Tag Archives: Heavy Runner Mountain

Seeing Beauty In Everything

The HistorySometimes I see things and go places in Glacier National Park that few other people ever get to experience.

There are a few moments that I will never forget such as being greeted by a pika on Allen Mountain, hearing elk bulging in Buttercup Park while we were ascending Mount Ellsworth in the Two Medicine Valley, and the spectacular view from the summit of Mount Cleveland.

I also will never forget seeing a wolverine in the basin east of Reynolds Mountain. Throw in a handful of encounters with grizzly bears and I can say that I have a lot of great memories. It is times like these that help me keep things in perspective and cherish the simple things in life. They also help me slow down and look for beauty in the most surprising places.

Natahki Lake from the Mount Henkel route.

Natahki Lake from the Mount Henkel route.

Over the last few years I had heard of a basin in the Many Glacier Valley that nestled two beautiful alpine tarns. It was said that this basin was difficult to reach and was protected by cliffs on all sides. It was also said that this place was magical. As a Glacier mountaineer that kind of description captured my attention.

This basin is as special as the famed Shangri La below Mount Wilbur in Many Glacier. I am pretty sure that it is good there is no hiking trail to this magical place.

This is the kind of place that I imagine the Blackfeet people would use to escape from the view of their enemies or just to go to get some rest and relaxation.

Last year I saw this place from above and then got to visit the valley as we returned from climbing Apikuni Mountain. We had no intention to ascend to the basin but severe weather forced us off the ridge into the valley.

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Apikuni Falls

This place called Apikuni Basin, a large hanging valley, can be found above Apikuni Falls in the Many Glacier Valley. A one mile walk up a hiking trail leads to the base of Apikuni Falls. The waterfall pours over a steep cliff that guards the approach to a beautiful basin above.

Something even more special is guarded by another set of more challenging cliffs further up the valley. The upper portion of the basin is the location of another smaller hanging valley that was carved out by glaciers many years ago. The glacier left two beautiful shallow bodies of water called tarns.

A place like this needs a special name and the upper tarn located below Altyn Peak has a great name.

For some reason the lower tarn is unnamed but the upper one is named Natahki Lake.  This shallow body of water is named for James W. Schultz’ wife, Natahki, which translated means Fine Shield Woman.

Natakhi Lake in the Apikuni Basin below Altyn Peak.

Natakhi Lake in the Apikuni Basin below Altyn Peak.

Schultz was instrumental for recording numerous volumes of information about the Blackfeet Nation and was adopted into the tribe. His Blackfeet name was “Apikuni” or “Appikunny” and the basin, creek, waterfall, and the mountain are named for him. Appikunny means Far-Off-White-Robe in the Blackfeet language.

Fine Shield Woman was the daughter of Chief Heavy Runner.  She was one of the survivors of the Baker Massacre (see V1- 55 of What They Called It). Schultz wrote that she was a person who saw beauty in everything.

It is fitting that this lake be named for a Natahki who saw beauty in everything despite surviving a horrible massacre. It is also fitting that Schultz and his wife Natakhi be remembered by having places in Glacier National Park named for them.

Perhaps we could learn something from Fine Shield Woman’s example. We have so much but most of us are never quite satisfied with what we have.

Natakhi chose to be happy in her life circumstances and this is the example we could all follow.

Life is not about having what you want,

it is about wanting what you have.

Do you want to learn more about the history of Glacier National Park? I am on a quest to learn more and I would be glad to help find answers to your questions. Drop me a line at info@climbglacier.com and I will see what I can find out.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2015



First Backpackers In Glacier

The HistoryHistory has shown that people have been backpacking in Glacier National Park for centuries.

Some of that first backpacking took place at Logan Pass. I hear numerous people talking about driving to “Logan’s Pass” to see the sights or walk up to the Hidden Lake Overlook. Well folks, the correct name is Logan Pass and here is the history behind the name.

Reynolds Mountain from near Logan Pass Visitors Center in July.

