks in 2020
We left Great Falls at 7:45 and were on trail two hours later. The amazing thing was no wind! And we were along the Rocky Mountain Front. No one could remember a breezeless day in this neck of the woods, but it was true. It was a bit cold when we started, and the trail was icy, necessitating some off-trail walking to avoid any falls, but the hiking wasn't difficult.
The sun came out as we hit the steeper part, so we warmed up quickly as we dodged a few snow fields, walked across a small one and finally made it to the top. We were in two groups with four gals going at a faster pace and planning on doing both hikes while four were taking it more leisurely. The fast group waiting at the top though so we could all get a group photo. As we were posing, an airplane flew overhead; we all waved; he waved back by rocking his wings back and forth. It was very cool and brought a smile to all our faces during a depressing COVID-laden time. Another thing in the sky was an almost-full moon, hanging over Fairview mountain. It was so nice with the sun shining on us, the views into the Bob Marshall including Fairview mountain that several of us had climbed earlier this summer that it was hard to leave.
Since four of the gals had a drive and another climb, we said our goodbyes and they quickly descended, while the other group made their way slowly. Sheila decided to go her own way to do some fishing; we had seen many people putting in their poles on the drive in, even on the ice when the weather had been so warm, so she decided to join them. We told her to be careful on the thin ice.
The one-peak climbers got back in town at just before 2 p.m.. The other group hiked Priest Butte and finished around 4:30.
After our quick hike up McCarty Hill, a few of us decided to venture to Rattlesnake and Priest Butte - 650 feet elevation gain. Amber had previously been there so was able to guide us along the way. We first climbed Rattlesnake Butte and learned the white crosses were put in place for three Jesuit priests who had come to Montana to set up a mission to serve the Blackfeet Indians. The three crosses are NOT the original crosses and are actually located on Rattlesnake Butte. Priest Butte is named for the Jesuit priests. Once we climbed the wooden ladder to the top of Rattlesnake Butte, the sky seemed unending...we could see for miles. After admiring the views and looking down at the features created by weathered sandstone, we meandered down and wandered over to and up Priest Butte. We learned that there had been a quarry on Priest Butte to obtain shale rock for the county courthouse. Unfortunately, the courthouse burned down at the end of the 19th century and had to be rebuilt..
All of us were curious about and struck by the interesting geologic features and rock types. There seemed to be two distinctly different colors of rocks. We read a little about the geology and here is what we found out. The brownish reddish rocks on top of lighter colored sandstone are part of the Virgelle formation. This darker upper layer is composed of titaniferous magnetite and it rests on sandstone, which erodes more easily and helps form the shape of the butte, hoodoos and other unique features. We noticed ripple marks, but missed the dinosaur prints that are reported to be there. The weather was sunny with very few clouds, minimal wind and very warm for this time of year!
On a side note: we were all shocked at how low Nilan Reservoir was, making it into a series of ponds, rather than one big lake.
Who went: Susan, Debra, Sheila, Katie in group one; Josy, Mary S, Beth and Amber in group 2.