Tough Trip through the Scapegoat


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Staff member
Oct 18, 2016
Just got back from a tough trip in the Scapegoat Wilderness with a buddy. Not sure why I go on so many tough trips- slow learner I guess :ROFLMAO:

This is a trip that Tom and I also attempted two winters ago. Not sure what we were thinking, but thought we could get into Half Moon Park (near the Scapegoat Plateau) as an out back in two days/one night. We got close, but no bueno.

This time we set aside three days/two nights. The idea was to make it to Half Moon Ck on the evening of day one, set up a base camp, day two day hike into and around the basin and back to base camp, day three out. It was a good plan, but it didn't work :D

We started on the East Front of the Rockies near Benchmark- you don't even need to get out of your vehicle to enjoy the beauty of the East Front!


Our trailhead, it was just about as far as you dare drive.


Pack ready to go- notice the snazzy daypack/compression dealio; take it off for a day hike, use it to keep snowshoes on the pack-perfect


The trail wastes no time climbing (it's ~ 2000' to the pass). Tom and Pepper getting after it.



It was obvious that thus far the snow sucked- thin crust on top and sugar snow underneath = lots of post holing!

The saving grace was the views were good.


Our progress was slooooooow. We'd trade off breaking trail every 15 minutes or so, but it was just tough sledding- bad snow, 30-ish pound packs and a tough climb- embrace the suck!

When we neared the pass there were several steep pitches to climb, fortunately the snow was well packed from wind and sun exposure. Had to be a little cautious as some of the snow was packed enough it was close to ice.




We made it through the pass without any problems and descended down Crown Ck. The trail is buried under 5' of snow so we just picked our way down the bottom of the drainage. Sadly the bad snow quickly returned and we were post holing again. It's definitely better post holing downhill, but still takes it toll.

Our previous trip Tom found a off trail route that shaved about 4 miles off going the full length of the trail to Straight Ck and upstream on it's trail to Halfmoon Ck. So we abandoned the trail and started climbing for the saddle that would eventually dump us off and very near Halfmoon Ck. Unfortunately it's a steep 1000' climb and the snow seemed to get even worse yet! It took us forever to gain the saddle and we only had about an hour of daylight left. We weighed our options. We knew we'd be in headlamps to reach the bottom, not a giant concern as navigation wouldn't be an issue, just easier/more pleasant setting up camp/gathering firewood/eating supper in the light. Of more concern was that the snow was bad and no indication that we find ourselves in better snow. Dropping a 1000' into the next drainage would be a 1000' climb on the way back. It also was very likely that we wouldn't be able to complete the day hike loop we had planned into the basin.

No two ways about it, we were beat down pretty badly and the decision was quickly made to camp at the saddle, lick our wounds and head back the following day. We got camp setup, fire going, snow melted and ate a delicious hot, high calorie meal!


It was cold, so we didn't linger much after eating and hit the hay not much after 6:00 PM. Looooong nights in the Winter. We both got up around 6:00 AM- just a mere 12 hours in the tents :ROFLMAO: Got snow melted, water heated for breakfast, broke camp down/packed and were back on the trail as the sun was coming up.


Stark, but beautiful landscape.


We made it to the bottom of Crown Ck in decent time, but still had a climb to get to our pass.


No too dejected looking guys.


Views certainly helped.


We bid farewell to the Scapegoat for now, because as the saying goes- third times a charm!


Thanks for reading!


Nov 13, 2012
I love following along on your adventures like this. I appreciate you sharing the pics and stories.


Nov 3, 2014
Drove highway 200 from great falls enroute to Spokane last week and back on it. Glad you guys stayed safe up there, looks like great type 2 fun!


Nov 23, 2020
Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy the pictures and following along. Looking forward to being out in that country again this fall hopefully!