My friend Angela and I set out to climb the highest peak in the Flint range last Sunday. Because there’s no trail to the top, we looked for beta on the best route and discovered the most unintentionally hilarious trip reports I’ve ever read, including quotes like these:
- “Turn right and go steeply uphill at FR8507, with sign No camping for next 5 miles as on Montana State Prison Land.”
- “Powell had a 3 year old register with maybe 60 signers. Also in it was memorial material for someone. Nearby was a cremation ash box for yet someone else.”
- “Finally I returned to the car and Deer Lodge to chow down in a most gluttonous fashion.”
Thus warned not to pick up hitchhikers on prison land, Angela and I struck out from Missoula at the alpine-start hour of 8:00am with her 10 pound Paraguayan peak-bagging dog as protection against any escaped convicts intent on bushwhacking to the top of Mount Powell.
A couple hours later, we rumbled up the dirt Forest Service road and turned a corner to find the notorious jeep road that one trip report “couldn’t recommend driving, and featured huge ponds and an impassible swamp.” This road was maybe suited for actual Jeeps but clearly poised to take out the undercarriage of any lesser vehicle. We turned the Forester around and parked her at 6000 feet, where we engaged in our first wardrobe change of shucking the yoga pants in favor of a hiking skort. We finally struck out for the peak at 10:30am.
A quarter mile up the rough road past ruts and rocks that would have eaten the Forester’s tires for breakfast, we discovered the swampy puddles described by the trip report, which would have swallowed the tire-less Forester whole. We were thus affirmed in our decision to leave the car below.
About two miles up the jeep road, we took a right turn on a faint path and stumbled on Bohn Lake in a surprisingly easy and non-bushwhacking manner. We quickly donned all of our clothes again for a cold and windy snack on the lake shore. It was here that we discovered we had barely enough food to reach the peak, and there would be no “chowing down in a gluttonous fashion” later, as we’d forgotten post-hike food, too. Amateur move.
We shucked our layers again, and decided that the best route to ascend to the sub-ridge below Mount Powell was via the steep and at times alarmingly cliff-like scree field opposite Bohn Lake. Some creative moves and four-points-of-contact scrambling later, we miraculously made the ridge without injury or sending the dog tumbling back down the face.
We followed the ridge through open grassland and timber until it cliffed out to the right at 8700 feet. The wind picked up exponentially, forcing us back into the trees to—you guessed it—put on more layers.
We continued along the ridge through the timber to avoid the windy cliffs, to the edge of the forest before the summit rises above treeline. We stopped to eat the last of our food supply, the excitement of reaching the peak only somewhat dimmed by food panic.
We ascended to the summit of Mount Powell via the south boulder field, which necessitated occasional Paraguayan dog carries over some of the trickier moves. At the summit, we victoriously took a selfie before putting on yet more clothes against the gale force wind.
Summit log book signed, we descended back the same route until the crux move of the scree field above Bohn Lake. Opting not to be stupid, we instead discovered a well-traveled game trail through the trees that was only slightly less steep and deposited us at the unnamed lake just below Bohn. If choosing to ascend this way (recommended if you’d rather not use four points of contact), look for the game trail at the south end of the unnamed lake beside the willow. I’m sure you’ll find it.
Arriving back at the car at 5: 45pm, we finished out our series of clothing changes and fantasized about finding something to eat. We considered swinging by the prison kitchen, but instead stopped at the Deer Lodge A&W and inadvertently discovered the best post-peak-bagging treat ever. We triumphantly took our ice cream/cookie/reeses shakes back to the car for a sunset drive back to Missoula.
Total elevation gain: 4168 feet. Total miles: 11-12, depending on who’s counting. Total wardrobe changes: 16.