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This Peak Is Having A Mountainous Identity Crisis!
Never Laughs dwarfed by ALL of its neighbors.
SummitPost member Saintgrizzly has referred to Never Laughs Mountain as “terminally depressed”
It is easy to appreciate that humorous reference and also understand why this mountain is in need of some serious psychotherapy
The conclusive DSM-IV-R* diagnosis for Never Laughs Mountain would be chronic little-peak syndrome resulting from an overwhelming inferiority complex and pervasive low self-esteem due to lack of elevation compared to its peers
…. perhaps the following observations explain why it “NEVER LAUGHS
The summit of Never Laughs Mountain is low for Glacier National Park standards at just 7,641 feet (2,329 m) in elevation and the true summit is just one of a number of points along a ridge that runs from above the southern shore of the middle of the Two Medicine Lakes to Mount Ellsworth.
All of the named neighboring peaks on the south side of Two Medicine Lake overshadow Never Laughs Mountain.
at 9,067 feet (2,763 m) in height is 1,426 feet higher, Mount Henry
at 8,847 feet (2,696 m) in elevation is 1,206 feet higher, Mount Ellsworth
is 940 feet higher at 8,581 feet (2,615 m), Sinopah Mountain
at 8,271 feet (2,521 m) is 630 feet higher, at 523 feet higher Appistoki Peak
stands at 8,164 feet (2,488 m) and Chief Lodgepole Peak
is at 7,682 feet (2,341 m) in elevation is 41 feet higher.
Even points with no name are higher such as the unnamed point that is 8,650 feet (2,636 m) high along the ridge between Henry and Appistoki.
For the FINAL
and MOST DEMEANING
insult, Never Laughs stands 9 feet (3 m) shorter than a peak called Painted Tepee Peak
. There is little joy for a mountain that isn’t even taller than a painted tepee.
So there you have it… perhaps, at least in mountains, size does matters!
It’s a wonder that this mountain does not go somewhere where it’s better appreciated. After all Never Laughs Mountain is higher than 36 of the 50 United States High Points but relocation is a drag and some of those locations……well after careful consideration Never Laughs will stay right where it’s at.
Perhaps this mountain stays around for the fantastic views from the summit. Much of the Two Medicine Valley unfolds in panorama while standing on the summit of Never Laughs Mountain.
There is no better medication for the “no climbing blues” than standing on the summit of any mountain. The view from this summit cures the climbing blues and produces a “school-is-out-for-summer-vacation” like happiness for all who stand on the summit of Never Laughs.
Never Laughs Mountain is another candidate for Glacier National Park’s entry to answer to the age-old question “Is less more?” The answer is an unequivocal YES!
* Notes: The DSM-IV-R is the handbook that mental health professionals use for diagnosing mental illness.
Overview of the Never Laughs Mountain:
Never Laughs and her surrounding neighbors from Two Medicine Campground
Never Laughs Mountain is found along the southern shore of Two Medicine Lake in the Two Medicine Valley of Montana’s Glacier National Park. This particular Two Medicine Lake is actually the middle lake of three lakes that are all named Two Medicine Lake. Lower Two Medicine Lake lies to the northeast and part of its waters lie within the park boundary while the remainder is contained in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Upper Two Medicine Lake is tucked away behind Sinopah Mountain and is an enjoyable walk away from the Two Medicine Campground. Never Laughs is flanked by the Aster Creek drainage to the east and the Paradise Creek drainage to the west.
Generally, peaks in the Two Medicine Valley are, as J. Gordon Edwards wrote on page 313 in A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park, “brilliant red, contrasting pleasantly with the deep blue of the lakes and the greens of the heavily-forested surroundings. It (the Two Medicine Valley) is a friendly, quiet place, very little commercialized, with easy trails leading to nearby high passes, marvelous meadows, and fish-filled lakes. There are few difficult climbs; many of the peaks are scrambles up grassy hillsides and scree-slopes and can be completed without much need for careful route-finding.”
