Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer's last hurrah ---- three easy Glacier peaks

Byron Wallis atop Stanton, looking toward Vaught, his next conquest

Swiftcurrent Ranger Buck at his post

I caught the alpineglow on Goat Mountain off Going to the Sun Road
It's back to work on Monday, so I spent this past week in Glacier Park car camping and day hiking.
I climbed three easy peaks and looked at a fourth in gorgeous late summer weather.
I went up Mount Stanton (elevation: 7,750 feet) Tuesday from the Lake McDonald area's Trout Creek Trail with Byron Wallis, visiting from France.  He went on to climb adjacent Mount Vaught, another 1,100 feet higher.  I turned back to save myself for the following days. Stanton is climbed often enough that there is a "climber's" trail most of the way. It is accessed off the Trout Creek Trail at the Howe Ridge intersection.
While this is considered a "lesser" peak, it still rises 4,600 feet from the lake, which is considerable for any peak. There is some interesting Class 3 rock along the way and even a piece of Class 4 on the descent to the saddle between Stanton and Vaught.
The views of the lakes below --- McDonald, Rogers, Trout and Camas --- are worth the climb.  In addition there are outstanding views of the high Livingston Range peaks in the park to the north and west and glaciated Great Northern in the Swan Range to the southwest.
I love the "classic" hikes in the park and consider the Highline Trail walk-through to Many Glacier as one of the three best trail hikes to the park.
On Wednesday I walked this 15.9 mile trail from Logan Pass to Many and threw in another 2.4 miles with some elevation gain to walk up to the Swiftcurrent Mountain lookout (elevation 8,436).
I've been to tons of fire lookouts and think the views here are the best.  You're in the center of the park and it was a clear, cloudless day offering views as far out on the Great Plains as the Sweetgrass Hills to the East and every major peak in the park.
While there were hordes of people starting from Logan Pass, the crowds thinned out as the trail progresses to Haystack and then Granite Park chalet.
Atop Swiftcurrent Lookout I encountered six more people, and from Swiftcurrent Pass down to Red Rock Falls, almost two hours later, I saw no one.
Both sides of the Garden Wall offer thrilling views and alpine hiking.
I used the $10 hiker's shuttle to get from Many, where I drove my car, to St. Mary, where I picked up the free park shuttle to Logan Pass.  I left Many at 7:30 a.m., and arrived at Logan Pass at 9:15 a.m.  What was nice was knowing that my car was at the end of the hike, and I didn't have to rush to pick up any shuttle.
I think Glacier has the right idea with the shuttles but still needs to work out how to get folks from places like Many, Chief Mountain, Cutbank Creek and Two Medicine to other destinations in a timely fashion.  You really have to think through your connections.
On Thursday I (sadly) left the park, but on the way up drove to Logan Pass and decided to climb Mount Oberlin (elevation: 8,180 feet).  This is the easiest mountain climb in the park, with an elevation gain of 1,534 feet, about the gain of going up Mount Helena.
This is a deceptive mountain.  From Logan Pass it is a piece of cake.  From McDonald Creek and the west side it looks like climbing it would be a technical feat.
I was a bit tired from my long walk Wednesday, so I leisurely walked up the mountain and in doing so, was able see eight mountain goats and five bighorn sheep.  All these creatures seemed very accustomed to seeing hikers and got uncomfortably close to me.
Views from the top of Oberlin were amazing.
This is a very satisfying thing to do if you don't have much time.  From bottom to top and back, with some time on top, took two hours and 20 minutes.
Mount Oberlin from Logan Pass parking lot. 

Mount Oberlin from west side valley floor, McDonald Creek.

No comments: