Tag Archives: Climb Glacier Education Series

Blue or Turquoise?

The HistoryThere is a special view of a lake that I never get tired of. Many people have enjoyed the same view but it takes a lot of work to get there.

Every time I see the lake it reminds me of just how incredible the colors of water, rocks, trees, and grasslands truly can be. I spend a great deal of time just soaking it in because I never know when I will be back there again.

Each time I have a hard time deciding if the lake is blue or turquoise.

Cracker Lake from the summit of Mount Siyeh

Cracker Lake from the summit of Mount Siyeh in 2012.

Cracker Lake is located about 4,000 feet below the summit of Mount Siyeh. I have been up there a few times and on all but one of the climbs I enjoyed looking at the glacier milk-filled lake. The 2010 trip to the summit yielded airplane views with peaks sticking out above the clouds but no view of Cracker Lake.

Cracker Lake is said to have been named in 1897 after two prospectors left their tin of crackers hidden in some rocks near a mineral lead they were examining on the shore of the lake.

L. S. Emmons and Hank Norris started calling the lead “where we left the crackers” and soon the area came to be referred to as Cracker Lake.

Before this event the lake was called Blue Lake.

“Blue” hardly fits as a descriptive name for this lake that is more turquoise in color than blue. The silt from Siyeh Glacier gets suspended in the water and sunlight refracts off of the particles and produces this beautiful color of blue. When the glacier is gone the color of the lake will likely change to dark blue.

Another lake in Glacier is named for its color. Can you tell me the name of the lake and who provided the name?

James Willard Schultz, who named a lot of places in Glacier, suggested the name Carrier Woman Lake. I am not sure who Carrier Woman was but she surely was influential since naming places for influential Blackfeet was part of Schultz’s agenda while naming peaks and places in the park.

The Cracker Lake Mine was a huge part of the mining operations in the Many Glacier area. A great deal of money was invested and a crude “road” was built up Canyon Creek to deliver mining equipment to the head of Cracker Lake.

Cracker Flats

Cracker Flats with Altyn Peak and Apikuni Mountain in the distance in 2014.

The Cracker mine shaft was dug some 1,300 feet into the mountain. In the end the whole business investment ended up yielding no ore and the investors pulled the plug on the mine.

The equipment that was hauled there was never used and remains at the head of Cracker Lake as a testimony to man’s fight to better themselves against a great deal of adversity. If you visit this site please leave everything the way you find it. Tampering with or removing property in any national park is a federal offence. 

Frank Bond of the National Park Service referred to the mine as the Cracker Jack Mine in 1929.

Cracker Lake is a sight to see. I personally have yet to visit the shores of the lake but I have seen it from all of the peaks surrounding it. I have had little time to just trail hike as my passion is climbing peaks in Glacier.

A trip to the shoreline of Cracker Lake is on the list as are most places in Glacier National Park.


  1. Imagine hauling huge mining equipment through this valley.

    Imagine hauling huge mining equipment through the rock-filled Canyon Creek valley. 2014 photo taken during fire season on the Wynn Mountain climb.

    Take a Hike. There is one trail leading to Cracker Lake. The Cracker Lake Trail is a little over 6 miles one way and it climbs about 1,500 feet. The first half is also used by the horse concessionaires and it is littered with “road apples” and ruts from the numerous horses using the trail. Dodge the road apples and make the hike from the trailhead near Many Glacier Hotel. Once you pass the spur trail to Cracker Flats the horse traffic greatly diminishes and the smell gets much more pleasant. Get an early start and bring water.

  2. Stay out of the mine. Although it is super tempting please do not enter the mine shaft. This whole mountain is unstable and although it is unlikely a portion of the mine shaft could collapse at any time. Most mines have multiple shafts and drops and it would be unfortunate to get injured or lost up there. You also never know what kind of animals hang out in a mine shaft. I have heard of people running into grizzlies in this mine shaft.
  3. Carry Bear Spray and your Camera. Yes there are bears here and yes you will want your camera to capture the views.

Is the lake blue or turquoise? Let me know what you think and drop me a line if you know who named the other lake.

I am on a quest to learn more about the names in Glacier National Park and I have found a lot of super cool stuff. Let me know if you want to know the story behind the name of your favorite place in Glacier National Park.

