Granite Peak Expedition

Season Summer - Fall

Difficulty Moderate

Duration 4 - 5 Days

Overview

Granite Peak, with an elevation of 12,803″, is Montana’s highest peak. This formidable mountain is located in the heart of the remote and scenic Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, just north of Yellowstone National Park. It is a challenging climb requiring rock and snow mountaineering skills and has a lengthy and strenuous approach. Granite Peak is considered by many to be the most difficult high point summit after Denali.

Jackson Hole Mountain Guides is the oldest and most experienced guide service serving those who wish to climb Granite Peak. We offer our standard 4-day trip; we also have 5-day trips for those wishing to add a day, for weather reasons, fishing, or for a little more acclimatization and rest time.

Season Summer - Fall

Miles 25

Elevation 12,803'

Elevation Gain 6800'

Trip Planner

Itinerary

Typically, Granite Peak climbs meet at 8:00 am in Cody, Wyoming, the date prior to the start of your trip. We start the day with a half to 3/4 day climbing prep class, followed by a gear check of your personal gear, and distribution of the group gear.  Some folks like to drive to Red Lodge, Montana, (half way) that day, while others drive to the trailhead (2 hrs. 20 mins.) and camp there. Most folks like to stay in Cody that evening and follow their guide to the trailhead the following morning. Normally we leave Cody at 5:30 A.M., stop in Red Lodge for a hearty breakfast, then proceed on to the West Rosebud (Mystic Lake) trailhead on the first scheduled day of the trip.

From Mystic Lake our first day’s hike takes us to Camp 1, located approximately 7+ miles from and 4,200 ft. above the trailhead. Camp 1 is located at the very N.E. corner of the unique Froze-to-Death Plateau. Day 2 is much easier with only 3+ miles to hike and 1,600 ft. to gain. Camp 2, located at tempest Col, gives us an awesome view of Granite Peak’s North face, and situates us for an optimal approach on summit day. Weather providing, day 3 is summit day.

The East Ridge of Granite Peak is the most popular approach on summit day. Snowfields (boulders later in the season) and scrambling lead to the infamous “snowbridge”, a narrow ridge with steep couloirs falling away on both sides.  Above, scrambling and 5.4  rock climbing interspersed with comfortable ledges lead to the summit.  The descent uses the same route, usually requiring 2 or 3 rappels.  On the final day lighter packs and downhill hiking make attaining the trailhead reasonable.

5-Day Granite Peak Climb Price: $2750 private; $1950 pp/group

4-Day Granite Peak Climb Price: $2300 private; $1600 pp/group

Price includes breakfasts and dinners (i.e., evening meal) while in the backcountry, technical climbing gear, tent and group cooking gear. ***HORSE SUPPORT OR PORTERS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Price does not include equipment drop/portage and shuttle fees.

Group pricing is for 2 – 3 people on a trip. Please note that trips must reach minimum # of people.

Private trips cannot be booked directly online based on scheduling, please click here to inquire about specific dates for a private trip. Please read through our policies by visiting this page.

 

JHMG schedules Granite Peak trips in July and August.  However, late June and early September can also be an excellent time.  We are happy to schedule a trip for your group any time during the season.  We are happy to schedule private trips as well.

The summit success rate in an average season is relatively low compared to many of our climbs, perhaps around 70%.   The most common reasons for failure are bad weather (the Beartooths seem to be stormier than the Tetons or Wind Rivers), inadequate physical conditioning, and inadequate pre-trip training for the technical climbing.

Beartooth Wilderness trips, climbs, and classes are based out of Cody, WY, unless other arrangements have been made with your guide. The closest airport is Yellowstone Regional Airport. Please plan on having your own local transportation; it’s a good idea to reserve rental cars as early as possible.  For significant climbs, please plan on arriving a day or two before your departure date to acclimatize. There are numerous accommodations and camping options near the Cody office. Jackson Hole Mountain Guides provides most of the food other than drinks and lunch/snacks for multi-day trips (not classes); our office will fill you in on the details before your trip.  All supplies must be purchased in town before the trip.

