26 July 2007

Mt Haggin: Peak Bagging near Anaconda, MT

Over the years I've been to Mt Haggin (named after Anaconda Copper Mining company backer James Ben Ali Haggin) from several different routes, none of them particularly enjoyable. It's a lovely long ridge with very steep sides, dominates the Anaconda skyline, and is their "backyard" mountain. It also has several false peaks, so make sure you're on the right one--at least once before, I thought I was on THE top, but wasn't. From my Anaconda friends over the years, I learned of the favored local route. Leaving from the edge of town (c. 5400 feet elev), it follows a maintenance road up to the city reservoir:It's a steady and sometimes steep climb of about 5 miles or so. Once into the trees its shady and cool enough, but RTD (RolyTheDog) & I were thankful for the early start on this near-90 deg F day. Passing by some elderberries,
I thought of Grandma Beryl (nee Fitzgibbons) Munday, the world's best baker of fruit pies (my wife Jan has the title of world's best living baker of fruit pies). The Allegheny highlands of Pennsylvania were a great place for wild berries of all kinds. Elderberry pie was my favorite, and she would bake one or two for my birthday. In Montana, elderberries are seldom sweet and tasty--too short of a growing season, too dry, not enough heat?

Just below Hearst Lake (named after Anaconda Copper Mining company investor George Hearst, father of W. Randolph of newspaper fame; thank you for the correction, Anonymous!) is a little Hearst, and a favorite swimming hole for Mt Haggin hikers. It's shallow enough to warm up "just right" at 8,000 feet on a hot summer day:
Hearst Lake was improved once upon a time with a dam, but the dam might need repairs and the increased height no longer seems to be used:The saddle between Hearst and Haggin Lakes makes a nice base camp at 8,500 feet. What a place to be as a front moved in, lightning crashed on the peaks, and clouds dropped more than an inch of rain in my cooking pot rain gage. The pleasant meadow, and the old ACM/Anaconda water company (?) cabin (lower left in photo) is on the route to Mt Haggin:
I hope Cindy was (is?) worth it:I like passing through the feathery alpine larches that invariably mark the Pintler treeline at c. 8500 to 9000 feet. As my now-retired colleagues Jack Goeble and Dennis Haley liked to say, "What are the poor people doing today?":
For years, I thought it was called "Heart Lake," and you can see my confusion from this photo of Hearst Lake from near the Mt Haggin summit:

Above treeline, we join our friends the pika (Ochotona princeps). Here's a "rock rabbit" peeking out directly over RTD's nose:Global warming has been very tough on them in many areas of Colorado and points south. As the climate warms, they move higher up the mountain side, become "island populations," and are more and more cut off from "marriagable" members of other populations.

RTD finds a big drink of water at the last spring below the summit. As a north-facing slope, this approach to Mt Haggin is blessed with many such springs. Has the grazing of mountain goats selected for the less palatable butercups that seem to dominate the alpine meadows here?
The peak is marked by a most impressive cairn, as you would expect, given the peak's ritual importance in the lives of many Anaconda residents. In the peak notes, one can read of marriage proposals, anniversaries, reunions, eulogies, and other touching tributes to local lore (no mention of Cindy, though):For a time, it looked as if the weather was going to close in as the sun lifted moisture from the night's rain, and dense fog bracketed the ridge. Added to the time of summiting any peak (4:20), the fog created just a bit of "high" anxiety :But the sun prevailed, revealing a nice panoramic view beginning at the left with the Mill Creek/10 Mile ridge and sweeping west to the heart of the Pintler:Time to head down. On approaching the meadow, RTD began an intense gaze toward a spot about 300 yards below us. I've learned to trust her sharp eyes. What's this big-assed creature flipping over rocks (lower right in photo)?Thought it was a big boar of a bear at first, but then saw it watching something, and the cub scrambled into view (sow is on the right, looking back at her cavorting cub on the left):Big sow black bear--maybe 300 pounds or so, sows usually go half that or less. Glad she left our camp alone, she must have been finding plenty of tasty ants, beetles, and other critters under the rocks she was flipping over:A quick hike down to Hearst helped supplement our evening supper:Would have stayed later the 3rd day and fished Haggin Lake before hiking out, but ate like a bear(?) the second day and ran out of food. Oh well, a good 3-day/2-night trip, and a lovely route up Mt Haggin & back.


Anonymous said...


Hearst Lake named for George Hearst, Part-Owner/partner of ACM. William Randolph's father. Not named for William.

Marcia said...

Great photos! The stonework on that Hearst Lake dam is really impressive, isn't it? Are rock rabbits the same as picas? I grew up calling them "coney rabbits."

EcoRover said...

Hearst Lake/Mt Haggin make for an amazing backyard.

Rock rabbits, conies or coney rabbits, and pika are one and the same. Lots of Anaconda and Butte folks call them conies, and I'll bet that came into the vernacular from the Cornish contribution to local culture. It's an Old English (and before that Old French) term, but the French/English cultural influence is pretty minimal in this area, so I'm betting Cornish (and we wouldn't want to confuse them with the English!).

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Beautiful pictures, thanks, seems like you are having a great life in mountains, I guess that this life you have it's a great life.

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Wow you live in a beautiful and inspirational place, I would love to live like that in the outdoors, living day by day at a time, concerning about food and stuff.

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What beautiful place, I love it .I have two Labrador Retriever , I think that they will love to visit a similar mountain , the lake there is spectacular, I would like to fishing there