July 13 to 23

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July 13 to 23

Postby Gent43062 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:18 pm

Hello fellow hikers,
My wife, two daughters, and self will be arriving Whitefish evening of July12, and will need to head back to Spokane on July24. In 2014 we did what 99% of GNP tourists do (if not less), but we loved what we saw that summer and are returning for more (the <1%). I'm really undecided on whether to even mess with permit. My biggest concern now is reading "East Glacier Park has eclipsed the all-time record for February snowfall as its snowiest winter in 46 years." We aren't equipped or trained for much snow... Lot's of time between now and July, but snow is a concern. Anyone willing to share a prediction on July snow coverage?

My wife and I are mid-40's, daughters are 13 and 14. We are comfortable hiking 10 miles on average surface, and can climb/descend 3000' in a day (generally a single pass). Our goal isn't fitness, but to be together, (comfortably--not in pain), disconnect, and cleanse our souls! So... 8-12 mile days (or less!), 35-60 mile total itinerary. Suggestions??? Other points to note are that we will have vehicle to leave at a 'TBD' trailhead. The plan is to utilize local shuttles when available. We will hitchhike too if necessary.

My target itinerary is this:
Day1) Park at McDonald Lake Lodge, ride shuttle to Logan Visitor, hike to GRN
Day2) -->FIF 7.6miles
Day3) -->STO 11.9miles
Day4) -->GLF 8.8 miles (2nd choice COS)
Day5) -->ELF 5.2 miles
Day6) -->MAN 10.5 miles
Day7) -->GUN 4.9 miles (Shuttle from Many to JOE... I realize this is controversial, but I'm just trying to cover as much ground as possible while headed back to car. With single permit)
Day8) -->SPE 7.7 miles
Day9) --> STE 6.7 miles

Total 71.5 miles

Options to vary above itinerary:
1) Park at Logan, return to logan on Day7 (likely by shuttle)
2) Park at Many Glacier, do loop counterclockwise
2a)clockwise
3) If snow is issue, likely park at Many, hike to Mokowonis Lake by way of POI, ELF, then out Chief Mtn Customs, catch shuttle back to Many.
4) Logan to Chief Mtn Customs, either by way of MANY or STO (if route available).

I'm likely giving this too much thought... I'm hoping that flexibility in schedule, timing, luck, high average temps from now until July, all pan out. I plan to stay current on open backcountry sites, and to arrive Apgar well before open to request. If not, we'll reduce itinerary to whatever is available... I hear/read little about the rest of the park, especially the South (Nyack/Coal Creek?)--anyone with experience in South that could make a suggestion? Thanks in advance. Regardless, we're looking forward to the trip! Just trying to make the most of time between now and trip to plan.

Happy Trails!

--Jared and Family
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby PeteE » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:21 pm

Gent43062 wrote:Hello fellow hikers,
My wife, two daughters, and self will be arriving Whitefish evening of July12, and will need to head back to Spokane on July24. In 2014 we did what 99% of GNP tourists do (if not less), but we loved what we saw that summer and are returning for more (the <1%). I'm really undecided on whether to even mess with permit. My biggest concern now is reading "East Glacier Park has eclipsed the all-time record for February snowfall as its snowiest winter in 46 years." We aren't equipped or trained for much snow... Lot's of time between now and July, but snow is a concern. Anyone willing to share a prediction on July snow coverage?

Personally, based in part what I saw snowshoe'ing this past weekend here on the West side, snow coverage will likely be "more than the historical average" for any given location. SNOTELs at Flattop and Many Glacier are well above average right now.

So likely snow conditions, as well as trail and campground closures, make your target itinerary virtually impossible.
Gunsight pass will almost certainly be snowed in plus Sperry trail may be closed due to last years fire.
Snow may delay the opening of Ptarmigan tunnel between ELF and MAN.
The Ahern drift between GRN and FIF will almost certainly be impassible by ordinary hikers.
Stoney Indian pass could be problematic due to snow as well. Sooo... see below.


My wife and I are mid-40's, daughters are 13 and 14. We are comfortable hiking 10 miles on average surface, and can climb/descend 3000' in a day (generally a single pass). Our goal isn't fitness, but to be together, (comfortably--not in pain), disconnect, and cleanse our souls! So... 8-12 mile days (or less!), 35-60 mile total itinerary. Suggestions??? Other points to note are that we will have vehicle to leave at a 'TBD' trailhead. The plan is to utilize local shuttles when available. We will hitchhike too if necessary.

Yes, do consider shuttles to complete your trip. Keep in mind there are two separate systems. Reservations may be required on the privately owned service.

