Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Making a pass(es)

The flank of Mount Morgan on Dawson-Pitamakin traverse

Cousin Martin Suarez takes a scenic break

Katie descends from Pitamakin Pass into Dry Fork drainage
I made a concerted “dash for the passes” at the end of August.
It was a second time in three weeks for Headquarters Pass in the Front with my cousin Mary and her son Mark from Minnesota, and then the Dawson-Pitamakan loop in Glacier National Park that included my wife, Katie.
Headquarters Pass is always satisfying. We did it mid-week, yet saw more people than I had ever seen on this jaunt. Many were guests at Nature Conservancy’s Pine Butte Swamp Guest Ranch and we also met some guys who were dayhiking after a trek through the Bob Marshall.
Cousins Martin Suarez and his mother, Mary McCartney at Headquarters Pass in Front
I’ve always held Dawson-Pitamakan as one of the finest, if not the finest day hike in Glacier, but it had been about 10 years since I last did it. I wasn’t disappointed on any level. We hiked after the weather had cooled off, and there was fresh snow streaking the high peaks. Yet, the skies were blue and the sun shown brightly. The copious huckleberries were a constant distraction.
What’s great about Dawson-Pitamakan is its views of the remote Nyack country, with Mounts Phillips and Stimson looming to the south and west. And, there are alpine sections where you walk ledge and cliff tops high above the valley floor, dotted with high mountain lakes.
There are several opportunities to climb nearby peaks along the way.
While waiting for my hiking companions to catch up I climbed the twin tops of Mount Helen directly south on the ridgeline from Dawson Pass, a 1,000 foot plus gainer. McClintock would have been easily climbable from near Cut Bank Pass, Mount Morgan a bit more problematic, but doable, and Rising Wolf a possibility.

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