Reynolds Mountain from near Logan Pass Visitors Center in July. Snow in the winter is much deeper.

Logan Pass was named for Major William R. Logan, first superintendent of Glacier National Park, from 1910 to 1912. With an annual salary of $3,600, Superintendent Logan faced a lot of dilemmas such as poaching and an enormous forest fire in 1910.

The park also had very few trails. He hired rangers and started making plans to build more trails. At that time, there were only two trails crossing the mountains, one from Lake McDonald to Saint Mary Lake and the other up the McDonald Creek Valley and over Swiftcurrent Pass to Many Glacier.

Logan is also credited with the concept of building the Trans-mountain Road which eventually became the Going-to-the-Sun Road. He would not see his idea of the road become reality; he died in 1912.

The Native American also frequented Logan Pass and they have left a rich history.

This pass has been used for centuries upon centuries before the first whiteman arrived on the scene. It was a well-traveled pass used primarily by the Kootenai Nation and Salish People and occasionally by the Blackfeet.

Schultz wrote that the Blackfeet called the trail to Logan Pass the Ancient Road. He noted that “this pass was used by West side tribes, first the Snakes and later by the Salish and the Kootenai tribes.”

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A small portion of the McDonald Creek drainage and the lower section of Logan Creek below Bird Woman Falls.

The Kootenai called this pass, Packs-Pulled-Up.

As you drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road from the Loop you see the deep valley below Bird Woman Falls. This was where the Kootenai People would travel to cross Logan Pass.

In a tradition thousands of years old, the Kootenai would use snowshoes to cross the passes to go hunting on the east side of the mountains between January and March.

The Kootenai would follow McDonald Creek (Sacred Dancing Creek) from Lake McDonald (Sacred Dancing Lake) to the mouth of Logan Creek  and then follow the creek all the way to the headwall below Logan Pass.

From there the Kootenai used rawhide straps to pull their packs and each other up the ledges on the wall. Men would also stand on each other’s shoulders and help each other as they ascended this steep section. At times only men were on this trip but at other times women and children were along to help.

Sliding down the snow slopes near Logan Pass in July 2014.

Hikers on the snow slopes near Logan Pass in July 2014.

Once on top, at present day Logan Pass, they would send their bundles sliding down slope into the St. Mary River Valley. After sending their bundles they slid down and then walked to frozen St. Mary Lake and proceed to hunt buffalo and bighorn sheep along the shores of the lake.

Backpacking has long been the way of life here in Glacier and history has just proven it.

For more on the history behind the names check out What They Called It. This book features stories about the names along Going-to-the-Sun Road and is available on my website.

Do you want to learn more about the history of Glacier National Park? I am on a quest to learn more and I would be glad to help find answers to your questions. Drop me a line at info@climbglacier.com and I will see what I can find out.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2015

Minor Major Makes Egregious Decision

The HistoryThe United States Army made a number of blunders in their relationships with Native Americans. One of the worst blunders near Glacier National Park was made by Major Eugene Baker of the Second Calvary Regiment of the United States Army.

Heavy Runner Mountain

Heavy Runner Mountain

Heavy Runner Mountain (8,016 ft. / 2444 m.) is named for Chief Heavy Runner who was killed in the Baker Massacre. On Sunday night, January 23, 1870, Major Baker gave orders to 55 soldiers to attack a village in the dark.

This all was the result of the murder of Malcom Clark in August of 1869 by Owl Child and a companion after they had eaten dinner with the Clark’s at their ranch. The white community was outraged and demanded justice. The immediate surrender of Owl Child was demanded; instead Owl Child fled to Mountain Chief’s camp.

After the Owl Child failed to surrender U. S. Army General Philip Sheridan sent a squadron of cavalry and ordered,

If the lives and property of the citizens of Montana can best be protected by striking Mountain Chief’s band, I want them struck. Tell Baker to strike them hard.

And so it was with these orders that Baker rode out with his troops and it was under these orders that Baker commanded them to strike hard. The troops struck the wrong camp. Mountain Chief’s was some distance from the camp the soldiers attacked.

