Brendan’s Hiking Adventures 2022
I had a great summer of peakbagging with my hiking group, the Glacier Mountaineering Society (GMS), and thought I’d share a write-up with anyone who wants to know more about what I love to do.
June 25 - Pyramid Peak – 7,399’
Pyramid was my first big hike of the season. Set in the Bob Marshall Wilderness just off of highway 2, The event description claimed it would be 11 miles with 3500’ vertical gain, however I learned on the hike that was the distance to where we left the trail. It ended up being 16 miles with 4200’ vert, significantly more than I was mentally prepared for! After several stream crossings with footwear changes to keep our boots dry, we hit snow at about 8 miles in which didn’t really let up for long on the approach to the summit. Lots of time was spent putting on and taking off microspikes as we alternated from steep snow to rock and back. Once we hit the first high point, it was a relatively small dip into a saddle (400 ft down and 600 ft up) to make it to the true summit of Pyramid Peak.
We didn’t hit the summit until 2 PM, but ended up with a beautiful day.
The way back was complicated by a few setbacks. Lori lost her phone in the snow. We lost the tracks in the snow and couldn’t tell if we were above or below the trail which also held us up. Finally, I slid down some high angle snow and could only stop with a “controlled collision” into a tree! Fortunately the only thing bruised was my ego… and my butt. We didn’t make it back to the car until after 8:00. I was exhausted after the long day, a trend that would continue for most of the rest of my GMS outings of the year.
July 2 – Columbia Mountain
Next weekend I took the dogs for a short hike to continue to work on my stamina and strength for the hiking season. It was a short hike, but a good one. Early in the season its popular with locals who are looking to work up a sweat with some serious elevation gain but still be a short drive from home. We just made it to the waterfall, only 2.5 up the trail or so, but probably 2000’ vertical up the mountain. On the way down I ran into Lori, some other hikers found her phone the next day! We thought it was gone forever lost in the snow on the top of the mountain. The dogs were pretty tired when we got home!
July 24 – Goat Lake & Goat Mountain 8826’
This one was described as an “exploratory trip” to the basin nestled into the base of Goat Mountain, then a scramble up to the ridge where we would hopefully find an easy route to the summit. Goat Mountain is a popular peak amongst Glacier peakbaggers, there’s a fairly straightforward route from the Siyeh pass trail off the Going-to-the-Sun Road that’s more or less a walk up. We were going the other way, a route which involved a few stream crossings and some dense pine brush to bushwhack through before approaching the lake basin. The last 1000’ to the lake were magnificent. A paradise completely untouched by humans with a picturesque lake including a few icebergs still floating in it.
We had to wade along the lakeshore to find a nice spot for a lunch break before continuing our ascent. The lake was so cold I had to keep hoping on to the shore to find some relief from the ice-cold pins and needles of the near freezing water. Undeterred, once I made it to our lunch spot, I took a very quick dip before we made our way up the walls of the basin to the ridge.
Once we hit the ridge the “exploratory” nature of this trip was more apparent. After a few missteps and searching of gullies, we had wound our way to the western side of the mountain and were able to fairly quickly scramble up the last 700 or so vert. Pressed for time we made quick work of the descent and then had a few more miles on trail to go. We hustled to the trailhead just in time to catch the shuttle of the evening to make it home for a late dinner.
July 29 – Mount Jackson – 10052’
This trip was the pinnacle of my summer adventures. Mount Jackson has been on my Glacier Bucket List since I started peakbagging in the park. There are 6 mountains in the park that are 10K in elevation, and summiting all of them is a badge of honor amongst those in the know. Having checked Mount Siyeh off the list back in 2018, Mount Jackson provides a much more significant challenge, but is still possible to do as a day trip. Having attempted in 2019 but being unable to summit due to an early season snow storm, I knew I had to come back to complete it now. 20 miles and 6000’ was a tall order for a day hike so we started as early as we could access the trailhead and set off at a quick march for the first 6 miles on trail. We left the trail just before it reached gunsight pass, and looked up at the 4000’ vert still left to go.
