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September 26th, 2009 – Sperry Glacier

May 30, 2010

After getting settled into the cabin, I choose one of the many, many hikes I wanted to do in Glacier randomly.  This turned out to be the Sperry Glacier trail; here’s a map of the route from DeLorme’s handy Trails series:

(c) DeLorme

From the map, I’m starting at Lake McDonald; from there, heading east, following the southernmost trail; the trail does NOT dead end, however, as it connects up to the Sperry Chalet trail, climbs a HUGE glacier basin, bypasses a few pretty glacier lakes, then breaks out at the top of the world after hitting the Comeau pass. Highest elevation is around 7800, so gaining a bit under a mile from the trailhead.  If you’re in great condition, I highly recommend doing this as a day hike (or taking the hike farther east to Gunsight pass).  It’s about 10 miles to Comeau Pass one wayand about 13 miles to Gunsight Pass; and if you have a friend, you can keep going to the Going to the Sun (GTTS) road in 18.7 miles.

The first half of the hike is actually pretty boring, save for just being in the park.  It’s also runnable, so you can get to the pretty parts quickly if you want.  I had once again gotten into the park before first light, so this boring part was also in near twilight.  As I finally started curving north into the glacier basin, I see the first really nifty formation – right of center, on the ridge in the below pic, is the formation called “Horse and Rider”:

I break out of treeline soon thereafter, and come into the glacier basin.  It’s large, and I have no idea exactly how large it is until later.  All I know is that there’s a bunch of weirdly folded rocks in lots of colors above me, and I gotta get to the top. Somehow.

So how large is the basin?  If you look VERY Carefully, you can see the trail I’m coming up, and if you look exceedingly carefully, right in the middle, on the path, you can see three people in this pic:

My legs are finally getting used to all the climbing, but I’m still struck by the massively folded rock; this is the southern (and a bit western) face of Mt. Edwards – it almost looks like the rock here is swirled like cotton candy:

Finally, after a lot of climbing, I’m close to the top, but I have no idea where the trail goes as I climb; I’d been watching to see where the exit to the pass is, and I just don’t see it until I took this picture, and realize – oh my!

That’s right – the pass isn’t a path so much as an exceedingly steep set of stairs carefully blasted out of and cemented into place. It’s impossible to get a sense of just how steep this is, or how strongly the wind blows up through this notch – but the safety wire on the right was needed the entire way (especially on the way down):

But, this puts me at the top, and the sights in all directions are just outstanding. First, the view due south, of the westernmost part of Sperry Glacier clinging to Gunsight Mountain (this takes up the view from almost east to west, looking south):

The view northeast, with a virtual sea of peaks. In the foreground is the ridge of Gunsight Mountain; in the center, under cloudcover, is Mt. Siyeh; the primiennt matterhorn 3/4 to the right is Going to the Sun; and the peak hiding way off 3/4s to the left is Big Chief Mountain, which is a LONG way away.  (If anyone wants to correct me on these peaks, please do so!)

The view due north is much easier to figure out; the Little Matterhorn is near foreground center; the peak on the right is Bearhat Mountain (which is much more impressive from the north); Mt. Cannon is the mountain on the left. 

West is just the colorful view of Edwards Mountain.

Oh noes!  I’s been spotsded!

This little guy really paid me no mind; I gave him a couple hundred feet of distance and he just kept eating at the tundra grasses).  Eventually I head down; here’s the view down the staircase, with the immaculately clear and turquoise Akaiyan and Feather Woman Lakes ahead:

Lots more pictures, but hopefully this is enough to tempt a few more people to make this hike!

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