Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 48.66500°N / 113.4°W
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 8665 ft / 2641 m
Sign the Climber's Log



Divide Mountain, as seen from...A beautiful, simple landscape.
Two disparate events occurred here within the recent past, transpiring to place this graceful, unassuming mountain on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park squarely within the emotional discourse of history. These happenings have nothing to do with the geologic or ice-age upheavals predominant to the area, but are rather simply stated in human terms as fire and death. A man died, and there was a forest fire.

The mountain rises easily above any recording of what might be deemed important, will do so long after the emotions, the physical scars, have merged with and become part of what it is that becomes not remembered with the passage of years. What happened will not live forever in the annals of memory, but only flame briefly (and even then not be the kind of import known over great distances, but will, rather, be the flickering moment of a relatively small area), a pithy note to be read as life goes on to other things. But for now—today, and a few tomorrows—what happened is indeed paramount. A great and important life ended here, a town came oh-so-close to being wiped out by fire that took a dense forest and insisted it begin again...and now we look at this mountain, and it is not the same as before.

Before and After the Red Eagle Fire.

Partly, it is an emotional vision that swirls, but also, of course, there are the realities of that oldest of all stories, and how do you give face to that of which at times it seems we understand next to nothing? Life and death has its way, Divide Mountain—immovable, intractable—rises almost gently above the fray while on its flanks we catalogue the contributions of J. Gordon Edwards, thankful for his life while simultaneously mourning his passing. That alone would be enough, but there is more, as a mere two years on, for a few days the Red Eagle Fire obliterated this part of the world, and there is no mourning whatsoever at its passing; as a result of those days of fire, vision to the mountain has been cleared through the trees, and a new forest is under construction. The crucible bubbles, ebbs, flows—an inconstant thing in our minds—while the mountain stands as a calm and beautiful anchor amidst emotional frenzy.


Reflective Light on Divide MountainA fitting light in which to reflect on the life of J. Gordon Edwards.

Approximately half way up...Honor and Remembrance.

Every mountain has a history, and let it be said that with the death of J. Gordon Edwards on July 19, 2004, the records of this strikingly elegant peak on the eastern boundary of Glacier National Park have taken on a new and poignant depth. Gordon Edwards was the greatest chronicler of a great area, and to those of us leaving our cars and actually climbing these peaks, his recorded thoughts on the matter, A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park, is absolutely indispensable. It is the better part of a life's work, a work of love for an area that can at times be completely overwhelming, and he has made these mountains, if not readily accessible, at least approachable. So it ends here, of natural causes on the lower slopes of Divide Mountain; not in the park's great interior but on its edge; not on one of the towering summits, but on an approach; not dramatically but by all accounts quietly, and this mountain, in the human way we have of reflection, is now quite special.
This is the lookout, where...The article was posted in this structure.

Edwards was one of the founders of the Glacier Mountaineering Society, which lists 266 official peaks in the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park (plus an additional 22 that are "unofficial"), of which he pioneered routes up more (some say considerably more) than 70 of them. There is nothing in the Continental U.S. like this area; it is very big and very tall, at times seemingly impenetrable, and he did all of it with grace and style—and then showed us how to do it. He was incredible. I don't know what more a man could be expected to do with his life....

* * * * * * * * *

I came across many, many sources of information regarding Edwards, of which, naturally enough, much of what was written is repetitive from article to article, but I think this, and then this to be the two best, and are worth your time.

There are many unnamed peaks in Glacier National Park.

One of them should be named after J. Gordon Edwards.

Sunrise and Sunset.

FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2006

Second winter after the fire.