My target itinerary is this:
Day1) Park at McDonald Lake Lodge, ride shuttle to Logan Visitor, hike to GRN
Day2) -->FIF 7.6miles
Day3) -->STO 11.9miles
Day4) -->GLF 8.8 miles (2nd choice COS)
Day5) -->ELF 5.2 miles
Day6) -->MAN 10.5 miles
Day7) -->GUN 4.9 miles (Shuttle from Many to JOE... I realize this is controversial, but I'm just trying to cover as much ground as possible while headed back to car. With single permit)
Day8) -->SPE 7.7 miles
Day9) --> STE 6.7 miles

Total 71.5 miles

Options to vary above itinerary:
1) Park at Logan, return to logan on Day7 (likely by shuttle)
2) Park at Many Glacier, do loop counterclockwise
2a)clockwise
3) If snow is issue, likely park at Many, hike to Mokowonis Lake by way of POI, ELF, then out Chief Mtn Customs, catch shuttle back to Many.
4) Logan to Chief Mtn Customs, either by way of MANY or STO (if route available).

I'm likely giving this too much thought...
Many people come here after having given too little thought...so you're good :)
I'm hoping that flexibility in schedule, timing, luck, high average temps from now until July, all pan out. I plan to stay current on open backcountry sites, and to arrive Apgar well before open to request.
That is precisely what you need to do upon arrival....in my view anyway

If not, we'll reduce itinerary to whatever is available... I hear/read little about the rest of the park, especially the South (Nyack/Coal Creek?)--anyone with experience in South that could make a suggestion? Thanks in advance. Regardless, we're looking forward to the trip! Just trying to make the most of time between now and trip to plan.

The Nyack is mostly pretty primitive, requiring bushwhacking skills, numerous stream crossings(with HIGH water in July) So no Nyack
In my view, and I may well be wrong. You're too early for any decent long backpacks.
The higher passes just won't be open, especially for anyone inexperienced in snow travel.
Soooo....
There are still some good lower elevation itineraries available, the best imo would be in the Belly River region. If the Ptarmigan tunnel opens you could modify your itnerary upon arrival(assumes you get one in the draw)

Maybe something like In at Chief Mountain--->
COS-->MOL-->COS(or ELF or ELH)-->HEL--GAB-->
out at Chief mountain, or MAN if tunnel is open
IF the tunnel opened before you arrived here, you could exit via the tunnel to MAN...
And other options as well via the "walk up" permit process upon arrival.
Any combination of those Belly River camp sites would be good for you....imo 8)


And if you get nothing in the lottery, Just be first in line at one of the permit offices.

:arrow:

Happy Trails!

--Jared and Family


Your welcome.
pete :wink:
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby orin » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:10 pm

Pete remarks about the viability of your route are correct, especially this year. In particular, several of your campsites don't even take reservations until Aug. 1 so you can't ask for them in a July trip request or your application will get rejected. And generally read the backcountry website from top to bottom to avoid mistakes.

See the list here:

https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/upload/Backcountry-Map-Web-2018.pdf
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby Gent43062 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:29 am

Thanks Pete/orin for your responses. I especially find the snow "crystal ball" valuable to lower availability of my target itinerary... Likely wife/myself, or future guys trip will need to revisit this. It'll give the daughters something to work toward on their own :wink:

And I'll definitely be getting acquainted with the Belly River Region in meantime. Looks like some flyfishing potential there... No lottery for me--will just keep informed with posted available sites, and will keep studying for the trip. May try to buddy up with an Apgar Ranger lol.

Thanks again--take care!
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby Gent43062 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:17 pm

One week until our trip, with the 16th being first day on trail! Have made the meals, confirmed the gear... Trying to wake up the "trail legs" even though I know they'll be rudely awakened by the 40lb pack on day1 regardless:shock:

I have COS MOJ ELF HEL GAB locked, but will need to add a night in there somewhere... I'll be arriving St Mary a day prior (15th) so will promptly check out options. I still have an "ideal upper" itinerary that makes me salivate COS GLH MOL STO FIF GRN... But trail conditions between STO FIF GRN (out Many) will be iffy, especially trying to reserve a stay at STO for 7/19 on 7/16... Probably too early. Perhaps someone knows someone who knows someone could share a real "optimistic" trail outlook. Regardless, hoping the heat of summer continues to give us hope.

Ideal lower is COS MOL STO GLH ELF HEL --basically just be nomadic in the Belly region, depending on what's available--which probably won't be much!

Anyway--if any of you are treking the East side 7/16 -23 and happen to come across a family of four, with big smiles, it very well may be us! Or... mutiny on the trail, may be us! :wink:

Happy Trails!

