GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

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GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 8:37 am

Figured with the bad news of late, I could share some positive experiences. My hope is that this is my experience (lessons learned) are helpful to others. This was last year's trip from Siyeh Bend to Kintla Lake starting 8/29.

Days -1
I wanted to do the great traverse to see Hole in the Wall and Boulder Ridge area. Having done Belly River the previous year, and my fascination with Piegan pass, I decided to start from Many Glacier or SIyeh bend going through the tunnel as starting from Chief Mountain seemed boring, harder logistics and missed nearby highlights. I also decided to go East to West to save the new to me areas until the end, and I find Piegan and the tunnel much better south to north than reverse.

So I put the permit in for ELF-MOK-KOO-HOL-UPK staring at Many Glacier with the request of adding MAN for the first night starting at Siyeh Bend. I put down 4 people (not that it matters) in hopes of coercing my wife and father to come along. My dad is an eagle scout and my wife has gone with me on several backpacking trips with tent or hut-to-hut backpacking - but this would be a big step up for both of them in terms of backcountry. I ended up receiving my permit 1 month later (4/14) at the tail end of approvals, and according to my tracking this was the last date available in the 2 week period I put in for.

I put my father on a training regimen, mostly for building joint strength / durability, but also to add a little muscle. My wife is in better shape than me, so that was more of a psychological hurdle. In the end near departure neither wanted to come, doubting their capabilities, but I guilt tripped them otherwise, so on we went.
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 8:38 am

Day 0 -
Many Glacier advanced and walk-in permit spots were all full before we arrived Kalispel, but I figured I would head to the backcountry office to see if I could beg a hiker/biker reservation or at least give me my existing permit 2 days prior to the first night so I could start hiking the next day and not need to add in the transportation gymnastics of going to the backcountry office and start hiking the same day.

From the prior experience and speaking with rangers, the hiker/biker campground at some front country sites (most importantly MAN) is essentially a walk-in site that will be 'available'. The site at MAN is right across from the actual 'backcountry' site and has maybe 4-5 tent areas, but have been told they have overflow beyond this and don't turn anyone away by the rangers (the only way to accommodate CDT hikers). So while MAN might not have been available for walk-in backcountry reservation, I would have a site and start via the Piegan pass either way. This is great but creates a problem with getting the permit if hiking to a hiker/biker the night prior, since you can't pickup the permit until the day before the permitted trip starts, and the backcountry office hours aren't ideal for that as they close early and there is some risk of the trail conditions changing. Long story short, the backcountry office should be able to provide a permit 2 days before or acknowledge hiker/biker and add that to the permit. MAN is just too big of a pinch point for many hikes, it is a shame when it is just part of the front country site and the backcountry sites there are often not full (people skip).

Long story short, backcountry office followed policy and couldn't issue my permit t-2. So after reviewing our options, we determined logistics as follows (went with the cheapest): rent two vehicles, drop one at Kintla lake CG, return the other, get free shuttle to hotel, in morning get free shuttle to Apgar, pickup permit, glacier shuttle to Logan, glacier shuttle to Siyeh, hike to MAN and stay at hiker/biker.

Also, of note was that boulder pass area was closed earlier in the season due to bears. When I was in the Apgar BC office they received a radio call on another bear bluff charge reported, which was a little unerving as that was almost a week away and we would be cutoff from our car and camps if that trail was closed. Ranger reassured us no worries (whatever, no worries to them). Goat Haunt ranger station was closed for the year, so if they were to close it, we'd have little way to know once we passed Many Glacier. We asked the ranger at Bowman when dropping off our car and she said she hadn't heard anything (go figure). More on the bear issue later.
Last edited by zozeppelin on Sat May 09, 2020 11:45 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 8:38 am

Day 1 -
Itinerary: Siyeh Bend to Many Glacier Campground
Mileage: 15
Elevation Gain: 1720
Elevation Loss: 2642
Bear locker: yes

Started the day at Spring Hill Suites Kalispell, which has a glacier free shuttle stop offered by Eagle Transport. I confirmed with the hotel manager the day prior whether the shuttle needed reservation/arranged and where to meet - it was explained it stops there every at the hotel entrance and no need for reservation - so all good.

