Thursday, July 09, 2015

Catching up: hikes in Front, Glacier

View from top of Henry looking back on ridge line and Medicine peak

Mount Henry from the west

Another view of Henry near the snow fields

The Appistoki valley to which I had to descend to end my climb
It's been family time with four of our five children, spouses and grandchild visiting, which has slowed my summer hiking a bit.
But I did mange to rehike Willow Creek Falls with my daughter, climb Patrol Mountain with my step-son and spend three days in Glacier, where I did the Mount Henry traverse from the Scenic Point Trail.
It has become increasingly smoky out there with fires burning in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, Oregon and Washington states.  It is dreadfully dry on the west side of the divide. But it remains fairly green in the east side and I've even found patches of snow.  I'm not deceiving myself, though, and expect a fire season to ramp up here.
It was lookout ranger Samsara Chapman's first day on the job when we visited her on July 1 atop Patrol Mountain.  I think this is her 13th season there.  We saw her supply pack string coming off the mountain as we ascended.
It is always fun visiting with her, and although we were early, we were the second visitors of her season.
I hadn't done the Mount Henry traverse in more than 20 years, and discovered that age does matter.
The hike involves going up the Scenic Point Trail for about 3 miles and about 2,000 feet of elevation gain, a spot where many hikers take a break on their way to the peak, and going off trail toward Medicine Peak (elevation: 8,446 feet), which is the ridge line to Mount Henry (elevation: 8,847 feet),
Medicine looks much tougher to climb than it is.  Yes, it goes up steeply for about 1,500 feet to its rounded top, but the footing in forgiving scree is excellent.
The brilliant red-ridge walk to the base of Henry is glorious, offering tremendous views in every direction, with Summit and Little Dog peaks dominating to the south (with the Bob Marshall even further south).  The Two Med is directly below, and the Appistoki valley almost frighteningly below some 2,000 feet.  In the distance is the heart of Glacier National Park.
About 200 feet from the top of the mountain, a wall of broken rock confronts the hiker.  I wasn't up to negotiating that, so I continued west a few hundred feet, and slightly descended on pretty good animal/climber trails to a large gully.  The trail continued around the gully that drops steeply.  I had to think about it twice, but went down, and there I found two pretty good draws up the gully that had probably been waterfalls earlier in the season.  I got in the first one and started up steeply, moving back and forth between the draws until I reached some good scree right below the top, and went up easily.
Twenty years ago I went straight up, not giving it much thought.  Now that I'm  67 years old, the little draws in that gully made me wonder if it was worth it.  I know that I didn't want to go back down it, and because I was on a traverse, didn't have to.
The traverse to Appistoki peak was easy by comparison, just following the ridgeline, climbing two small peaks along the way. 
When I dropped into the saddle between Henry and Appistoki it was nearly 6:30 p.m., and while I had intended to climb Appistoki, a mere 500 feet from the saddle, I decided against.  I figured I had done that before and didn't need it.
I dropped off the saddle to the east and into the Appisotoki valley, which drains Henry and Appistoki and several large snowfields on Henry's massive red flank.
From there, it was a matter of dropping to the valley floor while working around three large cliff bands that create immense waterfalls.

It mean crossing and recrossing the creek, finally getting on an animal trail that intersects with the Scenic Point trail at about 6,000 feet at the dead white bark pine trees.
I think I enjoyed the walk along the valley floor as much as the ridge walk.  I was surrounded by enormous red walls, waterfalls, and isolation.  This was a true wilderness experience.
Unfortunately, I didn't drink enough water and severely dehydrated. 

Click here for map, more detail on Mt. Henry traverse

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