For my next trip on the Glacier Divide Route, what should I remember from this past one?
- The drive to Glacier National Park from Colorado is intimidating — about 15 hours, depending on the final destination. But it wasn’t terrible, and it’s eye-opening to know that I can reach Glacier in 1.5 days even if I’m the only driver.
- Bring audio books and a smartphone loaded with new podcasts. They create an escape from long stretches of unremarkable road through Wyoming and eastern Montana.
- The popularity of this route will be limited by the availability of undesignated camping permits, which cannot be reserved beforehand and which are at the discretion of the backcountry ranger at the permit office. Permit information.
- Kintla is WAY out there (2 hours from Apgar) and no public transit options exist. Hitchhiking is an option, but it’s probably slow, especially during less popular seasons. Highway 2 crosses Marias Pass, but again it’s not serviced by public transit. The most convenient termini are Waterton Lakes and East Glacier, which can both be connected with a Glacier Park Inc. shuttle.
- The free park shuttle is convenient for closing loops, e.g., start at Logan Pass and finish at The Loop or St. Mary’s.
- A stiff sole with aggressive (or at least moderate) traction is crucial. In early- and mid-season, snow travel should be expected. And throughout all seasons, expect constant travel across and edging on steep slopes covered in hard dirt or slippery bear grass.
- One trekking pole may be better than two. On Glacier’s brushy trails, rarely can two be used simultaneously. And while scrambling or descending steep vegetated slopes, this would leave one hand free all the times.
- Waterproof shoes are terrible. Shame on outdoor brands for even offering them. In dry and hot conditions, feet get hot and sweaty. In wet conditions, feet get wet for a multitude of reasons (e.g. ankle-deep creek crossings, dew-covered brush covering the trail that drips down legs and wicks into socks). Once wet, the shoes take much longer to dry than breathable shoes.
- The Sierra Designs High Route Tent 1FL sleeps two IF: only the canopy is used; and both sleepers are considerate campers, accustomed to sleeping on some of their gear (e.g. backpack), and not plus-sized.
- The High Route Tent’s extra tie-out on the door is very important in strong winds. (On our first night, we estimated gusts to be 30-40 mph.) If it’s not tied out, notable deformation will occur.
- The Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor Pack was perfect. It matched my needs perfectly, in terms of volume, load capacity, and attachment points for trekking poles, ice axe, and crampons.
- Bugs were moderate in the evening and in protected pockets during the day. Skeeters would wake us up in the morning, but were non-existent at night despite temperatures in the 40’s. The bug population was only about half mosquitoes; there were also annoying house flies and non-biting flies.
- I applied Sawyer permethrin spray to my clothing beforehand, and had full-coverage hiking clothing and a headnet. I would not recommend anything less until later in August, when the bugs have faded.
- Trekking pants worn over running shorts was mostly acceptable. The system gets hot in warmer temperatures and when hiking hard, but I’m unsure that pants with underwear would be substantially better.
- DIY permethrin treatment does not seem as effective as factory-level treatment. The force field effect seemed less stellar. Next time, apply it more liberally.
- On personal trips that are not high risk, bring just the DeLorme inReach instead of the sat phone — texting is more convenient for Amanda.
Mountaineering and snow travel
- I steadily became more comfortable with Glacier scrambling, which is often airy Class 3 (which some would categorize as Class 4) on sedimentary limestone. It’s different than the boulder-hopping and the slab scrambles in granitic areas.
- In only one location did we both use our crampons: the north ridge of Thunderbird Mountain. I’m not convinced they were necessary (soft-ish snow, moderately steep), but we had them and we didn’t like the vertical precipice at the bottom of the snowfield. If we hadn’t turned around on the Thunderbird goat trail, we may have needed them to cross a few snow plugs that we could not get up-around or under.
- Ice axes were useful only in one spot: on Sneak Pass, for expanding a slot between the cliff wall and the underside of a snow plug so that we could squeeze through, and higher up to cut steps in a head-high vertical cornice. Otherwise, they were dead weight.
- The experience will vary with the time of year, the wetness of the prior winter, and on individual experience. Dave reported that the snowpack was about average; a cold and wet spring had saved a below-average snowpack.
- On two occasions, the track recorded by my Suunto Ambit GPS watch went haywire. On both occasions, I was experiencing stormy weather with electrical activity. Coincidence?
- Most of the USGS quads of Glacier have 80-foot contours, not the standard 40-foot. This is important to recognize — that makes the relief twice as big!
- Double-check the USGS quads with the Trails Illustrated park map. Old trails on the USGS maps are no longer useful, as they quickly become overgrown, or they have since been burned.
- I did not appear to be digesting the dehydrated vegetables in the Curry Couscous dinner. The following morning, I would promptly expel whole carrot slices and corn. If they simply need more cook time, consider an alternate ingredient — they’re not going to get it.
- Like last summer, I found that a 5-oz breakfast, 7-oz dinner, and four snacks of 3 to 4 ounces is perfect. For the first three days, I can suffice on three snacks.
- The Ursack AllWhite is awesome. It’s 8 ounces and provides reliable protection from rodents and bears. I’m more concerned about the former than the latter, especially at designated camps.
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