Froze-To-Death Plateau: Strenuous Hike

by Martin Kidston

ABSAROKEE – It’s a long way up to Froze-To-Death Plateau, like 26 switchbacks rising 3,000 feet in roughly two miles. But as the saying goes, there’s only one way up, and that’s to take it one step at a time, elevation be damned.

Often described as the roof of Montana, the plateau is a place of legend, death and frustration. It’s also a place of serenity, beauty and wild wonder. While it’s not for the novice hiker, mounting the plateau is worth the effort for those in condition – and prepared for unpredictable and potentially dangerous weather.

Mountain goats are plentiful on Froze-To-Death Plateau, and aren’t shy about raiding the camps of hikers who fail to batten down their gear before setting off to explore the high country of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

Mountain goats are plentiful on Froze-To-Death Plateau, and aren’t shy about raiding the camps of hikers who fail to batten down their gear before setting off to explore the high country of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

The plateau sits atop the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, and it’s a world unto itself. It’s ripe with flowers at the right time of year, pristine snowfields, glacial ponds and endless views of Montana.

To get there, most hikers start at West Rosebud Lake where Trail 19 picks up. After an easy four-mile hike to Mystic Lake, the trail diverges and it’s easily missed. To the left, hikers will find Trail 17, which climbs several thousand feet over two miles to the base of the plateau.

Once on the plateau, getting from point to point takes time and there’s no clearly defined trail guiding the way. It’s a boulder field brushing the sky, requiring hikers to hop from one rock to the next while following a network of cairns across five rugged miles.

From the plateau, hikers have a number of options. One includes an easy scramble up Tempest Mountain. It marks the plateau’s high point and lends a full view of Granite Peak – Montana’s highest point at 12,799 feet – which sits just across the ravine.

Granite, a mountain shaped something like a razor blade, appears so close and yet, even from the plateau, it stands so far away. It’s also more than a scramble to the top. It requires climbing skills to
navigate a few tricky pitches with extreme exposure to the valley bottoms.

But bagging Granite Peak isn’t essential for a high alpine experience or gaining views of Montana that
few ever see. The plateau and Tempest Mountain are good enough for many, offering views of the 943,000-acre Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness spreading beyond.

Within the wilderness, hikers can explore more than 20 peaks thrusting above 12,000 feet. The expansive country boasts 950 alpine lakes and nearly 200 miles of maintained trails.

At nearly every turn, this wilderness area offers good fishing, good camping and good hiking. For a
brazen few, it also offers unparalleled opportunities to bag Montana’s highest peaks.

Location: About 25 miles south of Absarokee in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness on the Custer National Forest.
Distance/duration: From the trailhead to the top of Tempest Mountain and back requires a 22-mile
trip best accomplished over two days, given the elevation gain and difficult terrain.
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous, with potentially dangerous weather and limited water supplies once on the plateau.

Froze-To-Death-map

No comments yet.

Add a comment