From some of the comments I've received, it is quite apparent this report will offend some readers. I am putting the disclaimer here that no one needs to read it, and of course if you have different opinions, add them to the comments and let people decide for themselves.
Actually, I need to add an update as well, and say that after a second summer visit to Glacier National Park in 2013 (this report is from a 2012 visit) that I have had a big change of heart. I had zero trouble getting permits, even for "undesignated" areas (the GNP version of a climbers' bivy permit basically), worked with a handful of rangers, all of whom knew the park, if not the peaks, and were excited someone was out for adventure. I want to thank GNP for working with me on several ambitious plans, some of which I will write trip reports for. It is a big help to have a reputation of course, also. When I kept popping up every week in the St Mary Visitor Center (usually) looking tan and fresh, it relaxed the rangers and I think they figured out I was not going to be one of the many search and rescues for them this year. They began warming up to me and taking my condition reports more seriously, almost like I was a Junior Ranger. I think I just caught the wrong rangers on the wrong days in 2012, and there was one adorable young lady in particular who was sorely miscast as a Backcountry Permit Writer in 2012 and would have made a fine Info Desk Greeter. I did not see her in 2013, which was both a good and bad thing. I mean she was really cute you know, but mostly useless.
Anyway, stay off Going to the Sun Road and the 6 or so popular trails in the park and you can have a real wilderness experience, and won't need to "count coop" while passing hundreds of people moving slower than you'd like. That is the better alternative. Those 6 trails by the way are: Highline Trail, Hidden Lake Overlook, Grinnell Glacier Trail, Iceberg Lake Trail, Avalanche Lake Trail, and Swiftcurrent Pass, so far as I can tell. There are of course other popular and "busy" trails, but the number of people you meet on trails requiring overnight stays is much smaller and those you do meet will be heartier in stock. There are plenty of isolated iceberg-filled lakes in the park with more interesting approaches than the famous one, or you can go to Iceberg Lake via Shangri La Basin to avoid crowds (and get a spectacular view you miss by the human trail!). Highline Trail is beautiful and the hardest of these to surrender to the "tourists" but you can simulate the exposure and airy views with the fantastic Dawson Pass loop in the Two Medicine area or the Ptarmigan Goat Trail, well-documented here on Summitpost, just to name two options. If you go up Grinnell Glacier, start early and find some privacy going out to Angel's Wing, a simple walk-up peak with rewarding views and a great experience just to hike to. You can lose the crowds the second you go past the Hidden Lake Overlook and proceed to Hidden Lake or beyond (fabulous Bearhat or Floral Park for example).
Now if anyone is still interested after all that, there is a trip report here. The pictures are good if nothing else. I am not changing my commentary within the body of the article because it was how I felt after 2012 and I think those opinions are still valid, and others may feel that way. If you "count coop" be classy about it, don't count kids, and don't put anyone at risk. Everyone has a right to the Highline Trail and some of these folks inching along may be real true mountaineers one day if their first experiences are positive.
Introduction and Executive Summary
First, a brief version. Mount Gould can be climbed from its magnificent blocky face from the Many Glacier area, and that would be one heck of an adventure. More commonly the ascent will be done as a scramble from the Highline Trail, and that is the way I went up the mountain. The approach along Highline is a mere 3 miles and that as flat as a mountain trail can be, with good views, animals in the area, and plenty of people to meet. From the saddle between Gould and Haystack Butte, an obvious little lush table-topped hill, you will go up steep scree and crumbly rock on the Garden Wall for one of the best summit views imaginable upon this fine earth. This trip will take half a day for most people, probably in the area of 5-6 hours. It is 3rd class, but steep, with some 4th, and even a few 5th class moves possible if you want to find them. Though the Highline Trail sees much traffic, I expect Mount Gould will be a lonely spot to be.
This is the weather when I started heading out to Mount Gould. Storms come quick in GNP. 90 min later, people were fleeing the park.
