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Mount Grinnell

Mount Grinnell

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Mount Grinnell

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Montana, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 48.77700°N / 113.726°W

Object Title: Mount Grinnell

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling

Season: Summer, Fall

Elevation: 8851 ft / 2698 m


Page By: Saintgrizzly

Created/Edited: Aug 23, 2005 / Apr 17, 2013

Object ID: 154552

Hits: 16244 

Page Score: 96.51%  - 60 Votes 

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A Problem of Shakespearean Proportions


What's in a name, anyway?—and right from the get-go this page is starting out either correctly or with a grievous error in the main heading. I have checked several sources—National Geographic maps, Topozone, the Glacier Mountaineering Society (GMS) official "Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Summit List"—each of which uses the peak-identifying name shown above. BUT.... J. Gordon Edwards, author of A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park, and an individual who most assuredly knew a thing or two about the Northern Rockies, uses—in every instance, and without any explanation or hint of a name conflict (something he never shied away from discussing; there are several instances in Climber's Guide where he goes to great pains to explain name conflicts, discrepencies, and outright errors)—the appellation "Grinnell Mountain." Obviously, a choice had to be made for this submission, and since research and maps probably would yield more results under "Mount Grinnell," rightly or wrongly—with apologies to J. Gordon and the "Grinnell Mountain" fan club—what we have here is a "Mount Grinnell" page. But not to worry; by any name this peak is a worthy endeavor!

Pictorial Introduction to a Nice Mountain

Sometimes words aren't necessary. Enjoy this first section (there are two) of silence.

Mount Grinnell (R), from high on Mount Wilbur's southern flank


[Images will enlarge if clicked.]

Mount Grinnell (L) as part of the fabulous Swiftcurrent Basin

Two of Mount Grinnell

Upper Red Rock Falls, Mount Grinnell

Overview of Many Glacier's Swiftcurrent Valley—Grinnell at left, Swiftcurrent Mountain at right.

History of an Area

George Bird Grinnell
George Bird Grinnell

He was many things: scientist, hunter, explorer, naturalist, entrepreneur and author. Above all else, however, George Bird Grinnell was and remains the most influential conservationist in North American history.

—All quotes are from "The Father of American Conservation," by Shane Mahoney, The Bugle, Vol. 21, #6, and Vol. 22, #1. The article may be read in its entirety by following the links at the end of this section.

Mount Grinnell
Mount Grinnell's north face
Mount Grinnell is named after George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938), who, beginning in 1885 led several exploratory trips into the area. In 1887 he and his party were the first white men to explore the valleys around what is now Swiftcurrent Lake, and were so impressed by the massive glaciers there that members of the expedition—on the spot—named one of them after their leader. More than any other single individual, Grinnell was responsible for the establishment (he was influential in the legislation leading to such), in 1910, of Glacier National Park. He authored many books, primarily dealing with the Plains Indians cultures, and with legends and lores of the Native Peoples in and around what is today Glacier National Park. Some of these books are still in print, and readily available even today.
The goat trail brings our first view of the summit

Earlier, in 1875, Grinnell had taken a trip to Yellowstone National Park "...as a naturalist with a government-sponsored reconnaissance under the command of Colonel William Ludlow. Their visit confirmed big game was being slaughtered and timber and other resources extracted at a vicious pace. Grinnell returned from the expedition determined to provide better protection for the park and to set before the American people a platform of discussion regarding just what a national park should represent. In so  
These guys were in our way,...
Indigenous life form
doing he was to lay the foundation for the national park system we have today." A few years later, in 1883, as a reaction against the wholesale slaughter of birds for the purpose of decorating ladies' hats, Grinnell used his position as founding editor of Forest and Stream Magazine (today, Field and Stream Magazine) to publish a series of articles against the wanton killing of birds (and wildlife in general) for frivolous purposes, and was one of the founders of the American Ornithologist's Union. Three years later he founded The Audubon Society (today known as The National Audubon Society). George Bird Grinnell was amazing!
Looking back at the summit while descending to Swiftcurrent Glacier

GNP has three important features named after this man: the mountain bearing his name, Grinnell Glacier, and one of the first impressive geological features seen when entering the Many Glacier area, Grinnell Point (originally known as Stark Peak, after an early day miner in the area named Parley Stark—later changed to the name it is known by  
Looking up the final approach...
Final summit approach
today) which is not the mountain it initially appears to be, but "merely" the titantic end of the ridge running eastward out of Mount Grinnell proper, which cannot be seen from the road.

