Hike across Glacier

September 27th, 2005

In brainstorming about what we were going to do on our trip together, Shaney and I were both interested in doing a lengthy hike in or around Glacier before going to Canada. Just before Shaney went back home before we left, we took a day trip to Bowman Lake and the west side of the park. While up there, she suggested that we do this hike. So, while she was back home, I looked into it, and we did it.

The first day was about 12 miles from the Chief Mountain trailhead to the Upper Glenn’s Lake campground. A wet snow had fallen overnight, continuing until the early morning, but thankfully it cleared up by the time we started.

Here are some pictures of the first six miles, through the Belly River valley.


On a clearer day, you can see the view from the above image here.

After reaching the Belly River Ranger Station (seen in the valley below),

we ate lunch at Gros Ventre Falls,

and continued up the Glenn’s Lake Valley before reaching our campsite at Upper Glenn’s Lake.

We awoke on Day 2 to a very cold morning with a thick layer of frost covering our tent. It takes a while to get going on a morning like this, and it also took a while for the morning sun to get over the ridge next to the 10,000 ft. Mt. Merritt. The frosty morning was quite beautiful though.

That ridge can be seen these pictures (Mt. Merritt is on the right).

Starting late on this day may not have been the best idea, as we had just over 14 miles to get to the Goat Haunt Ranger Station. This included ascending 2500+ feet to Stoney Indian Pass, then down 3200 feet to the Waterton River valley. But we made it, just as the sun had gone down.

The following three pictures are from slides that were scanned and unfortunately lost some quality in the process.

Reflection in Glenn’s Lake, from our campsite.

Looking back down at the Glenn’s Lake valley, on the hike to Stoney Indian Pass.

The hike up to Stoney Indian Pass was quite beautiful, but it was very grueling. It was a relief to finally reach the pass, except there was still nine miles to go before reaching Goat Haunt.

One last picture from the day, looking back at Stoney Indian Pass from Stoney Indian Lake.

Day 3 was about 11 miles, from the Goat Haunt Ranger Station to Hole in the Wall, one of the best campgrounds in Glacier. Since it was our shortest day yet, we again took our time, leaving around 2pm. Again, not the best idea. The first seven miles were pretty uneventful, an uphill slog through the forest on a trail we had each been on multiple times before.

We arrived at Brown Pass as the sun was beginning to set, and the next two miles to Hole in the Wall were incredible, as we got to watch the sky burn a deep red. Again, these were scanned from slides, so the quality isn’t as good as the originals.

Day 4 was the shortest and most beautiful. It’s only about 5 miles between the Hole in the Wall and Boulder Pass campsites, and both are probably the most beautiful campsites in Glacier. Here are some more slides from that day.

These two are from the Hole in the Wall campground.

The next two are from the main trail. This one is the view from a stream gully, dropping a couple thousand feet to the valley below, which eventually leads to Bowman Lake.

This one was taken from near the same spot as the above photo. If you were to drop off the stone cliffs in the center-left, you would eventually be in the same valley seen in the above photo. Boulder Pass is the low point in the ridge on the left, and Hole in the Wall is the hanging valley to the right of the cliffs, behind the trees in the center.

A spur trail off this main trail leads drops a few hundred feet to the hanging valley that is Hole in the Wall. The main trail wraps around the cliffs to the right, above Hole in the Wall, eventually taking you to Boulder Pass.

This photo was taken just prior to reaching Boulder Pass. The golden trees are subalpine larches, one of the only species that is a deciduous conifer (the needles change color and drop off in the Fall).

Looking east from Boulder Pass. Mt. Cleveland (the highest peak in Glacier), is in the distant center.

Looking west from Boulder Pass.

Looking north from Boulder Pass. The red ridgeline is Akamina Ridge in southeastern British Columbia.

Again looking west. Kinnerly and Kintla peaks are peeking out of the upper left.

The view out of our tent at the Boulder Pass campground.