And now for those still with me, I offer a more detailed account of my trip. The exact date may be wrong, but my ascent was in early September of 2012. I spent the morning playing on Mount Reynolds and then scrambling around on the Dragon's Tail, which is an up and down experience. I ate the most fattening foods a man can store in a car for an hour at Logan Pass with many people desperate to park urging me to leave. But I had other business to attend to. The afternoon was beautiful so I decided to go climb the Bishop's Cap. However, I'll be darned if I didn't trot right by the thing while "counting coup" so when I neared Haystack Butte I figured I would just run up Gould while I was there and it was on my list to summit anyway.
The Highline Trail is a fine hike, popular with merit (on the late-side for melting out) though the stretch after Haystack Butte will get uglier as the much of the West side of the park is a sad shell of itself with burned forests not recovering enough yet to be pretty to hike. Heaven's Peak still has an elegant shape but is a lonely ghost in the middle of wasteland. Hopefully it will be good for the area in the long run, but for now, just avoid the Apgar area and the general vicinity of Lake McDonald, or at least, do not prioritize those areas. Some of the West of the park is still gorgeous, as pointed out by commentors below. The ugliest trail I think I have ever been on is the stretch from "The Loop" up to the Granite Park Chalet. I mention this as a public service, not as a rule. No reason to get furious over it. I just have never seen much value in gushing over ever inch of paradise.
"Counting coup" for those of you not history buffs, is a term some Plains Indians used to refer to a tactic in battle that won prestige. A warrior would ride up to an enemy warrior and touch him without killing him, and then ride away. To do this showed great skill, speed, and bravery, and was a higher honor even than killing. It also shows that war was for the Plains Indians a way of life and something like a scrimmage between guys at the park playing pick-up basketball. They didn't have fancy phones or even music players so the time had to pass somehow, and grinding grains was a woman's work. (And if you think basketball is a bad example you have never played pick-up basketball. The nicest boys will get into fist fights and say things about one another's mothers that you would not believe. This is especially true with Mormons in Utah. There is even a mediocre indie movie about it.)
Looking south and thinking: this could end badly. Haystack Butte in the foreground.
"Counting coup" while hiking is a little game I invented, though others may do it too, of passing people on the trail while keeping score. It helps pass the time and gives a goal to the often monotonous approach miles. The Highline Trail is a great trail to do this on because there is easy game out of its element, meaning many tourists who are not very fit, fleet-footed, or dressed appropriately. My first time "counting coup" was in Arizona years ago coming down from a great mountain called Flat Iron. The slick staircase descent was clogged with seniors and boy-scouts, and I was hungry and hot, having started very early in the morning to do a summit ridge traverse and explore some hoodoos so I just decided to bound from boulder to boulder, getting around people however I could. While these fine folks clung tenuously to life, I even "ran" along the wall at stretches. One man about my age marveled to his peers, "that guy is like a legitimate half-bastard-mountain-goat." Indeed. I was flattered. Some people got mad at me, but I was hiking mad. Highline Trail in GNP won't offer quite the same potential for jerky behavior and excitement, but the trail is exposed enough to impress and intimidate many of those on it, and slipping past with a brief "excuse me" on the airy side of the trail will get you noticed.
Now, before you write me off for a total jerk, just remember that 1) GNP is a cash-cow which treats mountaineers like inconvenient untouchables who are cheap because we don't buy enough maps and cheeseburgers, and GNP is attempting to give our mountains over to people who largely are out of their element and do not appreciate them and even harm them 2) that almost everyone drives aggressively and even recklessly, so these fine folks probably cut-off anyone driving slower than them with a yell and a middle finger almost every day. (I know this because I do crazy things while driving: I go the speed limit in school zones, and I stop at red lights among other unexpected behaviors. I even use turn signals while not texting my idiot friends with idiot comments- I almost cause all kinds of accidents with all this crap.) So I think since I get cursed at all the time on wheels, I deserve some allowance to be vindictive when I am on my own two legs. I'm sure you see it my way.
The Garden Wall. Until you are doing it, you'd never think the thing could be climbed. Up close, its not that sheer.
