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FR606 French Creek - Thief Creek Rd summit(u)

This summit is a high traverse through the eastern foothills of the Pioneer Range. It is the highest summit with two separate approaches in the Pioneer Range that I can find. Despite the relatively high altitude it does not cross a major ridge line but stays almost entirely in forested hills, with some far views.

1.(00.0km~00.0mi, 1552m~5092ft) START-END EAST-NORTH: I15 crossing Beaverhead River, just west of Dillon
2.(17.5km~10.9mi, 1659m~5443ft) START-END EAST-NORTH: ALTERNATE: exit I70 and go west on Birch Creek Rd
3.(31.0km~19.3mi, 1943m~6375ft) turn left onto Thief Creek Rd, FR801
4.(41.2km~25.6mi, 2694m~8840ft) TOP: point of highest elevation
5.(53.0km~33.0mi, 1998m~6555ft) profile continues south east on Argenta Rd
6.(64.0km~39.8mi, 1770m~5807ft) START-END EAST -SOUTH ALTERNATE: jct with Stone House Rd on left. Profile stays on Argenta Rd
7.(67.2km~41.8mi, 1718m~5636ft) profile turns left onto Mo278
8.(78.2km~48.6mi, 1578m~5177ft) START-END EAST-SOUTH jct Mo278 - I15, just south of Dillon


From East.  In a car I15 north from Dillon seems as flat as bowling alley, barreling up along the mighty Pioneer Range. Cycling on the spacious shoulder to the right of the rumble strip, it feels like you are climbing. A exit named Apex verifies this feeling. The route turns left up the biggest drainage fan of the Pioneer Range onto FR801. The highest peaks of the Pioneers are truncated by lower sagebrush hills and look especially precipitous from this angle. FR801 enters the hills and early morning light makes Tent Mtn, Torrey Mtn and Barb Mtn stand out in 3d plastic light that makes the peaks seem touchable. The road passes relics of a mining town from the Montana gold rush. FR606 diverts left at the next fork and turns away from the large peaks on the horizon. Instead it climbs more steepy through heavy timber on a less traveled road past a "hanging tree" from the gold rush period, and labeled as such for the enjoyment of today's tourist. First contouring along the hill back in an easterly direction, then heading south it seems to climb a summit, as one of the high peaks appears as background behind the cyclist. But this is just the first of three virtual summits, the third one being the only one that's not just virtual, but also real. Stretches towards the second virtual top are heavily graveled and more easily walked. On the last traverse the view of the valley to the east opens up and distant ranges to the north east had snow on them on August 21st. On the real top the road crosses a cattle barrier into a large alpine meadow and presents a sweeping view of the Big Hole Valley/Pass/Divide area. A short trail to the right leads to a better, but still partially obscured view of high peaks in the Pioneer Range.

From West. (described downwards). The road makes a long, fast, straight traverse to the north west and with that, it is on a valley floor. The route continues straight, fast and uniformly sloped. You can practically count the turns on one hand, even if you have fingers missing. The only turn of note is at the junction with Black Mtn Road. Soon the settlement of Argenta is reached, and now the rider barrels along on a straight, hard medalled road all the way to Mt278, just short of Dillon. I had very strong wind from the back, which may have clouded my judgment on this descent.



I15 exit 74 area > up FR801 <> out and back 3+1/2 miles on FR192 Birch Creek Rd > FR606 summit(u) > down FR192 Rattlesnake Creek > down Stonehouse Road > a few sightseeing loops around Dillon > I15 north back to starting point: 62miles with 4500ft of climbing in 5:2hours (VDO MC1.0 m3:10.8.21)