Located in the Livingston Range about three miles south of the Canadian border in the remote northwest corner of Glacier National Park, Kinnerly Peak is not even seen (at least not well) much less climbed by most visitors to Glacier. In fact, to get a good view requires hiking about 5 miles around Kintla Lake or climbing another peak in Glacier (Kinnerly is obvious from many of the higher peaks in Glacier). At first glance the statistics reveal little reason to climb this peak. It’s 66 feet lower than the 10,000 foot mark that sets the standard for the highest peaks in Glacier National Park. It’s located only about a mile from a higher peak (Kintla), which means that Kinnerly has less than 2000 vertical feet of prominence. The first ascent was not recorded until 1937 when a group led by Norman Clyde climbed the peak.
However, for those few that have seen it Kinnerly tends to leave a lasting impression. It is a true glacial horn, making it steep on all four sides. The north face of Kinnerly Peak rises 5573 vertical feet above Upper Kintla Lake in the distance of about 1 horizontal mile, about the largest elevation difference in one mile of any peak in the contiguous U.S. Also, Kinnerly ranks very high in spire measure. However, due to its remoteness, and the multiple days required by most who would attempt to climb it, there are probably few ascents per year, so don’t expect crowds.
Views from the top are spectacular. The Logan Pass area and Going-to-the-Sun Road are clearly visible as are many of the high peaks in the park. Chief Mountain and the plains to the east of the park are also clearly visible. Upper Kintla Lake lies 5573 vertical feet below, and right beyond it the 5000 foot south face of Longknife Peak. Many other ranges are also visible from the summit, and purportedly on a clear day it is possible to see Mt. Assiniboine far to the north in Canada.
Routes exist on multiple faces of the peak and are generally class 4 (link to GMS ratings). Many of these routes are described in A Climbers Guide to Glacier National Park by Gordon Edwards, which is just about mandatory for those who will do much climbing in the park.
Getting ThereDrive to Columbia Fall Montana located along U.S. Highway 2 about midway between the West Glacier entrance to the park and Kalispel. Take the outside North Fork (of the Flathead River) road (route 486) to the Polebridge park entrance. Alternatively, one can take the Inside North Fork Road from near West Glacier to this same entrance. After having already driven dozens of miles on dirt road to get to this point it is another 16 miles to reach the foot of Kintla Lake, where there is a campground and trailhead. Hike along the Boulder Pass Trail for about 10 miles until the foot of Upper Kintla Lake is reached. Kinnerly Peak is extremely hard to miss from this angle if the weather is clear (it dominates the view for miles along this trail). From this point cross the outlet stream from the lake and start heading up (see the northwest face route). Other routes exist that require hiking further along this trail, or starting from Waterton Lake.
Another option is to boat in to the Kintla Lake campsite and use it as a basecamp. Only non-motorized boats are allowed on Kintla Lake.
Red TapeThe peak is within Glacier National Park so a fee or pass is required for entrance into the park. All backcountry camping requires a permit, and sites may be closed due to bear activity or other reasons.
CampingThere are numerous campgrounds throughout Glacier National Park. The campground at the foot of Kintla Lake would be the closest to Kinnerly Peak. Most of those who will attempt Kinnerly will spend at least one night in the backcountry due to the length of the approach and 6000 feet of elevation gain. See this page for information on backcountry camping in Glacier National Park. Polebridge, which is the last place for picking up supplies, also has cabins for rent and a hostel.
When to climbThis peak is best climbed in the summer (probably July to September) maybe into October in some years. The outlet stream from Upper Kintla Lake must be crossed, which may be difficult during high water (May to June). In winter the road to Kintla Lake is closed at the Polebridge Ranger Station adding 16+ miles (oneway) to any attempt. This road is allowed to melt out naturally in the spring so check HERE for current road openings before going. Much of the terrain seems very prone to avalanches so an ascent in winter would at best be only for experienced and prepared climbers.
A forecast for Polebridge Montana can be found HERE. Keep in mind that Polebridge is over 6000 feet below the summit.
Area EcologyThe area surronding the North Fork of the Flathead River is very wild country. Be prepared to see any kind of animal native to the region including wolves and grizzlies (so take the appropriate precautions).
Different Faces of KinnerlyBecause it is a true horn Kinnerly looks impressive from a variety of angles and dominates the trail views for many miles from the head of Lower Kintla Lake to well on the way to Boulder Pass above Upper Kintla Lake.
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