19th Annual Kercher Glacier Classic- August 17-20, 2023

Divide Creek Campground, St. Mary, Montana

Once again a great group of us all joined up for our annual pilgrimage known as the Kercher Glacier
Classic. 28 folks ended up making the trip (several no-shows, which was weird). Weather (wind and
some light sprinkles) seemed to battle smoke conditions for an opportunity to thwart our good times
this year, but neither really ended up winning the battle. Most of the trips went off without too many
changes, and the camp life was fun as always!

Quite a few of the folks listed below arrived on Thursday. A couple of trips transpired that afternoon, as
well. Everyone else came on Friday. Divide Creek Campground once again served as a great basecamp
for our adventures. We couldn’t have a campfire this year due to the Stage 2 restrictions, but we were
able to sit around a small gas fire and enjoy food, drink and company. Always fun to catch up with
friends old and new!

Several trips occurred on both Friday and Saturday. The wind was the headliner on Friday, with smoke
making its way back in on Saturday (but never really too bad). A few of us adventured once more on
Sunday but most headed home.

Thanks to all who once again made this a fun and enjoyable event. Next year the Classic turns TWENTY!
Mark it on your calendars now!

Trip Reports


Reynolds Mountain
Participants:  Tom Statz, Jaren Williams, Elizabeth Moore, Forest Dean
After a nerve-wracking search for parking spots at Logan Pass, the four of us started off at 12:30. Started off with very smokey skies, but things improved dramatically as the afternoon progressed. We made our way up the boardwalk and trail to Hidden Lake Pass, then south and along the west side of Reynolds on a good user trail. At the SE corner of the mountain we scrambled up easy cliffs and then scree to the summit cliffs. A fun little scramble through these cliffs and we gained the summit ridge. Stood atop a windy summit at about 3:15pm. Took a few pics then descended the way we came arriving back at parking lot at 5:30 where we celebrated with a Trail Angel beer. Alivia Williams met us on our way down as well. Fun start to the Classic! Forest Dean

Bullhead Point Attempt
Participants: Candy Hartman, Mary Hanson, Laurel Vielle
Candy, Mary and I headed out on the Swiftcurrent Pass trail early Thursday afternoon of the Kercher Classic, en route to Bullhead Point in the Many Glacier area.  After hiking a few miles we easily found the point we went off trail, heading up a well-worn climbers trail.  Unfortunately, the climbers trail petered out after few yards and we started what would ultimately be a significant bushwhack.  After more than an hour of trudging uphill in thick brush and on steep, slick beargrass, we decided to turn back.  After a
well-earned snack break, we pushed our way back to the main trail.  We then enjoyed a short hike up to Red Rock Falls and were treated to seeing a moose hanging out in Red Rock Lake on our hike out.  Even though we didn’t make it to the top, we still had a great hike and Glacier experience.  Laurel Vielle


Mad Wolf Mountain
Participants: Haley Eakin, Luke Jacobsen, Anne Dellwo, Elizabeth Moore, Forest Dean
This was originally planned as the Mad Wolf Traverse (which includes Mad Wolf, Eagle Plume and Bad Marriage Mountains). The forecasted winds arrived, however, and we ended up bailing after summitting Mad Wolf. We began at 8:00am from the park boundary at Cut Bank entrance. Hiked south along the boundary for a couple of miles (bushwacking!) then gained some meadows and turned west towards the mountain. Here we began to encounter the ferocious wind. After about another mile, Haley and Luke turned back (Haley not feeling well). We other three continued hiking over to Mad Wolf and gained its northeast slopes. We avoided the north ridge until the last ¼ mile. The mountain is easy, but the wind was intense- figured it was easily blowing over 60mph. We summitted about 10:30, then sat in the lee of the wind for a bit before deciding to descend (traverse to Eagle Plume was a three mile ridge walk- in that wind, no fun). We saw about 8 wild horses on the descent which was a new experience for all of us. Back to vehicles about 2:30pm. Forest Dean

