18TH Annual Kercher Glacier Classic- August 18-21, 2022

Divide Creek Campground, St. Mary, Montana

Another year and another great Classic!  33 of us made the trip to St. Mary this year and enjoyed some great trips, great camp life and great weather.  It was a great mix of first timers and seasoned Classic veterans.  A record number of folks arrived on Thursday to enjoy a longer event.  Perhaps we’ll need to start on Wednesday next year!

We had one trip on Thursday, four on Friday, four on Saturday and two on Sunday this year.  It seems we collectively climbed a lot of peaks and saw a lot of bears (and moose).  Everyone stayed safe!  No injuries.  Lots of smiles.

Camp life was once again a blast.  Campfires were allowed, which ALWAYS makes life more pleasant.  We enjoyed good food and drinks.  We had a rousing game of “Pin the Climber on the Mountain” (thanks Kimberly!).  The only disappointment is that it all came to an end!

Divide Creek Campground once again proved to be a really great basecamp for our group.  A huge thanks to proprietors Veronica and Matt for hosting us.

And thank you to all of you who attended!  The Kercher Classic continues to be our most popular event and its because of our members who attend and make it so fun.  Looking forward to next year already!

Attendees: (asterisk denotes first timer)

Forest Dean                              Fintan Maguire                         *Joe Maeser

Frank Dean                               Elizabeth Moore                       Minot Maser

Seth Anderson                          Paul Jensen                               Candy Hartman

Laurel Vielle                              *Kimberly Meade-White           *Don Hartman

Corey Hinshaw                          Julie Kahl                                    David Patterson

Jim Goss                                   David Kahl                                Alec Patterson

*Coley Jones                             *Leland Earls                            Casey Lammers

*Drew Iaderosa                         *Josh Lewis                               *Andrew Twardowski

Dori Gilels                                 *Anne Dellwo                           *Joan Schumacher

Lou Herritt                                *Francis Horton                        *Zach Robertson

*Rob Edington                          Pat Caffrey                                *Mark Korwald

Trip Reports

Thursday

Divide Mountain

Participants:  Minot Maser, Joe Maeser, Corey Hinshaw

Starting the Kercher Classic off right with a quick summit!  We all met up at the Divide Creek Campground beforehand and took the rough service road to the base of the mountain.  I would compare this to being the East side of the park’s equivalent to Mount Sentinel.  We aimed straight for the east face, added a bit of scrambling, and found ourselves halfway along the ridge.  We made the summit in ~50 min!  Very good views for the effort.  It was quite hot, as we didn’t even start the climb until after 2 pm!  A great introductory peak to Glacier.  Corey Hinshaw

Friday

Mount Grinnell

Participants:  Anne Dellwo, Dori Gilels, Minot Maser; “Joe” Maeser, Laurel Vielle

Five Rocky Mountaineers braved the traffic en route to Grinnell Mountain on an early morning drive up GTTSR with the crux of the day being finding parking at both the Visitor Center and Loop.  The traffic gods were smiling down on us and we found parking both places, though only by the skin of our teeth.  The rest of the day was a lovely hike and climb up Grinnell.  We started at The Loop, hiked up to the Granite Park Chalet area and then to the Grinnell Glacier overlook spur trail.  We did get the treat of seeing a grizzly bear give a half-hearted chase to a deer just below the Chalet. From the spur we started the true climb of Grinnell.    After an initial mix up on the route (we started a bit high), we found the climbers trail which basically led us right up to the summit.  We had lovely close up views of the Many Glacier/Grinnell Glacier areas as well as expansive 360 views of many different areas of Glacier from the summit.  We followed the same route back to the cars where cold drinks and salty chips thankfully greeted us after the Dante-ish hike down the Loop trail.  Laurel Vielle