Purchase What They Called It from my on-line store if you want to learn more about the names in Glacier National Park.

© Blake Passmore 2015


Climb Glacier Education Series: Preventing Sun Damage (Part II)

EducationNo matter where you climb protection of the skin is crucial. Consider the following recommendations to protect your skin.

Avoid the sun during high-intensity hours.

The sun’s rays are most damaging from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reduce the time you spend outdoors during these hours. This is not usually feasible while out climbing or mountaineering.

Cover as much of your skin with clothing as possible.

Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and wide-brimmed hats will offer a significant amount of protection especially if the clothing contains SPF fabric such as those made by Outdoor Research.

Apply Sunscreen Before Going Outdoors

Up to 30 minutes before going outdoors apply SPF 15 or better with a broad spectrum of protection against both UV-A and UV-B rays.

For children use SPF 30 or higher.

Use a sunblock on your lips.

Choose a product that has been specially formulated for the lips, with a sun protection factor of 20 or more. Follow the direction on the sunscreen container for additional applications.

Remember that certain medications and skin care products can increase the skin’s risk of UV damage. Consult with your prescribing physician to determine if you need to take additional special precautions against sun damage.

Protect Your Eyes

When considering protecting your eyes the concern is with UVB light. In high intensities of UVB light is hazardous to the eye and severe exposure can lead to serious eye conditions.

Choosing between glass or plastic needs to be carefully considered.

With this in mind, consider that even untreated eyeglasses offer some protection. However, most plastic lenses provide better protection than glass lenses, due to glass being transparent and plastic lenses are less transparent. Polycarbonate lens block most UV rays. No matter which lens you choose to use make sure that adequate protection is provided on the sides of the eye.

Mountaineers are exposed to higher than ordinary levels of UV radiation, both because there is less atmospheric filtering and because of reflection from snow and ice.

Protective eyewear will prove beneficial reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation, particularly short wave UV. Full coverage eye protection from the side is crucial to ensure adequate protection for the side when there is an elevated risk of exposure such as climbing at high altitude.


To prevent snowblindness always wear goggles or sunglasses. It is possible to make protective eyewear by cutting two small slits in a piece of cloth and then looking through the slits after fastening them around the head.

Snowblindness is caused by burning the cornea of the eye by UVB rays. It typically occurs at high altitudes on reflective snowfields. Headaches, gritty or burning eyes, halos around light, sensitivity to light excessive tearing and temporary loss of vision are the typical symptoms of snowblindness.

To treat this condition consider the following recommendations: cover both of the victims eyes with bandages and control pain with painkillers and a cool compress. Oftentimes within 18 hours the vision will restore without further medical help. Typically the surface of the cornea regenerates within 24 to 48 hours. If difficulties continue seek medical help as soon as possible.

Hopefully you have gained a bit of knowledge about protecting the skin and eyes from damage to sun. If you have any doubts about a patch of skin that looks different please get it checked out.

Here are the signs of Skin Cancer. Use ABCDE

A for asymmetry: When divided in half it does not look the same on both sides.

B for border: Edges that are blurry or jagged.

C for color: Changes in the color, including darkening, spread of color, loss of color, or the appearance of multiple colors such as blue, red, white, pink, purple or gray.

D for diameter: Larger than 1/4 inch in diameter.

E for elevation: Raised above the skin and has an uneven surface.

In conclusion, practice sun safe principles as you venture outdoors. Protect your skin and eyes with the measures that are appropriate for the conditions that you encounter as you are out enjoying the routes and summiting the mountains. Use common sense and prevention to ensure many more years of mountaineering.

Climb Glacier Education Series: Surviving in Glacier National Park


Below is an excerpt from the article Surviving Glacier National Park by Scott Burry that was featured in Volumes 1 and 2 of the Climb Glacier Series.

Surviving in Glacier National Park: by Scott Burry, M.D.

Sometimes staying alive is about getting lucky.  If that’s your plan then please stay home.

Volume 5 (spring 2016 release): A climber braves the wind while climbing on a section of the Continental Divide unofficially named "The Mummy".

Volume 5 (spring 2016 release): A climber braves the wind while climbing on a section of the Continental Divide unofficially named “The Mummy”.

