This is a seriously tough route for climbers that are extremely fit, physically and mentally, and requires good route finding skills as well as climbing skills peculiar to the rock found in Glacier National Park. We estimate that the trip was over 23 miles (12 by trail) and exceeded 7,500’ vertical gain. We spent over 17 ½ hours in the process. For more information, see my trip report at Kintla trip report
View up Akokala Valley (Photo from Numa Ridge by Kyledod)
Starting in Columbia Falls, MT, drive up the North Fork road to Polebridge where a bridge crosses the N Fork of the Flathead River and there is a park entrance station. After entering, take the rough road about 6 miles to Bowman Lake. Parking your car near the trailhead at the campground, you then begin your hike on the trail to Akokala lake.
View down Akokala Valley (Photo by Sieyh)
approximation of route (red going/blue return)
The trailhead for this route is at the Bowman Lake campground where the trail to Akokala Lake begins. Follow the trail for about 6 miles as it crosses Numa Ridge until reaching the lake. From the lake, look for fishermen paths leading around the western shore to bushwhack to near the head of the lake. From near the head of the lake bushwhack up and to your left climbing to about the 6,600’ level to traverse northerly beneath Reuter Peak.
After you pass Reuter Peak, you will see a saddle between it and the great southern ridge running from Kintla Peak. Continue north past the saddle for perhaps ½ mile looking for a reasonable section of cliffs to work up toward the top of the Kintla ridge. We found a path near a ridge that descends easterly from near the sharp peak south of 9826.
Head toward the ridgetop between Peak 9826 and the sharp peak south of it. When you reach the ridgetop south of Pk 9826 you will be able to see Kintla for the first time. At this point, you will gain much confidence in your ultimate successful summit. From here you can basically follow near the top of the ridge until you are close to the Kintla summit. As described in Edwards’ guidebook, West Face Route…from the ridge just south of the summit, you can work upward through a maze of ledges and chimneys. When the cliffs are too difficult approaching the summit, traverse the ledges northerly on the west looking for a more moderate gully to climb easterly to the final summit. (We wasted time and energy staying too close to the ridgetop as we headed north on our approach)
On the return, we were tempted to try down climbing to the head of Akokala creek and following it downstream to the lake. This was not a good way to proceed. There are thousands of feet of cliffs to descend and we were lucky to find a route that didn’t cliff out at some point. Starting down the creek was fine, but became increasingly difficult as the forest became thicker and was nearly devoid of game trails. It leads to an epic bushwhack!
Since this is heading through wild country known to be frequently traveled by grizzly bears, each climber should be carrying bear spray readily available. Water sources will not be likely after leaving Akokala Lake. Food and clothing appropriate for an overnight bivy would be appropriate. Headlamps will be useful at the start and finish of the trip.
Camping and Red Tape
There is a nice campground at Bowman Lake where the trailhead for this climb is located.
GNP Campground Status and Infor
National Park entrance fees apply in Glacier National Park. See Entrance Fees
Guidebook: A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park