Downing Mountain Image

Often mistaken for a false summit that blocks the view of it from much Hamilton and the valley, this 8,690' peak is little more than a high point on an expansive, east-west ridge. Despite its nondescript appearance- by Bitterroot standards at least—heaps of north-facing bowls and tree shots await backcountry skiers at the top. Although it's accessible year-round and located on the Bitterroot National Forest, few explore this area in the summer. The heaviest traffic comes from winter guests staying at the Downing Mountain Lodge, conveniently located at the base of the east "face."

This mountain is best climbed from the parking lot of the lodge, known as The Grubstake in summer (open May-September). Not an “official” trailhead, the owner encourages people to climb the mountain, even during periods when the restaurant is not open. All he asks is that you call a few days in advance (1-800-850-GRUB).

From south end of the parking lot, follow the road west-northwest past the transmission towers. The road becomes a trail and follows the crest of the ridge upward, first west-northwest then west-southwest.

Stay close to the crest of the ridge during ascent. Straying too far left (south) toward the avalanche chute will take your track through ever-thickening brush, while going too far right (north) will place you in some of the thickest deadfall and underbrush in the Bitterroots.

From an elevation near 8,000’, follow the ridge-crest to the summit, traversing along the sides or scrambling along the crest as conditions and your skills demand.

Michael Hoyt

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