If you want to try "counting coup" the only rule is you can't count people going the opposite direction. And if anyone passes you, you must hang your head in shame. Don't touch the people as you pass them. That would be really rude. In a tight fit, wait for open space and then pass. Absolutely don't injure anyone and there is no glory in passing kids. Their legs are shorter and you darn well should be able to pass them. And don't dart past on the "safe" side leaving them the exposure. If you are more confident and comfortable than others, take the risk yourself. The goal is to get close by moving so fast or so quietly that they are not aware you are there until you are near. Call out when you are within a few feet, or clear your throat, or give people more space if they look jumpy or really uncomfortable. Have fun, don't be a bully. And let's not anybody announce, "you're my 52nd scalp this morning!" Or any such crap. Don't get a big head about it.
Now, my rapid advancement along the Highline Trail saw me pass 70 some people. I don't write down my exact totals in a diary or anything but it was around there. That is not my record. On that descent of Flat Iron in Arizona which I mentioned I passed 80+ in about 3 miles, and later in the same week in GNP (this same trip) I would tally 100+ on 5 miles coming down from Lake Grinnell, including a ranger leading a group of scared tourists while she clapped and sang "hey beary bear, no bears here" in a grade-school teacher's voice. I am being completely serious. You can't make this stuff up. Okay, I could actually because lying is one of my hobbies and I work very hard at it to be the best, but what I would make up would not possibly compare for inane silliness with "hey beary bear, no bears here". (This silliness also took place on a trail with hundreds going down and up at the same time, in bright sun, on an 80 degree afternoon with very little foliage/brush and few blind corners. If I were a furry fat overheated bear, I would not be there, and knowing that, I felt no problem dancing along the edge of some rocks over the abyss while breathing "excuse me, thanks" and zipping right past.) She was not pleased with me, or a friend I made by introducing to the game of coup-counting who decided to be my partner in rudeness. But we are off-topic. What my quick run along the Highline Trail also saw occur was a lot of ominous clouds move in.
Looking up. Typical of the solid stretches, but you'll be swimming through steep scree too.
The weather can turn quickly anywhere, but it usually will in GNP, so you will read, and so I experienced myself almost every day in the park. But here I was at Haystack Butte's saddle with Gould, and I was lathered up, not wanting to spend yet another afternoon in my car listening to the rain on the windshield, or in a tent, trying to nap and care about the Sudoku puzzles I was filling out. I would not have time to trot out here again, and besides, there were 70+ plump people coming my way who were not all great fans of my work, hiking style, and general exuberant outlook on life. Wading back through them might not be the most positive of experiences. And what had I been in a rush for if I wasn't going to go up a mountain? Besides, I've been wet before. And I needed a shower. So I started up.
Now according to the Edwards guide book, there is a single point to go through some black diorite sill cliffs on the flank of Mount Gould, which are otherwise un-passable, but the thing about the Edwards guide is, it often makes me scratch my head. AFTER I have climbed a peak, or while I am climbing it, I will sometimes have an "aha" moment and realize what the great man was trying to communicate to me, but generally reading one of his peak reports ahead of time confuses me in a way that even calculus problems, legalese, the rules for taking a break at my old job with the Post Office, and women just can't match. What generally happens when I am using the Edwards Guide is I grow angry, spend about an hour trying to do what I think he meant me to, then giving up completely and using common sense, route-finding and charmingly-old-fashioned recklessness to invent a path to where I am going. While looking up at Mount Gould I came upon a new idea however: just skip the part where I get angry and confused for an hour and weave back and forth looking for landmarks old Mister Edwards is describing. "Why Andrew", I congratulated myself upon finally reaching this epiphany, "this is a new chapter in your life at Glacier Park. Think of the time you will save. Truly you are a prince among men about to enjoy the life of Riley."
Higher up the Garden Wall, I notice the storms are not just to my south.