--Jared
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby PeteE » Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:27 pm

Gent43062 wrote:One week until our trip, with the 16th being first day on trail! Have made the meals, confirmed the gear... Trying to wake up the "trail legs" even though I know they'll be rudely awakened by the 40lb pack on day1 regardless:shock:

I have COS MOJ ELF HEL GAB locked, but will need to add a night in there somewhere... I'll be arriving St Mary a day prior (15th) so will promptly check out options. I still have an "ideal upper" itinerary that makes me salivate COS GLH MOL STO FIF GRN... But trail conditions between STO FIF GRN (out Many) will be iffy, especially trying to reserve a stay at STO for 7/19 on 7/16... Probably too early. Perhaps someone knows someone who knows someone could share a real "optimistic" trail outlook. Regardless, hoping the heat of summer continues to give us hope.

Ideal lower is COS MOL STO GLH ELF HEL --basically just be nomadic in the Belly region, depending on what's available--which probably won't be much!

Anyway--if any of you are treking the East side 7/16 -23 and happen to come across a family of four, with big smiles, it very well may be us! Or... mutiny on the trail, may be us! :wink:

Happy Trails!

--Jared



Stoney Indian Lake Cpg. to Stoney Indian Pass / 1.0 mi.
Trail 30% snow covered. Route finding skills required. Ice ax and self arrest skills recommended. per 923 on 7/4/18


Granite Park Chalet - Fifty Mtn. Campground/ 11.9 mi.
Initial Clearing scheduled: 8/1/2018 per 250


Gent43062 wrote:I still have an "ideal upper" itinerary that makes me salivate COS GLH MOL STO FIF GRN...


Mokowanis Lake Trail Stoney Indian Pass Trail to Mokowanis Lake / 1.0 mi.
Clear 7/4/2018 per B-12



I would not count on that "upper" itinerary. The campgrounds might open up, but you still have Ahern Drift between FIF and GRN to contend with.
Very doubtful Ahern drift will be passable during your stay.
Ahern drift is a large, high angle drift with a bad run out and you really don't want to challenge it with your family and heavy packs, UNLESS...
You and your family are properly equipment with crampons and ice ax, and the experience using them.
Strange things happen so check with the Permit Office about the trail conditions before putting in for that route.

Looks like the trail is open to Stoney Indian Pass.

Adding a night... to COS MOJ ELF HEL GAB

One idea would be to add a night at MOL, if you can get it, or if you can't get that...add a second night at MOJ and use the day between to day hike to Stoney Indian Pass and Sue Lake overlook and/or Margaret Lake if you have time.

There could be other options depending on what's available when you get here.
So do be sure to check the website/posting at St Mary after 4:30PM the day before to see what is available.
IF a good site(s) are available, you'll need to be at the permit office EARLY if you want any chance at all of getting a change.

This is what's available for tomorrow. You'll notice that as of now, STO, FIF and GRN aren't even open yet. LOTs of "black squares indicating campgrounds filling up.
That would be a clue to me that getting to the permit office at, or before 0500 would be a good idea.

https://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/ ... status.cfm

My 2 cents

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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby Gent43062 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:30 am

Thanks again for the feedback, Pete--definitely valuable to us.

The research I've been able to do on Ahern Drift mostly shows people scrambling around it. But I don't know dates they did... They don't provide much for comparison to this year. Although we've scrambled with packs before, this still has its own risks... Traversing with crampons and poles is one thing, but an "ice axe" is another--definitely above our level. I do wish there was a way to further research what navigating around looks like... Also curious to what the "average" expected surface of the drift is in late July afternoon (i.e. is there any cut trail, posthole... slush, etc). I realize there are exceptions, but I'm just trying to gather as much info as possible to prepare for "if" I have a choice.

As far as adding a night to existing... I know it's not ideal that I don't arrive visitor center until 7/15, but this can't change. I'll just have to see what's available, and make something of it. I think we'd like to have a 2nd day around MOL/MOJ/GLH... Even GLF or STO could play into it. From what I understand, 7/18 is key to the change. But this is mostly out of my control--I'll just keep tabs on available sites up until I arrive. If we stick with existing itinerary, I'll need to add a night at the end... And I don't want to drop the $$$ on any lodging on East side (we're staying in St. Mary evening of 15th, and it feels like a bad $$$ deal). Any thoughts on where a family of four backpackers could stay outside of the park, in tents, on a drive back from Chief to Whitefish? I find it unlikely that GAB wouldn't be available for an extra night at end of itinerary--this could be last resort, but trying to weigh all options.

