The idea: hike the Highline to Ahern Pass, drop over Iceberg Notch down the Many Glacier. Stay in a cabin at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, hike over Piegan Pass, maybe hike a peak, take the shuttle back to the car. The appeal was first in the route, which takes in a massive helping of prime alpine terrain, and second in the relative ease of logistics. Not just in not having to carry overnight gear, as we had enough beer and other crap that any weight advantage was largely nullified, but in that this is just about the only reasonable way to do an overnight through Many in high summer. There are several spots within the campground reserved for backpackers, but you can’t get them as the first or last night of a trip. The hotel is expensive, and the drive in camp spots fill well before noon.
Our cabin reservation shortcut worked well, but we were destined to fight the crowds in other ways. We arrived in Apgar at 640, which was far too late to get a spot on the 700 express shuttle to Logan Pass. Some folks arrived an hour before we did.
It was all worth it.
It had been three years since I was on much of our route, including the northern Highline and Iceberg Notch. It was interesting to see what memory had wrought.
GP Chalet employees on the dirt bypass of the Ahern drift.
The Highline was better than I remembered it. The flowers on the climb up to Ahern Pass itself more profuse and riotous.
The view northeast, past Helen and Elizabeth Lakes, irretrievably sublime.
The talus from the pass up to the notch, burly and tedious. That’s what you get when memory recalls it as taking longer than it seemed like it should.
Chalet employee on the talus, with M below talking up the Pikas.
The notch itself is a cool spot, with two of the most gobsmacking lakes in a park visible at the same time. The drop to Iceberg looks absurd, or at least firmly 5th class, until you swing lookers-left and the ledges open up in a continuous but not too bad route.
Overall it flirts the line between 3rd and 4th class; almost anyone would do the individual moves a few feet off the ground, but really fall anywhere and you’ll probably die. And true to Glacier form, the rock is totally chossy, if interestingly varied, limestone. Lots of dinner plates to kick off.
Easy and fun if you don’t let it get to your head.
The other thing my memory did not recall with perfect accuracy was the scree traversing and gully which forms the second half of the 2000 foot descent from notch to lake. Of course, a cursory ‘net search reveals that other people go other ways, but three years ago I had almost no beta, and my route worked well enough. This year, M and her sandals were not amused.
She did find Iceberg Lake itself, and the impressive beargrass on the hike down, redeeming. Compared to her’s my pictures are quite poor, so I’ll defer that sight to later.
We had packed first dinner with us, and fired up the stove on the lakeshore to rejuvenate for the 5 mile hike down to civilization. Checking in to our cabin, and taking a hot shower, were very nice. The loop may be lazy in concept, but it is not in execution. Later on we made our way to the hotel bar for a second dinner of salad and cheeseburger.
When M approves of waking you know you’ve done well. Nonetheless, we were both a bit creaky and slow, and while the journey over Piegan Pass featured the usual inspiring unicorn habitat, when the road came into sight everyone was pleased, and there was much rejoicing.
Overall just another weekend.
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