So up I went, picking the line of least resistance between rocks, and up tedious but manageable scree slopes, nearing the black cliffs. "Ha, this is going splendid," I thought. Below me, a few people were gathering to look up at me. "Oh no wonder he was in a hurry," I was certain they thought to themselves, "he had important business to attend to, while we will just be waiting in line for a cheeseburger when we get back to the car anyway: he was right to aggressively pass us at the speed of a jet plane and I will tell my children stories of his greatness and his great rudeness." Surely this is what some of them were thinking, and I commend them for it. Its precisely practically what I think when a huge vehicle crosses four lanes of traffic to exit the freeway right in front of me, nearly clipping my fender, even though there are no cars for a mile behind me. Surely they have a heart surgery to perform, or the papers they will shuffle at their miserable job can't shuffle themselves nor can they wait an extra 5 seconds that driving safely would slow this person down. And so forth.
Others, if the wisps I heard, or imagined, were accurate, were taking bets on how I would die: exposure, fall, or lightning. Cynics. And one older woman, a mere ant to me as I climbed to Olympian heights, with a shrill voice that carried well, sneered to her group, with that modern American superiority of the couch potato who thinks Heaven awaits her for having never sinned once or even been tempted to stand up, "oh sure, I'm sure the view will be good, but you wouldn't get me up there. Its not worth dying over." Which is just the sort of thing people who have never had a truly great view say. Maybe for most one view from a mountain is like another. But you could say the same thing about wines or music or anything. There are connoisseurs in anything who can tell those minor differences though: chocolates, beer, clothing, views. To each their own.
Through a short gulley of scree. Looking South.
We are off topic again though. Let's not get into who's fault that is. The problem at hand is the black cliffs which Gordon Edwards said I would be unable to pass except for one little opening, which he then cryptically gave me directions to, which I chose to ignore, because I dislike riddles, even vertical ones. Well, Edwards is pretty right. Those black cliffs are only about 5 feet high at their worst places, but slippery, and overhanging, and stepped, and unless you enjoy breaking your leg, I suggest this compromise with Mister Edwards: just take the path of least resistance to the black cliffs, and then move to your Right (the East) until you find a white and golden staircase that is a cakewalk through them (this opening is about as far East as anyone could imagine going while still targeting Mount Gould, so it is extremely unlikely you will not find it by going to your right). If you don't know if you are on the white and gold staircase through the diorite black barrier, then you aren't. Trust me, you will know. If you have a spotter, then maybe you can aid one another up the diorite cliffs and save yourselves the 45 minutes of muttering, cursing, and pacing I did trying to avoid accepting that I needed to pull out my guide book and read what to do. My crowd below thinned, losing patience. I hate to disappoint an audience.
Beyond the staircase the going is rapid again, with the whole mountain as your playground. Invent your own route and pretend you are the first person to ever go that way. This may become difficult as hundreds of cairns will spring up in every direction you look, their heads half-camoflaged like those of prairie dogs keeping their curious eye on you while also trying to hide. You can follow some scree switchbacks of sorts, on broken shattered weathered ledges, or make things more direct and challenge yourself. The rock is solid enough if you double-check each hold, though you can't avoid patches of steep scree whatever you do. At times I felt like I could have only prepared for this climb by doing the breast stroke for hours. Its more swimming than climbing.
Topping off on the Garden Wall. I believe Bishop's Cap is against the right edge.
And you would never guess it looking at the Garden Wall, which from afar looks terrifyingly steep, but up close is, not a picnic, but well, like a picnic where everyone is drunk, flushed, short of breath, and cursing. Because I was doing plenty of slipping, sliding downwards, looking at chunks of rock in my hand that had just been on a wall, muttering, soul-searching, facing existential angst ("Why am I doing this? Is something wrong with me? No, no, if I turned back, I would be a quitter, and then there would be something wrong with me. Or is there something wrong with me either way? Because none of us are perfect."), and cursing. I even let out some primal screams of rage at a few points because charging a particularly rotten chimney while howling "bonzai" can make all the difference. Just ask a samurai if you don't believe me. The yell before breaking a brick with your fist is as important as having a fist, and a brick, you know?