Joe Kipp, a well-known figure in Glacier history and scout for Baker’s regiment, reportedly told Baker that this was not Mountain Chief’s encampment. He told him it was Heavy Runner’s camp but Baker gave orders to proceed.

Heavy Runner was friendly to the whites and many of the people in his encampment were sick from small pox. When the bullets started to rain down, Heavy Runner went out to meet the soldiers and was shot down. Some reported that he was carrying papers from the U. S. government as well as had a U.S. flag draped around his shoulders.

The troops then descended upon the camp and massacred nearly everyone in it.

Official records indicated there were 173 dead and 20 wounded. Nearly all of victims were women, children, or men too ill to defend themselves. This is one of the darkest deeds perpetrated on Native Americans of this region by the white man.

This is a sad bit of history. It is fitting that this beautiful mountain be named for Heavy Runner and let his legacy of peace live on in this International Peace Park.

For more stories about the places in Glacier make sure you check out What They Called It. This book features stories about the names along Going-to-the-Sun Road and is available on my website.

Do you want to learn more about the history of Glacier National Park? I am on a quest to learn more and I would be glad to help find answers to your questions. Drop me a line at info@climbglacier.com and I will see what I can find out.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2015

Head vs. Rock

CGNP Education-smallOkay, once again, this is your head and this is a rock.

It is usually bad news when they meet.

Consider these stats:

  • In the United States, every 21 seconds someone sustains a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and over 50,000 people die from these injuries every year while 235,000 are hospitalized.
  • The American Association of Neurological Surgeons reports that 21% of traumatic head injuries occur in sports and recreation.
  • Males are twice as likely as females to be injured.
  • In one study, wearing a helmet while climbing may have made a difference in 25% of the critical trauma fatalities.
  • Helmets also protect against fractures, concussions, and lacerations.

In the month of July my friend, Chris Rost, climbed to the true summit of Heavy Runner and to the summit of Pollock Mountain.

While neither of these climbs, in and of themselves, was particularly notable Chris was involved in two incidents that further stress the importance of wearing a climbing helmet. Chris is a medical provider and knows a thing or two about keeping his head protected.

Wearing a climbing helmet is a great idea anytime you are around places where there is potential for rock fall or there is a risk of falling.

Helmets are also quite handy for protecting your head if you stand up too tall while ascending a cliff or cleft.

Example #1: Wear a helmet whenever there is potential for loose rock. 

While rappelling from the true summit of Heavy Runner Mountain Chris’s helmet prevented him from getting injured. The video is courtesy of Chris Rost.


Chris told me that the rock was about the size of his hand and is he convinced that he would have got at a minimum a nice cut on his head if not some more serious injury.

Example #2: Wearing a helmet prevents injury to your head.

Hair on the rock

Hair on the rock

In this example a climber was ascending the Great Cleft route to reach the summit of Pollock Mountain. Chris Rost was in the area when this climber was injured and got permission to take the photos. We have intentionally not revealed the climber’s name.

Helmets protect your head if you stand up too tall.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been surprised that when I stand up I hit my head on a rock. Most of the time I have a helmet on and it is just a surprise.

Here are a few recommendations:

  • The best helmet fits well, is comfortable, and is in your price range.  Purchase one that meets these criteria.  Climbing stores, like Rocky Mountain Outfitter, can help you with this.
  • Ouch?!

    Hair donation site, ouch?!

    Make sure you watch the video.  Jandy Cox from Rocky Mountain Outfitter shares his knowledge about different types of climbing helmets as well as how to get the proper fit for your climbing helmet.

  • Carry it until you need it.  There is no need to wear a helmet until starting the challenging portion of the route.  Wear it when you need it, take it off when you don’t.
  • Hang on to it.  There is an orange  Black Diamond helmet on the slopes of Mount Cannon after it slipped out of my sweaty hands while adjusting the fit.
  • Carefully inspect your helmet if you drop it.  Be careful when you lay down your pack.
  • Falling = replacement.  If you need to replace your helmet that means your old one worked.
  • It only works if you wear it!