Day 5 was our longest day at just over 17 miles and 3200 feet downhill. We got up early, and thankfully so, as it began to snow a little bit as we left around 9am. One of the most notable things about the Boulder Pass campground is the toilet. It is possibly the best toilet view in the world, staring at Kinnerly and Kintla peaks. The toilet is the non-enclosed box in the bottom of this picture.

Some larches on the hike down from Boulder Pass.

Still descending from Boulder Pass. Upper Kintla Lake is on the left.

This photo is from Upper Kintla Lake, looking back east towards Boulder Pass at the area in the above photos. We were happy we left early.

From the same spot, looking southwest across Upper Kintla lake.

At the head of Kintla Lake.

Also at the head of Kintla Lake, thinking about/dreading the last six miles.

Five days and 60 miles later.

After another wonderful dinner at the Northern Lights Saloon, we settled in to our luxurious accomodations for the evening, the North Fork Hostel in Polebridge.

Sunset and sunrise in Babb and Many Glacier

September 12th, 2005

These sunset photos of Chief Mountain were taken after dinner at the Cattle Baron in Babb, home to some of the finest steaks in the world. You may not believe it by looking at the place (the restaurant or the town), but anyone who has eaten there will tell you the same.

The clouds had just cleared that evening after a few overcast days which brought the first snows to the area. Chief Mountain is very sacred to natives in the area, which made the burning glow off the mountain even more amazing.

These photos were taken early the next morning, during an amazing sunrise.

Over Swiftcurrent Falls.

In the Many Glacier valley, this is sort of a 300-degree, counter-clockwise panoramic.

Looking north to Swiftcurrent Ridge

Northwest to Apikuni Mountain (right) and Altyn Peak (left)

West to Altyn Peak (right), Grinnell Point (center) and an unnamed peak on the left

Southwest to the unnamed peak (right), Allen Mountain (in the clouds on the left), and Snow Moon Basin (hanging valley below Allen and behind the unnamed peak)

South to Wynn Mountain

Southeast out of the valley, over Lake Sherburne

Bowman Lake

September 7th, 2005

On a trip across the park to run some errands and get a hike in, we were planning on hiking up Huckleberry Mountain, then go to Polebridge for dinner. However, since the errands took longer than expected, it was possible that we wouldn’t make it to the Northern Lights Saloon by 9pm. So, we skipped the mountain, ate dinner first, then went to Bowman Lake in the northwest part of Glacier to watch the sun go down.

The first photo was scanned from a slide, which lost some quality, but the rest of the photos are from negatives and turned out ok.

Ptarmigan Wall goat trail

September 2nd, 2005

After hearing about this goat trail last year, the weather (snow) had been too inclement to try this hike, so it was one I was wanting to do all summer this year. In the days leading up to this hike, a lot of fresh snow was added in the park, but luckily, it was at a higher elevation than this goat trail. Otherwise, as the photos will show, any snow on this trail would not have been fun.

Most of the goat trails I had been on during previous hikes and climbs were usually described in feet or yards, not miles. When looking at goat trails, the cliff that is always to one side often looks frightening; but when you are on the trail, it usually isn’t too bad. That is how most of this hike was, except for one section of 1/4-1/2 mile. J. Gordon Edwards, the late, great saint who literally wrote the book on climbing in Glacier, describes that section as “mostly class 3 (of 5), but one slip here could be fatal.” Like I said, we were grateful there was no snow.

The hike began on the trail to Iceberg Lake. Here are some shots of the lovely Mt. Wilbur from the beginning of that trail.

From Iceberg Lake, we left the trail and scrambled up to Iceberg Notch. Looking at the wall you need to climb in order to get up to the Notch, it looks pretty steep; but once on the wall, it’s really not so bad. Hopefully I’ll find a picture of that wall, but until then, here are some looking south and east from the wall.

Some of that fresh snow on the Mt. Henkel (right) to Crowfeet Mtn. (left) ridgeline.

Mt. Henkel on the left, Iceberg Lake valley in the foreground below. Shangri-La lies above/behind the forested hill above Iceberg Lake, and the Many Glacier valley is in the background.