This sort of thought will confront you going up Mount Gould by this "route" because you will have time on your hands to contemplate much more than you want to. And then very suddenly, I topped out on the Garden Wall, and suddenly the exposure was fantastic, and I felt much better about what I had been doing. "This is only 4th class" I had been sneering to myself. "Why are you struggling?" But 4th class is plenty challenging when its the third peak of a day and there are 3,000+ feet below your un-roped body. To my right was a precarious and almost inconceivable little spearhead of a rock. I had to talk myself out from going over to detour-climb the thing. Probably a good idea.
The amazing Mount Allen comes into view to the North.
Mount Allen was the obvious vision to the North, with its notable hanging lakes, across a blown-open valley which looked staggeringly tiny. As always on top of a ridge, the wind was much stronger, and coupled with new views to dark and looming clouds, I realized I was surrounded by a sky gnashing its teeth and sharpening its claws. There was only one reasonable thing to do at this point: continue going up toward the summit. I mean I came this far. I know you are with me. I'd have been crazy to turn around. (This is the exact logic a friend once pitched to me when we were driving in his car to Canada to check out the city of Vancouver and he plowed into a parked car at 40mph and totalled his vehicle and got us stranded in Medford, Oregon. So I got on a bus with him to go the rest of the way and then flew back even though I did not care about seeing Vancouver that much and felt like Dante's hero; going deeper into the dark to get through it. Once again, we are off point.)
Close up. Look for the hanging lakes.
Walking West to the high point of the summit plateau.
After you've topped out, wherever you are, the walk to the West to the summit will be swift and windy. My hands were cold, though they were in gloves and had been busy until now. It was very wonderful to be walking again, and not crumpling uphill acrobatically against the crumbling grain of ancience and verticality where it meets that destiny called gravity which must bring the slump to all once proud (take that William Faulkner!). But as I walked, I couldn't help but stop again and again to take pictures and admire what I was doing, particularly because I was walking directly towards some appallingly black clouds which happened to be interested in meeting me and were coming to do just that. That existential conflict began bothering me again. "Why was I doing this?" I had already captured all the views possible, I was confident. Yet, I kept going up the gentle ridge. Hey, never underestimate the power of momentum. A body in motion...yada yada etcetera.
I guess things are pretty steep, despite my earlier caption.
An impressive sight where I topped out on the Garden Wall. East of the Mount Gould Summit by 1000 ft or so.
The views to the Northwest did improve however. Especially at the very last, nearing the edge and facing a new abyss as impossibly-turquoise Upper Grinnell Lake suddenly pops into existence almost directly below, making everything else in its wake feel flat as if colored on an old bad television, a whole world away. Mount Grinnell's wrinkled woven face weaves like a flag of stone flapping in the wind, inviting (until you peer up at it from below and realize going up that rock would make the trip up Mount Gould seem like solid footing and rapid work), and behind it towering above all is Mount Merritt, looking like one of the great mountains in America, with the Old Sun Glacier running up its right side: a skunk's striped tail. Iceberg Peak is dwarfed, just to Merritt's left and slightly more in the foreground, hidden to me until I studied the pictures later, a black shadow getting bombed.
Things look more ominous to the South. I vow to move faster and stop taking pictures.
I prove myself a liar by taking many photos to the Northwest for some reason. Iceburg Peak is nearly black. Mount Merritt is a huge prominent peak with a glacier running up its right flank at 45 degrees.
Looking almost due North.
Angel's Wing is a tiny lump below, which like Haystack Butte is tranformed by Mount Gould into a blip, where it starts as a mountain from below. But don't be fooled Angel's Wing is a wonderful addition to a trip to Grinnell Glacier, offering a spectacular view of Grinnell Falls, a pencil-thin rip of white water only about 2,000 feet down with Mount Grinnell behind. There are too many jagged and notable peaks to name really. The sea of peaks as Edwards often calls it is a good term, as mountains which would be the master of one's attention in another corner of the earth are dwarfed by one another, and merge together like the crest of so many similar waves. And the rocks of many colors make a rainbow while you're at it. Glacier Park is all about views, not the punishment you go through to earn them; that just makes it better because you have them largely to yourself and because when you earn a thing, you appreciate it more.
