Swiftcurrent Mountain and Iceberg Peak

Well it was bound to happen at some point, as Matt and I tend to be quite ambitious when planning hikes.  And today was the day; for the first time in Matt and I’s hiking trips together, we bit off more than we could chew.

We decided to try a double summit of Swiftcurrent Mountain and Iceberg Peak in Glacier National Park in the same day.  We left the Loop trailhead around 9 AM (unfortunately, we had to get a backcountry pass for our backpacking trip in the morning or we could have left earlier).  From there we hiked about 4.2 miles to Granite Park Chalet, gaining somewhere around 2,000 feet elevation along the way.  We had some excitement on the way up, discovering fresh bear tracks along quite a bit of the trail as we ascended.

Bear track along the Loop Trail (or someone with really wide feet wearing Vibram FiveFingers?)

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the bear seemed to have left the premises earlier in the morning. We ate lunch off the trail near the chalet before continuing toward Swiftcurrent Mountain, which is another 3.2 miles of hiking with around 3,000 additional feet of elevation gain.

Granite Park Chalet – a primitive hotel in the mountains

After having reached the summit of two mountains the previous day, my legs were a little tired, and I think I had to ask Matt to stop and rest briefly at about every other switchback on the way up.  I nicknamed Matt the mountain goat on this ascent, as he kept going and going just like the mountain goats on the mountains around us (if you have never seen a mountain goat on a mountain, they are FAST and very agile on the cliffs; trying to get close pictures of those guys was more than a challenge even though we startled more than one on our hike).

Hiking along the switchbacks on Swiftcurrent Mountain

At the summit of Swiftcurrent Mountain, a small lookout tower still stands as a private residence to Alex and Liz (according to the sign posted on the door).  We tried to figure out what they did, living on top of the mountain, but while we could see a man working inside, no other information was given.  However, who could blame them for living there. The views from the summit are breathtaking – 360 degrees around Glacier National Park. While Matt took pictures, I (and my tired legs) rested on the rocks and took in the view.  After Matt had paced around for a while, I asked him if he wasn’t at least a little tired? (I mean most people are after gaining 5,000 feet elevation change in less than 8 miles) Matt’s reply, “No, I feel great – my legs, my knees, my lungs – everything feels great.”  Me: “Wanna share?”

As close as one can come to Nepal…without leaving the U.S. of A.

The lakes along Swiftcurrent Pass

When we had reached the summit of Swiftcurrent Mountain, I had quickly realized that we were not going to get over to Iceberg Peak from the summit, as the sheer cliff drop-offs made that an impossibility without ropes.

Surveying the ridge connecting Swiftcurrent Mountain to Iceberg Peak

Iceberg Peak in the distance, with the ridge we need to cross in the foreground

However, I had recalled that the directions we had read said that you could cross over from the lower slopes of the mountain on game trails.  So as we descended we watched for a place that we might be able to cut over.  We quickly found what we were looking for and began scree skiing (okay, not really – but scree running perhaps) along the side of the mountain to the saddle that connected Swiftcurrent with Iceberg Peak.

Scree “skiing”

Scree running

The scree ended after a short while, and most of the saddle consisted of scrambling over rock and just hiking around the ridgeline.

Matt planning our route

As mentioned earlier, the goats were out and about. One group was walking across a snow bank, and we managed to get a picture of a few of them.

Mountain goats

Since we were unable to walk across the snow bank, we skirted around it instead.

Matt skirting a snowbank

Daylight was really catching up to us at this point, as were the amount of food and water we were carrying.  Additionally, Iceberg Peak itself is very steep, with steep cliffs on either side of our approach.

Looking over at Iceberg Peak

After having made it to the southern part of Iceberg Peak, (almost 3 miles from Swiftcurrent Mountain) we decided to turn back for safety.  We were both a little disappointed that we hadn’t been able to reach the summit, but had a lot of fun all the same just hiking on top of the world between the peaks.  As Matt says it, “this is how hiking should be, just making your own trail up a mountain, for views that are absolutely amazing.”

Looking back at Swiftcurrent Mountain (far left) from our turnaround point below Iceberg Peak

Published in: on August 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Look beautiful! Good decision to turn around.

  2. Fantastic day! Granite Park Chalet is someplace I have wanted to go since my first trip to glacier many years ago! Good decision on not forcing the hike at the end. Maybe our Smokie Mtn Death March had a greater purpose! Looking forward to seeing and hearing more!

  3. Incredible views!

    “I concur” (with your parents affirmation of the decision to alter your original day hike plan). Nice photos and journal entry Allison.

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