Northeast Ridge Route

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 47.28800°N / 113.87°W
Additional Information Route Type: Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer, Fall
Additional Information Time Required: A long day
Additional Information Difficulty: Almost, but not quite technical in good weather & conditions
Sign the Climber's Log


Northeast Ridge Route

This route is approximately 13 miles round trip, and plan on about 12 hours car to car. Total elevation gain will be in the vicinity of 6500'. Late in the summer no technical gear will be needed (in good weather). Spring and early summer, if snow is present (and it likely will be), I'd take along both crampons and ice axe (and if you're ascending by one of the couloirs, you'll probably want rope, as well).

From where you park your vehicle the trail (looking to be an abandoned 4WD road, which soon peters out) is relatively level for 30 or 40 yards, then climbs steeply for around 150 yards, until reaching a level area on the ridge. Up until this point you've been on the remnant of that old 4WD road, but this small, flat clearing is where that ends, and the actual hiking trail (don't bother looking for signs, there aren't any) is easily seen, taking off at a ninety degree angle to your right. It is a good trail, staying relatively level for a mile or so, traversing the south-facing slope, before angling up the ridge. Some (not all) of the stretches from
Pic #1#1—First sighting...
that point on are—and this is typical of the Missions—quite steep; anyway, stay on this trail (which is easy, as there are no junctions, hence no other options) for approximately two hours, all of which is a pleasantly climbing grunt through the forest.

After the (approximately) two hours you come to what appears to be a small summit in the ridge you have been climbing, but rather than continuing up to the point, the trail wraps around right to a small saddle, and you get the first sighting of Gray Wolf's south face [Pic #1] (and the well-known South Couloir) coming into view over Upper Riddell Lake Basin. Stay on the trail as it drops into the basin. Soon the trail ends, and it
Pic #2 - Head for this saddle#2—Head here...
would probably be a good idea to make a mental note of where you are when this happens, so as to save time picking up the route on your return.

From this point, the route we took—and all other routes, as well—become a matter of studying the terrain, route-finding, and intuition.
Pic #3 - Closer to the saddle.#3—Head here...
Surveying the area before you will quickly show the saddle across the basin, which is where you need to head. [Pics #2 & 3] The basin is not large, and it is an easy crossing, and then a short climb to the low point in the ridge, from which there are nice views of both where you've just been, and the Scenic Lakes Basin now coming into sight, which you also need to cross—as well as the first view of the east face of the mountain, along with your ultimate route destination, the northeast ridge to the summit.
Pic #4 - Get on this shelf.#4—This shelf, to the ridge-top...

Pic #5 - Closer view of access shelf(s)#5—This shelf, to the ridge-top...

The picture shows Upper Scenic Lake (remember, this photo was taken September 2nd; it might not be that small early in the summer!), which is easily bypassed either above or below. Study the terrain across the way. You want to get on the shelf, the one beginning almost half-way up the photo on the far right [Pic #4]—there is good access to this shelf
Pic #6 - Tree-lined ridge you need to traverse...#6—Follow this ridge towards the mtn...
showing in the photo, maybe a quarter of the way in—and follow it as it ascends, until reaching a point—between half and three-fourths of the way across the picture—where you can scramble up to the next shelf. There are several places this can be accomplished, but some of them are difficult enough it's worth it to keep looking; you'll soon find a way! (The next photo [Pic #5] is a somewhat closer view of the same terrain.) The logical destination at this point is to reach the tree-covered ridge running out of both photos to the far left, [Pics #6 & 7] at which point it's simply a basic ridge walk until reaching the notch taking you onto the mountain proper. [Pic #8]
Pic #7 - Continue to the notch...#7—Continue towards the mtn (left), & notch...

Pic #8 - The notch & NE ridge.#8—The notch, and NE ridge...

The notch is the crux of the entire climb, is definite Class 4, bordering on Class 5 for a short distance, but...that's where you've got to go. The picture has the route we took drawn in. [Pic #9] As always with this sort of problem, the key is patience; if you see you're in a situation that "won't go," back out, reassess, and do it again. This particular area took a bit of time, and while close, we never felt we were pushing any kind of dangerous envelope by not having ropes. So take your time, and work your way through.
Pic #9 - The Notch - Crux of the Climb#9—The notch: crux of the climb...

The next photo gives a bit of perspective, [Pic #10] showing Tim doing just that (working his way through),
Pic #10 - Working through...#10—Tim, working through a section of the notch...
and once that has been accomplished it becomes a matter of traversing the boulders at the top of the notch, [Pic #11] soon leading to a relatively easy (and straightforward) ridge ascent to the summit. Where you can enjoy what you've accomplished!
Pic #11 - Boulders above the notch, then easy to the top...#11—The boulders just above the notch; clear sailing from here on!

Getting There

(This section is also on the main page.)

The mountain itself is wonderful to look at from any angle, but that doesn't provide climbers with anything more than motivation, and what information can be gleaned by studying the cliffs and couloirs. First you must get there. There are no trail signs in the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness, but in this instance the trail is quite good—once you find it. From Twin Lakes (the approximate point and elevation at which you leave your vehicle) to the summit is slightly less than 5000 feet elevation gain; that's enough on its own, but according to the Montana National Geographic CD-ROM Topo Map, by the time you deal with the natural ups and downs of the terrain, plus ascend and descend through two basins, elevation gain for the day on the route we took is in the vicinity of 6500 feet. So you really do want the trail; bushwhacking would be a monster! Anyway, pay attention, and I'll help you with this.

Follow U.S. Hwy 93 until reaching Saint Ignatius, then take the main turnoff (where you turn, there’s a Sinclair gas station, museum, cafe, and fruit stand on the west side of the highway); go east through town for .3 mile until reaching a "T" junction, whereupon there is no choice but to go either right or left; go right for about a block, cross the small bridge, and immediately turn (angle) left. Stay on that street another .3 mile until coming to a stop sign, where you (again) must go either right or left, only this time go left. You are now on the St. Mary’s Lake Rd, and after 2.1 miles take a 90 degree right turn (the road is signed, but it’s easy to miss them first time around); after another mile the road takes yet another 90 degree turn, only this time it’s to the left, and now you’re set—no more tricks. Continue two more miles (still St. Mary’s Lake Rd, remember) until the pavement ends, turning into a good gravel road; at that point it is almost exactly 6 miles to Twin Lakes Recreation Area, which is your first serious point of reference (and where, if you have a Reservation Camping Permit—see "Camping & Lodging" section on main page—you can camp). The Twin Lakes Recreation Area is marked by this sign:
GO LEFT HERE....Twin Lakes Recreation Area - take a left.

The road branches here; go LEFT for .8 mile, whereupon you will come to another fork; also go LEFT at this one (just before a bridge, which you don't cross), and after a couple hundred yards or so (it's not far!) there will be an unmarked logging road heading off—you guessed it—LEFT yet again. Take this logging road (the road you're on continues straight to I-don't-know-where; ignore it). The road is in good shape (it doesn't look as though there is currently logging activity, so you'll likely have the road, and place, to yourself), and easily negotiable for passenger cars; at exactly the 1 mile point you'll see what looks to be a narrow, not-good, road heading off to the right. This is the beginning of the trail, so park—the Gray Wolf climb begins here (note that if you miss your stopping point, the logging road continues on for maybe another half mile, then ends).

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.



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