Thanks Chris Rost for this reminder.

No rocks were injured in the production of this video and photos.

You obviously can see the benefits of purchasing and wearing a climbing helmet.

Be safe out there and climb smart.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2015

Heavy Shield Mountain

The History Mount Wilbur (9,321 ft. / 2,842 m.) is the showpiece of the Many Glacier Valley.

This peak received its current name in 1885 when George Bird Grinnell named it for a business partner, E. R. Wilbur.

Mount Wilbur from the false summit of Mount Grinnell

Mount Wilbur from the false summit of Mount Grinnell

The peak was unclimbed until Norman Clyde summited it in August of 1923.  In those days it was thought to be impossible to climb to the summit of Mount Wilbur.  Clyde, an accomplished mountaineer, climbed it solo and built a huge cairn that was visible the next day from the patio at the Many Glacier Hotel.  This removed all doubt that he accomplished this incredible feat.

James W. Schultz wrote that peak was to be called Heavy Shield Mountain.

Iceberg Lake from the summit of Mount Wilbur

Iceberg Lake from the summit of Mount Wilbur

Heavy Shield was a chief of the Bloods and was also known as Many Spotted Horses because of his preference for pinto horses.  Heavy Shield was the chief of the one of the wealthiest bands on the Blood Nation, they were sometimes referred to as the Many Fat Horses Band.  Heavy Shield amassed a large herd of horses while on the warpath.  It is said that he personally owned around three hundred pintos when he signed Treaty Seven in 1877.

View to the northeast from Mount Wilbur

View to the northeast from Mount Wilbur

Heavy Shield was a man of action. In response to learning of the death of his youngest brother at the hands of the Kootenai Heavy Shield rode out of camp with two companions to “make peace” with the first Kootenai he met.

Here is how Hugh Dempsey told the story.

The Kootenai he met was White Horse, who had been scolded by his aunt for trying to ride his uncle’s horse so he went and stole one from a nearby Piegan Camp.

When White Horse saw Heavy Shield and his companions approaching he was worried but relaxed as soon as he realized the party were Bloods not Piegans. The parties met and Heavy Shield asked White Horse to smoke with them.

While preparing the pipe Heavy Shield told his companions to kill White Horse while speaking in sign with White Horse. When his companions failed to shoot, Heavy Shield stated, “I have killed nine enemy,” he sighed and said, “I guess I will make it ten” and he killed White Horse.

It was said that “the peace Heavy Shield had made was with himself, not with his enemies.”

Interestingly, Heavy Shield Mountain was a proposed name for Heavy Runner Mountain as well.  So please do not associate the name given for a peak as the exact peak that the name was originally provided for.  Names have bounced around … a lot.


1) Don’t climb this one unless you have skills using ropes, harness and the proper gear to safely rappel.

2) Enjoy it from a distance.  Mount Wilbur is easy to spot from various places around Many Glacier and along the Continental Divide.

I want to thank Roger Wolfshorndl; from Kalispell,MT for asking me to write about this spectacular peak. We are planning to climb Mount Wilbur this summer.  I will let you know how it goes.

What piece of Glacier National Park real estate do you want to learn more about?

Send me a message and I will get to work.

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.


Schultz, W. R., Signposts of Adventure, Glacier National Park As the Indians Know It, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926
HAER No. MT-79, National Park Service Department of the Interior, Washington, DC 20013-7127
Ring, Dan, et al, James Henderson: Wicite Owapi Wicasa, The Man Who Paints The Old Men, Mendel Art Gallery, 2010
Dempsey, Hugh A., The Amazing Death of Calf Shirt and Other Blackfoot Stories: Three Hundred Years of Blackfoot History, University of Oklahoma Press, 1996

© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2014

Logan Pass Series – Heavy Runner Mountain

Headers On RouteIn The Logan Pass Peaks Series we will take a closer look at these amazing peaks.  Logan Pass is a climbing wonderland in Glacier.

