Red Mountain - Montana Mountain Project

As we drove through Lincoln, Montana on our way to Red Mountain, I wondered if the torrential rain pounding the windshield was going to ease up, or if I was destined for another failed summit attempt. So far in the Montana Mountain Project I have bailed on more mountains than I've climbed for various snow/weather related reasons, and it looked like Red Mountain would be the next on the list because of rain delays.

Fortunately by the time we hit the trailhead the sky was blue and it promised to be a clear day.
Dakota and I parked at the end of Copper Creek Road and began running back down the road to meet the rest of our crew, Jesse and Kailee, after they had dropped friends at a nearby trailhead. The plan was to shuttle cars and for Dakota and I to get a few bonus miles before the shuttle car arrived.
As we ran down the road at the base of Red Mountain creek and the so obviously Red Mountain, we also passed through nearly a century of mining history.

On the summit
You cannot talk about the history of Montana without discussing the legacy of mining. Finding traces of gold in 1852 kicked off a decades long gold rush, which brought hordes of people to the Montana Territory. Gold mining lead to other mineral extraction and copper came to play an arguably larger role in the State's history than gold.

There are remains of at least two copper mines at the base of Red Mountain, a series of old mining roads scar the base of the south slope, and one can only assume that Copper Creek was named for the element pulled from its bed.

Even though those mines stopped operating in 1971, mining culture is still part of life around Lincoln. In 2014 there was nearly a full blown, Oregon style standoff with the federal government over surface rights to the little used White Hope Mine. The Oath Keepers, a group affiliated with the notorious Bundy family of Nevada grazing dispute and Oregon Wildlife Refuge infamy, asserted that the claim held by George Koreac was not affected by the Forest Service operating laws implemented in 1955 since the claim was held before then. According to the miners the USFS had not allowed the mine to operate for two years due to operational infractions, although the dispute over surface rights began in 1986.1 The legacy of Mining claims is still very real in this area.
Jesse planning his next adventure

Dakota and I nearly made it to the Indian Creek trailhead before Jesse and Kailee picked us up and the real adventure began.

The first few miles of trail are very popular among equestrian users so the trail was wide and very obvious. We opted for a bonus half mile loop that took us along the shore of one of the many Heart Lakes in Montana. From the east shore we were able to look across the brilliantly blue lake and up at the top of Red Mountain. We knew it was just under six trail miles to the top, but it looked farther, and very high.

Racing the lightening
A mile later we turned onto Red Mountain trail and quickly realized where we were going to get most of that elevation as the steep trail swiftly moved us up to a snow covered shoulder coming off the ridge. Fortunately the snow was firm and we could easily stay on top. The snow disappeared when we reached the ridge and we had an easy walk to the top, or it looked like we would. Kailee got hit with a random, nasty, elevation related bout of nausea that slowed us significantly. The slow pace did not matter though (aside for Kailee feeling awful) since we were on a beautiful ridge with views north into the Scapegoat.

Eventually we hit the summit and had great views in all directions. So many mountains! We also had a great view of the storm that had been building to the west and was now boring down on us like a boulder in an Indiana Jones movie.

Since we are all signed up for the Rut Mountain Runs we decided to put in some descent training and bombed down the south ridge towards the head of Copper Creek while racing the storm. I wish we had more time on this ridge since it was amazing to run. Jesse and I began dreaming up mountain top workouts for some of our upcoming races. But for the moment we were focused on getting off the ridge before the storm hit.

Last push to the car
When the lightening started we dove off the ridge a drainage early just to find some protection in the trees. A running scramble down a steep drainage and a bit of bushwhack traversing led us to one of the mining roads, which we were able to follow back to the car.

The adventure up Red Mountain got me more excited for the rest of the summer Montana Mountain Project peaks. Above treeline and on ridgelines is hard to beat!

1 Tom Kuglin, "Armed Advocates Guard Lincoln-area Mine Amid Dispute with Forest Service, The Missoulian, August 6, 2015, accessed July 5, 2016.