Welcome to SP!  -
Bullhead Point
Mountain/Rock

Bullhead Point

  Featured on the Front Page
Bullhead Point

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Montana, United States, North America

Object Title: Bullhead Point

Activities: Hiking, Scrambling

Season: Summer, Fall

Elevation: 7445 ft / 2269 m

 

Page By: Saintgrizzly

Created/Edited: Jun 7, 2008 / Jun 30, 2011

Object ID: 410549

Hits: 3373 

Page Score: 89.01%  - 28 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote

 

 



NEITHER TRUE SUMMIT NOR TYPICAL DAY HIKE!


(Clicking on pictures will enlarge them, and also bring up information such as peak IDs.)

Early in the day, Mount Grinnell and Swiftcurrent Mountain dominate the view.
 

 
Bullhead Point, Mount Wilbur
Bullhead Point comes into view; the siren call of Mount Wilbur close behind.
 
Swiftcurrent Basin
As we begin climbing, the Swiftcurrent Basin becomes breathtaking in its beauty!
There are two reasons to make a page for Bullhead Point (the appellation would appear to be unofficial; while referenced by name in Edwards' A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park—as well as by every "local" with whom I've spoken—it does not appear as such on the assorted maps I've checked), neither of which is that it is a mountain, and while it does indeed have a high point, it would be stretching matters to claim this geographical protruberance as a "summit." No, the reasons making Bullhead Point "page worthy" come from its immediate, in-your-face proximity to Mount Wilbur, one of the major peaks in the Many Glacier Area, and a mountain which by any definition, absolutely does have a summit—and a worthy-endeavor one at that. The other reason Bullhead Point is of importance comes from what is witnessed during the course of a few hours clambering up the almost 2,400 feet to what, if the term must be used, can be kindly referenced as its "summit," then walking the ridge towards looming Wilbur, taking a short detour onto Wilbur's north flank with its wonderful presentation of Iceberg Basin, then continuing climbing to about the 8,000 foot level so as to traverse Wilbur's east flank before a return descent to the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail.... What happens during all this—an occurrence important (and nice) enough to warrant a page—is, simply, a constantly unfolding, gorgeous view. The presentation of a magnificent area makes this a day hike (with a little exposure, but not bad—and possible need of an ice axe, which is worth carrying) to remember. And that is why you are perusing a Bullhead Point Page-of-Pictures. Enjoy the day...! 
Another of Swiftcurrent Mountain
A bit higher, Wilbur's shoulder sets off Swiftcurrent Mtn.



First good view of Mount Wilbur. The diagonal gray
band marks our route across the east face.
 


Upon reaching the Bullhead Point summit, the view becomes...the VIEW!
 

Then, as we move towards Wilbur, the day becomes more and more intense. Anticipation grows—the views around us have become...spellbinding.
 

Upon reaching the Wilbur Massif proper, a short detour takes us onto the Wilbur northern wall, with spectacular views of Iceberg Basin, and beyond. (Photo on the left is of Iceberg Peak.)
 


Another landscape from Wilbur's north wall.
 

 
2,000  of wall!
2,000' of Wall!
 
Can only be Iceberg Lake...
Iceberg Lake.
 
Wilbur Summit Cliffs...
Wilbur Summit Cliffs.


During the traverse of Wilbur's east face, looking back along our route brought the entire length of Bullhead Point into a perspective in which it appears the mountains are just huge folds of earth.
 

Final glimpses as our descent began...
 

A most memorable day!

...and in conclusion, a nice reminder of what it's all about...


Mount Wilbur alpenglow
At days end, this nice photo by distressbark brings us back to the
by now distant morning, where it all began.

Route

Bullhead Point/Wilbur Route
Bullhead Point/Wilbur Day Hike.

Map shows our approximate route. Except for the ridge walk from Bullhead Point to Wilbur, then across Wilbur's east face, there is quite a bit of latitude for routes taken. Ascending from the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail to Bullhead Point, then the descent off Wilbur, are largely intuitive, not difficult, and open to a variety of possibilities.

The off-trail ascent begins approximately 2.25 miles from your starting point at the marked trail leaving the Swiftcurrent parking area, and you'll be ascending the southeast slope—not climbing directly up the east face to the point, which could be inferred from the perspective shown in the signature photo. In other words, you leave the trail and begin climbing shortly after starting the trek beneath the south-facing slope of Bullhead Point.
 
Simple—but treacherous....
Chopping steps across a snow-filled couloir.

Walking the ridge from the "summit" to Mount Wilbur proper is not difficult, and neither is the brief side trip taking you above Iceberg Lake—the trail on this ledge is good, although there is some exposure. The only critical point of the entire day is that of reaching the goat trail atop the gray band of rock which will take you across Wilbur's east face. It is the only safe route, and not difficult to find, but find it you must. There is a brief climb at the junction where you took the side trip above Iceberg Lake, with the goat trail/ledge being easy to locate. Stay on this ledge the entire distance of the east face, and if ice axes are going to be needed to cross couloirs of snow, it will be during this stretch.

