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North Basin Route

North Basin Route

North Basin Route

Page Type: Route

Location: Montana, United States, North America

Object Title: North Basin Route

Route Type: Hiking, Mountaineering, Mixed, Scrambling

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall

Time Required: Most of a day

Rock Difficulty: Class 4

Route Quality: 
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Page By: dirth

Created/Edited: May 9, 2008 / Jun 15, 2008

Object ID: 402582

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Mount Jackson Summit
Mount Jackson Summit

The North Basin Route is probably the fastest route up Mount Jackson, while it is a little more difficult than the North East Ridge Route it is a fair amount shorter. The route is Class 3 to Class 4 depending on exactly where you end up. After you split off from the Gunsight Pass trail it is approximately 2 to 3 hours to the summit, making it about a 10 hour round trip from the road if you keep moving quickly.

Note: The day we did this route was not conducive to taking pictures. If you have better images of the route please post them.

Getting There

Hiking back out from Mount Jackson
Hiking back out to the road

From Going-To-The-Sun Road park at the Jackson Glacier Overlook (on the Eastern side of Logan Pass) and take the trail towards Gunsight Pass. It is about 5 miles of easy hiking to Gunsight Lake from the road and another mile or two to the split off for the North Basin Route.

The North Basin Route starts from the Gunsight Pass trail. A Climbers Guide to Glacier National Park says that it splits off around 6,640 feet elevation. However there is no specific path and departing from the trail anywhere in the vicinity of there should be fine as long as you end up on the ridge instead of either of the snowfields.

You split off near where the drainage stream from the Eastern Snowfield crosses the trail. After a few minutes and a little elevation gain there is a fairly obvious ridge above you. This is where the route leads and you just need to head towards the ridge between the two snowfields.

Route Description

Looking Towards the Eastern Snowfield
Eastern Snowfield on the Left
Looking Towards the Western Snowfield
Western Snowfield on the Right

The first part of the route is just a walk up a moderately steep rocky pitch. Once you get a little ways above the Gunsight Pass trail you will see two snowfields, one on your right and one on your left. You want to hike up the ridge between those two snowfields.

Once you are on the ridge it is class 3 to class 4 climbing. The ridge has eroded into big slanted steps. You will need to scramble to get up many of these steps. Although it should be noted we climbed it with a full size internal frame backpack on.

You follow this ridge, staying on the right-hand (northwest) side of it all the way up. The left hand side is much more severe than the right side of the ridge and would be much more difficult to ascend or descend with much more exposure over the snowfield.

Once you get above the snowfield(s) you join up with the North East Ridge route (around 9000 feet) which is a much more traveled route and has cairns in places. From there, hike the rest of the way up the ridge to the summit.

When I hiked this route it started snowing on the way up (August 20th) and we returned via the alternate North East Ridge route because it had much less exposure and given the weather was a lot safer.

North Basin Route Ridge Panorama
Top of this image is near where the North Basin Route joins the Northeast Ridge Route.
Bottom is a half mile from where the North Basin Route leaves the Gunsight Pass trail.
Jackson Ridge Panorama
These two pictures were taken from the two routes (North Basin and Northeast Ridge) looking across the Eastern Snowfield and essentially at each other.

Essential Gear

Looking Down the Route
Example of the upper ridge.

Example of the North Basin Ridge
Example of the lower ridge.
If the weather cooperates and you are hiking in the summer there is no required gear. However, that said, we were caught in a snowstorm at 9000 feet in the middle of August completely unprepared, so watch the weather and be prepared for sudden changes. If you are doing this early enough in the season that there might still be a lot of snow crampons, an ice axe, and a belay rope would be helpful. There are certainly parts of the route where a fall would be deadly. That said, I never felt like the exposure was overwhelming and didn't feel the need for ropes at any point.

External Links

There is a great description of this route and the other routes on Mount Jackson in A Climbers Guide to Glacier National Park.


Jackson Ridge PanoramaLooking Towards the Western SnowfieldLooking Towards the Eastern SnowfieldHiking back out from Mount JacksonMount Jackson - North Basin RouteUpper Portion of the North Basin RouteNorth Basin Route Ridge Panorama
Looking Down the RouteExample of the North Basin Ridge