State Highpoints – Montana - 12,799-foot Granite Peak
Montana’s highest peak and the tenth highest US state summit, 12,799-foot Granite Peak, is one of the tougher state summits.
Granite is located in south-central Montana not far north of the Wyoming border in the Beartooth Mountains.
In addition to being the highest peak in Montana, Granite is the Absoraka Beartooth Wilderness Highpoint.
Granite, with 4,779 feet of prominence just misses being an Ultra, which is a peak with at least 5,000 feet of prominence.
Climbing Granite is a project for many climbers, however the ultra fit have done it in a day.
The standard route ends up on the peak’s East Ridge. The approach starts at the Mystic Lake Trailhead,
goes up the valley to Mystic Lake, ascends a long series of switchbacks to reach the large Froze to Death Plateau,
crosses the plateau toward Granite Peak, descends slightly to reach the saddle between Granite and 12,500-foot Tempest Mountain,
then climbs Granite’s East Ridge. Many parties backpack up and place a camp on the western edge of the Froze to Death Plateau.
The ascent up Granite’s East Ridge is the route’s crux. In a normal summer, it involves crossing a knife edge of snow,
then an ascent of some steep rock. Experienced climbers rate the rock difficulty as Class 3,
but others have found it to be Class 4. Part of this difference depends on one’s ability to find and climb the easiest route.
Also, the differentiation between Class 3 and Class 4 depends on where you are from, and your experience.
Many parties use a rope for the steep rock, and rappel down the steepest pitches. This can take a long time for a large party.
Above the steep rock, it is a scamper up to the highpoint.
There is an alternate route on the opposite side of Granite that has gained in popularity in recent years.
It is called the “Southwest Couloir” and ascends a well hidden couloir on Granite’s Southwest Face.
This alternate route also carries a Class 3 rating, but much of the climb is easier. A problem with this route is that the couloir
is full of large teetering blocks that can quickly roar down the gully. Many horror stories have come from this couloir.
However, the approach to this route, while long, is quite beautiful in a lake-studded valley.
No matter how you reach this long-sought summit, you can gaze at mountains in every direction.