According to Jack Holterman in his book, Place Names of Glacier National Park, Never Laughs is a name of a Piegan Blackfeet band. The Blackfeet name for Never Laughs is “Kat-aiyimi.”
J. Gordon Edwards mentions Never Laughs in A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park on page 319. Edwards included its mention as an endnote in his description of Mount Ellsworth. This is a class 2 and 3 climb.
Edwards notes that an enjoyable descent from Ellsworth to the summit of Never Laughs can be made in a matter of minutes (more like 30 minutes).
He then suggests descending from the saddle between Never Laughs and Ellsworth into Aster Park, which would eventually connect with the Aster Falls trail as described below.
Getting To The Trailhead:
Never Laughs viewed from Sinopah, echoguy photo.
To visit Glacier National Park is to enter a place where Heaven touches Earth affording brief glimpses into the Wonders of Creation.
The "Crown of the Continent" is located in northwestern Montana and shares a border with Waterton International Peace Park in Canada. Driving the world renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass is a great way to see Glacier.
Typically Logan Pass and Going-to-the-Sun Road opens near the end of June but it can be as early as the middle of June and as late as after July Fourth. If you drive Going-to-the-Sun Highway you still will not reach the fabulous Two Medicine Valley. It is a little out of the way and perhaps as a result receives fewer visitors than other portions of the park.
The Two Medicine Valley which typically opens before The Going-to-the-Sun Highway is located near East Glacier, Montana and is most easily accessed via U.S. Highway 2 which crosses Northern Montana east to west. The Two Medicine Valley is the location of Two Medicine, Dawson, Pitamakan and Cut Bank Passes. It is also home to Sinopah Mountain perhaps one of the park’s most photographed peaks.
The Two Medicine Valley also contains some incredible hiking loops both on trail and off trail. The mostly off-trail Scenic Point Ridge Walk which includes summiting three peaks is located just east of Never Laughs Mountain. The all-trail loop around Two Medicine Lake is a fantastic way to sample the Two Medicine Valley. For a more in-depth exposure consider the part trail/part off-trail strenuous hiking loop from Pitamakan to Dawson Pass that is 18.8 miles (30.26 km) long and covers 3 of Glacier’s passes in 4 miles (6.44 km). The Hiker's Guide to Glacier National Park rates this loop as strenuous. Two Medicine Trail Map PDF version.
Driving Instructions from East Glacier, Montana:
After reaching East Glacier, Montana on Highway 2 and travel 4 miles (6.44 km) North on State Highway 49 to the Two Medicine turnoff. Drive to the end of the road and park in the Two Medicine Parking lot or Scenic Point Trailhead depending upon the chosen route.
Driving Instructions from St. Mary’s, Montana:
Travel south on Highway 89 to Kiowa Junction, turn right on to Highway 49 and continue 9 miles (14.5 km) to the Two Medicine turnoff. Drive to the end of the road and park in the Two Medicine Parking lot or Scenic Point Trailhead depending upon the chosen route.
Never Laughs viewed from Point 6850.
For current National Park Entrance Fees: Current Park Information
For all the Rules and Regulations governing Glacier National Park look at the Rules and Regulations. It’s always a great idea to read these rules before planning a trip to Glacier National Park. Regulations change from year to year and generally the “I didn’t know about that” excuse does not work as the Federal Government governs the park. Read the rules and regulations and be informed.
You do not have to register for day climbs in Glacier National Park but it is recommended. Backcountry travel regulations can be found at Backcountry Travel. There is also information from the Park Service on Mountain Climbing in Glacier.
As with all hiking and climbing in Glacier National Park use caution and practice good manners with the wildlife. You are in bear country. Carry your bear deterrent, don’t hike alone and make some noise. For more information please go to the Park's website for Bear Information. The U.S. Forest Service also has helpful information on Grizzly Bear Management.