Goat Mountain

Participants:  David Patterson, Alec Patterson, Jim Goss

David and his son Alec joined Jim Goss for the 4,000′ ascent of Goat Mountain.  We drove to St. Mary Visitor Center at 8:00 AM and took the shuttle to Sunrift Gorge several miles up the Going to the Sun Road.  We followed the trail towards Siyeh Pass for 1 mile and gained 1,000 vertical feet before heading up a climber’s trail to the right.  We generally followed a dry streambed for the next 1,000′ in ascent, requiring only that we avoided some vegetation.  The remainder of our trip was a class 2 struggle over scree with some small rock bands.  Our progress became slower as Jim and David both dealt with some physical issues related to the arduous scramble over incessant scree.  We had lunch on the hillside and rallied as Alec reminded us what it was like to have 30 year old legs.

The rock became a bit more stable and the incline lessened, making the final ascent achievable at about 2:30 PM.  Coming down took about half the time, with a short wait for a shuttle getting us back to the car around 6:30.  Jim Goss

Mt. Siyeh

Participants:  Corey Hinshaw, Fintan Maguire

Day two of the Kercher Classic.  Mt Siyeh is one of the six 10k peaks in Glacier National Park.  Fintan and I got an early start to ensure a parking spot at Siyeh bend.  From there we followed the Siyeh Pass trail for ~4.5 miles, then cut off trail, aiming for the broad talus finger that begins the route up the south slope.  Plenty of cairns to follow, with a slight zig zag pattern through the cliff bands.  Once above the cliff bands, is a steep scree march to the summit.  I had previously read of many people encountering grizzlies near the summit flipping rocks and looking for cutworm moths.  Sure enough, we saw two younger grizzlies, one eating moths, the other taking a nap on a snowfield!  After giving both bears a wide berth, we made our way to the summit.  What a great vantage point of the entire park.  You can look down (if you dare!) the 5000 foot sheer north face of Siyeh down to Cracker Lake.  We made sure to make our presence known to the bears on the descent, and had plenty of time for a little side trip.  My brothers and I had placed my mom’s ashes a bit further along the Siyeh trail a few years ago, so I got to stop by and pay my respects.  This trip will definitely be a memorable one for me!  Corey Hinshaw

Kapunkamint Mountain

Participants:  Paul Jensen, Kimberly Meade-White, Elizabeth Moore, Forest Dean

We got a non-alpine start this morning, leaving the campground a little after 10:00.  Made the short drive to the Cut Bank drainage and parked right at the Park border.  At 11:00 we hiked north along a fence that divides the Park and the Blackfeet lands for about a mile, viewing a black bear en-route.  We then turned west and followed open meadows and a some easily passed thru forest before arriving on the talus covered slopes of this hard to pronounce mountain.  A class 2 scramble ensued and around 2pm we were sitting on the 8,797’ summit.  Great views to the west.  We hiked/jogged out arriving at different times.  About 8 miles round trip with a 3600’ elevation gain.  Forest Dean

Saturday

Heavy Shield (Mt. Wilbur)

Participants:  Corey Hinshaw, Elizabeth Moore, Drew Iaderosa, Francis Horton, Frank Dean, Forest Dean

I had listed this climb for 4 climbers, but had a hard time saying no to a couple others, so we headed up with 6 of us.  In 2008 I climbed this route with 7, so thought maybe it would be ok.  And maybe it would have been had I had my head in the game.  Anyway, we started from Swiftcurrent trailhead (Many Glacier) at 6:40am by hiking to just past Redrock Falls on the trail.  Here we took an opening in the brush that ran all the way down to the trail and started up.  We immediately saw a grizzly feeding in the meadows above us so had to make plenty of noise and steer clear.  Made it up the the SE shoulder of the peak then began ascending up scree and talus.  About 1200’ below the summit the grade turns into class 4 scrambling on narrow scree covered ledges before hitting a diorite sill and then the “crux”:  an easy 5th class pitch called ‘Thin Mans Pleasure’.  My head started playing tricks on me on the scree shelves and I decided to throw in the towel.  Being we had a strong group of climbers, I encouraged the others to go on.  However, the stoke was wearing out for more than just me, and one by one we all decided to try again a different day.  Frank and Corey made it to the bottom of Thin Man’s.  I made some leadership mistakes on this climb:  allowing too many to come along; climbing a very chossy peak when I knew (going in) my head wasn’t screwed on right.  On the plus side, we got to see a total of 4 grizzlies (including 2 cubs), 2 bull moose, several bighorn sheep and eat a bonanza of hucks!  Drew also led us into a fabulous swimming hole on the trail hike out.  And then there was the parking lot beers!  So…turned into a great day after all!  8 miles RT, 3600’ of gain to our turnaround spot.  Forest Dean

