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Red Crow Mountain, Lena Lake Route, Glacier Park Class 2 & 3
Red Crow Mountain lies on the southeastern boundary of Glacier National Park along the Continental Divide.
Red Crow is usually accessed directly from Firebrand Pass and is generally about a 6 hour round trip unless additional peaks are summitted such as Calf Robe Mountain.
J. Gordon Edwards does mention Red Crow Mountain in passing on page 319 in his book, A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park when he wrote of Grizzly Mountain.
The Lena Lake Route is an adventuresome alternative to the not-so-ho-hum hike to Firebrand Pass Route up scree slopes along the Continental Divide. It includes about 1,500 feet in off trail elevation gain and some enjoyable cross-country travel through the basin below Red Crow Mountain.
Lena Lake is a gorgeous lake that is hidden from view while climbing up the Firebrand Pass Trail. It can easily be seen from Calf Robe, Dancing Lady Mountain as well as Red Crow Mountain.
The Lena Lake Route crosses through, not around, some spectacular wildlife habitat. The fishing Guide to Glacier National Park reports that Lena Lake is barren, it has no fish. Lena’s partner Ole Lake is just across the Continental Divide.
Here are some nice Ole and Lena jokes, since they are begging to be told.
Ole and Lena are a couple from Minnesota and are of Norwegian descent. This writer had Norwegian ancestry so I appreciate the jokes. Read them and then move on!
Ole And Lena Dating
When Ole and Lena were young and in love they would got to there favorite spot to park.
One night while parked hugging and kissing Ole asks Lena, "Lena how vould you like to go in zee back?"
"No," she replies. So they hug and kiss some more. Again, Ole asks Lena to go in the back. Lena replies, "Ole, vhy are ya alvays asking me to go in zee back, I vant to stay in front vith you!"
Ole And Lena On Their Honeymoon Trip
Ole and Lena got married. On their honeymoon trip they were nearing Minneapolis when Ole put his hand on Lena's knee.
Giggling, Lena said, "Ole, you can go a little farther now if ya vant to"... so Ole drove to Duluth.
Ole died. So Lena went to the local paper to put a notice in the obituaries. The gentleman at the counter, after offering his condolences, asked Lena what she would like to say about Ole. Lena replied, "You yust put 'Ole died'."
The gentleman, somewhat perplexed, said, "That's it? Just 'Ole died?' Surely, there must be something more you'd like to say about Ole. If its money you're concerned about, the first five words are free. We must say something more."
So Lena pondered for a few minutes and finally said, "O.K. You put 'Ole died. Boat for sale.' "
Getting There and Route Statistics:
The Coonsa Trail (also referred to as the Firebrand Pass Trail on some maps) leaves U.S. Highway 2 at the Lubec Trailhead which is located at mile marker #203. There is ample parking near the trailhead.
General Distances are:
Lubec Lake Trailhead - Start
Lubec Lake - Autumn Creek Trail Junction = 1.4 miles
Autumn Creek Trail - Firebrand Pass Junction = 1 mile
Firebrand Pass Trail to start Off-trail Route = 1.5 miles
Off Trail Portion – Approximately 3 miles
CLIMB REGISTRATION: You do not have to register for day climbs in Glacier National Park but it is recommended. Backcountry travel regulations can be found at Backcountry Travel. There is also information from the Park Service on Mountain Climbing in Glacier.
This route adds additional distance to the trip and requires walking along established animal trails from above Lena Lake to the saddle north of Red Crow and then climbing through scree slopes from the saddle to the summit of Red Crow.
There are also other routes available from Lena Lake through the cliffs below Red Crow but they were not explored.
This approach is particularly attractive if there are other peaks to the south included on the day’s agenda.
Follow the Firebrand Pass Trail until Firebrand Pass comes into full view. This is at about the 6,300 feet level. Lena Lake is on the 6,400 foot contour level. Drop off the trail there and traverse to the north towards the ridge that extends down from Red Crow Mountain. The ridge to Dancing Lady Mountain is far across the valley.
It will be necessary to do some bushwhacking but a lot of it can be avoided with good route finding. Eventually you will see Railroad Creek which is the outlet for Lena Lake. Follow it up stream as much as possible. Once you acquire a visual on the lake the route should open up. Traverse around the east side of the lake on the ridge as it is more open or if possible walk along the shore line to the opposite side of the lake.
Keep alert eyes for game trails leading up through the rocky slopes on the western side of the lake. If they are not obvious scramble up to the bench above the slopes and head for the unnamed peak in the distance. Eventually you will see an animal trail that crosses the great scree fields under the unnamed peak and leads to the saddle north of Red Crow Mountain.
From the saddle, start up the ridge staying to the right (west) as necessary to avoid the cliffs. There are a few game trails that will make it easier to climb through the scree. This portion of the climb will be the most taxing physically but will not last long.
The summit cairn is located above the massive cliffs that were seen from Lena Lake.
1) Retrace Route.
2) Continue to Two Medicine Valley along the Continental Divide.
3) Continue walking south to Firebrand Pass and walk down the Firebrand Pass Trail to Lubec Trailhead.
4) Climb Calf Robe Mountain via Firebrand Pass Route and descend from there via the Northeast Ridge Route to the Autumn Creek Trail.
5) Continue on a goat trail from Firebrand Pass to Summit Mountain and descend to the Autumn Creek Trail and eventually end at Marias Pass. Obviously this would be a HUGE day and would be more appropriately split into an overnight trip after recieving a backcountry camping permit from the GNP Permit office in Apgar.
Special Considerations: The rock in Glacier Park is widely varied and it is not unusual to find several different types of rock on any given route. Know your rocks and be certain of your safety. J. Gordon Edwards has an excellent section in his guidebook on rock and climbing safety. Be safe and know your limitations as well as those who are climbing with you. Also refer to the following links for further details: GNP Rock and Grading System and the GMS Climbing Guidelines.
Essential GearHiking poles will aide in your ascent and descent while working through Glacier’s wonderful scree on the approach!
Consider bringing scree gaiters and extra water as well, although there is some water throughout this route until the actual off trail portion begins. There is also ample water at Lena Lake but you might want to filter it.
A GPS will also be useful as well.
The map associated with this route can be found above on this page.