Burned. Everywhere burned!Nothing left...
(Enlarge this)
A wildfire is apocalypse and genesis, is death, destruction, and seed of life; this one at its height a conflagration closer kin to an atomic bomb than a campfire, and it began in an area about a mile-and-a-half south and west of Red Eagle Lake. It could have been creeping-born from a careless (and illegal) campfire, or a smoldering, moldering lightning-strike remnant of a few days earlier. Whether it was sparks airborne or flames licking through grass, trees and undergrowth provided food enough for conflagration, the Red Eagle Fire was loosed on an unsuspecting forest, and for a few days hell was wind and smoke and flame, and had both place and name.
Tangled mess left behind by the fire....Looking through the tangled mess...

Any big fire runs from time to time, and during these periods nothing much can be done except get out of the way, then stand back and (rather helplessly) watch the show. The Red Eagle Fire didn't so much run as explode across the landscape; during that first Saturday night and Sunday flames reached 200' into the air, and pushed by 50 mph winds through thick, at times insect-killed, timber, went from its origins to over 22,000 acres—more than 35 square miles! Red Eagle was a living thing moving quickly, effortlessly, lithly, not singly but thickets of trees at a time through drainage after drainage, noisely (a big fire at full cry is...elemental, unforgettable), like jet engines streaming low across the treetops—something in its magnificence not to be touched (and most certainly not contained!) but only feared (it bears repeating: get out of the way!). Respected. Prayed against. Red Eagle was a monster, beautiful and terrifying and etched unforgettably across the minds of those fortunate enough—or unfortunate enough—to be within visual reach of its lair.
Golden light through the denuded trees.Warm July light asks, was it really that bad?

For an historical blink-of-an-eye, in this place the fire was everything—this place, in which the town of St. Mary, small and helpless against the onslaught, was evacuated...only to have the beast turn a mile short of annihilation, choosing instead another victim, and now the timber stands of the Blackfeet Nation will not be the same in this lifetime. But even hell needs fuel to survive, and thus it was that Red Eagle did itself in by devouring everything in its path; moving on rails of dried forest and wind, the omnivore simply found itself out of food. The ending was neither graceful nor quick, but one of bluster and threats, occasional wind and sparks, and always, enough smoke to warn of a giant, still-dangerous thing in its death throes. Finally, at 34,000 acres and six or seven weeks reign, the terror was gone, perishing with early winter snows. The monster had done that which was foreordained, leaving a savaged, pregnant landscape in its wake, with only the natural leavening of sun, wind, and sky to deal with charred forest.

Starting through the burn...
Burnt trees, Meleah...
Burn, Divide Mountain, winter landscape...

What it left behind, however, was more than enough for the cumulative forces of nature to give birth. Flowing through these mountains is life itself, with the concentrated searing of conflagration merely a most-dramatic signal of change, but the calm following this chaos is by no means an inferior strength, being—rather—an echo coursing through the years as an inviolable truth: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is (of course) not original with me, but is...the way it is. It is always this way, that the fire cleanses, then triggers what comes next, and what comes next—slowly, inexorably, inevitably, and every bit as powerful as the flames preceding it—is a new forest.

Less than a year later—regeneration.


Below are links to USFS photos letting you know why.

(How in the world do you stop something like that...? The answer is, you don't.)

1. The fire would soon torch everything before you, jump the highway, then burn behind you as well as off to the left, devastating the timber on the Blackfeet Reservation.

2. Getting ready to evacuate St. Mary.

3. It's coming!

4. "Mom, Dad, LET'S GO!"

5. "Are you really certain it's wise to drive this road?"

6. "I don't think so!"

7. You're the pilot; where would YOU drop retardant? Whatever we're paying these folks, it's not enough....

8. Where would you drop the retardant? #2.

9. Hot Spot.

Before it was done, the Red Eagle Fire burned slightly over 34,000 acres, with about 52% being on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and 48% within the borders of Glacier National Park.

This link will take you to a page of more USFS Red Eagle Fire photos.


An unusual perspective of Divide Mtn, from near Logan Pass.