Belly River Valley and Gros Ventre Falls

Participants: Paul Jensen, Kimberly Meade-White, Joan Schumacher, Candy Hartman

The hike began just after 8:00 am at the Chief Mt. trailhead leading into Belly River with the hopes of avoiding the afternoon heat on our hike out. The first few miles descend into the valley starting in a forested area before opening up to the views and meadows of the valley, with plenty of Thimbleberries to pick along the way. The mosquitos were a nuisance on the way in but seemed to decrease as the day warmed up and we got out of the trees. Our first goal was to see the Belly River ranger station 6 miles into the valley. A father and son were there looking for a way to get a message to the ride to let them know they would not be able to make it to Many Glacier due to the trail being closed due to bears. We let them use our Garmin Inreach to send a message then decided to head toward Gros Ventre falls for lunch and to hopefully take a dip to cool off. Shortly after the ranger station we crossed the Belly River on a long suspension bridge that made going up the far end of it a dance of moving with the motion of the bridge. The trail climbed a bit from there until we reached the junction the led down to the falls. There we cooled off, some of us more than others and enjoyed the nice lunch spot. There was temptation to continue on to at least check out the trail to the Bear Mt lookout, but we had set a 1:00 pm turnaround time, and since it was already after 1:00, decided to return to the trailhead. Later on we were very pleased we made that decision as we were getting hot and tired with the hike out. There were high clouds developing that gave us some cover to keep the sun from being too intense, but we were still glad to get to the end of the day.  16.68 miles, 3428 ft elevation gain.  Candy Hartman

Triple Divide Peak – 8,018’                                                                                                            Participants:  Andrew Twardowski, Fintan Maguire, Leland Earls, Zach Robertson, Coley Jones, Minot Maser                                                                                                                                                                         Chris Set this trip up, but wasn’t able to make it.  Fintan happened to have a GNP guidebook, so we checked out the route beta and decided to stick to the plan.  We picked up four more participants by the time we left camp.  We started from Cutbank Ranger Station because the last half mile of the road to Cutbank Trailhead was closed.   The first 4.5 miles was practically flat easy walking through the valley.  Near Atlantic Creek Campground the trail starts to climb and quickly brought us to an open hillside with views of Razoredge Mountain and Medicine Grizzly Lake.  The trail took us all the way to Triple Divide Pass where we stopped for a break and watched the marmots play.  Leland decided the loose rock was more than he wanted to take on for the day and decided to wait at the pass for us.  From the pass it was a steep hike up rock ledges on the NE ridge of Triple Divide, keeping to the south side of the ridge.  The ledges were easy moving but covered with loose scree so that 4 out of 5 steps required inspection and judgement before committing to it.  After the first hundred feet or so we steered more to the south to access a ramp consisting of high step ledges and took the ramp up the SE face of the peak to about 7,750’ when the ramp ran into vertical rock.  From there we had the option of following a goat path along one of the sediment layers around to the south side of the peak and taking the easy walk up or a short class 4 gully straight up.  We were all a bit tired of loose rock at that point and the rock in the gulley looked solid, so we took the direct approach.  Once the top of the gulley was gained, there was only a couple class 3 steps left to the summit.  We stopped for lunch on the summit and played “Is That a Mountain Goat or a Rock” while taking in views of Mt Stimson, Norris Mtn, and Split Mountain.  There was some short debate about attempting Norris Mtn for a short addition of elevation and distance, but we didn’t have the beta for the hike and decided against it.  After lunch we retraced our steps back down the mountain, taking it slow to avoid taking a tumble or dropping rocks on the lower climbers.  We collected Leland at the pass (whom had been exploring some tarns a short distance away) and started the hike out.  The hike out was pretty uneventful, with the only wildlife encounter being a CDT hiker 138 days in.  We arrived back at the vehicles around 3:00  and had a short celebration of beer and chips before returning to camp.  Total distance 16.35 miles, Elevation Gain 4,300’.  Andrew Twardowski