Ate breakfast and waited outside at 6:30 for the 6:46 shuttle. About 6:50 passes and still nothing, but I did see a short bus pass by the main road and didn't bother turning in. At 6:55 I realize something is wrong so I go to call ... and they don't open until 7. So call dispacth at 7, they call driver and driver says he already passed and no one was there, I say BS, so dispatch has him turn back around and pick us up (they mentioned he is not the normal driver). So I get on and don't say anything and driver starts to complain and I simply state we were outside waiting early clearly visible and we watched you blow by. He was confrontational, which caused some of the passengers to complain. Seriously?

So anyways we arrived Apgar around 8:30. Had to stop here to pickup the permit where normally would head to Avalanche Creek to pickup the shuttle to Logan. So I ran to the BC office, picked up the permit, ran back and still no shuttle. Apparently school just started that week so the GNP shuttle drivers all went back to school bus drivers and we're SOL. About 4 hours later finally made it to Siyeh, after having to wait an hour each at Apgar, Avalance and Logan - Logan being the worst. What a mess and pretty avoidable with some BC office common sense (give the permit t-2) and bus drivers doing their job. Good thing I grabbed the permit because we probably wouldn't make it in time to Many Glaicer.



So onto probably my favorite hike in Glacier, Piegan Pass. A nice little jaunt of about 2 hours up to the pass. The view of the sweeping glacier carved mountains with the mature forest crawling up against the steep mountains always has me in awe. This time I saw something that I hadn't ever seen before, and that was the Jackson glacier (I believe) to the south, really cool. Anyways after reaching the peak, there are a couple nice lakes and waterfalls on the way down.

I always break for lunch at the river crossing, then the slog through the bush past the two lakes (Josephine and Swift Current) to Many Glacier. I don't much like this portion of the hike, but there are several options of going around the two lakes - you are heading north and the campground is on the west side - so I always stay west of the lakes and usually drop down into the lower Grinnel Lake for a relief from the slog. This is where you start to encounter clean people from Many Glacier. Also the west side of the lakes usually have bear activity in my experience, and you'll see people in the boats pointing/staring at them. The East side is the horse trail I believe, with the hotel on the East side. If anyone has any recommendations on preferred path I'm eager to know.

We arrived the campsite and to my surprise all but one site was taken. From observation it appeared people were using it as a base camp for hiking in the area ... I think of it as more of a passthrough. A good dinner and some beer/wine to wash away the breakin on our bodies from the day.

View of the pass
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View approaching pass looking south
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Almost to the pass still looking south (my favorite)
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At pass looking east (Siyeh Mt?)
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At pass looking north
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At south end of Swiftcurrent looking north to hotel
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Last edited by zozeppelin on Sat May 09, 2020 5:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 8:38 am

Day 2 -
Itinerary: Many Glacier Campground to Lake Elizabeth (foot)
Mileage: 10
Elevation Gain: 2480
Elevation Loss: 2518
Bear locker: yes

This is probably my second favorite hike in Glacier, until maybe the last 2 miles where the knees aren't conditioned for the steady yet unrelenting downhill. Trail was steeper than I recall after iceberg lake split. I always aim to have lunch at the tunnel, but so far always have pulled up short at the base of the lake for some energy prior to the final climb. The views on either side of the tunnel are remarkable and unique. Campground eventually filled up - a hiking club from MN finishing up the northern circle, and some dudes who decided it was ok to prepare their food over fire on the beach (bad camper behavior was a theme this trip, I said something and they said they were just boiling water ... as if that was ok .. but of course that water was for their dehydrated meals they would eat shortly also on the lake shore).

The trail to Iceberg Lake was closed after the junction due to bear activity. This confused the permit issuing ranger two days prior, where I had to explain the trail we have is fine (open) after being told our trail is closed and we would need a reroute. Met a nice couple who were bear spotting infront of Many Glacier Hotel.


