Elevation: 10,874 ft
GPS: 45.389, -110.486 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 36,507 total · 270/month
Shared By: Ian Cavanaugh on Sep 6, 2010 · Updates
Admins: GRK, Zach Wahrer

Description

With high quality rock and spectacular summits, the Mt. Cowen Massif hosts some of he best alpine rock climbing in the western U.S. The Cowen Massif includes Mt. Cowen (11,206') and Eenie, Meenie, Minie, and Moe that form a chain of shorter summits extending to the south from Cowen's main summit. Other satellite peaks in the area include Fire Spire (Black Spire), and The Thunder Dome. As the highest peak in the Northern Absaroka Range, Mt. Cowen is a highly prized summit. The rock in the area is granite/gneiss and is known for being high quality and climber-friendly with numerous cracks good friction qualities. Many of the routes are long and exposed, so make sure you have a bail plan if an evening thunderstorm rolls in.

Tom Turiano's book, Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone, has a great section on Cowen's climbing history. It also has several annotated photos that help explain the complicated layout of the Cowen Massif.

Getting There

From Livingston, MT, head south on Highway 89. From Gardiner, MT, head north on Highway 89.  North of the town of Emigrant, take the Mill Creek exit. Cross the Yellowstone river and East River Road. You are now are Mill Creek Road, which will turn to gravel after a few miles. Take a left at East Mill Creek Road and park at the Elbow Lake Trailhead. From here you'll hike up the East Fork of Mill Creek, going around a private ranch.  After the bridge, crossing the East Fork, take the trail to Elbow Lake. The trail to the lake is ~8 miles. 4-5 hours is usually required.

There are plenty of campsites at Elbow Lake, mostly on the south side of the lake. The sites are generally well-worn and firewood can be hard to come by. Please use the established campsites and practice LNT principles.  

Routes near Fire Lake can be accessed via a camp at Elbow Lake. This is generally done by hiking into the Fire Lake cirque from the cirque north of Elbow Lake. For routes on the east and northeast side of Cowen, use the faint climber trail that exits at Elbow Lake, just north of the inlet on the lake's east side. Once into the basin on the east side of Cowen, the towers of Eenie, Meenie, Miney and Moe become obvious.  

15 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Cowen Massif

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
 8
The Standard Route
Trad, Alpine
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
 13
Northeast Arete
Trad, Alpine
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
 4
Go West
Trad, Alpine 7 pitches
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b C0
 3
Tensor Flow
Trad, Aid, Alpine 9 pitches
5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c
 36
Montana Centennial Route
Trad, Alpine 12 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Standard Route
 8
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c Trad, Alpine
Northeast Arete
 13
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad, Alpine
Go West
 4
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Trad, Alpine 7 pitches
Tensor Flow
 3
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b C0 Trad, Aid, Alpine 9 pitches
Montana Centennial Route
 36
5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c Trad, Alpine 12 pitches
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