The day I almost climbed Scotchman Peak.

Posted on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

The hike started off like any normal hike. I parked my truck, made sure I had everything I needed, threw my pack onto my back, and headed up the Scotchman Peak trail. The muscles in my legs protested the steep climb at first but they soon worked themselves out and I was making good time up the hill. The sun was shining and everything seemed to be in bloom! I saw beargrass blooming for the first time and stopped to take some photos. About halfway up, I passed a beautiful meadow full of spring beauties. I was beginning to understand why the Scotchman hike is so popular.

At about 6000 feet, I hit snow. A couple were hiking ahead of me, so I just followed their footprints for a while. It was nice not to have to make my own tracks, as I had on Star Peak. Soon, however, when the snowpack began to get really deep, I met the couple headed back down. They encouraged me to go on and I decided that, if I had come this far, I may as well. So up the mountain I went.

Soon, I reached a break in the trees and saw what I thought was the top of Scotchman Peak. For those of you who have hiked Scotchman before, you’ll know that this is just a false peak and that the top is a bit farther north. When I reached the top of the false peak and was looking towards the actual peak trying to figure out the best way to get over there, I realized I wasn’t alone on the top of Scotchman. I literally jumped, my arms flapping a bit like a gigantic bird. I’m sure I looked absolutely ridiculous to the mountain goat that was staring at me from across the ridge. I had finally met Mr. Monte Scotchman.

Blooming Beargrass

Blooming Beargrass

Monte and I had a rather interesting staring contest as I made my way slowly over toward where he was standing. I quickly realized that he was blocking my path to the true peak of Scotchman. He was not at all afraid of me and was an agreeable model as a took photo after photo of him.

I knew what he was really after, though: food. And salt. He was a hungry goat.

In the back of my mind, I became slightly annoyed with him. He was stopping me from reaching the actually top of Scotchman, and I had been planning on eating my lunch on the peak, but I was now hesitant to do. But I was so excited that I actually got to meet him, the mascot for FSPW.

I took a few more pictures and videos and headed back towards the false peak. I reached my destination and, after deciding that I would eat later on, began debating the easiest course back down the mountain. Suddenly I heard the sound of hooves on rock behind me. Apparently Monte didn’t feel we were done with our conversation.  I took a few more photos of the Scotchman Guard and then headed back down, looking back constantly to make sure that Monte was staying put.

I got below the snow line, ate my lunch, took a nap in a meadow, and then hoofed it back to my pick-up. Even though I hadn’t actually made it to the top of Scotchman’s Peak it had been a great day! I was so excited that I had finally met Monte!

The top of Scotchman Peak from the false peak.

The top of Scotchman Peak from the false peak.

Mr. Scotchman is an unusual goat. He’s unusual in the fact that he is probably the most publicized mountain goat in the Northwest. But he is also unusual in the fact that he is very habituated to humans. Habituated means that the animal is very comfortable around people and tolerates them at a close distance. They no longer behave as if they fear humans. They are, however, still wild animals. Monte is a textbook example of a habituated goat. Monte is also food conditioned, which means that he is not only willing to be around people, but is actually attracted to places people live, or camp, or travel because he’s hoping for some food. (Definitions of habituated and food conditioned taken from the BearAware website )

The problem with Monte being habituated and food conditioned is that people forget that he is a wild animal and they’re more inclined to get to close to him or to believe he is “tame” and approachable. Monte is not a pet. He’s a wild animal that sees humans as an easy source of tasty food and salt. So, when you’re hiking Scotchman, or anywhere within mountain goat range, please follow a few simple tips.

• Do not assume that the mountain goat is tame. Respect his personal space and respect his presence as the “king of the mountain.”

King of the Mountain

King of the Mountain

• Do not feed mountain goats (or any other wild animal), as this makes them associate humans with food and sometimes even dependent on humans as a source of food.

• Do not urinate close to the trail. This may seem like an odd one, but mountain goats love salt. They have very little sodium in their diet and have discovered that human urine is a great source of salt. There are reports of mountain goats false charging people when they are relieving themselves on tops of mountains.

• Do not leave your backpack unattended. Mountain goats will chew off the sweaty straps. Mountain goats are pretty stubborn about salt.

Actually mountain goats are pretty stubborn about anything so if they start to approach you, back off. Remember that out in the wilderness, you’re no longer at the top of the food chain. Respect nature, even if it comes in the form of a furry, white mountain goat named Monte.

One Response

  1. Doug Madden says:

    I was sure you were going to share your lunch with Monte. Then you’d get him out of the way and you could proceed. As it stands, Monte remains, (at least at this time), King of the mountain.
    But then you went on to list all the reasons one should not feed wild animals in general, Monte specifically. The reasons all make sense. We certainly don’t want to take the ‘wildness’ out of one of nature’s own, replacing it with a dependence on the human appetite! Great story though. Thanks!

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