OverviewAlthough Sinopah Mountain conceals Mount Rockwell from onlookers in the Two Medicine Valley (and so many more on GNP’s Two Medicine webcam), the occlusion is purely a matter of perspective; as climbers will see at the summit, Rockwell enjoys a 1000-ft advantage over its rather more famous peer, and, more saliently, commands extraordinary views in all directions: to the west lies the gaping Nyack Valley, to the north beyond Helen’s ruffled summit ridge and Flinsch’s horn the St. Mary and Logan Pass peaks, and to the west the red ridgelines along the Two Medicine Lakes.
The reward, however, comes at a cost: Rockwell typifies not only Glacier’s spectacular scenery, but also its persistently—often discouragingly—crumbly rock; this outing is a fine occasion to wear a helmet, as well as to keep a wide berth between climbers and an even temper along the slippery western scree and talus slopes.
Getting ThereRockwell is located within the Two Medicine Lake area on the east side of Glacier National Park, about 12 miles from East Glacier and 25 miles from St. Mary. Inside the park, the road is seasonal.
The trailhead for the south shore trail is located just beyond the main parking lot by the foot of the lake.
It is possible to shave off two miles of trail along Two Medicine Lake by hitching a ride on the tour boat, but the departure times are less than ideal (after July 1, the first boat leaves at 9 am; before July 1, at 10:30). Considering that these are your flattest two miles of the day, the mileage savings might not be worth the fare. (You may, of course, feel otherwise inclined if you return in time for the 5 pm return boat.)
The RouteEdwards describes two routes up Rockwell in A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park. By far the most practical is the West Face Route (approximately 11 miles; 8 on-trail) rather than the shorter Upper Two Medicine Lake Route (approximately 8 miles; 5 on-trail); the game trail that he describes along the south shore of Upper Two Medicine Lake is faint at best and no longer existent in many parts (the game having evidently long since abandoned it for better routes). Moreover, the bushwhack down to the lake from the basin above is lined with slippery vegetation and unavoidably steep. If you remain tempted to pursue the latter route, you may want to use it for the ascent to spare yourself any evening surprises.
The West Face Route: Hike along the Two Medicine Lake south shore trail, passing Cobalt Lake and beginning the on-trail ascent towards Chief Lodgepole Peak. Rather than switching sharply back towards the south with the trail, however, continue traversing the meadows below the red scree field on Rockwell’s south face. Look for game trails for firmer footing, but in any event proceed gently uphill and to the climber’s right. Once you have wrapped around to the west face of the mountain, scramble directly up about 1500 ft of relentlessly slippery scree. A final band of class 3 and 4 cliffs await you before the summit, but, if chosen carefully, these need not entail great exposure or technical difficulty.
Should you choose the vastly more sensible option of returning once again via the west face, a short detour beyond the summit toward Rising Bill Ridge is nevertheless well worthwhile for the birds-eye view of sparkling (or perhaps still frozen) Aurice Lake below.
Red TapeA fee applies for entry into Glacier National Park, and an additional permit is required if you plan to camp in the backcountry.
The Two Medicine Campground is the most convenient front-country location; the quieter and more primitive Cut Bank Campground is the next closest option.
It is also possible--although certainly not necessary--to use the backcountry campsite at Cobalt Lake as a base for climbing Rockwell. An additional fee and permit is required for all backcountry camping in GNP.
External LinksGlacier National Park Homepage
Glacier Park Boat Co. (with schedule and fare information for Two Med)