Calf Robe Mountain, The Northeast Ridge Route, Glacier Park Class 2 & 3
The Marias Valley
Calf Robe Mountain lies on the southeastern boundary of Glacier National Park near Marias Pass.
J. Gordon Edwards does not designate names for either of the routes for Calf Robe Mountain published in his writings. They are named here for purpose of clarity only.
The Northeast Ridge Route is the shortest route to the summit of Calf Robe Mountain from Autumn Creek Trail. The route crosses some spectacular habitat for elk, Rocky Mountain sheep, mountain goats as well as deer. This area is also home to black and grizzly bears. The route meanders through a series of high mountain meadows that are crossed by elk trails in the lower reaches and goat/sheep trails as elevation is gained.
Calf Robe Mountain is a featured peak in J. Gordon Edwards’ A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park and the route descriptions are located on pages 317-318. He describes an elevation gain of 2,800 feet via the northeast ridge (with a mileage of approximately 3.5 miles one way).
An alternate route, the Firebrand Pass Route, is also available and the gains the same elevation in approximately 6 miles one way.
How many Bighorns do you see? For the ANSWER follow the link.
The trailhead is located at mile marker 203 on U.S. Highway 2.
The Coonsa Trail (also referred to as the Firebrand Pass Trail on some maps) leaves U.S. Highway 2 at the Lubec Trailhead which is located at mile marker #203. There is ample parking near the trailhead.
Actual elevation gain from U.S. Highway 2 = 2,836 feet
Total Distance: 3.5 miles
View from the Trail
View from above the first meadow
Stream bed through the meadows
The lower cliffs
Northeast Ridge of Calf Robe
The routes associated with this page generally follow Edwards’ Class 2 Northeast Ridge Route to Calf Robe Mountain.
Climbing this route is straightforward.
In his description of the primary route to Calf Robe Mountain, J. Gordon Edwards suggests following the Coonsa Creek Trail (Firebrand Pass Trail on some maps) from U.S. Highway 2 to its junction with the Autumn Creek Trail and from that junction begin the off trail portion of the route. From this junction walk northwest through the open forest for about ½ mile and continue in that direction to an elongated flattop mountain. From this point, he describes the route as a straightforward Class 2 scramble up the northeast flank to the summit of Calf Robe. This route is about 3.5 miles in length.
As with all things, this area has more than likely changed since Edwards wrote his route. Trees grow, fires burn, mud slides, snow avalanches and game trails move. Change in mountain environments is inevitable. With this in mind, here are some additional notes that will make this climb easier.
An easier route with NO bushwhacking to access the Northeast Ridge is just up the trail.
The Junction with the Autumn Creek Trail is 1.4 miles (2.3 km) from the Lubec Trailhead on U.S. Highway 2.
From this junction turn northeast (right) and follow the Autumn Creek Trail towards Firebrand Pass for 1/3 of a mile. The trail crosses a wet area that has been built up with gravel surrounded by logs by trail crews and shortly after that manmade feature on the trail a large meadow is reached. From this meadow Calf Robe Mountain can be seen clearly for the first time since starting on the Autumn Creek Trail.
Leave the human trail here and walk through that open meadow. There was a nice elk trail to follow through the meadow in 2009. Head off towards Calf Robe and follow the route as described below.
There is definitely a “path of least resistance” on this route. The weakness on this route is a stream bed that cuts up through most of the lower meadows to the lowest set of cliffs. There are also animal trails traversing up and down as well as across the slope. Find a nice game trail and follow it up the hill. The game trails provide better footing as the rich vegetation on the slopes can be a bit slippery. By walking up the stream bed or following trails near the stream bed, the route is pretty basic until above the lower cliff. There are numerous weaknesses in the cliff. One option is to use the main stream bed as depicted in the accompanying photo.
After climbing through the cliffs gain elevation through a semi-packed scree slope to the northeast ridge or just continue uphill to the nearly flat-topped summit.
There are some nice Class 2 or 3 cliffs below the southeast face and some nice Class 4 and 5 cliffs further to the south.
The cairn is located on the highest point which is on the southern end of the peak. I did not locate a climber's log, but did not tear the cairn down looking for it as well.
Descend via the same route or climb down the northwest slope towards Firebrand Pass. A cairn at Firebrand Pass marks the approximate location of the Firebrand Trail. Make sure you do not descend into the Ole creek drainage if your goal is to return to the Lubec Lake Trailhead. At the junction of the Firebrand Pass trail and the Autumn Creek Trail turn south (right) and follow the trail back to the junction of the Lubec Lake Trail. At that junction, turn southeast (left) and follow the trail back to the trailhead.
Hiking poles will aide in your ascent and descent while working through Glacier’s wonderful scree on the approach!
Consider bringing scree gaiters and extra water as well.
A map, compass and GPS will also be useful.
GuidebookA Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park
; J. Gordon Edwards