After our big push on the Upper Doublet, we needed a day or two to rest and recuperate. With our week of alpine climbing nearing its end, we wanted to get one more climb in. Both of us agreed it shouldn’t be anything too crazy, as our minds and bodies were still feeling strained.
We decided on Legacy, a mellow 6 pitch climb up Leggat Spire in the Tobacco Root Mountains near Sheridan, MT. With only one pitch of 5.7 and the rest low 5th class, it would be a nice change of pace from the scary EZ Route. The approach and descent were supposed to be short as well, adding to the allure.
Saturday morning we got a leisurely start and made the two hour drive out to Sheridan and up the long and bumpy road to the Branham Lakes. The approach was mellow, although it is bushwhacking the whole way. Thankfully, the trees are sparse and the distance short.
Sarah took the first pitch, a short bit of easy crack into a long leftward horizontal traverse above a stretch of overhang on the north face.
The next pitch was supposed to be the 5.7, but we had a hard time understanding the guide description, so we just decided to pick the best looking path. Sarah led off, disappearing around a corner above me.
She yelled “Off belay,” brought me up, and said it was my lead. I did some scouting to try and understand where the guide wanted us to go, before finally just heading up into the gully above. Some dirty, but easy climbing followed. I tiptoed through more loose rock before gaining and traversing another ledge. I built a belay just below the ridge line and Sarah took the lead after I brought her up.
The next three pitches were stellar ridge scrambling with just a few 5th class moves thrown in to keep it interesting. I took the middle of the three, enjoying a really cool finger crack layback to get up a short notch.
On the final pitch, Sarah led up through the massive notch visible in the top picture. She stemmed between the main ridge and a huge block. I was so excited to follow the pitch. Hero moves with super easy climbing.
After that, we unroped and scrambled the rest of the ridge, which had great exposure and nothing harder than low 4th-class.
After spending a few minutes on the summit, we began picking our way down the ridge, enjoying the peaceful freedom of scrambling moderate terrain.
In the end, we opted for the less steep, longer gully, having had enough scary talus fields earlier in the week. It proved a fun navigation challenge working our way back to the car. We got to see some neat scenery along the way.
Legacy (our version of it anyway) proved to be a fun, chill way to end our week of alpine climbing. We still have several weeks of peak fitness from our training, so we’ll see what happens next. 🙂
Detailed Route Beta:
Legacy is a fantastic moderate route with three pitches of awesome ridge climbing. With a short (if bushwhacky approach) it is a very accessible alpine route. We missed the crux 5.7 pitch the guidebook describes, opting instead for the line of least resistance. I’ll describe our variation, although I would bet the actual route has better climbing.
The first pitch starts just right of the overhang on the left side of the north face, at the apex of the scree field.
From Sheridan, MT, head up Mill Creek Road until you reach Branham Lakes Campground. (GPS: 45.512904, -111.993122). The road was freshly grated when we went, which was really nice since it’s over 10 miles. No need for 4WD or high clearance.
From here, we took a somewhat circuitous approach, following the path that leads across the dam for the upper lake. After some switchbacks we were nearly even with the base of Leggat Spire, although still about a half mile away. It was a mellow off trail hike from this point to reach the route.
A faster approach would likely be to park at the bottom end of the first lake (first pullout when you see water) and just hike straight up hill towards the Spire.
Either way, it is a short approach with little gain through sparsely wooded terrain.
We brought doubles from #3-0.75 C4’s, and overlapping sets of smaller cams (.5-.3 C4’s, 3-2 Mastercams, 2-00 C3’s). A set of nuts (including DMM alloy offsets), some quickdraws, and 8 shoulder length slings rounded out the rack. This was more than enough.
P1: Head up easy cracks in the corner for about 30′, until it is possible to start traversing to the left. Continue nearly horizontal traversing until you reach a large ledge. Build a belay. (5.5, 160′)
P2 (Variation): Move the belay to the far left side of the ledge, then climb up the slab above to gain a gully. Belay on the left side, midway up, just before it gets steep. (5.5, 130′)
P3 (Variation): Continue up the gully, through licheny rock. Be careful as the gear is sparse. Once over loose rock at the top of the gully, traverse right on narrow, treed ledge. Pull onto a big ledge and build a belay just below the ridge line. (5.6 PG-13, 160′)
P4: Head up on to the ridge and scramble up it. Mostly 4th class, but a few technical moves here and there. Belay just before a notch. (5.5, 160′)
P5: Traverse the notch, climbing a beautiful finger crack up the slab on the far side. More 4th class leads to a walkable section just before the big notch. Drop off the ridge onto the climbers right and traverse a talus ledge till just before the notch. Belay here. (5.5, 160′)
P6: From the belay, down climb easy terrain into the notch. Move over to the left side and pull a few steep moves onto a platform. Stem between the block and main ridge feature until you can pull up onto the top. Braced belay. (5.5, 80′)
From here, it is an easy scramble to the summit, crossing a few exposed sections.
Continue on the ridge line until you reach the junction between Leggat Spire and the main mountain. With careful routefinding, you can keep this 4th class, but some may want a rope for the more exposed sections. It may be possible to traverse off to the climbers left shortly before the down climbing and avoid it, but this looked very loose.
Once off the ridge, you can descend the either gully, skier’s right or left. We opted for the left, as it was less steep, although it was a longer hike. Bushwhack your way back to wherever you parked.
(Disclaimer: If you decide to use this beta, you take all responsibility. I’ve done my best to write this from memory, but I may have made mistakes. It is your job to exercise good judgment and not just follow blindly… 🙂
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