Nancy and I Enjoyed an Eight Day Backpack to the North Wall
in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana
August 8-15, 2015
Copyright Notice

This as the fifth consecutive year that Nancy and I did a long backpack in the Bob. This one featured meeting some firedly people, watching mountain goats on the wall above Lake Levale, plenty of really hot days, a few cold nights and one night of monstrous thunderstorms. All in all it was a great trip!

Photos by Ralph Thornton and Nancy Thornton.

We began our trek at the Cave Mountain Trailhead. It would be over 23 miles to Lake Lavale and another 30 miles for the return. We planned on 8 days and 7 nights that included a two night stay at Lake Levale.
We camped on the east side of Route Creek Pass the first night. The following morning was bright, clear and warm as we ascended to the pass.
This was a very warm and dry summer. Blooming dates and snowmelt were quite advanced from normal. Very few flowers were blooming considering it was early August. We did see plenty of gentian (left) and blanket flower.
Our third day began with three quick wades. Here I'm crossing the North Fork of the Sun River. A short hike brought us to another ford of Lick Creek. It was then a walk of about 3/4 mile to a second ford of Lick Creek. We crossed Lick Creek two more times in the early afternoon but those crossings were very easy since we had hiked far upstream and the creek was low.
As we were leaving the trailhead two days earlier we met this group. They were a very friendly bunch. We hopscotched with them for three days.

We didn't know it when I took this photo but we would camp with these folks that night. And best of all they shared a delicious meat loaf dinner with us.
The morning of our fourth day featured a beautiful sunrise on the North Wall.
This day was hot and clear. The scenery along the North Wall was beautiful. We hiked about 5 miles north to Lake Levale.
We hiked up over three saddles before reaching Lake Levale. Did I mention that it was a hot day? We spent several rest breaks relaxing in whatever shade we could find.
Ah! A nice rest on a warm afternoon looking over Lake Levale!
We watched several mountain goats on the cliffs behind the lake. A small snowbank high on the wall provided a trickle of meltwater that flowed down the narrow crack. This goat spent a long time drinking water.
Leaving Lake Levale on Day 6 we headed north for a few miles to the junction with the trail down Open Creek. The upper valley of Open Creek was cool and shaded but the last mile or two had burned in the Fool Creek Fire of 2007. The trees were gone and the sun again beat on us without mercy. We crossed Fool Creek in the midafternoon and walked a little south to this very nice campsite near the North Fork of the Sun River. We bathed in the cool creek and enjoyed our dinner in the open grassy park.
Our Day 7 hike was south along the North Fork of the Sun River. Much of the forest burned in the Fool Creek Fire and the temperature was again in the 90s. We crossed Wrong Creek around noon and I cooled off by dunking my head in the creek.
A few hours later we reached Ninemile Park. A thunderstorm opened up on us with a burst of heavy rain, hail and lightning. Thunder echoed down the Route Creek Valley as we took shelter under a grove of trees. Two things highlight this photo. First are the hailstones, slightly larger than pea sized that stung when they hit. Second is the seam in my boot that had ripped out. Fortunately it was only one more day to the trailhead.
We waited out the storm then headed up the now muddy trail to our camp spot. Another storm blew through with more lightning and rain not long after we set up our tent. That one cleared in time for supper. A third and bigger storm came through at dusk. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled all through the night. There was some rain too but it was the lightning that got our attention. The thunderstorms that afternoon and through the night started numerous fires in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. This view is our camp at breakfast the following morning.

We enjoyed the bright sunshine the following morning. The 9 mile hike back over Route Creek Pass was punctuated by high winds that blew us off the trail and knocked us down on the pass.

But all was calm by the time we reached our car at the trailhead.