Tag Archives: Route rating system

Don’t “Flinsch” When You Read This

The HistoryThere is a real sweet peak above Dawson Pass named Flinsch Peak.

It is pretty easy to climb from the pass and the views of the neighborhood are outstanding.

Flinsch Peak (9,225 ft. / 2,812 m.) was named for a young Austrian, named Rudolf Ernst Ferdinand Flinsch, who came to the area in 1892 with Dr. Walter B. James (the namesake for Mount James) and was guided in the area by William Jackson (of Mount Jackson) to hunt mountain goats.

Flinch Peak stands on the Continental Divide

Flinch Peak stands on the Continental Divide

Flinsch was quite surprised when he looked at a new map of the area and found his name on a peak.  It used to be called Flinsch’s Peak.

James Willard Schultz proposed the name No Chief Mountain for this peak.

No Chief was said to be a great Piegan warrior who led many raid against the Crows.  In one particular raid his younger brother Little Antelope came along and No Chief went against the vision that was given to him.  In the vision No Chief saw bodies of Piegan warriors lying in the underbrush, but he did not see their faces because he awoke before he could see them.

Flinsch Peak from the Rising Wolf Mountain route.

Flinsch Peak from the Rising Wolf Mountain route.

He shared his vision with his party and most of them including Little Antelope did not want to turn back.  In fact, Little Antelope stated that if his brother loved him No Chief would lead them up the valley.

No Chief could not turn his brother’s request away and he lead the party on foot toward the enemies’ camp.  Eventually, the party was discovered by a great number of Crow warriors on horseback.

A battle ensued and Little Antelope and other Piegans were killed.  No Chief fought bravely and led his force against the Crows to ensure that they did not scalp and dishonor on the Piegan dead.  The dead were recovered and buried properly.

View along the Continental Divide.

View along the Continental Divide.

Months later No Chief went back to seek revenge.  He stole a number of prized horses and belongings as well as counted coup on his enemy.  He returned with his spoils and a bag that he refused to let anyone else handle.

He entered his lodge with the bag and told his three wives, who were sisters, that the bag contained the bones of his fallen brother Little Antelope. His wives then feared for their safety and only his oldest wife remained in the lodge.

Eventually the other wives came back as well after they decided that Little Antelope was kind in life so they had nothing to fear from his bones.

No Chief began to speak to his brother’s bones as if Little Antelope were alive.  Some believed that the bones carried on a conversation with No Chief as well.

When No Chief died he was buried with his brother’s bones.

Okay, that might be a little creepy but visiting Flinsch Peak does not have to be.

Here are some recommendations:

  1. Start early.  Be at the North Shore Trailhead in the Two Medicine Valley early in the morning.
  2. Prepare for dry.  There is little water above No Name Lake so plan accordingly.  Filter or carry its your choice.
  3. Take your camera.  There are spectacular views above treeline.
  4. See the Route … Follow the Route.  Use the red-lines in Volume 2 to safely guide you to the summit of Flinsch Peak.
  5. Consider Sinopah. Use the Sinopah tour boat to save about 3 miles of trail travel on the way back.  The last boat leaves at 5:30 pm from the dock.
  6. Make it a bigger day.  If you have the time and energy getting Rising Wolf Mountain is not out of the question.  You could also consider Mount Helen from Dawson Pass.

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.


McClintock, Walter, The Old North Trail or Life, Legends and Religion of the Blackfeet Indians, University of Nebraska Press, 1992 (reprint of 1910 edition)
Schultz, W. R., Signposts of Adventure, Glacier National Park As the Indians Know It, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926
 Holterman, J. Place Names of Glacier National Park, Jack Holterman, Helena, MT, Riverbend Publishing, 2006

© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2014



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.

Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe to the Glacier’s History blog posts!  We send a blog about the history of Glacier National Park every Monday and on Thursday we send out a blog about peaks, routes, etc.

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.



Big foot Sighting In Glacier National Park

The HistoryYep, you read it here first.

The Blood band of the Blackfeet Nation killed a big foot in Glacier National Park before white man arrived.

In fact, the Glacier History feature today is all about the place that they called “BIG-FEET WAS KILLED.”

Mule Deer in the Hanging Gardens.

James Willard Schultz wrote, “in the long-ago, several hunters of the Blood tribe discovered and killed a large big-feet (caribou) bull at this place.  These animals were so rarely found so far south, on the east side of the range, that the place was named after the occurrence.”

Now that place is called the Hanging Gardens.

The “Hanging Gardens are to the beautiful flower-filled terraces between Logan Pass and Heavy Runner Mountain.