Late evening sun on Divide...A "...graceful, unassuming mountain."
Divide Mountain is so named for a couple reasons. Partly because its summit exactly straddles the border between Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and partly due to the rather unusual division (or dividing) of ownership and management of the mountain itself. The Blackfeet Nation owns, and manages, 25.89% of the mountain; the U.S. Forest Service manages 50.0%, and the National Park Service manages 24.11%.
From near the Saint Mary...Divide, White Calf, Kupunkamint.
An early morning view of...Forest, mountain, morning light...

GNP doesn't have very many "easy" mountains, but there are a couple, which make for relaxing days between longer, more difficult, peaks, or which can be done when weather makes the lengthier ascents risky, or they can be done simply as a good first, non-stressful, introduction to climbing in the park. Divide Mountain is one of these (Mount Oberlin is another). It can be climbed in about an hour-and-a half from vehicle to summit, and despite the "easy" status of the mountain, views from the top are very fine indeed! The peak sits on the eastern boundary of GNP and the Rocky Mountains. In this part of the country the upthrust edge between plains and mountains is called the Rocky Mountain Front (in Colorado it is known as the Front Range); from the summit can be seen the Saint Mary area of GNP, as well as peaks further north, all the way to Yellow Mountain, which is in the Many Glacier area; views into the southern and south central parts of the park are very good, and a bit unusual in perspective, and to the east and northeast are the plains, seemingly running off into forever and Canada and Eastern Montana. The climb is well worth the effort!


Summit View SoutheastFrom Mount Siyeh, Divide Mountain in a landscape.

From not far below the summit of...All-around weirdness!
Looking northeast across the...Looking to the plains of Montana and Alberta.
View looking southwest from...A magnificent, high-traversal loop!

Billboard marking beginning of dirt road...Billboard referred to in text.


Drive in to DivideOverview of road in...
The only road access is via U.S. Hwy 89, the turnoff being 6 miles south of the junction with Going-to-the-Sun Road in Saint Mary. That 6 miles ends at the exact top of the uphill grade which begins as you leave town, and is marked by a large billboard on the right, which at this writing was an advertisement for the Two Dog Flats Restaurant. Coming from the south (that is, heading north), it is 13.1 miles from the junction of Hwy's 49 and 89.
Divide Mountain, from close...Close to the trailhead.
At any rate, the billboard marks the turnoff onto a dirt road (actually more of a lane) which is not well maintained, but if care is taken, is okay for passenger cars (I easily took my little Kia Rio up it with only one short area of moderate concern). If coming up the hill from Saint Mary the turn is quite sharp, more than a 90 degree right. From the billboard take the road that leaves from its south side. This road is graveled and parallels the power line. Follow the power line until it veers sharply to the left (S). A fork in the road follows shortly after; take the left fork up the hill. When you meet up with the power line again, take the road to the right, up the hill. Follow this to the next fork; take the right hand fork for about 100 feet to meadow on the left. Park here. The trail leaves from its east side. If you follow this road too far, you'll end at a gravel pit. The left hand fork takes you to the communication installation. Total distance to trailhead once off the highway is about 2 miles.
SP member saintgrizzly climbs..."This mountain climbs fast."

Standard cautionary note here: All GNP roads are closed in winter, with Going-to-the-Sun Road (the major route through the park; its eastern terminus is at Saint Mary) sometimes not opening until July (average opening is second week in June; earliest opening ever was May 16, 1987, with the second earliest being May 22, 2005). Don't head out early in the year (i.e., June/early July) without checking the status of these roads—it is not unusual to have repeated, sometimes lengthy, road closures due to storms, avalanches, rock slides, or all three! The same holds true for late in the year; weather changes dramatically, beginning usually around the end of August, with road closures normally becoming more and more frequent through the month of September (although don't let that shy you away from going, there can also be very nice—albeit cool or cold—days of Indian Summer throughout this time frame; plus the park is relatively free of people after Labor Day—just always carefully check the weather).

