Monday, August 31, 2009

Two easy Glacier peaks

Katie on the way up Cataract Peak

Just below Oberlin
I went to Glacier National Park last weekend to enjoy a cabin at Swiftcurrent in Many Glacier and to take my wife up a couple of peaks I had previously climbed.
Oddly, both Oberlin and Cataract share an exact elevation of 8,180 feet.
We also walked the 13 miles through from Siyeh Bend to Many Glacier via Piegan Pass, using the Hiker’s Shuttle and park’s bus system.
It cost us $10 a piece to get from Many to the St. Mary’s park headquarters, where we picked up the free bus to Logan Pass. Sure beat shuttling cars.
Our original plan of walking the Garden Wall from Logan Pass to Many Glacier had to be scuttled because grizzly activity closed the Swiftcurrent valley to hikers. The Piegan to Many hike was a suitable compromise.
Although I’ve done this hike on several other occasions, the Piegan Pass to Many trail is very interesting and scenic. From the pass we scrambled up to the top of Cataract (a 610 feet gain), where we got amazing views of the north part of the park that was bathed in greater sunshine than where we were standing. It was great to look down on the isolated and wild basin beneath the west face of Siyeh Peak, which we walked down after we had descended the peak from that side a month ago. I love the falls, particular Morning Eagle, and we stopped at Grinnell Lake. The huckleberries were ripe and everywhere unmolested by bears and hikers until we passed through.
This weekend was largely free of the families that usually populate the park because children have gone back to school. There were fewer folks on the trails. The park had the feel of a deserted place. We could even find parking at Logan Pass, which during the height of the season usually comes at a premium --- sometimes a 30 minute wait. The lodges and restaurants are starting to run out of particular foods favored by the older set, that now predominates.
We found the food and service at Swiftcurrent Inn superior to the Many Glacier Lodge. We had a polenta/Portobello mushroom entrĂ©e at Swiftcurrent that was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had inside the park. The service at the lodge was downright slow and rude.
On Sunday I wanted Katie to try Mount Oberlin, which I recalled was the easiest peak in the park to climb. Now, I want to add an asterisk to that ---- if you climb it from the southeast, up a hiker’s trail that skirts the cliffs. Unfortunately, I took her up the southwest ridge, which is quite scenic, but offers a few pitches of third class exposure. Wished I had done the easier route with her for her first try at Oberlin.

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