You don’t have to be a grizzled, leathery-faced, backwoods veteran to survive but you do have to be prepared.  If you always travel with the proper clothing and survival gear then you can go out with confidence and a sense of true freedom.  You can bag that peak and in the back of your mind, you’ll know that you’re equipped for the unexpected.

The most important part of survival is being prepared to survive.  It is not about making traps with shoestrings or getting a spark out of a camera battery (although those are cool skills to have and will score big points on the survival scale).

The key to coming back alive is expecting that someday you will be thrown into a survival situation and always being ready for that day.  

Every time you go out.

Volume 3: Climbers on the challenging route to the summit of Mount Brown.

Volume 3: Climbers on the challenging route to the summit of Mount Brown.

You’re Hurt But Not Lost

One minute you’re fine, the next you have a broken leg.  All right, do not panic.  Get your daypack off and take inventory.  Go thru every pocket, every crack, and every zipper.

Your primary objective is always going to be shelter.  That said you obviously see the importance of proper clothing.

Before the climb be a little paranoid and ask yourself “Do I have clothing packed that could get me through the night?”

Volume 3: Members of the group hike along the Ahern Peak climbers trail which leads to the summit from Ahern Pass.

Volume 3: Members of the group hike along the Ahern Peak climbers trail which leads to the summit from Ahern Pass.

You’re Lost But Not Hurt

Here are some questions that will help you decide what to do.

1) Who knows you are here?
2) When will the group be officially overdue?
3) Does anybody know where you are?
4) If you did tell someone where you were going, are you in that spot?
5) What gear do you have and how many days can you survive?
6) Is the group prepared for the current weather or what may be coming?
7) Can you reasonably expect a rescue in your situation or are you completely on your own?

Volume 1: A climber hikes to toward the summit of Piegan Mountain.

Volume 1: A climber hikes to toward the summit of Piegan Mountain.

You Simply Run Out Of Daylight Or Energy To Get Where You Need To Be

If you find yourself here, then ask yourself these questions.  “Can I for sure find my way in the dark?”  “Can I rally and make it to where I need to be if I just rest and eat a little?”  “What weather is expected tonight and am I ready for it?”

Obviously, if snow is coming in and you’re in shorts you have a problem.  This scenario is easy if you’re prepared and can even be fun.  Just get out your survival blanket and make a shelter.  Make an insulating layer out of gear, make a fire, and settle in like an old cowboy.  This is just part of the deal.

Volume 2: Two climbers are headed toward Mount Henry but first they will ascend Medicine.  Medicine is rated as a Class II peak.

Volume 2: Two climbers are headed toward Mount Henry but first they will ascend Medicine. Medicine is rated as a Class II peak.

Severe Weather Moves In Quickly And Now You’re Stuck

What should you do?  Do you pound it down the trail just trying to get out or do you hunker down and wait it out?

That depends on the gear you have with you.  With good rain gear and the energy to motor out then that’s probably the best decision.

If you’re not ready for rain and you’re looking at 10 miles soaking wet with a dropping temperature then hypothermia is a real risk.  It’s a tough decision but you may be better off forming a quick shelter and staying dry.

Take what little daylight you have left and get yourself settled into a place where you can feel safe and with as much protection from the elements as possible.

Whether you stay or go is situation dependent but if you have your quart bag survival kit, at least you have some options.

Scott’s Quart Bag Survival Kit

All of it will fit in a quart bag and can help you stay alive.

– Compass
– Multi-tool
– Emergency Space Blanket x 2 or 1 blanket and 1 trash bag
– 10-15 ft of small diameter cord/rope
– Small, hotel shampoo bottle filled with fire paste
– Vaseline rubbed cotton balls in a film canister
– Magnesium block & flint or other “spark striker” device
– Old style cigarette lighter with flint and spark wheel
– About 2-3 ft of duck tape wrapped back on itself
– Small LED light preferably with a strobe function
– Extra batteries for electronic navigation devices such as SPOT or G.P.S.
– A few safety pins of varying size
– 1 x 1 ft piece of aluminum foil
– Signal mirror
– Baggy of Ibuprofen or other stronger painkiller if available

There you have it.  Just some ideas for you to think about before heading out on your next adventure.

See you on the routes,


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2013