Another shot North. You can pick out some of the well-worn trails through the Many Glacier area.
Of course, I still had the little annoying problem of getting down. As I did not want to think about that one, nor about my pending wetness, as well as the pending wetness of that horrible chossy misery I'd just been wearing my body down with, I continued to spin around and take pictures, and then I decided to stall with a new idea: a video. I took in the whole panorama so everyone would know this had been worth it should they be shaking their heads over my untimely death next morning. This might be the time to mention that I did have my metal mountain axe with me. Thanks for asking. I'm not an idiot, I swear. And I do have a little phobia about lightning. I try to get over it. How bad can it be really? My dad always wanted a tough son. And my girlfriend likes men with gray patches in their hair.
Angel's Wing below looks puny, but is a fun and easy addition to a trip to the Grinnell Glacier and Upper Grinnell Lake. From the summit there is a magnificent view of Mount Grinnell and a vast waterfall.
But I was cold, and I try not to procrastinate too much. So there was nothing to do but start down. I promised myself I would take no more pictures and wouldn't dilly dally in my usual ways like catching my breath, tying my shoes, or swerving out of my way to explore interesting little gullies and chimneys. No funny business this time. But clearly, from all the pictures I have posted, I did not stick to that plan. The way down is easier however, as cairns are easier to spot from above. I made easy swift pace following switchbacks and staying nearly upright this time, not using all my limbs or splaying out or tumbling all over. It was just a jog through steep scree. With a few mellow raindrops nudging me on.
The sky darkens so I try to move faster.
Starting down and looking to the Southwest, Heaven's Peak is prominent and sits at the meeting of Going to the Sun Road and a river below.
The Garden Wall makes for hard going in a rush.
My energy was low and my body was tired. Three mountains in a day is a goodly amount of mountains. And I think I completed 10 in this week. Rainy days get to be welcome in GNP at a certain point as they force one to rest. And I expected to rest next morning as the storms had been predicted to tarry. I kept mostly dry for now though, which was a pleasant surprise. I tried to rush but now the problem was that I just was dragging. The spirit was willing, but the body was weak. But I made it fine to the Highline and then boogied as much as I could boogy. I remembered my trusty alpine axe about a mile along after Haystack Butte and pulled it from my pack to feel better about having toted it all this time, and to have it ready for some weary defense should an animal come for me. This was nearing dusk now. No sooner was it in hand than a trio of bighorn sheep bounded onto the trail from a grove of trees. We did double takes from four feet apart, shared a heart attack, and then shrugged one another off on our separate ways without crossing horn and axe.
I met very few people as the park was by now deserted, and kept up swift pace, as when I stopped to tie my shoe, the raindrops literally caught me and started peppering my shoulders. But if I moved steady I was just ahead of the rain following me. I passed a couple unattached members of the opposite sex who I expect may have appreciated company, but without a rainjacket, and an umbrella, I've just never been able to enjoy flirting in the rain. I know I should be able to enjoy this; everything I read says a man should be able and willing to flirt in all elements and at all times. Maybe with practice. But this was not the night for it. I was thinking about dinner now- not a cheeseburger, definitely. I have gourmet tastes you see, hard as they are to satisfy in Montana (go to Park Cafe in St Mary if you want good food at Glacier. It is your only hope. Decent food can be found anywhere else.) So I moved on. And they got wet.
No time to tie my shoe as I was literally outrunning a storm back on the Highline Trail.
My last shot before hopping in the car as the rain fell. Of course, I still had to drive down the Going to the Sun Road in the rain.
As always, I hope you either enjoyed this or had the sense to stop reading before now.
"GNP is a cash-cow which treats mountaineers like inconvenient untouchables who are cheap because we don't buy enough maps and cheeseburgers, and GNP is attempting to give our mountains over to people who largely are out of their element and do not appreciate them and even harm them."
