Tuesday, September 8, 2009

7000 Club

view from the summit of Sylvan Peak

HARNEY PEAK (7,242 feet) is the top of South Dakota, and the highest point between the Rockies and the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. A beautiful, moderately strenuous hike (6 miles) with incredible views; The stone fire-tower is a landmark of the Black Hills, and offers 360 views. Logging and brown (infested) trees due to the Pine Beetles and a high volume of hikers detracts from the overall experience.

ODAKOTA MOUNTAIN (7,198 feet) A short, easy hike from a fire road (approaching from the West side), Odakota offers good views along the ledge. The summit is not marked, and there are no trails, so bushwhacking is mandatory - thin ground cover and limestone ridges make it fairly easy.

BEAR MOUNTAIN (7,166 feet) Remote but well marked fire roads go right to the top, so there is no hike at all. The summit is dominated by a Fire Tower and antennae. Views are extensive but unspectacular. The Fire Tower is manned, and can be climbed for a better view. Restrooms and a picnic table are also at the summit.

CROOK'S TOWER (7,137 feet) Remote, but accessible by fire road (no hike); the summit is not marked, but is very peaceful. Views are partly obscured by trees, but a limestone cap at the top is easy to climb - and is also very fossiliferous. Imprints of ancient corals and brachiopods (look like little clams) from the between 300 and 400 million years ago pepper the limestone upon a close inspection.

TERRY PEAK (7,064 feet) An access road leads directly to the summit, leaving no hike at all. Stairs lead to a viewing platform at the summit, providing a 360 view, marred by a web of radio towers, antennae, and tension-lines surrounding the platform. There is an excellent view of Lead and Bear Butte.

CROW'S NEST PEAK (7,048 feet) Its location is remote and difficult to find. Trees obscure just about any good views, and fire roads lead through active pasture land - be careful to avoid trespassing if you take the wrong fire road. The limestone which forms the mass of this mountain is also very fossiliferous, although rocks are small and litter the forest floor rather than offering larger outcroppings.

SYLVAN HILL (7,000 feet) A strenuous hike, all bushwhacking, with opportunities for rock climbing! Views from the summit are on par with Harney Peak, without improvements, or other hikers. Several false summits make this an interesting hike, with plenty of "teaser views" before the summit is reached. A slightly lower, prominent false-summit crowned with a granite mass offers views just as good as the actual summit's. Steep slopes, granite outcroppings, and fallen timber make this the most strenuous and challenging of the top 7, and good orienteering skills are mandatory. Easily my favorite hike of all of the 7,000 footers.

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