Special Considerations: The rock in Glacier Park is widely varied and it is not unusual to find several different types of rock on any given route. Know your rocks and be certain of your safety. J. Gordon Edwards has an excellent section in his guidebook on rock and climbing safety. Be safe and know your limitations as well as those who are climbing with you. Also refer to the following links for further details: GNP Rock and Grading System and the GMS Climbing Guidelines.
Trail Approaches to Never Laughs Mountain:
Never Laughs from below Mount Ellsworth
No matter how you plan to climb Never Laughs this is a difficult peak to climb. Not because of the technical challenges (it is class 2 & 3) but because of access issues. The peak is also guarded by some serious scree fields and brush.
Volume Two of Climb Glacier National Park has more details on Never Laughs Mountain and suggested routes. It can be ordered at Climb Glacier National Park.
Scenic Point Route: Approach
This is the route recommended by J. Gordon Edwards.
Overall this route as described below covers approximately 10 miles and has around 4,500 to 5,000 feet in elevation gain and loss.
From the Scenic Point trailhead enjoy a walk through trees while listening to Appistoki Falls. A short side trip on rewards with a beautiful view of Appistoki Falls. After breaking out of the trees and enjoying Appistoki Creek far below the trail reaches the furthest south switchback that yields views of part of Henry's North Face. It is here that the off trail portion of the climb begins. Also refer to the Appistoki Creek Route (Mount Henry) or Mount Henry - Arete Route for photos and more details.
Contributor's note: If I were to do this route again I would chose to summit Medicine Peak and Mount Henry via the Scenic Point Ridgewalk as described above. The only peak that would not be climbed would be Appistoki. I believe there is less overall gain and subsequent elevation loss along this route.
Aster Falls Route: Approach
The trailhead for Never Laughs begins near the Two Medicine Boat launch and travels along the South Shore of Two Medicine Lake. At the Aster Park junction take the left fork and walk to the 5,600 feet contour level where the off-trail route begins. Total distance is about 1.8 miles (2.9 km) and this portion for the route gains 670 feet (204 m) from the boat launch near the Two Medicine parking lot.
The Route through Paradise: Approach
An alternative approach located on the Paradise Creek side of Never Laughs is possible as well. This would be a difficult route and there really is nothing to do with Paradise if you choose this route. Begin at the South Shore trailhead near the Two Medicine Boat Launch and walk to what was the Buttercup Park Trail junction which is located about 150 yards before the suspension bridge that crosses Paradise Creek. The Buttercup Park Trail takes off from this point.
The Buttercup Park trail is no longer maintained but there is a blaze on a tree where it leaves the main trail. A faint trail can also be seen for those with alert eyes.
Off Trail Route Information:
Route Diagram Mount Ellsworth along the approach from Scenic Point
The Scenic Point Route:
This is the route recommended by J. Gordon Edwards.
Follow the trail until reaching the furthest south switch back and begin the off trail route from here. Also refer to the Appistoki Creek Route (Mount Henry) route for photos and more details.
From the switchback walk on the side hill underneath a great ridge towards the basin below Mount Henry. Keep in mind that you will need to regain all of the elevation lost so try to stay on a set contour line as much as possible. The creek is easily crossed later in the season in most if so desired. There were multiple places to cross in last summer/early fall but earlier in the year could prove challenging depending upon the amount of snow melt feeding the creek.
After crossing the creek climb to the low saddle on the southwest side of Appistoki. This portion of the climb will be the most tiresome portion of the climb. After reaching the saddle the follow the goat trail to the Point 8650 to the south above the saddle.
A Climber's/Animal Trail follows along the ridge line to the unnamed peak (Point 8650 on the quad map) that is shaped like a triangle. Summit it, if desired or walk around the northwest side to the ridge line and then climb the next peak to the northwest. Summit that peak and then walk down the long scree slope to the saddle between there and Ellsworth. Climb along the ridge above the cliffs to the ridge leading to Ellsworth. Summit this peak and enjoy the views. Drop down the west side and work through the enjoyable scree slopes and ungulating ridgeline to Never Laughs.