Lake Josephine and Grinnell Glacier                                                                                                           Participants: Jim Goss, David & Julie Kahl                                                                                                                   I wanted an early start due to hot days and the possibility of not finding parking in Glacier National Park, later in the day. We met Jim Goss at the Divide Creek Campground at 7:30, and went in two vehicles because Jim wanted to go up the Grinnell Glacier Trail, and see how far he could get after a strenuous hike yesterday. As we approached the Many Glacier Valley, from a distance it looked like it was fogged in, but that turned out to be dust from an unpaved section of the park road, upgrade work is going on, on the Many Glacier Road. The entrance booth was unmanned and we just went in. There were three options to park, the actual Grinnell Glacier trail head parking, the parking lot about 1/4 mile/0.40k away for the Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge, and as a last resort the parking behind the Swiftcurrent Hotel, on the east side of Swiftcurrent Lake. Approaching the trail head we found cars already parked on the road outside the area, so we continued on to the Motor Lodge parking and found some on the far end from the lodge, but where we wanted to park anyway. Already people with spotting scopes were set up watching two grizzlies on the alpine slopes above the lodge. Outside the Motor Lodge a large group (20-30 people) were getting information from their guide. There is no trail from the Motor Lodge parking to the Grinnell Glacier trail head, so we walked along the side of the road down to it. Part of the start of the trail is an interpretive trail with signs of interest, and the trail drops down to cross the Swiftcurrent River, that comes into Swiftcurrent Lake from the west. Climbing out of the flood plain the trail goes roughly a mile around Swiftcurrent Lake. Here the nomenclature gets a bit fuzzy, the trail signs refer to a North Shore Trail and a South Shore Trail, which if you look on a map are physically on the west -for the North, and the east for the South, of both, for Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. On the east/south side, in the outlet/inlet area between the two lakes is a tiny Stump Lake (it’s a stump of a lake?). After running by Swiftcurrent Lake, the trail crosses the area between the lakes, here people were eating huckleberries. There was also an occasional raspberry and thimble berries which had lots of green unripened berries on them. Here I saw a few small toad flaxes. Otherwise the flower community consisted of a lot of purple asters, and yellow cut leaf cone flowers. Things I had seen on maps and talking with rangers, both today and during a scouting trip back in June, seemed to say that there were two trails across the area between the lakes, signs at the trail head said the interpretive trail was closed, but we found a trail that was closed for maintenance (in June it had been closed by bear activity), and thinking there was a second trail we continued on, but never found one. There are tour boat docks on both lakes with a trail between them, part of which is paved, maybe that was the other trail? When you get past the boat dock on Lake Josephine the trail which previously had been in woods, opened up to view south and east across Lake Josephine. When we had been here in June much of the trail still had snow on it, but none now. The north/west shore is open below steep cliffs, back in June they had mountain goats, big horn sheep and grizzly bears not very far above us, now they were just hot and dry, except for an occasional rock face wet from a seep. In June we had witnessed a “water avalanche,” it sounded like a snow avalanche except, above the rim a snow dam must have melted through and a large quantity of water had come spilling down the cliff face above us. Now there wasn’t even snow up there. A short ways up the trail there is a large flat rock above the lake, and we stopped there so I could do some videoing, turned out the sun angle wasn’t good to get the lake or opposite cliffs in, but that big party was coming up the trail behind us and turning to videoing them I noticed something black in the water, just below the trail. It was a black bear just on the edge, and the movement of its head and ears said it was listening to the people on the trail above it. As the party got to where we were, the leaders were stopping to point the bear out to the clients and they said something about they had seen it above and watched it come down the slope. With what I figured was my trophy footage for the day we moved on.