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Granite Peak, the highest summit in Montana at 12,803′, is located in the Beartooth Mountains just north of Yellowstone National Park. It is a challenging climb requiring rock and snow mountaineering skills and has a strenuous approach. Granite Peak is considered by many to be the most challenging high point summit after Denali.

Skill Level and Conditioning
Basic rock climbing skills are a pre-requisite. Participants should be familiar with belaying, rope handling, using gear, signals, and rappelling.  These and other techniques helpful on Granite Peak will be covered in your prep class in Cody. If the weather is favorable, the climbing is not too difficult but it is exposed and technical.  Many unguided parties turn around because of the difficult route-finding and steep rock.  Snow climbing and self-arrest skills are essential through July.  Crampons are often used in the early season.
Good physical conditioning will greatly improve your chances at success.   Granite Peak demands strenuous effort, the packs are heavy, and the altitude affects everyone’s performance.  Before your climb, train for long days by hiking in steep terrain with a pack for many hours.

This area has elevations from 6000-12,000+’, and these high mountain areas require some acclimatization. Staying extremely well hydrated is key to one’s success with exertion at altitude. It also helps to arrive a few days early, and do some hiking above 8-9000’. If you have had problems at altitude before please let us know ahead of time and consult with your physician before you come.

The weather is variable; often the nights are cool while the days can warm up substantially even in the alpine environment. Wind can be a real issue on the exposed plateaus. Fog, rain, hail, even summer snow showers may be encountered; afternoon thunderstorms are fairly predictable.

The Beartooth Range is the second largest contiguous roadless area in Montana, consisting of high granite mountains containing twenty-nine peaks above 12,000 feet. Summers are extremely short at this elevation and snow can cover the peaks on virtually any day of the year. The climbing and hiking season generally occurs during the months of July, August, and September, although some years winter snows don’t arrive until the end of October. Intense thunderstorms often occur during summer, and hail and strong winds are not uncommon.

But none of this should scare you off. As the largest contiguous land mass above 10,000 feet in the United States, the Beartooths provide spectacular vistas of nearby Yellowstone National Park and the Absaroka Mountains to the south. Derived from a Precambrian base, the 4 million year old rocks are among the oldest known on earth. This foundation was covered with thousands of feet of sediments and than uplifted 70 million years ago. Thick ice scoured the southern side of the Beartooth Plateau, leaving a rolling landscape that is a climber’s dream.The east-west aspect of the Beartooth Range means less summer sun, with lingering snow fields, slow runoff, and lots of swampy areas. Due to micro climates, foothills and canyons along the northwest face of the mountains nurture plants unusual to this eastern side of the Continental Divide. Grassy foothills and parks along the north face of the range provide winter forage for elk, deer and bighorn sheep. Granite Peak is the highest elevation in Montana at 12,799 feet. With names such as Avalanche Peak, Glacier Lake, Froze-to-Death, Thunder, and Hell Roaring Plateau, nearby summits reflect the ever-changing moods of this harsh wilderness area.

The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness has more than 640 lakes in the complex and along it’s high mountain plateau. With an amazing 386 plant species discovered thus far, the Beartooth’s has the richest flora of any mountain range in North America. This may be due to the considerable height of the range in combination with its unusual east-west orientation. With an incredible abundance of water, with three-hundred-foot waterfalls, countless cascades, remnant glaciers on the high north slopes, it is an undisturbed watershed for America’s longest un-dammed river, the free flowing Yellowstone.