Map of Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park
(Note that clicking on the image after it loads brings up a larger version, making it MUCH easier to read.)

GNP Road Information: Current Road Status

And finally, click here for current information, as well as easy access to some
interesting photos showing the Plowing of Going-to-the-Sun Road.


SP member mtnhiker13 climbs...Easy scramble, class 2 terrain.

Trailhead (L), & Route Options with a view (R).

There is no trail except at the beginning (where you're parked), but the mountain is truly not difficult, and largely and easily intuitive. The one thing I'd like to point out is that the route taken to the ridge, which puts you on the actual mountain, is quite loose, and just steep enough caution needs to be exercised, as footing will be uncertain—a bit worse descending than going up—and there is also the possibility of rocks rolling out from underfoot towards anyone below you. This section, however, is not long, and gave us no problem—it's just that it needs to be noted, is all. Once on the ridge, simply head up. You'll reach the lookout at approximately the half way point, at which point by keeping at or near the ridge top it is an easy scramble to the summit.

Ellen moves up the final...Final pitch.
SP member mtnhiker13...Almost there.
Block ledges of sedimentary...Typical GNP sedimentary rock.

Vern arrives at the summit...Summit!
Wind-scoured access ridge...Close-up of the wind-scoured access ridge.
Overview of access ridge...Overview of the access ridge.


A land swept by winter wind.

Winter maneuvering to reach the ridge access...Almost at the access point.
From late June/early July (during this time frame expect LOTS of snow in the high elevations) to early fall, depending on snow conditions. Traditional climbing season in the Northern Rockies is July, August, and September—with September weather becoming progressively colder and more unstable (sometimes dramatically so: PAY ATTENTION!) as the month progresses—but does of course vary from year to year. There are occasional winter climbs in the park, but not often, and then only by well-equipped, area-wise, extremely competent individuals. Basically, most of GNP is inaccessable through the winter, and avalanche danger, to put it mildly, is extreme almost everywhere.
View into Glacier National ParkFrom the summit, looking west into the park.

Okay, having said all that...Divide Mountain is one of the few GNP peaks upon which a winter ascent would not be considered unreasonable. The mountain sits such that the almost constant winds scour the ridge-top route free of snow, with very little—if any—cornicing. Snow does, of course, collect in bowls and sheltered areas, making, as far as we could see on our scouting excursions, the most problematical portion of the entire climb being the access onto the mountain proper. It probably goes without saying, but I will do so anyway: during the winter the approximately two miles driven during a summer effort will require skis or snow shoes, and leg work.
[img:379922:alignleft:small:Almost at the access point.]
Anyone used to winter outings in mountain terrain knows that often a successful ascent is merely a lucky happenstance with weather, so I won't belabor the point that winter in this area is something that must be carefully dealt with. It is cold here, and snowy...and is extremely windy, often all at the same time. In February of 2006, nearby Marias Pass had an official wind gust of 160 mph—when checking the weather for a climb, you MUST pay attention to the wind velocity projections! The towns of East Glacier Park and Browning have year-round lodging and restaurants; nearby St. Mary is pretty much a ghost town during winter.


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 by both J. Gordon Edwards and the Glacier Mountaineering Society. Anyone doing more than just "trail" hiking in this part of the Rockies should read the excellent and important information put together by Fred and Moni Spicker. Much—if not most—of the rock in GNP is sedimentary and rotten, and you need to know about it: Glacier National Park Rock & Grading Systems.


You'll not be in GNP until you reach the summit, so for this particular climb there is no park entry fee. Once you leave the highway, the dirt road is on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, but there are no signs mentioning this—or any usage restrictions—and the Edwards book makes no mention of such.

