Saturday, August 04, 2018

Glacier again: Siyeh Pass to Sunrift Gorge

The view from Siyeh Pass south looking at Sexton Glacier

Mary McCartney wets her cold neck wrap in a snow-fed spring

Mary McCartney coming down from Siyeh Pass

A careful crossing with Martin coaching his Mom

On the high approach, with Piegan mountain and glacier behind us

Martin and Mary climb toward a high point at the pass

Matahpi Peak sits at the top of Siyeh Pass

One of the many waterfalls in the red Sunrift Gorge coming off Sexton Glacier

In the Reynolds Burn above St. Mary Lake
Against my better judgment because of the crowds and the smoke, I returned to Glacier on Thursday to hike the spectacular Siyeh Bend/Pass-Sunrift Gorge 10-miler.
To my great surprise, the trail was neither crowded nor smoke-filled.
We got one of the clearest days of the summer in the park because high winds (provoking a Red Flag Warning) had blown the smoke out onto the Plains.
I almost decided against returning to the park because of the smoke out on the Plains.
I had traveled to Cut Bank where I took in the Montana Shakespeare in the Parks presentation of "Othello" in the city park.  The local business community had made this a special treat by serving free picnic suppers to anyone who showed up.  The presentation, as usual, was superb.
After the play I traveled north and west 80 miles via Browning and the Duck Lake cut across road that delivered me to my cousins' Many Glacier campsite where I had stayed the previous week with them.
The temperature had been 97 on the Plains and only in the mid-60s in the park.  What a welcome relief.
We took the park bus to the Siyeh Bend to begin our hike and had the trail to ourselves until nearly Preston Park.
The Piegan Glacier to the west and Siyeh and Cracker peaks to the north were the outstanding features of our hike to Siyeh Pass.  We were passed on the trail by two climbers, male and female, who ended up climbing Siyeh AND hiking the pass and coming out the Gorge faster than we did the hike.  They must have gotten more than 5,000 feet of quick elevation gain.  Oh, to be young and strong again!
We lounged at the Pass, enjoying the snowfield below us and the remote Boulder Creek drainage to the east below us with its tarn and lake.
Cousins Mary and Martin then climbed a high point from the pass and we started down the glorious east side drinking in the the views of Sexton Glacier on Going to the Sun Mountain and the Red Rock Canyons below us.
We had fabulous, clear views of Little Chief, Mahtatopa and Red Eagle Mountains to the south above St. Mary's Lake.
Along the trail we passed a couple of fresh piles of grizzly scat, full of (probably) huckleberries, although we didn't see any ripe hucks ourselves.
I had hoped we would catch the wildflowers in their full glory, but it was past their peak, but still terrific, particularly the magenta-colored Indian Paintbrush, deep-blue Gentian, purple Penstemon, and varieties of other yellow flowers including emerging Blanket Flowers.
Our only worry was that in enjoying this floral show we might miss the final buses of the day, but that turned out to be needless worry as we caught a 6 p.m., and we were out of the park by 6:30 p.m. and on our way back to Great Falls.  Our last mile was walking through the 2016 Reynolds Fire Burn and reveling in the forest's regeneration.
Of course, the hike was sweetened by the company of my McCartney cousins, Mary Irene and her son Martin Suarez, both of Minnesota, who showed up ready and able to hike for nearly 10 solid days!
Come back Mary and Martin.  You are already missed!

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