 

Equipment
JHMG supplies camping permits, tents, stoves, and climbing gear as needed. Clients are welcome to use their own climbing gear but please coordinate with our office. JHMG supplies breakfasts and dinners; clients are responsible for trail food, lunches and beverages.
Keep in mind the strenuous wilderness character of Granite trips; gear should be light and in good repair. Minimize luxury items.
Footwear traditionally raises questions.  Typical conditions through July require boots sturdy enough for snow climbing and crampons.  Plastic double mountaineering boots are not suitable- they are too bulky and heavy.  A mid-weight leather or kevlar boot is far better.  In late July and August, light hiking boots and approach shoes work well.

Packs need to be large enough for personal gear plus your share of the group gear and food.  If you plan to use an external frame pack you will also need a day pack for the climbing day because the frame packs are impossibly unwieldy for rock climbing.

High-tech rain gear made of breathable fabric is great but is often very expensive.  Rain gear made of coated nylon will do the job for much less cost.
Porters are strongly encouraged and are available starting at $175.00 per day. The terrain is not suitable for horse packing.

Footwear

Lightweight Mountaineering Boot – Trips before mid-July and those including  extensive snow climbing (e.g. Gannett, Granite, Multi-day objectives, NOT GRAND TETON)   require a lightweight mountaineering boot  NOT a plastic boot.

  • Guide Pick: Salewa Repace GTX or Mountain Trainer
  • 4 pair of wool socks and blister prevention
Upper Layers
  • Synthetic/Wool Long Underwear Top
  • Synthetic T-shirt – Guide Pick: Mountain Hardwear Wicked Light T
  • Insulating Jacket: lightweight down or synthetic – Guide Pick: Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket
  • Soft Shell: fleece or pile
  • Rain Jacket: waterproof/breathable with hood. Guide Pick: Mountain Hardwear- Plasmic Jacket
Bottom Layers
  • Synthetic/Wool Long Underwear Bottom
  • Hiking Short or Pant for approach – Guide Pick: Mountain Hardwear – Men’s Mesa –Women’s Corsica convertible pants
  • Synthetic Climbing Pant – Guide Pick: Mountain Hardwear- Chockstone Pant
  • Rain Pant – Guide Pick: Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Pant
Accessories
  • Hat: lightweight to medium weight warm hat – sleek enough to be worn under a helmet
  • Gloves: one lightweight to medium weight pair – synthetic or fleece material. If snow route, shell also recommended.
  • Gaiters: only until mid-July
On the trail
  • Large Pack – Guide Pick: Mountain Hardwear- South Col 70 Outdry . Internal frame only.  70+ Liter  for 4 day trip. Large enough to fit all your personal gear plus ten pounds of food and water. Some trips will require an additional small summit pack for Technical Rock Climbs or summit days – Guide pick: Mountain Harwear – Scrambler 30
  • Water Bottles (2-3 L/Qt.) or H2O hydration system
  • Water Treatment tablets
  • Lightweight Bowl
  • Insulated Mug
  • Spoon and Fork
  • Stuff Sacks: zip lock bags
  • Dark Sunglasses
  • Extra Contact Lenses
  • Sun Hat or Visor
  • Sunscreen (35+SPF)
  • Lip Balm
  • Insect Repellent (until early August)
  • Headlamp and Fresh Batteries
  • First Aid – minimal: blister care, analgesic, etc.
  • Lunch, snacks & drink mix
  • Misc Items: minimal: light knife, camera,
    bandana, camp suds, wash cloth, etc.
Some trips require (please inquire with JHMG):
  • Sleeping Bag: 15 degree – Guide Pick: Mountain Hardwear ExtraLamina +20 Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad: Closed-cell foam or Thermarest
Recommended & Optional Items
  • Trekking Poles
  • Camera and batteries, spare memory card
  • Insoles: custom or after market
  • Bear Spray
  • Insect Repellant
  • Camp Shoe – lightweight
Cold Weather Considerations:

Early and late season temperatures require warmer clothing. You may consider additional clothing if you get cold easily or if it is unusually cold or windy.

