A six bear day

I had planned a big, ambitious day in Glacier yesterday. Drove up, slept in the parking lot, woke at five and was headed up from The Loop soon after. Less than a mile in, I saw my first bear. A set of red eyes ahead on the trail manifested themselves into a little black bear, who obliged me by scurrying up the hill when I yelled. I met the same bear a mile later on the next switchback, with the same result. When hiking in the dark in bear country, it’s good to have a powerful lamp and to be generally noisy.

The plan was to climb to Ahern Pass, descend the Ahern Glacier, and traverse the Ptarmigan goat trail over to the Ptarmigan tunnel (as seen on the video from last month). The glacier/snowfield was much more of a glacier than I had counted on, steep with a bad runout and at least a partial bergschrund. I didn’t fancy descending it without an axe.


So I went up and over Iceberg Notch instead. From the notch at 8000′, you descend 2k of vert down third class ledges and scree in well under a mile. A very cool scramble, and easy route finding: just follow the goat tracks and poop.


I saw bear number two hiking down to Many Glacier, a huge male Griz high up in a meadow, rooting around vigorously. Bears three through five where a momma Griz and two babies who crossed 70 feet behind me as I started up toward Swiftcurrent Pass. They were moving fast, and didn’t seem to pay me any notice. I was too surprised and awed to pull out the camera until it was too late. An opportunity lost, but very cool anyways.

I saw bear six as I started up the switchbacks to the pass. The mid-sized Griz had cut the switchbacks coming down, and ended up cliffed out below and in between two four person groups. Understandably, the bear freaked out a bit. I looked up to see the bear trotting down the trail in the direction he wanted to go, and a family of four in various stages of flight about 100 feet in front of it. The parents and daughter were moving just faster than a fast walk, the older son was in a full run well out in front. A bit of a difficult situation, but moving fastish to give the bear room seemed prudent. Once the Griz had room, he bailed quickly off into the bushes and disappeared. The family seemed a bit shaken when I passed them, but they’ll certainly have a good story to take home.

That Griz left evidence.


It was a nice day to be out. Being within a few degrees of record heat here in town, getting out and up was called for.

The more time I spend in Glacier, the more it grows on me. The peculiar density of contrasts takes the usual benefits of the spectacular and clobbers one over the head with special vociferation.

4 responses to “A six bear day”

  1. M found this on the 8/24 NPS morning report:"Glacier National Park Climber Falls 300 Feet To His DeathA 67-year-old climber fell 300 feet to his death on Saturday. The man and four companions, including his 38-year-old son, had climbed Iceberg Notch earlier in the day. Two members of the party headed one way, while the remaining three planned to use goat trails to climb down to Ptarmigan Tunnel, then return to their campsite at the Many Glacier campground. The victim then separated from his two companions to descend via another route on Ahern Pass near Helen Lake. He fell while doing so. A group of hikers, including a park employee, witnessed the fall. The employee made his way to the victim after sending the rest of the party to Granite Park Chalet to get help. While en route, the employee spotted another park employee and yelled to him for help. The two made their way to the victim and found that he had suffered major, fatal injuries. His body was flown out on Saturday evening. [Submitted by Wade Muehlhof, Public Affairs Officer] "Sounds like he may have fell on or very near the glacier.

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