Aster Falls side of Never Laughs.
Aster Falls Route:
After reaching the end of the Aster Park trail stay below the east cliffs of Never Laughs. After walking through the scree/mixed tree terrain for about a mile below the cliffs begin to look for an access point to the summit ridge. The true summit should be easily reached from most access points. Easier routes to the upper ridge can be found if the one chosen is too difficult.
Depending upon which point access to the ridge is made look for the high point and make your way there.
The Route through Paradise:
The Route through Paradise is based upon skirting below the great northern slopes of Never Laughs until a suitable route through the cliffs can be located. Walk along this trail for approximately ¾ of a mile until under the rock cliffs.
Leave the trail and begin to climb through the scree up towards the long ridge of Never Laughs Mountain. There are a number of options to achieve the ridge and from there walk to the summit of Never Laughs and feel the joy.
The trail is strewn with down falls and there is some serious bushwhacking needed to achieve the scree slopes below the cliffs. Once the scree slopes are reached expect large boulders followed by smaller boulder and finally followed either by difficult cliffs or flour-like scree that is enjoyable to descend through but a real drag to climb up. You will not be laughing.
The long saddle between Never Laughs and Ellsworth appears to be climbable as well and could be reached from the Buttercup Park trail but it skirts further away from the Never Laughs as it follows Paradise Creek thus leading to increased bushwhacking.
Please note: The Buttercup Park trail along Paradise Creek is not maintained and is in poor shape.
Never Laughs Views
It would seem crazy and may lead to never laughing if the decision was made to retrace the route from Ellsworth and Scenic Point. So consider descending by one of the following options.
Aster Falls Descent Route:
This is for sure the most logical route for descent but expect some difficulties here as well. There are a number of places to descend off the true summit. Skirt below the cliffs on the Aster Falls side of the drainage. Eventually (hopefully) you will join in with the Aster Falls Trail and follow it to the South Shore Trail and then back to the Two Medicine Parking Lot. This is the route recommended by Edwards in his book, A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park.
Paradise Route as a descent route:
If this descent is considered traverse to the lowest saddle to the north of the true summit. A scree filled gully will aid on a rapid descent for about 1,000 feet. Work your way to the right trying to maintain as much elevation as possible. Eventually it will be necessary to approach the lush valley floor and bushwack until you (hopefully) locate the old Buttercup Park Trail. It is easy to miss as one of my party did not even see it he was so busy scouting a route through the thick underbrush and downfalls. This trail will lead to the South Shore Trail and then back to the parking lot at Two Medicine.
When To Climb and Weather:
Never Laughs Mountain in June 2009 from Point 8650.
Never Laugh’s lower slopes are open early in the year due to its longer exposure to the spring and early summer sun. There might be snow along the trail in June but generally climbing this peak should be easily accomplished between the middle of June and October. If earlier in the spring consider approaching on the more open north side of the ridge there may be less snow as there are few trees on the Paradise Creek side of Never Laughs.
It would also be possible to do an off-season trip to the summit of Never Laughs in conjunction with other peaks such as Ellsworth, Mount Henry and Appistoki Peak. It would be possible to ski from the town of East Glacier and summit these peaks but it would be a multi day trip with winter camping and back country skiing with a risk of avalanche and possible high winds. It could be cool as well as cold!
Weather in Glacier National Park is subject to change quite rapidly. Plan accordingly and consider alternative trips if the weather does not cooperate.
Camping and Gear:There is a park campground at Two Medicine.
Other options for camping include: GNP Campground Information, USFS Campgrounds, Camping on the Blackfeet Reservation or East Glacier Campgrounds.
Crucial gear includes: bear deterrent spray, lots of water, sturdy footwear and a camera. Trekking poles are also helpful if so desired.
There are no techincal pitches on these route so no gear is needed for the routes featured on this page.
Never Laughs Mountain Links:
Glacier National Park in Pictures
Glacier Mountaineering Society
Two Medicine Trails