Appreciate the ideas/thoughts! Big help!
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby PeteE » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:00 am

As always, you're quite welcome :)

Here is a link from last year with pictures.
And check your private messages.

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=9564&p=102802&hilit=Ahern+drift#p102802

The photos by Marmotman show the Ahern drift in July 20th 2017...and unlike 2017, keep in mind we had record snowfall in many places this year.
The one distant photo makes that drift look less steep than it really is in my opinion.
The close shot shows how steep that drift really is.
Both Marmotman and Ear Mountain have extensive experience in GNP and so their advice must be taken seriously.
Falls are the 2nd leading cause of deaths in GNP after drowning.

You would be going the in opposite direction of the hiker. Going "around" that drift would be problematic imo.
And with GRN, FIF, and STO still closed as of today, it's not looking good for you right now.
Keep watching those pages in the park with open sites and trail conditions. Things can change quickly around here.
Maybe someone else here will have some more current information.

As for a place to stay, there is a KOA campground and Johnson's Campground just outside the gate at St Mary.
In the past you almost never needed a reservation, but that was in the past! GNP has been very crowded the last few years.
I would strongly advise you to call one of those CG's TODAY, the minute you read this and make a reservation for the nights you need.
I've stayed at both. Johnson's is my preference since it's cheaper(about $30/night for a tent space), and usually quieter.

Cheers and good luck!

pete :wink:
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby orin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:55 pm

I crossed the Ahern drift last weekend. To do it I scrambled down from the trail maybe 40 feet to a spot where the drift was narrower and less steep. I put on crampons and crossed then climb back up scree to the trail. Just after crossing I met a young guy approaching the drift southbound. He had an ax but no crampons and crossed it without issue. So it can be done but you shouldn't try it unless you are safe and comfortable on steep snow.
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby orin » Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:21 am

Here is a pic of the Ahern drift taken on July 1, so already a week old and changed from what this image shows.

Image

A few notes.

I was taking the image for other purposes and didn't get the best angle for evaluating the drift. On the left is the trail dropping down the cliff face to the crossing. On the lower right is a bit of a 2' high rock retaining wall on the edge of the trail. So the last 20 or 30 feet of trail out to the point where you start across the scree slope are still totally covered. That is the steepest part of the drift. Just left of the retaining wall you can see a short section of the edge of the drift. To cross I stepped over the retaining wall and scrambled down 30 or 40 feet of rock and scree (just out of view) and crossed where the angle and the distance across are a bit less than where the trail crosses. The normal crossing is about half way between the black dot above the retaining wall and cliff above. Should you slip, the runout is not great. You could easily pile into those rocks at the bottom.
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby Gent43062 » Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:44 pm

Thanks for sharing the Ahern drift info. I'm envious of your early season trekking! Nice picture! Your info along with other information I've researched has us "settling" :D (some sarcasm... we're excited/anxious like never before!) for exploring the Belly Region. Although the possible drifts encountered on the loop would probably be ok for us, I have overall experience/fatigue concerns with all that I was considering past STO (specifically STO-->Many Glacier TH... Half of us have experience on multi-day treks, but this will be a first experience for the other half--and there's some fear of unknown. I want them relatively comfortable so that it's enjoyable. This paired with my "testing" my pack with 7 days of food (~45lb) on a couple miles, and reality set in!

I'm definitely looking at hiking the northern loop... it fits exactly what I like. Already looking at doing it in early Sept, possibly from Waterton. Either the family will become more experienced (to include "knowing" how to read an elevation profile so all "know" the size of the hurdle), or it'll be a guys trip (just responsible for self)! Either way, no days with 28lb of food on my back!

Thanks again for providing the information that helped me with the decision.

--Jared
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby paul » Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:48 am

28 lbs of food for 7 days seems a little high. Are you using freezed-dried options?
We are in the mountains and the mountains are in us. - John Muir
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby Gent43062 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 5:33 pm

28lb is a bit high... We could be uncomfortable with 20lb, ok with 24lb... 28lb is based on us consuming 8k calories/day. 3k for me, 1.5k for each daughter, 2k for wife. When I'm hiking passes every day, I shoot for 150 calories/ounce. But the itinerary of this trip has no passes (but some really cool side trips), is family oriented, and has some culinary luxury built in--so, we're at 125 cal/ounce. Every person is different (physically, and metabolically), and this scales to 'every family'! Yeah, we've packed some freeze-dried options.
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Re: July 13 to 23

Postby paul » Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:00 am

Oh boy, that's tough carrying all that food for everyone in your party. I could never do that.
We are in the mountains and the mountains are in us. - John Muir
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