In June we had been so busy watching what was going on above us that we hadn’t paid much attention to the trail, now it just seemed to go fast and we were at the Grinnell Glacier trail turnoff, here Jim and most of the other tourists left us. Jim and I exchanged phone numbers so he could text me when he got out. We did find ourselves in the company of a family from Texas raving about how close to nature this was, nothing like they had at home. We had some nice chats. In June, Rangers had run us down and said we had to turn back as there was a sheep carcass and grizzlies ahead and the trail was closed -someone had stolen the sign on the Grinnell Glacier Trail junction signs, that said that both trails were closed, Grinnell because of “high angle snow” people were getting in trouble on. So somewhere in here was where we had turned back in June, from there was new territory. About 1/3 mile/0.53k along we came to another cutoff trail up to the Grinnell Glacier trail (for those coming on the South Shore Trail) that started out pretty steep. Soon we were dropping down in the floodplain for the inlet from Lower Grinnell Lake (Grinnell Cr.?), as it was soft boggy ground the entire crossing of the floodplain was on two-board-walkways, except for a slightly wider, one person at a time, bridge across the inlet. The area was covered with the thick shoulder high brush and tall grasses low land Glacier is known for. We visited with the Texas Family and took pictures from the bridge. On the other side coming up out of the floodplain we could see a boat dock, and hoped it had an outhouse, but first we came up on the South Shore Trail, at a junction for the Lower Grinnell Lake Trail. In roughly the same area was a cutoff trail that went up to the Pigan Pass Trail above. We went down to the boat dock looking for an outhouse and found a trail that took us back up the hill to one across the South Shore Trail. On this side of the lake the trail is in the trees and for much of the way back down this side of Lake Josephine we couldn’t see the lake, or the cliffs above us or across the lake. But it was nice and shady as the day got warmer. We saw some Grass of Parnassus and buttercups. Since getting on the South Shore Trail there was more people coming up that trail, than coming from behind us, and soon, at the north end of Lake Josephine, someone was telling us about an open area where we could get good views. I think it was actually the shore of that little Stump Lake, and we could get good views and not far off saw a bridge across the outlet/inlet between the lakes. We continued to the bridge and people coming from it told us that the bridge was open but the trail on the other side was closed, we would have to go to the hotel, 0.9 of a mile/1.4k further on a now paved trail. We had good views of Swiftcurrent Lake now and saw something black in the water that looked like a strange bird, watching more it turned out to be a black bear swimming across Swiftcurrent Lake, out came the video camera. I recorded it all the way up to its coming out of the water just below the trail. Others had seen it and we expected it to come up and cross the trail, but it didn’t, it stayed down on the lake margin Several times we thought we had hiked past it, but people up ahead kept saying they saw it just below. We caught up with the Texas family again somewhere in here, and now were coming into the out buildings associated with the hotel. At the yard of the hotel we said good bye to the Texas family as that was where they were staying. On the second floor balcony of the hotel people were lined up with binoculars and cameras, fixed on the lake, so I turned back and saw the bear on the lake margin across a little bay, tried to get some photos, but just got bear’s butt as it went to the alder brush.

