The Shard and The Tusk (Bitterroots)

Dates: September 11-12, 2021

Leader:  Forest Dean

Participants: Corey Hinshaw, Andrew Twardowski, Leland Earls

On a great early fall weekend, Corey, Andrew and I headed up Chaffin Creek in the Bitterroots at 8:00am on Saturday morning.  We hiked the approximate 6 miles to Tamarack Lake, arriving at 10:40am.  We set up our camp, had some food, then began climbing to the north towards The Shard (Peak 9883- third highest in the Bitterroots).  We were able to easily gain a little elevation then contour over to the base of the steeper south face of The Shard.  Only one mishap along the way!  Andrew didn’t see an overhanging chunk of granite in one place and the top of his head gushed a bit of blood.  He looked pretty cool afterwards!  (see picture).  After some surgery, we continued up to a steeper couloir that cuts up to the ridge just east of the summit.  There was some fun class 3 climbing up this gully and soon we were at the ridge.  Some more fun scrambling to the west and we were standing on the summit at about 2:00.  Beautiful day and no wind so we stayed awhile.  Eventually we headed back down, then contoured a little higher this time on our way back to Tamarack, arriving about 4:30.  I spent a bit of time fishing, caught a couple, but then was too lazy to clean them, so threw them back.  Tamarack is a good fishery!  We sat on rock slabs above the lake, enjoying dinner and our spirits of choice.  Andrew eventually made a fire and we sat around enjoying the evening until about 10 when we hit our individual tents.

Leland made an appearance just after we had all gone to bed.  He was rearing and ready to go the next morning.  The day dawned perfect again- no breeze, very little smoke and lots of sunshine.  After breakfast we started hiking up towards a bouldery ramp to the south of Chaffin Lake.  This took us up to a ridge between Chaffin and the Chaffin High Lakes.  Splendid country indeed…best in the Bitterroots!  After rounding over the ridge, we climbed a couple hundred feet of large boulders to the north face of The Tusk.  This 9486’ peak sits on the south side of the Chaffin High Lakes area and is one of the few 9000’ Bitterroot Peaks that require some actual rock climbing (low 5th class).  From the base of the north face wall to the summit is only about 250’ vertical, but its not a spot where falling is an option.  We roped up and did an awkward 4 person simul-climb.  This worked for about 200’, then we just belayed the final 50’ the standard way.  Around noon we were all on the summit.  Again, splendid weather and views.  Two rappels got us back to the boulder field.  We decided to walk past the five amazing tarns that make up the Chaffin High Lakes area on the way back to our camp.  This area is paradise!  Highly recommend a visit.  Back to camp about 3:00pm, packed up and hit the trail about 3:40.  We arrived out at 6:00pm.  Drove to Hamilton and had pizzas and beer and Higher Ground before heading back to Missoula.

A fantastic weekend with some great partners.  Two really fun climbs.  Chaffin is such a pleasant place to camp and spend time.  These peaks can certainly be done as day trips, but if you have the time, there isn’t a better place to camp!  Forest Dean

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