Looking down at Iceberg Lake, from Iceberg Notch.

We didn’t have any snow on the way up to the Notch, but once we got through it to the north-facing side of the wall, there was quite a bit of fresh powder on the rocks. That made for a little slower, tricky downclimbing to Ahern Pass, but once at the pass, the snow was gone.

The whole day, there were clouds along most of the Continental Divide; fortunately, they stayed put and didn’t let out any more rain or snow. Here are a couple pictures looking north and east from Iceberg Notch, just below the clouds.

Looking north, Ahern Pass is the patch of trees below.

Looking northeast into the Belly River valley. A piece of Elizabeth Lake is in the background.

Looking east from Ahern Pass, into the Belly River valley. Lake Helen is below.

Also looking east from Ahern Pass. The Ptarmigan Wall is on the right.

We followed a trail from Ahern Pass into the cliffs of that wall in the above photo. After getting a little hairy, we thought we may be on the wrong route. We then spotted the trail running through the scree below the cliffs and had to downclimb a drainage in the cliffs to get to it. We all felt better after getting down safely.

The following three pictures are from the “one slip here could be fatal” section.

In the beginning, with my climbing partners ahead. The trail may be hard to spot, but it basically continues at the same elevation as the people in the photo.

Here is Texas Mike, with the jagged Lithoid Cusp ridgeline between Ipasha Peak (left) and Mt. Merritt in the background.

This is after completing the “fatal” section. The beginning of the trail, in the sunlit foreground, can be followed into the cliffs. It’s kind of hard to see, but I assure you it is there.

You can now understand what Mr. Edwards means about a slip here being fatal.

This photo is nearer the end of the trail, from a saddle on the ridge above Ptarmigan Lake. That is Sean, looking south at too many beautiful mountains to name here.

We had a tricky time finding the route down from that saddle to the valley below Sean. He and Mike decided to downclimb some cliffs to get there, while the other Shaun and I eventually found some cairns after downclimbing the other side of the wall, which led us to the Ptarmigan Tunnel.

Here is one looking into the Belly River valley from above the tunnel. Elizabeth Lake is below.

Also above the tunnel, looking south over Ptarmigan Lake. Mt. Wilbur is on the right, and the tips of Grinnell Mtn. (center) and Mt. Gould (left) are in the distant background.

Gunsight Pass

August 27th, 2005

Another one of Glacier’s classic trails. It begins at the Gunsight Lake trailhead, through the valley to Gunsight Lake, up Gunsight Pass, down to Lake Ellen Wilson, then back up Lincoln Pass to the Sperry Chalet, and down to Lake McDonald.

The morning we began this hike, we tasted our first piece of thimbleberry pie, which my boss made for us after we picked a quart of thimbleberries on our Lake Frances hike. It tasted far too good to simply pass over the many thimbleberries we encountered on the first mile or two of this hike. So, even though we had 20 miles ahead of us and it was almost noon, we couldn’t resist picking enough for another pie. Here are the fruits of our labor.

After picking, it was 2:15 when we came upon the sign reading “Lake McDonald - 30km.” We debated going back to pick more berries, then decided to haul ass and try to make it.

These two shots are from Gunsight Pass, with Gunsight Lake below in the first, and the roofless shelter at the pass in the second photo.

***NOTE: The following photos were scanned from slides, and unfortunately, some quality was lost, particularly in the darker photos.

Due to our time constraints, I didn’t take many pictures along much of this trip. The following photos were taken near Lincoln Pass, by the Sperry Chalet, as the sun was going down. You’ll have to trust me that the true slides look amazing, but since they are mostly dark, the scanned photos are not so great.

The last six miles down from the Sperry Chalet were in the dark, so no photos were taken. It’s mainly through a forest, so there isn’t much to see anyway.

On the way home the next day, we stopped by the Hungry Horse Dam in Hungry Horse, Montana. Yes, that is the actual name of the town. No, it is not very big.