We went to the lower level of the hotel to use the restrooms and David got coffee to go with a sandwich he had brought, and I got a chocolate ice-cream sandwich. I was just after noon and the sun had gotten around to the west side of the hotel and all of the outdoor seating places were now in the sun, so we stayed inside to eat our lunch. Walking past the hotel to get back to the main road we stopped by the boat rental place to see the times and costs on kayaks and boat tours. Then you have to cross the outlet of Swiftcurrent Lake on a driveway bridge, the lake spills into a cataract channel and continues down, maybe over a small water fall. The trail on the north side of Swiftcurrent Lake that connects with the Grinnell Glacier trail head was a nice wide “nature trail,” and here I saw a pink sticky geranium and the invasive species of knapweed and Dalmatian toad flax. We could see cars parked along the road almost all the way back to the Grinnell Glacier trail head, and when we got there just walked the road, outside the parked cars, back to the Motor Inn parking lot. The people with the spotting scopes and cameras had hit a lull as the bears had gone into crevices and not come out, probably sleeping for the heat of the day in a cool place. Jim’s car was still there. Our GPS’s said we had gone eight miles/12.87k. It was just around 2:PM and we went back to our cabin (at the Heart Of Glacier Campground) to shower, read the paper, and have dinner before going over to the other campground for the evening’s festivities. Jim texted that he was out, and we connected with him at the gathering to hear that he had made it  up to the glacier, doing better than he expected. Jim’s report follows.

After Julie & Dave veered off at the end of Josephine Lake, Jim Goss continued past the lower Grinnell Lake with its sparkling blue color, along a trail that hugged a cliff for most of the way.  Jim saw 3 bighorn sheep and 2 mountain goat.  Upper Grinnell Lake was filled with ice chunks and loads of people enjoying their lunch underneath the glacier, though surprisingly few went the extra 1/2 mile to Salamander Falls and the Glacier itself.  On the way back there was a brown bear in the bushes a couple hundred feet above the trail, so unknown if it was a grizzly.  He arrived back at his car at 3:30.

Sunday

Reynolds Mountain

Participants: Corey Hinshaw, Fintan Maguire, Leland “Gnar” Earls

A great end cap to a fun weekend!  After an unsuccessful summit bid on Mt Wilbur the day prior, I wanted to try and get one more climb before heading back to Missoula.  The plan for Reynolds was created while eating dinner with all the other Rocky Mountaineers at camp.  Our only concern was that we did not have a Going-to-the-Sun permit for Sunday.  Turns out the East side of the park is a bit more relaxed on the “6 am permit” system, and we cruised through at 6:40 am with no problem.  Getting up to Logan Pass at ~6:50 am, we quickly grabbed one of the last parking spots amid the chaos.  The nice thing about this mountain is the modest approach in both mileage and vertical.  A very well defined climber’s trail cuts off the hidden lake trail, and takes you to the backside (Southeast) of Reynolds.  From there it’s a mix of everything you’d expect climbing a mountain in Glacier: loose scree and rotten rock, with a few fun scrambly moves.  Leland was a bit hesitant on some of the more exposed scramble sections, so I made sure to give words of encouragement (while Fintan supported by heckling.)  But we all made it to the top in great time (around 9 am), then got the heck out of the pandemonium that is Logan Pass back to Missoula!  Corey Hinshaw

Angel Wing

Participants: Stefanie Cavalea, Lauren Hartley, Lou Herritt, Candy Hartman, Joan Schumacher, Laurel Vielle

A mixed group of Rocky Mountaineer and Glacier Mountaineering Society members braved the crowds on the Grinnell Glacier trail on Sunday of the Kercher Glacier Classic.  The day started out a bit smokey but the higher we hiked the more lovely the views became.  We made it to Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier in good time where we had a snack break and enjoyed the amazing views…along with many, many others. I was a bit worried about crossing the outlet to the lake to access the glacier moraine which would lead us to the Angel Wing, but the crossing was a non-issue.  We then enjoyed class II hiking across the lunar landscape of the moraine to the back-side of the Wing.  We were treated with views of big horn rams before we ascended the steep hill which let to our destination summit.  We took our time on the summit and enjoyed the beautiful views of the Many Glacier valley before heading back the way we came.  The biggest shock of the day was seeing millions of people at Grinnell Glacier and on the trail back down (ok maybe not millions but it seemed like it).  Due to bears, we got a few miles added on our return route but all hikers were in good spirits and the few added miles didn’t dampen the lovely outing we enjoyed as a group.  Laurel Vielle

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