Having been mountaineering in Glacier for a long time now I find your comment interesting and a bit off flavor. My experience with every ranger in Glacier, employee as well as the folks at the gift shops, hotels and the decision makers in the park is everything but what your comment reflects. This is also true of each and every mountaineer that I have had the pleasure to climb with as well as rub shoulders with in my every day contacts. Frankly, I find your comments offensive and without merit.
Perhaps this "game" that you play with people out enjoying their national park also puts a negative perspective on mountaineers in general and will not, in my humble opinion, make for building bridges between tourists and we mountaineers. I am all for moving out quickly on the trails and am known as some one who does so but it in my opinion we are to serve as ambassadors for the sport of mountaineering rather than play a game to see how much we can scare visitors who may only have one chance to enjoy their national park.
Well I've been waiting for someone to take offense, but if you never offend anyone in your life, you must not have anything to say. I would only be worried if you'd said my route description was inaccurate.
I suppose you have met different rangers than I did, and I would greatly have preferred to meet yours. My favorite advice I got- to quote- was, "You'd better start early. I don't know what else to tell you." This was after asking to camp atop Ahern Peak on a trip where I wanted to do Iceberg, Ahern, Ipasha and Swiftcurrent Mountains in 1.5 days before heading home. Ahern Peak has no wildlife, water, or anything larger than microbes to be harmed by a bivy sack, and doing 30+ miles and 4 peaks in one day in September seems to me unreasonable, but two rangers were unwilling to take $5 from me in exchange for a "non-designated" pass, despite my excellent itinerary and preparation. I would offer more stories, but that serves as a fine example.
I appreciate you taking the time to explain your vote and offer a conflicting opinion, and I generally have respect for those who will stand up for their beliefs and stand up to those they feel are villains, especially when it is done without cursing, and even when its done on the Internet.
People yet to visit the park who find this TR and your opinion will need to make their own minds up when they get there and maybe some will weigh in also. I offered my opinion. Its an opinion and one not often voiced about the park, but I am not removing it, and hearing that you have a different opinion does not change my mind. This sort of thing is one of the benefits and points of Summitpost. GNP is still a great place to visit, but a visit will come with headaches, crowds, and inflated prices.
I am honored to have drawn out the ire of a frequent contributor and an articulate man. If we meet on Mount Merritt this summer, we can argue some more- if we have the breath and the time. I'll be the guy passing you, and yes, I will be "counting you". There is probably merit in your stance that passing people is not good ambassadorship, or stewardship, or what have you, but when I'm in a time-crunch, I am not slowing down for people in sandals who want to block the trail while tossing small rocks at a mother goat to get her attention for their camera- an experience I had on this very hike but left out.
And we should also remember that I chose this TR as my next to write in part as I hoped to entertain. That isn't to say I made up any of this, but it is to say I am much more mild in person than I come across when writing stories, blogs, etcetera. We must have different senses of humor. Regards, if you ever read this reply.
And furthermore, I suggest anyone who wants to tell me Glacier Park is not a cash-cow unfriendly to real mountaineers should visit North Cascades National Park and then come back and tell me off. I visited both last year. GNP's rangers are phonies- I would ask them probing questions I knew were false about very basic things, such as "its about 6.2 miles to the Chalet from this trail crossing, right?" And I would know it was 3.5, but the ranger would squint, pretend to measure and agree with me. "Oh yes, its 6.5 I think." And they will know the basics for established trails, but if you want to talk about where to bivouac near Triple Divide Pass, good luck! Now some of the rangers in the park are climbers, mountaineers, etcetera, and very knowledgeable, but the reality of hiring summertime staff is you will be talking at some point with a government official who is trying to sound official about a section of the park they have not even seen from a car yet. So when in doubt, trust your own eyes and the maps.
Also, at North Cascades, the rangers were very friendly with me, loved discussing crazy ideas, such as "can I sleep on this waterless mountain in a wind storm just to see if I can". "Sure! I wouldn't, but I envy you!" One ranger told me. North Cascades does not charge admission and has no hotels nearby to kneel down to, so every visitor is the same for them. Or more accurately, they get that exasperated wearied look in their eyes and voice that rangers got with me at Glacier when a large family (I mean number and total tonnage) would come in wanting to know what peaks they could drive up real quick before lunch.