Looking back south at beginning of day
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Looking towards Swiftcurrent Pass (?) and I believe you can see the watchtower
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The obstacle
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Middle of 2nd switchback
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No words
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Last look back
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Hello tunnel
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What is on the other side .. our campground seems so close...
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Helen (not seen) and Elizabeth
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There's Hellen
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Elizabeth in the morning
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Last edited by zozeppelin on Sat May 09, 2020 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 8:39 am

Day 3 -
Itinerary: Lake Elizabeth (foot) to Lake Mokowanis
Mileage: 9.8
Elevation Gain: 378
Elevation Loss: 290
Bear locker: no, pole hang

A well needed recovery day. Ever since I stayed at Glenn's Lake the trip prior, I was memorized by Pyramid Peak and vowed to return to Lake Mokowanis.

About an hour in we crossed Cosley, which is always a nice on the feet and a good opportunity for a dip - one could go around the long way by taking the suspension bridges, but what fun is that. While I was drying off, a bald eagle flew overhead and was only able to snag trailing photos. Had lunch at Cosley campground, which has a nicely located food prep area by the lake with a view. We ended up being the only people in the campground that night, pretty cool.

Not knowing if I'd ever get to return, I had planned on a couple side trips, namely Margret Lake and Upper Boulder trail. So I went off to find Margret Lake. Along the way we ran into a moose, which was pretty cool. The waterfall was nice and I assumed the lake was just right at the top .... and nope, so I kept climbing the drainage and climbing. By the time I reached the upper waterfall the weather really started to turn and it was definitely time to turn back. I'd guess I was maybe 10 minutes from the lake, but I really didn't want to be climbing all over wet smooth rock without a clear trail - still got pretty wet even with my rain coat on - was hard to judge the weather/clouds as that valley is pretty tucked in with the high mountains surrounding. The ran came down pretty hard for maybe 60-90 minutes and despite my best efforts on tear taping, seam sealing, poly coating and uv restoring my copper spur, it still seeped - so that wasn't fun.

Finally made it to the Cosley
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Looking west towards Stoney
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Upper Stoney 'plateau' more visible and Pyramid Peak (my favorite)
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Hello Mokowanis
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Between the Eagle and the Moose, probably cemented the trip as a success
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Lower falls
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Falls steps
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Quitting point
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Good morning
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Last edited by zozeppelin on Sat May 09, 2020 8:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 8:39 am

Day 4 -
Itinerary: Mokowanis Lake to Kootenai Lake
Mileage: 12.1
Gain: 2410
Elevation Loss: 3055
Bear locker: no, pole hang

Up and over Stoney. I like this hike as well because you keep running into different areas as you wind through the climb never quite sure where the pass will be, so you see some nice waterfalls and lakes on the way to the top. I always feel eerie on the last switchbacks headed to the pass, as if I know there are bears around but I just can't see them.

The descent has always been pleasant, but I have never tried it in the opposite direction. It is a bit choppy in parts but I think that helps give variety which saves my knees over say a very nice downhill like Ptarmigan. Pictures are going to be limited because it was overcast and most of them have the crew in them (trying to avoid showing them).

Only saw one person hiking this day, a CDT trekker we meet at the Stoney / Goat Haunt junction, she was going for it all the way to Canada that day. From that junction onward, the hike was all new to me, so that was exciting, new places and new words I can butcher the pronunciation of (Kootenai for starters). Campsite was full upon arrival. A couple of guys from NY, who proceeded to wash their dishes (with soap) in the lake. A couple ultralight tents who I never saw, presumably in bed then early risers. Finally a solo hiker completing the PNT trail. He relayed that he was bluff charged on Boulder that day, with his bear spray safely packed away. He said he went to report it to the ranger at Goat Haunt, but there was none since it was closed for the season. I have really mixed feelings on this, first of all safety first. But second of all, if you are crossing Boulder, you likely know what you are doing, and bears come with the territory. He may have wanted to report the bear incident in good faith for making others aware, but an overzealous or inexperienced range could hear that and shut it all down. I understand the carcass on trail, bears eating food in camp, many bears near front country trails, etc precautions, but bears should be expected or at least anticipated. This section of the trail was shut down earlier in the season and was my fear all along - arriving with it still shut down or even worse shutting down mid hike.