I've not (yet) climbed Wilbur, and while it is not the usual route used to reach the summit blocks, this Bullhead Point ridge walk looks to be a quite possible way of accessing the mountain. The advantage of this would be that of being able to study the entire east face of the mountain during your approach.

Our total mileage this day was between 8 and 9 miles, with elevation gain being around 3,000 feet. A VERY nice day, indeed!

Red Tape, Wildlife, & Cautions Section


In case you need it: A couple reminders that this GNP/Northern Rockies area has a LOT of wildlife.
 

No permits required, but you must pay a park entry fee, which is $25 for one week, or $35 for an annual pass. Registration for day climbs in Glacier National Park is recommended, but not mandatory. Probably anyone prone to climbing in this part of the country already knows this, but the Northern Rockies are full of wildlife. Always be aware, and don't do anything stupid, like—for example—feed the bears, think that a mountain lion is even remotely related to your pet cat, or run up to a moose (moose are quite unpredictable, irritable, and very dangerous). And never, ever, EVER forget you're in grizzly country; they insist on being left alone—disagreement on that point is not an argument you'll win! Bear spray and noise should be part of every GNP foray you make into the back country. Black bears will be found in the forests, grizzlies commonly venture onto the above-timberline tundra, sometimes, when in pursuit of such delicacies as ladybugs or cutworm moth larva, even to the summits! Also note that improperly stored food in park campgrounds (i.e., scraps left around the table or campfire, or edibles in your tent rather than your car) will subject you to a $50 fine. If you wander off, leaving your pack unattended, and there is food in it which attracts the attention of, for example, a bear, it is also a fine. Folks, the Park Service is serious about not providing human food access to the critters!

When to Climb, & Climbing Considerations


From late June/early July (during this time frame expect LOTS of snow in the high elevations) to early fall, depending on snow conditions. Traditional climbing season in the Northern Rockies is July, August, and September—with September weather becoming progressively colder and more unstable (sometimes dramatically so: PAY ATTENTION!) as the month progresses—but does of course vary from year to year. There are occasional winter climbs in the park, but not often, and then only by well-equipped, area-wise, extremely competent individuals. Basically, most of GNP is inaccessable through the winter, and avalanche danger, to put it mildly, is extreme almost everywhere.


CLIMBING CONSIDERATIONS

Because of the nature of the rock, there are special considerations regarding climbing in Glacier National Park, and grading systems unique to the Park have been developed by both J. Gordon Edwards and the Glacier Mountaineering Society. Anyone doing more than just "trail" hiking in this part of the Rockies should read the excellent and important information put together by Fred and Moni Spicker. Much—if not most—of the rock in GNP is sedimentary and rotten, and you need to know about it: Glacier National Park Rock & Grading Systems.

Camping & Lodging


The Many Glacier Campground (sometimes referred to as the "Swiftcurrent Campground"—$20 per day—no reservations, first come first served basis) makes for a good, quick beginning to this climbing day hike! There are numerous campgrounds available within Glacier National Park. At Many Glacier there also are cabins with and without baths, a motel and a fancy hotel. There are showers available, and a restaurant immediately off the Swiftcurrent camping area. There are also many campgrounds—USFS, KOA, and private commercial—as well as motels just outside the park on both the west and east sides.

Click here for General Camping Information, and click here for Current Site Availability in specific campgrounds.

There are many accomodations and campgrounds on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which juts against the GNP eastern border, and includes the towns of East Glacier Park, Saint Mary, Browning, and Babb.

Additionally, the park has a network of Backcountry Campsites, which are pretty much a requirement for multi-day treks; some of these are by reservations, some are first come, first served. There are application and length of stay restrictions; it's important to check the above link for relevant information.

Current Conditions/Web Cams


Weather page—an overview, plus current conditions and forecast


This is the New NPS Web Cam Page.


External Links/Additional Information/Items of Related Interest





In Tribute

On March 1, 2011, Vernon Garner, Saintgrizzly, left us after losing a bold, inspiring fight against pancreatic cancer. Or maybe he won, for he is at last free of his pain and has "shuffle[d] off this mortal coil."

Vernon was an important contributor on SummitPost, but beyond merely making good, informative pages, he actually inspired many who read his work. No one put more work into his or her pages than Vernon did, and many of those pages, especially those related to Glacier National Park, the place he loved above all others, are works of art in both the writing and layout. More than one person has wanted to visit Glacier or go back to Glacier largely due to what he shared about that magnificent place.

Many people on SP counted Vernon among their friends, and many more saw him as one of the best, one of those who exemplified the spirit of this site. He was one of the best of us, he will be missed, and he will not be forgotten.

As a tribute to him, Vernon's pages will remain in his name. Any member who sees a need for an addition or correction should please contact site management via the "Send PM to the Elves" feature.

Rest well and climb on, Vernon.

Images