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Rocky Mountain Ramblers Association

Trip Report
Trip Date:
Off-Trail hike
Trip name:
Jackknife Butte - Bob Creek Wildland

It was a "big" and "beautiful" day for this Ramblers trip. "Beautiful" because the weather was sunny and the wind initially was light providing cooling. The wind did pick up later in the day, but not strong enough to be problematic. Again " beautiful" for the stunning views of the Whaleback area - this ridge sits higher than most others in this area and its lack of trees on the ridge for much of the route. "Big" because this is a challenging trip especially for early season with lots of vertical and some up and down on the ridge and its distance. We did not return to the cars until well after 7:00pm and this included a short cut off the ridge that likely saved us 45 minutes to an hour - as we knew we were going to exceed our allocated activity time of 8 hours . We did do a a small unnecessary side trip on the way back which added probably about 20 unnecessary minutes time to our total time.

The final climb to the two summits would be OT-4 possibly bordering on OT-5 depending on route selected but the rest of the trip would likely be OT-3. Also in searching the Ramblers website, there does not appear to be any trip reported to this ridge and the trip does not show up in the trips database. I would recommend the inclusion of it in the Ramblers trip database due to the spectacular views and there likely could be lots of flowers in June/July season for those seeking that type of trip. It would appear that this is a Ramblers first ascent due to the fact there is no info on the website and the ridge is relatively remote in the Whaleback area.

We were off around 9:45 up the trail to the Camp Creek valley - this is an ATV route which we also used for the Camp Creek ridge trip a year before. The beaver dam which was used to cross on this previous trip was in disrepair, so we waded the creek.

Janice crossing Camp Creek

Janet crossing Camp Creek

Remembering that there was a swampy section in the creek, we stayed above this to get to the base of Jackknife Ridge. Here a sheep trail was found to take us up through trees to the main ridge which remain treed for about half a kilometer. We stopped for a first lunch around 12:15 in the shade of the tree before the ridge opened up.

1st Lunch break on the ridge

Once past the treed section the ridge opens up and is a gentle climb until it drops to what appears to be a man-made pond with a small dam for servicing cattle - there are a number of cow pies along the ridge. Just before the drop to the pond we encountered two hunters in a bivouac and in addition two others further down the ridge in the distance likely coming to join them. These were the only people we saw all day.

After the pond, the ridge climbs up again

Looking back along the open ridge

and we were trying to determine which of three bumps in the distance was Jackknife Butte. Two looked to be similar to what one would call a "butte". As we got closer, it was clear that the closest one was across a small ravine - not connected to the ridge - and Jackknife Butte would be one of the other two further bumps.

The two summits of Jackknife Butte - the one on the right is the higher

There was an old ATV trail which took us down to a high pass (it appears ATV's can traverse this pass) and at this pass there was a good trail which headed towards the two bumps one of which was Jackknife Butte. About this time one of the participants after viewing the distance to the two summits decided to take a rest and not continue. A second person decided to keep them company while the other two continued on to the summits. The trail remained fairly obvious until about halfway there then petered out. We set off through open forest to an open meadow below the summits. Not being sure which was the highest summit from below we opted to ascend the one closest to us as it looked more like a "butte" and with the thinking that we could always use the dip in the ridge between them to get to the other. The ascent up to this first ridge was fairly steep with breaks in the cliff bands allowing access onto the ridge, and with a short walk to the top. As it turned out this was in fact the lower of the two summits.

The view from the lower summit towards Miles Coulee and Camp Creek

Not a problem as we could ascend the second bump and use its south easterly trending ridge from this to get back to the trail. After a plod up this steep slope with loose rock slabs on earth and low bushes we finally reached the summit at 3:30. There was a huge bivy structure of stones and tree limbs at the summit likely constructed by hunters. A quick break to refuel and take photos and we were off to meet the other two patiently waiting on the last summit of the grassed section of the ridge.

The summit bivy shelter with the lower summit behind

The south easterly trending ridge was quite open allowing us to set a course back to where the trail would be before it had petered out and we were able to use it to get very close to this trail before entering the trees. Obviously, those who ascend this ridge go up the route that we descended and this why the trail had petered ut. Shortly after entering the trees, this trail was found and we proceeded to join the other two, who appeared to be well rested when we arrived.

As time was getting on, we thought it would be worthwhile to consider a bailout route off the ridge and there appeared to be a possibility at the cattle pond. After examining it, even if there was no trail the trees appeared to be quite open, so it seemed to have potential and it was my guess it would bring eventually bring us out to where the trail connecting to Camp Creek from the PL was and save us a fair amount of time rather than continuing along the ridge. As we descended we came across a trail in a ravine with a gentle descent slope which took us right down to Camp Creek and near the rock formations (exactly where we had hoped it would take us to - a stroke of luck. We spied a beaver dam which might be usable to cross the creek, but alas the water had breached one side making it unusable for crossing. Three donned creek waders while one used "gators" over boots to cross. From here, we became tired plodders up to the low pass and down the back side -

Heading Back

the group ended up doing a little extra loop to the parking lot, due to the earlier mentioned problem.

On the whole an excellent trip with stupendous views of the Whaleback and definitely one into a remote area rarely visited by hikers, We neither saw nor heard ATV's but did see deer fleeing at a distance in the woods and a few grouse.

Thanks to participants:Alicja, Janice, and Janet for joining me on this rather lengthy trip. We were all quite tired but very satisfied when we arrived back at the parking lot.

Thanks to Alicja and Janet for providing photos of the trip. A few more photos to follow yet.

Bob C/S/P