Kootenai was an ok site. I would have preferred a clearer/cleaner lake, but that is probably optics more than anything. We could barely make out some moose at dusk as I understand is typical in the lake. The next day would be an early start to make it to Hole and the Wall and hopefully not see anyone at Goat Haunt to stop us.

Starting climb looking back on belly river
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Sun making it over Pyramid Peak
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Atsina (?) and Cathedral Peak (?)
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Goodbye Belly River
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Wahcheechee (?)
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At the pass looking back
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Stoney Indian Lake (doesn't do it justice)
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Looking at Kootenai(?) Peak from foot of lake
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Kootenai Lake in the morning
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Last edited by zozeppelin on Sun May 10, 2020 8:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 8:39 am

Day 5 -
Itinerary: Kootenai Lake to Hole in the Wall
Mileage: 13.5
Gain: 2440
Elevation Loss: 460
Bear locker: no, pole hang

This was the day I anticipated the most coming in, and later the day I had the most anxiety about regarding whether the trail would be closed or not. Day started fast as we flew to Goat Haunt, which was kindof eerie being empty. From there it was up up and up to brown pass and then onto Hole in the Wall. We planned on eating lunch at Lake Francis, as it had good reviews for a campsite. Waterton River campsite right after Goat Haunt was closed due to bear activity. We passed a black bear on the side of the trail, not realizing until we were even with him. Then he crossed the trail behind us, appearing indifferent. Janet looked pretty boring (rock pile). Francis was deceiving because you really drop in there quite a bit to get to the campsite, we decided we were at the point of no return and just kept going down, but it was worth it once we got to the lake. The eating area is still quite a distance up from the lake. When we arrived the lake, there was a group of 3 guys fishing and cooking, they were a little suspicious of us, presumably they shouldn't have been cooking there and maybe not fishing there (?). Brown pass wasn't too bad, some nice views along the way, ran out of water near the top and figured could make it to HOL no problem. I didn't realize how far HOL was away, including the camp being a descent jaunt off the trail. Thankfully going from brown pass towards boulder pass was mostly down. We went a bit slower in that section trying to stay together and make noise as it is tight quarters and all of the bear sightings / scat.

The day was overcast so pictures didn't turn out that great, not being a good photographer doesn't help. Camp ended up being full. Two couples came up from Bowman. One (the lake washers) came up from Kootenai with us. One of the couples was celebrating the husbands birthday, Bowman to Boulder was one of the last trails he had yet to hike in Glacier - pretty amazing. Then the wife said she works with Passman.

HOL is nice no doubt, maybe expectations were too high based on the hype, but I wouldn't put it that much ahead of MOL, ELF, GLH, FIF, STO, GRN, GUN, ELL. Maybe I'm just a sucker for lakes.
The stream and plunge pool past the kitchen was nice and taken advantage of. Bathroom is #1 in Glacier, no questioning that. I'll definitely have to come here again though to fully appreciate, as it was a bit of sensory overload on the approach.

Goat Haunt
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Porcupine - instant favorite
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Bear
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Lake (?) Janet Campground
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Lake Janet
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Nice color contrast
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Looking east from Francis
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Francis waterfall
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Thunderbird lake + mountain?
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Up to Brown Pass, looking way back east
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Brown Pass saddle (I think)
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Brown Pass looking forward west
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Bowman Lake
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Campground
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Thunderbird Peak? + Flowers
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Thunderbird Peak? + Sunset
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Last edited by zozeppelin on Sun May 10, 2020 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 8:40 am

Day 6 -
Itinerary: Hole in the Wall to Upper Kintla Lake
Mileage: 10
Elevation Gain: 1090
Elevation Loss: 3070
Bear locker: no, pole hang

Up over Boulder and then down down down to Kintla. Great views as you corkscrew your way out of Hole in the Wall. Boulder Pass is pretty cool with all the, well, boulders. It was overcast most of the day. Very pleasant hiking all around. Knees were finally acclimated so the downhill wasn't horrible. Kintla Mountain was pretty cool.