What the early explorers accomplished in their exploration of this inhospitable area, which must at times have seemed almost completely inaccessible, is remarkable. What they achieved in their relationships with the Native Peoples already living on this land showed both courage and sensitivity, and is also remarkable. We owe an immeasurable debt to George Bird Grinnell and others of that era! Indicative of the high regard in which this man was—and is—held, it is interesting to note that he is responsible for the naming of more features in GNP than any other single individual, personally naming many mountains, lakes, ridges, and passes.

These links will take you directly to the (truly!) excellent and readable article mentioned above (The Bugle is the journal of The National Elk Foundation):

The Father of American Conservation, Part 1
The Father of American Conservation, Part 2

Two views of the well-known Grinnell Glacier Basin, named after George Bird Grinnell.

Views from the Upper Reaches

No point in my bollixing up these views with words when none are necessary.
Enjoy the sunshine, the wind...in silence.

Iceberg Peak (L), Mount Wilbur (R)—from not far off Grinnell's summit

SE from Grinnell's summit (L); Swiftcurrent Glacier & Mountain (R)

Grinnell, Salamander, Gem Glaciers at left; Swiftcurrent Glacier at right

If approaching from the west, via Granite Park Chalet & Grinnell Glacier Overlook:
Mount Vaught & Heavens Peak (L); Longfellow Peak overlooks Granite Park Chalet (R)

Northeast off the summit, through to Chief Mountain

Northwest, to Kinnerly Peak (L); next-door neighbor Iceberg Peak (R)

Another view to the remote northwest, these are the South Vulture (L) and double-summited Vulture Peaks

Location & Routes

Mount Grinnell is located at the western edge of GNP's Many Glacier Area, lies approximately equidistant between the neighboring major peaks of Mount Gould (S) and Mount Wilbur (N), with the basin immediately to the west of Grinnell holding Swiftcurrent Glacier, and the western ridge of that basin split by Swiftcurrent Pass, which is the northern terminus of the famous Garden Wall. There are several ways to reach the summmit of this mountain, two routes of which are attached to this page. We came in from the southwest via the Granite Park Chalet Trail, which provides spectacular views of peaks in the Lake McDonald Area to the west, and the somewhat more distant, northerly, summits in the Livingston and Lewis Ranges. The Mount Grinnell summit provides a panorama of the great peaks in the Many Glacier Area, all the way to Chief Mountain, the most NE summit in the park. Net elevation gain from trail head at The Loop is 4550', but substantial elevation is lost, then regained, so add approximately 1,000 feet of work. Round trip distance is slightly over 13 miles.

Scenes along the Western (via Granite Park Chalet/Grinnell Glacier Overlook) route.

[All images in these grid formats will enlarge if clicked.]

The trail head is exceptionally easy to locate. Simply take Going-to-the-Sun Road to The Loop, which is marked on all maps, and where there are both parking and restroom facilities. The Loop is approximately half way, mileage-wise, across GNP. If coming from West Glacier it is about 25 miles, and if coming from St. Mary—that is, from the east—it is about the same distance, but with the added incentive of crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. The trail is well marked, and takes off at the immediate north end of the sharp turn comprising The Loop, is quite good until approximately a mile past the Granite Park Chalet—at which point, upon reaching the Grinnell Glacier Overlook it becomes a (good) goat trail.

Second grouping of scenes along the Western (via Granite Park Chalet/Grinnell Glacier Overlook) route.

The following link is to the route page describing the western approach introduced above, which begins at "The Loop," and is via the Granite Park Chalet & Grinnell Glacier Overlook:

From the west, via Granite Park Chalet & Grinnell Glacier Overlook

This route can also be found in Volume 3 of Climb Glacier National Park. This is an updated book featuring full color photographs of routes and much more. Find it when you arrive in the area from local retailers or order it from the author on line at Volume Three.

If climbing Grinnell as an eastern approach from the Many Glacier Valley, there are four routes, one of which—that of the Swiftcurrent Glacier Basin—is the subject of the excellent route page Distressbark has posted:

From the east, via Swiftcurrent Glacier Basin

Scenes from the Swiftcurrent Glacier Basin approach.

Mount Wilbur
Mt. Wilbur,
from the south
meadows north of Swiftcurrent Glacier Basin
Meadows north of
Swiftcurrent Basin
Mount Grinnell summit ridge
Final approach
to summit