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October 1st, 2009 – Hiking plans vs. Snow

May 31, 2010

The weather finally caught up with me for a few days; hard to believe that after 100 degree weather just a week or so earlier, I was about to freeze my butt off.

I make the long drive around the park and head up Going to the Sun Road from the East, heading for the Sunrift Gorge trailhead and a hike up to Siyeh Pass.

I like hiking up to passes – it’s a good way to gain lots of elevation, see some pretty country, and not weigh yourself down with lots of climbing equipment. And since the north face of Mt. Siyeh is still my favorite sight in the park (looming 3,500 feet over Cracker Lake, it is the biggest “wall” in the lower 48 states).  Unfortunately, you have to hike through six miles of almost calfdeep horse crap to see it (seriously, the trail is a mess).  So the thought of taking a look at a high pass just south of the peak sounded fun, and the col the trail climbs looks fantastic on paper.

So, it’s a steep trail that gets out of treeline fast and affords you a great view of Sexton Glacier as you huff and puff up to the pass, then a great view west to Piegan Mountain and its glacier.

However, to borrow an internet meme:  Dark and foreboding clouds are dark and foreboding:

(That’s Fusillade Mountain and Heavy Runner Mountain).

And the hike up is strenuous, but the view up the south face of Going to the Sun Mountain is HOLY CRAP!  HAIL!

Fortunately, that passes, and I make my way up a bit farther, and the huge moraine is looking awesome – at least, what I can see of it!

I can see the pass!  I think.  It’s the thing up to the right buried under, umm, snow. 

On a normal day, the top half of this would be mountain.  Alas!  But the weather does clear briefly – unfortunately, in the mountains, this view went from cloud-scraping sunny to hide-the-mountain cloudy in seconds.

Unfortunately, the sleet and hail resume and started turning to snow, so I do the only sane thing.  Hike down, then drive up to Logan Pass and hike along the continental divide!

Seriously, this is how my mind works.  It is COLD and snowing at the pass, and of course ridiculously windy, but the trail to the Hidden Lake overlook is nearly flat and, since I do have on a long sleeve t shirt at least, I head west to the lookout!

Say, is that a lot of high grass completely frozen in fog?  Why yes it is! And it’s only 1.5 miles to the overlook, piece of cake!

Yep, perfectly fine weather here!  Why, you can almost see the top of Mt. Clements!

And see!  The ice ends and it’s just a snowpacked, wooden trail after a hundred yards!

For some reason I don’t take many pictures as I run to the overlook; last time I was here, there were tons of bighorn sheep and mountain goats, and Hidden Lake was beautifully azure underneath the watchful, split mountain that is Bearhat Peak.  Now… well, the lake is a bit more grey, and Bearhat Peak is undistinguishable on the right. 

It is kinda Ansel Adamsy, though!

I run back to the car, and it’s not even 11 am yet, so I decide to head up to Many Glacier and hike up to Iceberg Lake!  But first, I stop for the picture of Goose Island every visitor to Glacier Park is required, by law, to take:

This is a very easy hike, suitable for any average circa-1970s American.  There’s some uphill, of course, but the views are awesome, and rangers take gaggles of tourists along this trail every day. 

In the summer. When it’s warm.

But the weather isn’t too bad, and while I get snowed and sleeted on a bit, I am able to make it to Iceberg Lake and back.  Starting at Many Glacier, the hike really is easy with a nice gradual uphill – annoyingly steady, it didn’t seem to vary at all for the first few miles!  The weather even pretends to be nice, giving me some nice snapshots of Mt. Wilbur, which is the southeast post around the lake.

The col around iceberg lake is truly special, with crenellated cliffs pressing in ominously against the powder blue lake, with “bergs” of ice floating in the lake until very late in the summer (but not early fall, apparently – I had to get my bergs from the open air)

While taking in the surroundings, I suddenly realized that I was getting very, very sleepy… until I noticed these are mountain GOATS, not mountain SHEEP, so my somniferousness soon passed.

Did I mention these guys are insanely cute when they’re young?

The lake is choppy and brutally cold – I’m very thankful for my Kettle Morraine schwag, as it kept me… well, not warm, but not miserable:

And it’s very hard to convey the scale here – just imagine this picture wraps 2/3s of the way around you, and you’re looking up at 2000 feet of rock face, and you begin to get an idea:

Turning around and heading back down, I’m a bit shocked to see how quickly snow has accumulated on Mt. Henkel on the other side of the valley I hiked up:

But I make it down safely, of course, and a final view to the west confirms that this really is a pretty little spot in the world.

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