At Kintla we ran into a group of girls from MN/WI heading the opposite way (to Many Glacier or Logan Pass, I forget, but via Fifty Mountain). They were in a bit of rough shape rolling into camp but I gave them some encouragement and was pretty confident they'd make it if they could make it to Hole in the Wall. Camera finally died by the time we made it Boulder Pass, so pictures are lacking between having it off for awhile and turning it back on.

Circling out of camp Mt Custer
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Last push (behind)
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Last push (ahead)
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Near Boulder Peak Campground
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Kintla and Kinnerly Peaks
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Upper Kintla and a still a long way down to go
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New Moon
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Last edited by zozeppelin on Mon May 11, 2020 8:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 8:40 am

Day 7 -
Itinerary: Upper Kintla Lake to Kintla Campground
Mileage: 11.6
Elevation Gain: 0
Elevation Loss: 400

Ah final day of the tour. Nothing really noteworth here. Camera 100% dead. Lakes were nice. Didn't lose keys to the car and the car was still there. I felt like 11.6 miles isn't accurate according to my GPS, felt like at least another mile or two. Stopped for the requisite bear claw at Polebridge. Upwards and onwards.

Daily track overlay on Google Earth
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Last edited by zozeppelin on Mon May 11, 2020 8:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby PeteE » Sat May 09, 2020 1:20 pm

I agree about the hike to Piegan Pass. I think I hiked up there 4 times last year. 8)
Great pics. The views are awesome as you round the ridge under Cataract Mt.

Next time while waiting at the shuttle stop(any shuttle stop), put your thumb out, aggressively so.
Take whatever ride comes first. Often as not you will get a ride all the way to your destination.
That plan works better if you have a sign to hold that is neatly printed on white paper with a "thick" sharpie...
And not scrawled on a beat up piece of brown cardboard with a "thin" black sharpie--the method popular with local "panhandlers".

This idea probably wouldn't have worked well in your case with a party of three, but it might have if you were able to flag a pickup truck---like mine :)

So, for the benefit of others reading here today, hitchhiking does work in GNP. I've done it many times.
I consider it perfectly safe to hitch IN THE PARK proper. And same for US2 on the WEST side.
I would not advise hitching outside the park on the EAST side on US2, MT49 or US 89.
And assuming the park opens this year and shuttle service being a maybe, some of you might want to consider hitching.

pete :wink:
"When you're born in this world, you're given a ticket to the freak show.
And when you're born in America, you're given a front row seat."

George Carlin
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby zozeppelin » Sat May 09, 2020 4:23 pm

Hi Pete,
Thanks for the comments. I agree on hitching - I did that two years ago when I was alone. I figured three was pushing it.

On a side note, I always wondered why the park wasn't 'connected' with official free shuttles - thinking Two Medicine, Many Glacier and Polebridge specifically. After having driven to Kintla, I now understand the answer the answer for that side. But for Many Glacier and Two Medicine, would really be nice to have a reliable option, even with a 1-2/day frequency. I was/am planning on a Two Medicine to Lake McDonnald this year, so the logistics there aren't ideal either. I suppose there are the red buses ...
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Re: GNP 2019 - SBE to KLE

Postby PeteE » Sat May 09, 2020 5:42 pm

I don't think there is enough demand for a connecting shuttle like you describe.
However, the real reason imo is that is all Blackfeet reservation land. They would have to approve anything like a shuttle, pay or "free".
And since any shuttle would be a potential source of revenue, it won't be "free". 8)
You can arrange cab service, but it ain't cheap. Red bus service is not an option either.

You can't see the lookout in the picture looking up Swiftcurrent Valley. Bullhead Point in the foreground blocks the view of Swiftcurrent Mt.
The peak on the left is Mt Grinnell with Swiftcurrent Glacier to the right of it.

I have 3 nights at Granite Park in September. I hope to do either Mt Grinnell and/or Iceberg Notch while there.
I didn't make it last year. The wind was FIERCE the day I tried Grinnell from the Grinnell Glacier overlook. :(

ELF is a wonderful campsite isn't it? :)

pete :wink:
"When you're born in this world, you're given a ticket to the freak show.
And when you're born in America, you're given a front row seat."

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