NEITHER TRUE SUMMIT NOR TYPICAL DAY HIKE!
(Clicking on pictures will enlarge them, and also bring up information such as peak IDs.)
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...!
...and in conclusion, a nice reminder of what it's all about...
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 slopenot 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.
Walking the ridge from the "summit" to Mount Wilbur proper is not difficult, and neither is the brief side trip taking you above Iceberg Lakethe 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
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 Septemberwith September weather becoming progressively colder and more unstable (sometimes dramatically so: PAY ATTENTION!) as the month progressesbut 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.
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. Muchif not mostof 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 dayno 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 campgroundsUSFS, KOA, and private commercialas 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 pagean overview, plus current conditions and forecast
This is the New NPS Web Cam Page.
External Links/Additional Information/Items of Related Interest
In TributeOn 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.