Climbing Summer Of Our Discount Tent On the Frazier Lake Buttress in the Bridgers
Location: Summer of Our Discount Tent, Frazier Lake Buttress, Bridger Mountains, Montana
Trailhead: Parking Area On Fairy Lake Road Just Past Shafthouse Trail – 7600 Feet (Near Fairy Lake Trailhead)
Distance: +/- 3 miles round trip
Time: 4-7 hours
Grade: II, 5.7
Vertical: 1950 ft (250 feet of technical climbing)
USGS Maps: Sacagawea Peak
What do you do when mother nature drops a foot of snow in the high country in September? You head to “lower” elevation to do some climbing. For this adventure, Jeremy Wood and I headed to the Bridger Range to climb a 5.7 route called Summer Of Our Discount Tent on the Frazier Lake Buttress.
We found beta on this route from Select Alpine Climbs and Bozeman Rock Climbs. Our plan was for an hour approach, then 4 to 5 pitches of 5.7 trad climbing up the southern edge of the east facing Frazier Lake Buttress. At the top we would rappel 180′ or 55 meters to the bottom of a gully and then walk back to the car. But like usual there are always a few hiccups in our plans…
At mid morning we were cruising up Highway 86 past Bridger Bowl to the Fairy Lake Road. We rumbled down the dirt road passed herds of bow hunters and loads of cows. After passing the Shafthouse Trailhead we pulled off the road and parked by a campfire ring. This parking area is located at 7600 feet before Elf Lake and Fairy Lake.
Jeremy and I sorted gear at the truck and then headed north on an impromptu trail toward the Frazier Lake Buttress. The trail is well trodden and quickly gains 1000 feet of elevation to the pass above Frazier Lake.
Looking to the south, you can make out another fun Bridger climb, Northeast Slabs – 5.5 on 9562. At the top of the pass to the north, you can see the Buttress where we would climb. It looks tiny from way up here. It’s not. We then descended about 500 feet to Frazier Lake at 8100′. I wouldn’t really call it a lake though, more like a glorified mud puddle at this time of year.
Skirting the “lake” we then dropped onto a climber’s trail toward the Frazier Lake Buttress. To reach the base of the climb at 7950′, we covered about 1.5 miles. Near our first belay we ditched our extra stuff and geared up to go climbing. If you continue down a bit of 3rd class terrain, you can reach bolted routes like Leap of Faith, Batteries Not Included, Cold Forged Steel, and Vanishing Point.
Our first pitch started in a grove a trees along the southern edge of the buttress. We scaled some lumpy blue-grey limestone spotted with quartz for about 70 meters of 5.4 to 5.6 climbing. There were plenty of decent places for natural protection, but it was easy to run this section out.
We belayed the next pitch, but it was unnecessary. This 70 meter section is all 4th class, scrambling terrain. Near the top of this pitch is where the shorter rappel is located. It’s rappels 30 meters off of a tree. If you have enough rope, head on up to the top.
The third pitch continued the 4th class trend with increasing exposure for about 30 more meters. Then you reach the final crux of the climb – a short 25 meter 5.7 section with lots of exposure to the north. At the tippy top a short ridge leads to a bolt. About 10 feet past this bolt are the rappel chains for the long 180′ rappel.
So far our plan was going according to plan. We tied a second 70 meter rope to our main climbing rope with a triple fishermans. Threaded the rappel and rappelled on down. With the exception of a knotted rope half way down and a few falling rocks, the rappel went smoothly all the way down to the gully. Jeremy rappelled next. Once at the bottom, we of course high fived over a job well done.
Then we pulled the rope. Bam. What? Stinking rope got stuck. And it was really jammed. No amount of effort would get it unstuck. So there we were standing at the bottom of a 180′ rappel as rocks pinballed down on our heads with one stuck 70 meter rope. It was a bit demoralizing.
After assessing our options, we decided the only thing we could do is reclimb Summer of our Discount Tent to retrieve the rope. We scrambled down the loose, talus covered gully to the base of the climb and got ready to climb again. We ditched a lot of gear and only took a set of nuts, a set of tricams, and BD Camalots .75 to 2. That’s plenty of gear. Knowing what lay ahead we made good time.
We pitched out the first section for 70 meters and set up a belay. Then we simul-climbed for 100 meters to the bottom of the climb’s crux. We pitched out the third and final pitch to the summit of Frazier Lake Buttress and tossed the stuck rope – which had tied itself in a picture perfect knot around the rappel chains.
We then rappelled back down the crux. Downclimbed to the first and smaller rappel of 30 meters. Set up an anchor off of a living tree (as many had done before us) and rappelled back to the gully. No sweat.
The rope got slightly stuck on this rappel too! We free climbed up a short distance and got it unstuck. Then we climbed back up the gully to get our tossed rope. It was still stuck too. With a bit of finagling we managed to get all ropes down just as the sun went down behind the mountains. I’m now convinced that a bunch of rope grabbing munchkins live within the Frazier Lake Buttress. Three stuck ropes in one day? Man-o-man!
Now that we had all of our gear, we started the trek back to the car and the Fairy Lake Road. We hopped on the climbers trail and gained the Frazier Basin pass. Then we hoofed it back to the truck.
Car to car our entire adventure took 7 hours. We covered about 3 miles and 1950 vertical feet. We finished the day safely and with smiles. We actually climbed Summer of our Discount Tent twice, which wasn’t the plan but we now know the route much better than expected:
Gear – 2 ropes, Set of Nuts, Set of Tricams, Cams .75 to 2
Pitch 1 – 70 meter, 5.4 to 5.6
Pitch 2 – 100 meter, 4th class, simulclimb
Pitch 3 – 30 meter, 5.7
Rappel – 55 meter (don’t get your ropes stuck).
Overall I really enjoy climbing in the Bridgers. The Summer of our Discount Tent is a stellar climb. I’m not sure I’ll do it again any time soon after our unexpected sticky rope adventure, but at the same time, you could probably talk me into it pretty easily.
Route On HillMap:
Additional photos from climbing Summer Of Our Discount Tent:
This trip report is from September 22, 2015.