Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Laboring in the Two Med country

The view to the west from the top of Rising Wolf looking down on pointed Flinsch peak and Young Man Lake
After a busy summer I was a little hesitant to do yet another three day weekend in Glacier Park over Labor Day, but Katie prevailed and I lived to enjoy it.
During those three days I re-climbed Rising Wolf Mountain (elevation 9,513 feet) for the first time in more than 20 years, hiked to Triple Divide Pass, and enjoyed a "down day" on Labor Day doing several small hikes in the Two Medicine area.
Two Medicine is my favorite part of the park and this trip was so enjoyable because we spent so much time there.
Two Med Lake was smoky but calm and picture perfect Monday
We saw lots of black bear, although Katie saw a big grizzly on her Highline Trail hike on Sunday.
Perhaps, the highlight of animal sightings was two wolverines just north of Triple Divide Pass.  I saw a wolverine on my recent backpack trip in the park as I climbed to the Swiftcurrent Lookout.  Three wolverine in one year is quite exceptional because the animal is so elusive.
We stayed in East Glacier Park at the East Glacier Motel, the first time I've stayed there in more than 15 years.  The small cabins have been remodeled, are clean and the price was right at $65 a night.  Usually we stay at Terry Sherburne's Many Pine Motel, which was booked for the long weekend.
While Two Medicine is my favorite location, Rising Wolf has been my favorite mountain in that valley.  It is a monster that consumes the entire north shore of Two Medicine Lake.
I decided to climb it the same way I had done it more than 20 years ago ---- from the North shore directly up between the Red and Blonde peaks and back down via the "traditional" Dawson Pass route.
While the traditional route was favored in Gordon Edwards' climbers' guide, I think the North Shore route is much more reasonable.  The Dawson route finishes the climb through an extremely steep route through the diorite (volcanic) sill cliff band.   There are also some Class 4 cliffs to negotiate on the ridge walk between the mountain and the pass.
The North Shore route is very direct, and while the diorite cliffs must be negotiated, they are at a reasonable angle.
I discovered how much difference 20 years makes.  While I'm still in great shape, I found the Class 4 section challenging, something I didn't even think about years ago.
I estimated the Rising Wolf traverse was in the neighborhood of 16 miles.
I figure that Sunday's hike was about the 15th time I've done the Triple Divide 14.4 mile distance.
Triple Divide Pass below Triple Divide Peak
Not only was I rewarded by the sight of the two wolverines, which my wife spotted frolicking on a snow drift, but I found a can of bear spray.
The day before I had lost my bear spray, which popped out the holster while I was working my way through the cliffs on my butt.
There's so much to see in that remote Cut Bank Valley ---- the creek, Medicine Grizzly Lake, the Mad Wolf, Eagle Plume, Bad Marriage mountains, the alpine trail.
On Sunday we walked to Paradise Point on Two Medicine Lake and enjoyed watching a mamma bear and her cub play across the lake along the shoreline, even getting into the water.
We unsuccessfully hunted for moose in the wetlands and then we tried again unsuccessfully to find moose at Three Bears Lake off Marias Pass.
My self-portrait atop Rising Wolf.
The weather on Saturday and Sunday was clear, so clear that while on Rising Wolf I could look south and see well into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, where rain and cooler temperatures earlier in the week had knocked down the Red Shale fire and cleared the sky.
Mamma bear and cub frolicking on Two Med Lake North Shore
By Sunday the heat began to return and there was haze in the Cut Bank area.
Monday, it was overcast and the Two Med was filled with smoke.
This has been one of the hottest and driest summers I can recall.
My route on the Rising Wolf Climb on Saturday

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