At 5:30 am, August 24, 2000, Vern Ingraham, Ron Hopner and I left Whitefish, MT, driving to the Jackson Overlook trailhead to climb Blackfoot Mountain (9,597’). We reached that pullout shortly after dawn and headed down the first 2K of trail losing about 700’ of elevation that we knew would be awaiting our return. The next 5 miles of trail were uneventful except for the dozen or so campers getting an early start out that day from Gunsight Lake. We reached the outlet of the lake about 9:15 am and from there the climbers’ trail around the eastern flanks of Mount Jackson gets narrower and steeper. After about 2 more miles, we were passing through meadows beyond the last sign of a trail toward the lateral moraine of Jackson Glacier which we crossed near its lower end. The swift flowing stream is the first obstacle and while searching for a safe crossing, Vern decided to try jumping over wet rocks slipping in over his boot tops. Ron and I elected to follow, keeping the group intact and refreshed. The weather was hazy with smoke from numerous wildfires which would close Glacier Park the following day for about a week.
From that point, the route description was not very clear, so we climbed atop the next glacial moraine and decided to climb up its ridge to the base of the snowfields. After climbing an easy cliff beside the waterfalls draining the snow and ice above, we reached the end of the glacier and put on crampons and roped up to cross over to the large ice wall about a mile to the ESE. This portion was uneventful and we passed around a couple narrow crevasses.
When we reached the 60’ ice wall which sits atop a 60’ cliff, the trip suddenly became dicey. The bergschrund that develops between the cliff and the lower portion of the glacier we had crossed was a yawning chasm of 40 – 50 feet across and the snow we were climbing on had receded to the point that dropping over the edge would not place us on the ledges where we could climb the cliff. However, below the ice cliff were numerous chunks of snow and ice that had fallen from above forming a tenuous snow bridge across that portion of the bergschrund. We used our rope to belay each other across this potentially lethal section to the ledges beneath the ice cliff hoping the whole mess would not collapse while we were atop the numerous blocks. From there we took off our crampons, climbed the cliff and put them back on to cross the mile or so upper portion of the Blackfoot glacier which took us most of the way up the N/E ridge to where it was an easy scramble to the summit.
Above the Ice Wall
As we crossed the upper glacier, an interesting set of fresh prints were on the same path. At first I thought another climber was just in front, but upon closer inspection, what I thought were crampon points, were bear claws. Apparently, a grizzly had crossed in the opposite direction shortly before we arrived coming from the valley west of Blackfoot mountain.
Crossing below Jackson Glacier
We retraced our path except for crossing the stream much closer to Jackson Glacier where we avoided getting wet and reached our vehicle about 8:20 pm after the final “bonus” 2K trail climb out at the end of the day. I estimated we did ~ 5,800’ vertical during our trip.