In case you do more than just Divide Mountain, and actually enter the park, no permits for day hikes are required (but do check out "camping" section below), but you must pay a park entry fee, which is $25 for one week, or $35 for an annual pass. Registration for day climbs is recommended, but not mandatory. Probably anyone prone to climbing in this part of the country already knows this, but the Northern Rockies are full of wildlife. Always be aware, and don't do anything stupid, like—for example—feed the bears, think that a mountain lion is even remotely related to your pet cat, or run up to a moose (moose are quite unpredictable, irritable, and very dangerous). And never, ever, EVER forget you're in grizzly country; they insist on being left alone—disagreement on that point is not an argument you'll win! Bear spray and noise should be part of every GNP foray you make into the back country. Black bears will be found in the forests, grizzlies commonly venture onto the above-timberline tundra, sometimes, when in pursuit of such delicacies as ladybugs or cutworm moth larva, even to the peaks! Also note that improperly stored food in park campgrounds (i.e., scraps left around the table or campfire, or edibles in your tent rather than your car) will subject you to a $50 fine. If you wander off, leaving your pack unattended, and there is food in it which attracts the attention of, for example, a bear, it is also a fine. Folks, the Park Service is serious about not providing human food access to the critters!


There are numerous campgrounds available within Glacier National Park, of which only Fish Creek and Saint Mary take reservations (not required, but probably a good idea during the peak summer tourist period, especially on weekends). There are also many campgrounds as well as motels just outside the park on both the west and east sides. Divide Mountain is in the Saint Mary Valley area, and is closer to Saint Mary (six miles out of town to the turnoff) than it is to East Glacier Park or Browning, but is within reasonable driving range of any of the three. Saint Mary has a KOA. Lodging, whether camping or indoors, should be no problem. There are also several restaurants in all three communities.

Click here for General Camping Information, and click here for Current Site Availability in specific campgrounds.

There are a great many services available on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation

In addition, and for those so inclined...GNP does have Backcountry Campsites throughout the park. Some of these sites can be reserved; others are on a first come basis. Anyone doing extensive, several day, remote hiking/climbing would be well advised to check this out.


Weather page—an overview, plus current conditions and forecast

This is the New NPS Web Cam Page.


In Tribute

On March 1, 2011, Vernon Garner, Saintgrizzly, left us after losing a bold, inspiring fight against pancreatic cancer. Or maybe he won, for he is at last free of his pain and has "shuffle[d] off this mortal coil."

Vernon was an important contributor on SummitPost, but beyond merely making good, informative pages, he actually inspired many who read his work. No one put more work into his or her pages than Vernon did, and many of those pages, especially those related to Glacier National Park, the place he loved above all others, are works of art in both the writing and layout. More than one person has wanted to visit Glacier or go back to Glacier largely due to what he shared about that magnificent place.

Many people on SP counted Vernon among their friends, and many more saw him as one of the best, one of those who exemplified the spirit of this site. He was one of the best of us, he will be missed, and he will not be forgotten.

As a tribute to him, Vernon's pages will remain in his name. Any member who sees a need for an addition or correction should please contact site management via the "Send PM to the Elves" feature.

Rest well and climb on, Vernon.

[img:318297:aligncenter:medium:From the summit, looking west into the park.]

Two views of Divide Mountain


1. Crucible
2. J. Gordon Edwards—Mountain Man Without Peer
3. Friday, July 28, 2006
4. A fire on this scale is not something that leaves your mind....
5. Overview
6. Views from—and to—the mountain
7. Getting there
8. Route
9. When to Climb, & Climbing Considerations
10. The Red Tape, Cautions, & Wildlife Section
11. Camping
12. Mountain conditions
13. External links

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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FlatheadNative - Jul 9, 2010 9:40 am - Voted 10/10

Route stats

Vernon...what are the trip distance and elevation gain for Divide? I looked for the data but did not find it.


FlatheadNative - Jul 12, 2010 1:31 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Route stats

My GPS read the distance and elevation gain as: 1.143 miles and about 1,889 feet elevation gain. Not a easy as Oberlin and the first 1/4 is pretty challenging for climbers that are not in good shape.

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