Mink Peak Spires (Attempt)- Bitterroots

Date: April 15, 2018

Participants: Dan Escalante, Tom Herwerden, Forest Dean

Three years ago I climbed the 9363’ high point on the ridge west of Trapper Peak.  This point is known as “Mink Peak” due to the fact it sits just north and above Mink Lake.  Upon reaching the summit I looked to the east at the nearby rock spires and had a strong feeling that the highest of these was clearly higher than “Mink Peak”.  Over the last two years I have ascended some peaks both to the north and south of this area and each time, when observing these spires, have felt that one of them is really the actual high point of this mountain.  Thus I hatched a plan to go climb it to find out!  After making plans for a date for this attempt, I was turned on to an article by a couple of guys who climbed these spires a few years ago.  They essentially confirmed what I suspected- Mink Lake “Spire” (which they dubbed “Illusion Spire”) is the actual high point (exact elevation to be determined).  I needed to climb it!

Dan, Tom and I arrived at the Boulder Creek trailhead and started up the trail at about 7:00am.  First mile was on mostly bare ground, but then we were in to off and on snow cover…some solid, some soft.  We strapped on skis/snowshoes and slowly made our way up the trail (Dan crossed the creek at one point and found the going a little better, but more sidehilling).  It took us nearly three hours to all get to the Boulder Creek Falls due to the poor conditions.  Shortly thereafter, Tom turned back as he was struggling with post holing on his snowshoes.  Dan and I began a diagonal ascent up into the Mink Lake drainage.  Not feeling well, Dan stopped at about 11:15 just as we entered the drainage proper.  With his blessing, I decided to skin up to the lake and see what things looked like.  Hauling the rope and all kinds of other useless gear,  I slowly made my way up to Mink Lake- arriving right at noon.  Snow was falling hard, wind was blowing and the Peak/Spires at head of drainage were all socked in.  So, I tucked my tail, ripped the skins and had a nice, enjoyable 1500’ ski back down to the trail.  The rest of the day was pure misery!  Rain was falling; skins wouldn’t stick; bare patches of trail meant more hiking than skiing.  We all got completely worked on the exit!

Naturally, the sun came out in mid afternoon.  Tom and Dan beat me back to the trailhead by over two hours.  I arrived back at 4:45pm.  Looking forward to going back up there under some better conditions!

Stats to lake:  13 miles round trip and about 3000’ elevation gain.

Forest Dean

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