If you have been to Logan Pass and walked along the boardwalk toward Hidden Lake you no doubt could imagine seeing caribou in the meadows.

Recommendations for visiting Where Big-Foot Was Shot.

  1. Stay on the trails.  This is a fragile area and the trails allow you to see it in all of its beauty.
  2. Look Closely.  There are a lot of different kinds of flowers in the Hanging Gardens.  You might even notice less mature versions of the same flowers as you gain elevation.
  3. Take lots of photos.  I have been to Logan Pass numerous times and every time it is different.
  4. Keep your eyes open for Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats.  These ungulates are always around.  Goats are easy to spot and the sheep usually hang out near the “Hidden Pass” or near the Hidden Lake Overlook.
  5. Take some time and climb a mountain.  Mount Oberlin and Reynolds Mountain are great options for climbing.

For more information about climbing and off-trail travel near Logan Pass see Volume 1 of Climb Glacier National Park.

Do you have a favorite area of Glacier National Park that you want to know more about?  Drop me a line in Contact Us and I will get to work on it.

Thanks for reading about this spectacular area of Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park history is fascinating.

Not all of it is true but it is all interesting.


Source: Schultz, W. R., Signposts of Adventure, Glacier National Park As the Indians Know It, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926

© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2013

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




Is Climbing In Glacier For You?

Headers GNP GlimpsesWhen people hear the word “climbing” most think about wearing a harness while hanging on a rope that’s anchored into the rock using gear like Friends or wired stoppers and having scary exposure.  We  read stories about climbers dying every year in Yosemite or on some huge peak in the Himalayas.

That is so far from what climbing in Glacier National Park is about.

This is a fantastic ridewalk.

This is a fantastic ridewalk.

Glacier National Park has just a few peaks that require gear and hanging from ropes with huge amounts of exposure and Climb Glacier National Park is not about that!

Climbing in Glacier is all about getting to the summits of spectacular peaks using goat trails, scrambling through short cliff sections with limited exposure and walking along ridges with fantastic views.

There is a rating system that provides guidance about how dangerous the route is in Glacier National Park.  It was developed by J. Gordon Edwards and later adapted by the Glacier Mountaineering Society.

Let’s see if you can Climb Glacier National Park!

Class I: Easy

Trail hiking

Interpretation: If you can walk you could do this, not much of a chance of injury.

Class II: Moderate

Low angle scrambling

Interpretation: Climbing up scree slopes with some rocks and small non-dangerous rocky sections.  If you fall you could get scraped up, twist an ankle or maybe break a bone.

Class III: Difficult

High angle scrambling, moderate cliffs, considerable exertion. A rope might be  necessary for beginners.

Interpretation: Fall on this one and you likely will get injured and might die under the worst circumstances.  We have never used a rope of this class of climb but would if someone needed it.

Class IV: Very Difficult

Higher angle cliffs, increased exposure. Rope required for belaying.

Interpretation: You will definitely get injured if you fall.  Check every hold before placing your weight on it.  Death is a possibility.

Headers On RouteClass V: Severe*

High angle cliffs with severe exposure. Protection placed by leader. Technical climbing experience is necessary.

Interpretation: You better use a rope to avoid falling and dying.

Class VI: Extremely Severe*

Direct aid technical climbing. Overall rating in this classification reserved for only the biggest technical climbs such as the North Face of Mount Siyeh or the East Face of Mount Gould.

Interpretation: Don’t do this.  Even with great technical climbing skills this is super risky with no room for error.  Falling equals sure death.

 * Climb Glacier National Park does not feature any routes that require this level of skill.
A portion of the route to the summit of Edwards Mountain.

A portion of the route to the summit of Edwards Mountain. The climbing route travels on the climber’s left.

So there you have it.  Most of the routes found in the Climb Glacier National Park guidebook series are Class 2 or 3.  Some of them have short sections of Class 4, but you can pick the ones with lower ratings until you are comfortable dealing with a bit more exposure.  We are not talking exposure like thousands of feet, we are talking exposure as far as risk when climbing trough short sections of more challenging terrain.

The GMS System rates the climbs like this:

Class II (3) – which means most of the route is Class II and the parenthesis indicates that most difficult section is rated class III.


  • Give climbing in Glacier a shot.
  • Decide what skill level you are comfortable with and able to accomplish.
  • Find a guidebook that you like, like the Climb Glacier National Park series (shameless plug!), and select the peak you want to try to climb.
  • Get out here and try it!
  • Let me know how it goes.

Remember ascending is optional but descending is not.  Be safe and wear that helmet.

See you on the routes!