Heavy Runner Mountain is easy to find IF you know where Mount Oberlin is located.

Heavy Runner Mountain

Heavy Runner Mountain

Ready … look at Mount Oberlin and turn around.  That’s it go ahead, look behind you. The one with all the bumps along the ridge line is Heavy Runner Mountain.

This one takes a bit more work to reach but it is doable. Much approach is either trail or a goat trail.

The key to reaching this mountain is to find the Reynolds Mountain Climbers Trail.  After that it is a fun off-trail adventure to the slopes of Heavy Runner above what the Over The Hill Gang called Eden East.

Heavy Runner Mountain is named for Chief Heavy Runner who was massacred along with most of his encampment by the U.S. Army.  Apparently, he was a good guy and was a friend of the U.S. government.  In fact, he was given a flag and papers to ensure his protection and tradition states that he was shot wrapped in his flag and was carrying his papers.

Bighorn Sheep in Eden East

At one time Heavy Runner Mountain was unnamed, just like every other peak in the park.  One of the names proposed for this peak was Heavy Shield Mountain.  If you want to learn more about Glacier’s history please visit the Glacier History blog.

Heavy Runner Mountain is unique due to having two attainable summits.  

Most climbers use rope and protection to reach the True Summit.  They also rappel from the summit using the anchors that have been placed there.  If this is your plan take a rope, climbing harnesses, a helmet, and gear.  Also plan on replacing the webbing tied into the anchors.

The true summit is reached by a class V climb.  Class V means you could die if you fall (See Rating Your Adventure).  This climb is approximately 65 – 70 feet in height.  There are a number of options so choose your route carefully.  There is a rappel anchor at the top to assist climbers to safely rappel down the chimney during their descent.

View of Heavy Runner ridge line.  A walk in the park!
Most readers will not WANT to reach the true summit so there is a beautiful consolation prize that requires just a bit of Class III scrambling.  This scramble leads to the False Summit that is just a few feet lower than the real one and is MUCH safer.

The False Summit is reached by climbing on class III rock. This is where the summit cairn and register are located. There are a number of route options to the false summit.

Climb Glacier National Park Volume 1 has details for reaching the False Summit on pages 90-99.

Total distance around Reynolds and up to the Heavy Runner Summit is approximately 9 miles and total elevation gained on this route is 2,600 feet.

Recommendations For Climbing Heavy Runner Mountain:

  1. Get to Logan Pass EARLY.  This peak could be an all day adventure if you enjoy the trip and see the sights.  I like to be parked before 9 a.m. as the parking lot is usually full by noon.  You might not need all day for your chosen off-trail adventure but if you get there too late you might not be parking at Logan Pass.
  2. Stay on the trails and established routes.  This is a fragile environment and we want to save it for the next generation.
    A direct approach is generally the way Montanans deal with most obstacles in their path, however in this case the direct approach from Logan Pass Visitors Center is discouraged for a number of reasons.  The area around Logan Pass is fragile and can be highly impacted by off trail usage.  This route would also require increased changes of altitude. There is also a strong possibility of crossing paths with the numerous grizzly bears which are frequently seen from the Visitor’s Center and call this area their home.
  3. Stay away from those goats.  They look cuddly and tame, but they really are wild animals.  Give them space.  Remember you are in their home.
  4. Carry bear deterrent spray.  Grizzlies are seen every summer from Logan Pass.
  5. Do not cross the Hanging Gardens from the Hidden Lake Trail. Follow the Reynolds Climbers Trail from near “Hidden Pass.”  This climber’s trail leads all the way to the saddle between Reynolds Mountain and the Dragons Tail.  See #3.
  6. Summit Oberlin as a second peak.  If you have time you can always come back to Logan Pass and summit Mount Oberlin.  I have done it in under and hour and that included taking pictures and notes for the climbing guidebook.
  7. Carry water.  Logan Pass usually has potable water, but bring your own along just in case.

See you on the routes,


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2014