It was a tough scramble with some really loose rock, which fortunately didn’t slow us down all that much on the way up. We hit the ridge at 2:30 and got a stunning view of Harrison Glacier from above – the largest in the park and one rarely seen. Upon reaching the summit a short while later we had some celebratory chocolate covered almonds and were joined by a curious herd of mountain goats.
The descent was brutal, but not because it was very physically demanding, simply because the loose scree threatened to drop rocks on our group from the hikers above. The demanding steep descent took another 3 hours until we hit the trail again for the last 6 miles out, which flew by in comparison. Unfortunately we made it back to the trailhead just as the sun was starting to set at around 9:30, which meant the shorter way out would be closed for construction. After detouring all the way around the park I didn’t get home until after 1 AM, exhausted, but happy with my accomplishment. I felt that if I could tackle Jackson in a day there really was no limit to what I could accomplish in my mountaineering career.
August 7 – Sinopah – 8271’
Finally an easy day! Another one on the Glacier Bucket List, Sinopah is a fun climb not because its very tall or challenging, but because it is an imposing figure looming over Two Medicine Lake. As seen from the lake it looks like quite the challenge, but like most mountains in the park there’s a pretty simple route if you know where to look. This was a group of 7 of us, and I knew most of the people from either hikes this year or previous GMS events. It was a good group and we quickly ascended the quite steep climbers trail to the crux of the climb, a short chimney section about 200’ tall. After we got to the summit before midday we hung out for a bit and walked down the ridge to try and get a better view of the lake. On our way back we saw Rockwell Falls and then had a short tailgate in the parking lot before making it home with plenty of time to catch dinner.
August 27 – Peak 7701
I was excited for this unnamed summit as it was my first hike in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. The weather forecast was going from okay to questionable as we started our day… 6 miles on trail to lower sky lake before a short off trail scramble/bushwack to the summit about 1500’ above. The clouds were looking ominous as we got to Sky Lake (a beautiful spot by the way, one I definitely want to come back to and camp at) but we proceeded on. Adam (our trip coordinator) explained this was his third attempt at this summit. The first he was turned away by a solo encounter with a grizzly, the second by an early snow storm. I’m happy to report that the third try was a charm and we summited successfully after a few false starts from the rain. Not long after we got on top of the peak the skies opened up and we had to make our way down through the difficult boulder sized talus until we hit the tree line. “It’s not that bad, just like a quarter mile of stream crossing, except downhill” I remarked. As we continued down to the lake the rain got worse and worse. We seemed to lose half of our group but had no choice but to continue and hope to reconnect at the lake rendezvous point. Fortunately as we got to the lake we saw the other group not too far behind. The rain gradually improved as we continued the 6 miles out, until about 30 mins before we returned to the cars we were able to take our rain gear off and dry out a bit. I managed to finish the day with a growler of the “peakbagger pale ale” from the nearby cabinet mountain brewery, vowing to return and explore the Cabinets further.
Sept 10 – Dragons Tail – 8,580’
Dragon’s tail is another iconic summit that’s pretty easy to attain in short day. From Logan pass already at 6600’, you take the boardwalk path to the hidden lake overlook, and then veer off to skirt the ridge before coming up to a saddle with a magnificent view of hidden lake and Bearhat Mountain.
The trail from there was not too bad, a little bit of steep exposure in places as we looked into the bowl nicknamed “The garden of Eden”.
Eventually we left the goat trail and enjoyed a pleasurable steep scramble up to the ridge with a windy walk to the summit along the continental divide. It was the only place I’ve hiked in glacier where I could see St Mary Lake and its outlet leading eventually to the Atlantic Ocean while also seeing Lake McDonald which flows into the Pacific. We played around on the summit, exploring the ridge and trying to find a descent into the hidden lake basin to return a different route, but decided against it. We got back to the car early in the afternoon and had a short tailgate.
I have one more trip planned for October, hopefully the weather holds up. Thank you for reading!