  • Balaclava or neck gaiter
  • Extra down vest or jacket
  • Expedition weight long underwear
  • Extra gloves

**Jackson Hole Mountain Guides supplies all the rock climbing gear, harnesses, helmets, locking carabiners & belay/rappel devices, crampons, and ice axes. However, you are welcome to bring your own equipment. Please coordinate with our office for gear checks. Backpacks, rock shoes, and boots can all be rented & purchased in our Jackson office.

For your safety and comfort, bring synthetic and or natural fiber clothing for insulation. Cotton
is NOT recommended and down must be kept dry. Clothing should be able to layer without
encumbering movement.

For a printable version of this list, please click below:

VIEW PDF
Why is the first day of the trip the hardest?

It's the most elevation gain and the greatest distance of any day with fully loaded packs.You gain approx. 4,100 ft. in elevation and hike just over 7 miles.

If the second day is much shorter distance and elevation gain and we reach our high camp early enough, why not just go for the summit?

The peak looks much closer from our high camp on Tempest Col than it is. We structure our trips for success and an early arrival at high camp enables everyone to rest, hydrate, eat, and acclimate. Tempest Col is 12,000 ft. and a semi-rest day at the col makes the summit bid the following day much easier and enjoyable and increases our chances for success.

How long is a typical summit day?

It all depends on a number of things like the size of your party, route conditions, weather, how fast one moves, etc. Lots of variables to consider. A typical summit day is 10 hrs. with an average group. My personal records are 6 hrs. 39 mins. on the shortest to 14 hrs. 45 mins. on the longest.

If we move fast on summit day and get back to high camp in time can we hike part of the way out that same day?

Possibly. Your guide will determine that once you get back down off of the summit. If the weather is stable and folks are still fairly fresh a move back down to Camp 1 is very feasible. Once high camp is broken you need to be sure you can get back off of the plateau without getting caught in bad weather or having someone bonk. The plateau is very exposed and no place to be caught out on.

What's the availability of water like on this trip?

There are good and ample water stops all along the way. The water source at Tempest Col, our very highest camp, can be a little elusive late in the season if it's a very dry year but for the most part obtaining fresh water is not an issue. We filter all of our water. You are welcome to bring your own filter however our guides carry water filters and some carry Steri-Pens as well.

If we book a 5 day trip and summit day 3, can we hike out a day early.

Absolutely! Most folks do. It's always best to take advantage of good weather in the high mountains.

Testimonials

  • My experiences with JHMG have been uniformly outstanding.   Each guide that has worked with me over the years has taken a genuine interest in helping me advance my climbing.  The levels of professionalism, expertise, and interest in teaching among the guides I have worked with has been top-notch.

    — David Matthews
  • If you want to climb safely with confidence and learn about WHAT you are actually doing and climbing…Pick JHMG.  Hands down the best guys for the job!  YEARS of experience and professionalism are very obvious from the moment you step inside the shop.  Nice guys, well trained and fun to climb with!

    — Darren Davis
  • I just wanted to thank you for setting us up with such unbelievable guides.  They were absolutely solid, professional and fun to be around.  We couldn’t have had better, nor better results.  That climb of the Grand is something I’ll never forget.  I will be back to climb Mt. Moran next.

    —  Paul Edelbrock
  • Joe and I wanted to again say thanks for an awesome trip. We were put at ease the second we walked into the guide shop on Monday night for a gear check. I would absolutely recommend JHMG to anyone who asks. Every single guide we met was approachable, professional, and fun to be around, making for a great time. I sincerely hope that our paths cross again some time.

    — Steve Widdoss

Talk To Us

Here you’ll find online tools and information about joining us for a trip of a lifetime! To sign up for a trip, or if you have any questions, please call us. Listed on the left side of these pages are links that you may find useful, including printable forms and policies concerning a trip with JHMG. We encourage ALL prospective climbers to read our Preparation advice. Our office can help place you with others who are looking to climb.

By Phone 800.239.7642

By Email info@jhmg.com

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