Tag Archives: Gunsight Mountain

Looking For The Head Of A Dragon

Headers On RouteDragon’s Tail is an unofficially named portion of the Continental Divide perched high above the southeastern shore of Hidden Lake.  This serpent’s tail-like ridge was thus named “Dragon’s Tail” by a local climber while climbing Reynolds Mountain.

Long noted by some climbers to be difficult due a convincing goat trail that leads

The Dragon's Tail

The Dragon’s Tail

directly from a shared saddle with Reynolds Mountain that ends in G.M.S. Class IV (5) cliffs after imparting just a degree of hope for an easy route to the summit.

After reaching the top of the small hump in the tail climber’s dreams are quickly shattered unexpected swing from the Dragon.  Many mountaineers have turned around and looked for another mountain to climb with a sense of failure in utter despair.

Take heart you can slay this dragon as well.  Look for the route in Volume 1 of the Climb Glacier National Park series.

Members of the group on the summit

Members of the group on the summit

On an August day I set off from Logan Pass with three companions to summit the Dragon’s Tail.  Present in the company that day were my climbing buddy, John, and his son Mike.  Mike’s friend Scott was the fourth in this party.

The photos are from the actual day of this trip.

Having climbed Dragon’s Tail before we held the keys to the correct route and soon we were standing on the summit congratulating each other as well as enjoying the better than fair weather day.

The young men decided that they vanquished the Dragon and celebrated the event as only youth can do.

Finding that alternate route

Finding that alternate route

Then someone asked … ”Where is the Dragon’s head?”

We decided to find a way off Dragon’s Tail without retracing our steps. J. Gordon Edwards wrote in his climber’s guide that it is possible to traverse from the summit of Dragon’s Tail to the pass on the north side of Floral Park and then return to the outlet at Hidden Lake where the Hidden Lake Trail can be followed back to Logan Pass. Surely we would locate the head of the Dragon somewhere along this route.

The Class VI cliffs on the west side of The Dragon's Tail

The Class VI cliffs on the west side of The Dragon’s Tail

Exploring new terrain in Glacier is not without its false starts.

A quick jaunt to the end of the southern ridge revealed serious G.M.S. Class V (6) cliffs that required more skills, equipment and rope then we had.  We eventually located four G.M.S. Class III (4) couloirs that effectively lead us to a scree ramp about 400 feet below the summit.  The climbing was not technically difficult but required some advance route finding ability.  It was challenging due to the loose scree and the steep angle of the descent.

Ascending to the head of The Dragon's Tail

Ascending to the head of The Dragon’s Tail

Edwards was right when he wrote that it could be done.

The route finding was challenging and there appeared to be little human traffic in the area. We did find one cairn high on the eastern cliffs but no other signs of human use.

After reaching the scree ramp we had to once again regain all but 100 feet of the elevation that we had lost to reach a saddle between Dragon’s Tail and an unnamed elevated point to the south.

Surprise Pass from the Continental Divide

Surprise Pass from the Continental Divide

There is a long portion of the Continental Divide between Reynolds Mountain and Gunsight Mountain that is quite unusual; it has not been named.

Traversing from Reynolds Mountain to Gunsight Mountain would be a challenge due to many intervening points and unseen cliffs.  Although the Dragon’s Tail is part of this section it is not named on any map.

Perhaps the head lies to the west of Dragon’s Tail.

An elevated knob below Dragon’s Tail was guarded by loose scree that rolled with each step we took.  Surely it was guarding the location of the Dragon’s head.  But alas after traversing across its northeastern slope all we found was more scree and cliffs that needed to be navigated through.

Avalanche Lake from Surprise Pass

Avalanche Lake from Surprise Pass

There is no head to this dragon perhaps someone who had passed this way before had already dispatched the Dragon.

With the difficult climbing behind us we were able to enjoy a brief rest the pass between Floral Park and the Hidden Lake basin that Edwards described as a “surprise”.

He described the “Floral Park Traverse” from Logan Pass to Lake McDonald Lodge via the Sperry Glacier Basin as “an interesting way to get to new places”.  This would be a lovely way to see Glacier National Park if 20 miles (32 km) and an elevation gain of 3,500 feet (1066 m) of yo-yo like trekking is an enjoyable to spend the day.

Hidden Lake from Surprise Pass

Hidden Lake from Surprise Pass

After hanging out at Surprise Pass we returned to the outlet at Hidden Lake and then hike the Hidden Lake Trail back to Logan Pass.

No dragons were harmed on this August day.

It was just four guys from Montana spending a glorious day traversing around Hidden Lake.

A total of nearly 5,200 feet of elevation change and about 10 miles were required to complete this trip.

To use a cliche’: The views were amazing and the memories are priceless.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

Find your own epic adventures in Glacier National Park.  Travel off trail and see Glacier National Park from a new perspective.


Source: Edwards, J. Gordon, A Climber’s Guide To Glacier National Park, used with permission from Glacier National Park Conservancy

© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2013


No “Little” Matter

The HistoryOn a the ridge between Avalanche Lake and the Snyder Lake Basin there is a unique little mountain named the Little Matterhorn.

There is no doubt that it was named for the striking spire of European fame called the Matterhorn.

Little Matterhorn stands 7,886 ft. above sea level.  That’s  2,404 m. above sea level for folks that think in metric.

The Little Matterhorn

The Little Matterhorn

It is interesting to note that the Little Matterhorn has also been called Comeau’s Horn. 

Denis Comeau was a local resident who guided groups in Glacier National Park.  he guided the Cannon’s to the west summit of Mount Cannon.  He was a guide for the Sperry Party that “discovered” the glacier in the 1890s.

The first Superintendent of the Glacier National Park, William Logan suggested the name Mount Kalispell.  That might have been a great name but would not be as appropriate as the Little Matterhorn.

Getting to the Little Matterhorn may be as difficult as climbing it.  It is about 11 miles from the Sperry Trailhead near Lake McDonald Lodge and requires 5,400 feet in elevation gain to Comeau Pass.  That’s 1,646 meters for you metric folks.  You still have to descend and then climb the peak.

I am pretty sure you will want to visit this peak even though you may not want to summit it.  

Hike Line of Sight

Hike Line of Sight

I did not include this peak in Volume 3 of the Climb Glacier series due to its notorious reputation of being a finicky peak with loose rock and great potential for death if a climber should fall.

If you make it to Comeau Pass, one of the park’s most beautiful hikes, please consider visiting the Little Matterhorn.

Here are some recommendations: 

  1. Hike “line of sight” towards the peak, picking your way along glacial rock, snow fields and run off streams flowing through carpets of lawn-like grass. The hike is about a mile in distance and a loss of about 600 feet of elevation from Comeau Pass.
  2. Bring your camera.  During summer, this area is like a landscaped garden with natural waterfalls and is very enjoyable.
  3. There is plenty of water.  To filter or not is the question.  I would filter here.  There are a LOT of goats doing their business everywhere.
  4. Don’t linger too long.  Remember you still need to hike 11 miles back to the trailhead.
  5. Stay at Sperry Chalet or the campground.  Make an overnight trip or even a three day trip and really soak up the ambiance of this area.  Sperry Chalet reservations.
  6. If you spend the night consider watching the sunset from the summit of Lincoln Peak.  Find information about that summit in Volume 3.
  7. Consider climbing Edwards Mountain or Gunsight Mountain while you are at Comeau Pass.  These climbs are in Volume 3.

In my opinion hiking to Comeau Pass is one of those hikes that you MUST  add to your bucket list.  It is amazing.

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Thanks for joining in for this small bit of fun history about Glacier National Park. Not all of it is true, but it is interesting.