North Basin Route

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 48.60053°N / 113.72266°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hiking, Mountaineering, Mixed, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: Class 4
Sign the Climber's Log


Mount Jackson SummitMount 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 JacksonHiking 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 SnowfieldEastern Snowfield on the Left
Looking Towards the Western SnowfieldWestern 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 PanoramaTop 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 PanoramaThese 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 RouteExample of the upper ridge.

Example of the North Basin RidgeExample 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.



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