Painted Tepee Attempt
Participants: Paul Jensen, Kimberly Meade, Laurel Vielle
Starting our hike early Friday morning of the Kercher Classic, Paul, Kimbelry and I were “treated” to some significant winds as well as rain while taking photos on the shore of Two Medicine lake.  We knew we were in for some windy conditions that day, but we didn’t realize HOW much wind we were in for…We made good time heading up the trail, enjoying the views and conversation, even though we were getting rained on and there were threatening clouds overhead.  As we started climbing toward Cut Bank Pass, we decided to don our helmets, mainly to keep our hats and heads on our bodies due to the increasing wind speed.  Thankfully by then the rain had stopped and we got treated to some blue skies. On top of the pass, heading toward Painted Tepee, we had to brace ourselves against the gusts but decided to trudge on. Relying on some beta, we had several false starts trying to find the access gully to the true summit.  We finally found the correct gully but due to the increasing winds, which were actually scary at that point due to some exposed class IV climbing, we bailed on the summit attempt.  Kimberly, with her rock climbing skills, came the closest, coming probably within 10ft of the summit. Heading back out along the long ridge of Painted Tepee the winds became next level.  Hearing, speaking, and sometimes standing all became impossible.  With our hands over our ears to keep our eardrums from being blown out, we slowly made it back to the trail.  Conditions were better but not great on the trail and as we hurried down, we kept an eye and ear out for falling trees.  We thankfully made it back to the vehicle in one piece and while we didn’t make the summit, our adventure in the winds at Two Medicine
won’t soon be forgotten. Laurel Vielle

Belly River- Three Mile Campground and Lee Ridge Trail
Participants: Jim Goss, Tom Statz, Mary Hanson, Candy Hartman
This was a day of checking out some areas for future hikes. We started off the trip by seeing some elk on the drive to the trailhead along Chief Mountain highway which turned out to be our only wildlife sighting of the day. The trip started at Chief Mountain customs and we made our way down to the river crossing to the abandoned Three Mile campground. Mary took the opportunity at the creek to soak her feet while Tom and Candy crossed the creek to look for evidence of the Miche Wabun trail. They followed the creek to the next water crossing where they picked up the trail but then lost it in the meadow. The meadow seemed like a place that would be good to come back to for some exploring. Following the creek back to the rest of the group they found tracks believed to be from a wolf. The decision was made that no one felt they had to make it to the Belly River ranger station so we headed back to the trailhead, enjoying more thimbleberries along the way. The group then moved the vehicles a short ways up the road to check out the Lee Ridge trail. The trail had a gentle grade and was nicely shaded and after about 1.25 miles we returned to the trailhead leaving the rest of the trail for a possible loop to Gable pass and down into Belly River on a future trip. Candy Hartman


Gunsight Trail to Lake; Jackson Glacier
Participants: Jim Goss, Candy Hartman, Joan Schumacher
We convened at 7:30 and drove up Going to the Sun Road to the Jackson Mountain Overlook with the assistance of Candy’s vehicle permit.  We hit the trail about 8:30 AM and maintained a steady pace throughout.  We lunched at Gunsight Lake then continued to the end of the Jackson Glacier trail, which is really misnamed in terms of seeing the glacier but was well worth the expansive views. Our return was uneventful until the last mile, where we took a quick rest only to be interrupted by a bear which came on the trail very near us and forced us to retreat in the wrong direction.  It was neither aggressive nor scared of us, but kept ambling down the trail for at least several hundred feet before finally veering into the woods so we could continue in the right direction.  We were back at camp by around 6:30.  Approximately 10 hours on trail, 18 miles accomplished. Jim Goss

Cracker Lake/Siyeh Pass
Participants: Edna Blanchfield, Kay Winters, Sharon Berube
The Kercher Classic Weekend was just fabulous!  We had good weather, great company and, of course, the Park!  On Friday, two friends (Kay and Sharon) and I hiked to Cracker Lake which was unbelievably stunning.  A good hike for a very windy day. We same three, on Saturday, hiked up to Siyeh Pass via the beautiful SunRift Gorge.  We exited at Siyeh Bend on GTTS road.  Along the way we saw 6 sheep (4 adults and 2 youngsters), and 5 bears (a mom with 3 cubs and one lone bear).  Another super day.  At the end of the day we were able to hear about the other hikes that happened during the day as we gathered around the “campfire” (ring of stones). I enjoyed seeing some friends from the past and meeting some new ones.  It was a great weekend all around. Edna Blanchfield

