Up until we were stopped by a closed bridge several kilometres from the trailhead, Mount McCarty looked like a promising destination. I had eyed the peak from Castle Wilderness a few times, so when Dave McMurray invited me to climb it with him and his nephew Jeff Lang, I accepted. Like me, Dave has a penchant for obscure peaks on no one's to-do list.
We had planned to drive up Carbondale River Road to a side road north of McCarty. Then after walking to the end of the side road, we would make our way through forest to the unnamed lake east of the peak. From the lake, we needed only to head south to gain the east ridge that curls north to meet the summit.
But that idea was swept away along with the foundations of a bridge on Carbondale River Road. The upper structure of the bridge appeared intact, but a guard rail prevented anyone from driving across it. That left us far from our planned trailhead.
But we had a fallback for McCarty. We parked by the bridge and continued on foot for a kilometre up Carbondale River Road to a side road. After hiking a kilometre up this road we kept right at a fork. This road put us squarely on the end of the east ridge, the same ridge we had intended to reach from the lake. The road was especially enjoyable. Profuse daisy fleabane later gave way to lush towering plants that arched over the tracks.
The road ended in a small glade (GR828740). In the far corner we picked up a good trail, but it stopped suddenly after only 300 m. Then hiking, as we knew it, was over. For the next couple of klicks we mostly bushwhacked through dense bushes and trees, some of it gnarly. We had a reprieve when we climbed to an alpine meadow on a high point with a striking view of McCarty, but we made the mistake of continuing along the ridge. (As we learned on our descent, we should have descended the left slope where, after brief bushwhacking, we would have found a nice strip of meadow.)
After dropping down from the high point and fighting through trees and bushes to reach a clearing below the ridge (GR828740), we stopped for lunch. Afterwards, the pleasantries ended. We reclaimed the ridge only to encounter the worst bushwhacking of our trip. That was followed by a steep stretch, mercifully, up a glade.
The steep climb ended on a sparsely treed ridge arcing to the top of McCarty. We wended easily through the trees and made our way to the bald, expansive summit. Here we were slammed by incredibly strong west winds. I hadn't expected that or the enormous summit cairn. It served as a windbreak, and we spent much of our summit time huddled behind it. There was no summit register, at least not on paper. Curiously, we found a rock with etched-in names and dates going back at least five decades. Jeff, however, brought Mount McCarty out of the stone age: he had packed paper and a PVC pipe container. We signed the new register and placed it in the cairn.
Summit views were disappointing. Smoke from B.C. wild fires made it difficult to see nearby peaks let alone distant mountains. It was just as well as it was too windy to stick around. We made our way down McCarty, grateful to get out of the wind.
We retraced our steps back except to take advantage of the meadow below the high point. Soon after reaching the road, a side-by-side ATV came up behind us. The driver appeared worried about us, as if he thought we were in danger. He even asked to see our bear spray. Perhaps he couldn't fathom being in the middle of nowhere without the security of a vehicle. He offered us a lift but we declined. He was probably shaking his head as he drove away. But we were only an hour from our car, and we enjoyed the solitude, the scenery and the camaraderie that comes from having a good time on a tough mountain.
Postscript: For anyone wishing to ascend McCarty more directly by the west slope, the bridge reopened in the fall. However, the road deteriotes soon after the bridge and requires either a 4WD car or a bike approach for anyone wishing try it.
At the closed bridge, Dave assessed the creek crossing but decided not to risk his SUV
We crossed the bridge on foot
At the other end, Mount McCarty came into view
After leaving Carbondale River Road we had to cross the river to get to the side road
We hiked up the side road for a kilometre before taking a right fork to get on the ridge
leading to McCarty
Daisy fleabane lined the road
At one point, the road turned down and right, but we stayed on the ridge, picking up a hidden
road going to a clearing
The road ended here and we found a trail at the end of the clearing
Despite signs of both old and recent maintenance, the trail stopped 300 m from the clearing
After the trail ended the bushwhacking began
Some of the easier bushwhacking we did
When we reached a clearing we could see little because of the haze
We often lost sight of each other because of dense vegetation
In a meadow on a high point, McCarty filled the view. We forged ahead but we would have
encountered far less bushwhacking if we had turned left here.
Syncline Mountain lies southeast
At the next clearing we determined the best way to gain the ridge in front of us
I was surprised to see bear grass here
We dropped down the ridge a bit to get our first look at the unnamed lake
The ridge leading to the summit: we reached it by going up the clearing in the top left
(click for a larger image).
Going up the clearing
After reaching the ridge we saw the summit (above the snow)
We'll soon be on the bald summit
The summit cairn
Posing on McCarty
The "summit register" had engravings including one that read "July 29/60" (mouse over)
Heading back down
Another look at the lake
Coming down the steep clearing. Later we made our way to the strip of meadow (upper right).
Carbondale Lookout is on the skyline, centre (mouse over for a close-up)
After we declined a lift, the ATV disappeared down the road
We headed back to Carbondale River Road (just visible above Dave and Jeff). Our vehicle was
parked at the foot of Cherry Hill on the right.
G/7 Flathead Range and G/8 Beaver Mines
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