Elevation: 6,900 ft
This ridge is not in the book. Published November 2019
Date of Climb: September 27, 2019
Cottonwood Ridge is another ridge on the east side of the South Hills. The high point of this ridge is shown on LOJ and is not easy to see on the map, but look for it because it is there. It is a bit of a navigational challenge to find it. I can almost guarantee you that you will see a lot of cattle on this hike. I think that the cattle are the only creatures that are still using the old roads/trails in this area, so thank them for “maintaining” the trail, cow pies notwithstanding.
Park along FSR-500 at a sharp left/northeast turn in the road, about 150 feet before (i.e., southwest of) the signed junction with FSR-205. This location is 4.9 miles northeast of the junction of FSR-500 and FSR-527. The elevation here is 7,095 feet. The actual starting point for the hike is the [unsigned] junction with the remnants of FSR-676 which, disgracefully, is shown as a good road (on both the USGS map and the current USFS map) heading NE along Cottonwood Ridge.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The road is a weak, grassy, 2-track cow path now and hasn’t been driven in years, perhaps decades. It is, thankfully, unsigned. You can barely see it, even if you are looking for it. It is located just to the L/N of a drainage leading to Little Cottonwood Spring. But, as weak and worthless as it may appear to be, it is your lifeline to getting most of the way to the summit, SO GRAB IT WITH BOTH HANDS!
Southeast Face, Class 2
From its unsigned junction with FSR-500, follow the old 2-track cow path (FSR-676) for about ¾ mile to a signed junction with FSR-209. Go R/SE on FSR-676 here and continue for another ¾ mile or so to an area where the old road is beginning to descend more rapidly and is heading down into a broad valley (6,820 feet elevation). There is a minor ridge to your L/NW with a patch of thick aspen forest separating you from the ridge crest. Look for a reasonable opening through the thick aspens and bash your way up onto the ridge crest. You will pop out on wonderful open scrub terrain and probably have some cows around you grazing (and pooping) away.
Head NW across the open sagebrush to the high point. You will see a lateral patch of pines (+ some aspens) in a forest to your L/SW and a patch of scattered mountain mahogany trees to your R/NE. The summit high point itself is in the open sagebrush/scrub and has a few ground boulders mixed in. There were no signs of previous ascent and no summit cairn. Frankly, there is no loose talus here with which to build a cairn.
You will see that there are higher points to the SW of the “high point” of Cottonwood Ridge. That is because those points are part of another ridge/mountain. Cottonwood Ridge ends at the high point, which also serves as the northern terminus to the ridge.
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