The SW Ridge is a scrambling route with very little scree. Combined with a descent of the Continental Divide Route, (taking advantage of the scree for an easy descent) it provides an excellent traverse of the peak.
Distance to the summit is about 4 miles. The descent via the Continental Divide Route is about 4 miles for a round trip of about 8 miles with an elevation gain of 3,400 feet from Marias Pass.
Most of the scrambling is Glacier Park Class 2 and 3 with perhaps a couple of places of 4 depending on the exact line chosen. The scrambling section covers about 1600 vertical feet over about 1 mile.
Because of the nature of the rock, there are special considerations regarding climbing in Glacier National Park, and grading systems unique to the Park have been developed. Please see this Fact Sheet for further details:
GNP Rock & Grading Systems
ApproachFrom the Autumn Creek Trailhead at Marias Pass, follow the trail 0.9 miles to the junction with the main east west portion of the trail. Take the left fork and go until you find a good point to leave the trail and attain the lower part of the SW Ridge below the first step. The trees and slopes are open and present little difficulty to cross country travel.
Once on the lower part of the ridge proceed without difficulty up to the first step where the scrambling starts.
Route DescriptionThe route is a straight forward ascent of the ridge varying the exact line to suit your preference regarding the climbing. Difficult sections and dangerous exposure can generally be avoided by moving slightly to the north side (climber’s left) of the ridge crest.
There are three steep steps. Between the first step and the second is a less steep scrambling section along a relatively narrow section of ridge. The second step is the most difficult section with some short possibly class 4 parts. Between the second step and the summit block is a long section of ridge that is mostly just class 2 walking