If North Cascades put up hotels and attracted tourists, it would all change, and Glacier does serve millions of Americans, and get them to at least interact in their way with mountains, which is something. But I don't have to like that, and here is a fact for you: only slightly more than half of visitors to the park even take one hike, and I think it is 10% by the park's estimate who go more than 5 miles.
Thanks for your comments. We have divergent opinions about many things. I too respect fellow members who can communicate their thoughts without becoming offensive or offended.
I have lived near Glacier my entire life and believe that we have a tremendous treasure that needs to be protected and valued by all who have the opportunity to visit the park. I am sorry your experience was one of frustration whn inquiring about backcountry permits as well as hikers on the trail. I also have had those experiences on the trails. As far as BC permits, you must realize that Glacier has guidelines to protect the resources as well as the visitors. They do not allow people to sleep at passess or on mountain summits for specific reasons. Not that that has never been done.
Put yourself in their position and realize that the rangers get asked the same questions each and everyday by people that really do not have a clue about the park. They also have no way to determine if you have the ability to do what you are attempting to do. The last thing I would tell anyone is to "go for it" IF I do not have a strong assessment of their ability.
I also would not tell anyone that it would be a good idea to do an extended solo trip in Glacier's backcountry or even more so in the alpine area. In the last few years the park and our community has spent thousands of dollars and put lives of searchers at risk looking for young men who for whatever reason had taken off on their own adventure and failed to return. Those young men did eventually return in a body bag and their families are mourning their deaths.
For me spending time in the backcountry is more about the experience of being there and the time spent with my friends and family. I believe that I share that with each and every visitor (except yourself perhaps?) to this place I am so passionate about. I will continue to be an ambassador of my sport as well as be a welcoming member of this community. Do I get frustrated with the traffic and the crowds? Of course, but I choose to move past that frustration and take it for what it is. I also choose to invest my time in areas of the park that are less congested when I feel I need more elbow room.
More excellent points. I somewhat enjoy disagreeing with people. Its better than dealing with people who have no thoughts of their own anyway. I will probably end up in a body bag one day, and many people will talk about how stupid I was. But in the meantime, I am having a great time. And I will have to try to write better pages in the future. Rangers have no way of assessing the skills of people who come in. The same issues come up at the Grand Canyon and public resources should not go to rescue ops and really only 1% of people who visit Glacier probably ever leave a trail. The trail system is wonderfully cared for and managed and from a public relations standpoint, GNP would be wasting funds to take much notice of me or my ilk, a very small minority of visitors.
In my opinion, there's really no good reason to compare yourself with other people who are, say, less adventurous than you. A family visiting the park for the first time and hiking to the hidden lake overlook can take as much joy as you do in climbing mountains, and going up Gould in bad weather doesn't make you better than them. As for just sticking to the east side, I would say that the west side has equally awesome hiking. Boulder pass, hole in the wall, floral park, and mt Stimson are all incredible west side destinations. You don't have to climb a mountain to have a great day in the park.
You are quite right. Those areas you mention do look great in photography. I am guilty of plenty of hyperbole in this article. The area around Heaven's Peak looked ugly and burned to me, and either fires or beetles had somewhat sullied the area near Avalanche Lake, and it appeared to be true of the "Flat Top Mountain area", but clearly, I will have to do better if I write any more posts. Thanks for the corrections and taking the time to look at the page.
In my experience the climbing on the west side (excluding the Logan Pass area) of the park is more challenging. Approaches as well as routes are generally longer and the elevation gains are greater. That being said Glacier has plenty of variety to satisfy any mountaineer who is willing to tackle the "challenge" of climbing here. Glacier certainly does not compare to the Cascades, Sierras, or many peaks in Colorado but due to the unique misxture of terrain it is challenging nonetheless.