A CallingThe decision to climb Heaven's Peak came after doing an overnight trip to Trout Lake. Leaving from the North end of Lake Mcdonald, myself and a couple friends climbed up and over Howe Ridge. Along the way we saw extremely fresh bear scat and tracks, supposedly there are alot of grizzlies in the drainage we were heading into. As we had a late start because we had left after work, we setup camp, ate a quick meal, and told stories around the fire until the whiskey was gone. The next morning, the glass still lake was dominated by snow crusted Heaven's Peak. From that moment, we decided standing on its summit was mandatory.
This was June 14th. The mountain would simmer in our subconscious for much of the summer.
Reconnoitering the RouteAs the summer of 2008 was winding down, and many adventures had been dreamt and realized, we felt the nagging call of unfinished business. At a reunion concert outside of Whitefish, we met someone who had himself climbed Heaven's Peak. Hearing him recount his climb, and the respect he held for this mountain, reawakened those feelings we first felt looking up from Trout Lake so many months before.
We talked to "Tall Dave" from Sportsman in Whitefish, and consulted A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park. We had a plan.
We made a day trip to see where we would start from and what awaited us...
The StartOn September 12th, we made the drive from Whitefish to Glacier. We claimed the last camping site available at the Sprague Creek Campground - a good omen. The night was passed admiring Lake McDonald, with all the anticipation that comes the night before a great feat is attempted.
The next morning we were up before the sun and drove approximately 7 miles to the small pullout directly across from a stream draining the basin Southeast of the mountain.
We easily forded chilly McDonald Creek and began the climb following the stream. We climbed some small cliffs and were quickly bushwacking...
This went on for about an hour or so, we searched for game trails but couldn't find any that gave easier advancement.
We hit the treeline and the going got much easier.
The ScrambleWe made our way to the South Ridge.
The Final Push
From where we stood, there were two highpoints on the ridge. Dan went to check the South one out
Although stunning, the true summit was the Northern most highpoint.....
The Descent - A crucial decision is madeWith numerous stops for pictures and video on the way up, we found ourselves on the summit proper at 4pm. It had been a long day already, and the descent was sure to present us with more obstacles. We knew that the North Ridge was a gentle slope and could easily be descended. We also thought that we could find a trail through the dense forest back to the Packer's Roost where we would hitch/walk back to our car around dark. Regardless, we thought a traverse of the mountain would be cool, so down the North side we went.
A Ptarmigan bid farewell as we left his summit home.
A bad Decision?
Well the decision had been made, we made quick progress back down to the treeline, and then soon realized the magnitude of our choice.
In the waning hour or so of daylight after giving up hope of finding the trail, we made slow progress alternating between alder over our heads and balancing across zigzagging windfall.
We knew that we'd have to spend a cold, uncomfortable night in this dense forest. A site was chosen, and we collected as much firewood as we could.
This was a long, long morning. The going was insanely difficult. We followed the burn line down because we knew it would lead us to the general area of Packer's Roost. However, neither the burn nor the green forest allowed us an easy passage. The burn was full of downfall and new growth, the green, full of head high alder. It was comical how the other option always seemed better and we found ourselves alternating every hour or so, it always being really toilsome. By much perseverance, we succeeded in hitting the valley floor and McDonald Creek. A seemingly never-ending journey was almost finished. We met two goodnatured park employees studying fish populations in this section of the creek. At first they were amazed we had summited Heaven's and were back down at around 1pm. We informed them that we had actually summited the day before.....oh.
They led us to Packer's Roost and gave us a very appreciated ride to our truck.
As was tradition, we stopped at Los Caporales in C. Falls to get some much deserved Mexican grub and our fill of Fishbowl Margaritas.
This was my first summit in Glacier National Park - a bittersweet accomplishment. What a shame to have grown up in Whitefish, Montana and it taken me 22 years to realize the amazing backyard I was blessed with. It saddens me to know that many of my friends are still ignorant to the splendor and adventure that is so near to them. This climb sparked a fire inside of me and led to the obsessive return to the park for the remaining weekends before the heavy snows of winter stopped all trespassers. The emotions I felt on certain stages of this climb will probably never be recreated - but they will bring me back to the mountains for the rest of my life.