Summit Elevation: 8,738’
Elevation gain from Leigh Lake trailhead: 4500’
The trail winds steeply through forest on the east side of the Cabinet Mountains about 15 miles south of Libby Montana. Look for mountain goats on the slopes above as they are plenteous in this area. The lake is just 1.5 miles from the trailhead and well worth the hike. Look to the right or north and you will see a 2100’ slope that leads to a high ridge that connects Bockman Peak and Snowshoe. The climb to the ridge is arduous and route-finding is more complex than it looks as cliffs stop progress in numerous sections and have to be carefully negotiated. Once you reach the high ridge the peak is directly to the left or south. You can see the route from here. Now begins the technical part – weaving your way up the ridge facing class 3 and 4 sections with some exposure. We set cairns where there were none and this proved enormously helpful on our descent as they are far easier to see from above. At 8,400’ the ridge reached the glacier. The normal route was untenable so cutting to the left around the ridge was the most likely option. While handholds and technical aspects are not any more difficult, the sand and scree on the rocks make this risky without a rope as the fall off the south side would be lethal. Jeff Beeman and Genny Hoyle continued the route, reached the undulating summit ridge and found excellent views of Apex Peak to the north and Leigh Lake more than 3000’ below. This is a complicated climb with plenty to go wrong. Be in excellent shape if you plan to do it in one day. Take a helmet, not just for rock fall but for potential falls on loose rock. A short rope is advised as well.
Photo 1 – Apex Peak to the right
Photo 2 – The ridgeline heading toward Snowshoe summit
Photo 3 – Genny Hoyle scans the route to the high ridge
Photo 4 – Don Otis and Jeff Beeman above 8,000’ on the ridge