Piegan-Pollock-Bishops Cap Trifecta
Participants: Anne Dellwo, Lindsay Dose, Mark Albrecht
We got an alpine start Saturday morning, hitting the trail at 6:23 a.m. from Lunch Creek. We were socked in with thick fog when we started, but that didn’t deter Anne from setting a blistering pace, averaging 3000 vertical feet per hour to the saddle between Piegan and Pollock. On the way up, we encountered the only other humans we would see until reaching the Highline trail, a group that was descending after abandoning their attempt to climb Piegan because of the weather. As we approached Piegan, the fog began to burn off just enough that we could make out the otherworldly silhouette of a mountain in front of us. From the summit of Piegan, we could see Pollock, but the fog was still too thick to see much else. Pollock is a little more tricky than Piegan. Traversing the ledge below the headwall has a bit of pucker factor. The ledge is nearly as wide as a sidewalk, it just happens to be tipped at 10-15 degrees towards the cliffs below and covered with loose gravel. Anne and Lindsay were unperturbed, but Mark didn’t like that part so much. Reaching the summit of Pollock involves a class 3-ish scramble up a chute bisecting the headwall. The trickiest part was staying on the ideal route. When we reached the summit, the fog had burned off a bit more, providing views of Mount Siyeh, Mount Gould, and Bishops Cap. Bishops Cap looked pretty intimidating from that perspective. Traversing the Garden Wall between Pollock and Bishops Cap was one of those experiences where it would have been easy to stop every 90 seconds just to take in yet another breathtaking view. It was nice to enjoy those moments with only the ground squirrels and ravens for company. As we climbed Bishops Cap, the path to the summit felt a lot less intimidating than it looked from Pollock. We decided to ditch packs just short of the summit to make the last scramble to the top a bit easier. The crux moves are a couple of crack climbs, but they are not above any exposure. We all made it up without difficulty. From the summit, the fog had burned off a bit more, providing still more views of the surrounding peaks.  From the summit, we traversed the Garden Wall back to the saddle, from which we descended to the Highline Trail. We hiked the Highline Trail back to Logan Pass, where we must have looked extremely knowledgeable, because we were stopped and asked questions unusually frequently. Fortunately, Lindsay is in fact extremely knowledgeable about Glacier and had answers to every question. During the walk from Logan Pass back to Lunch Creek, a crowd was gathered to watch an absolute hog of a grizzly bear in the distance, and Mark’s choice to carry 10x binoculars on a cloudy day finally paid off. At Lunch Creek, we celebrated a great day in Glacier with cold beverages and big smiles all the way around. Mark

Mount Gould, West Face Route
Participants: Forest Dean, Paul Jensen, Kimberly Meade-White, Jaren Williams, Erin Carey, Elizabeth

A crew of 6 of us set out from the Divide Creek Campground at 7 am in two vehicles. A few miles into Glacier National Park Kimberly’s truck stalled out. So, the first adventure of the day was towing Kimberly’s truck back to the campground with Erin’s truck. After switching out vehicles we drove to the trailhead (The parking area just above the Weeping Wall). We followed a user trail directly up to the Highline Trail, and followed the Highline Trail for about a mile before turning off trail and up the West Face of Mount Gould. We helmeted up and picked our way through the rock and the challenging Diorite Sill. Thankfully a couple of the participants had been on the route before so with their recollection we made our way through the puzzle and reached the summit. We were treated to magical views although there was still a fair bit of smoke in the air. The downclimb was just about as tedious as climbing up in carefully choosing our route to land at the correct spot for the small pass through the Diorite Sill low on the West face. All-in-all the trip was roughly 7 miles round trip and 3,800 ft in elevation gain. Such a fun day with a great group of climbers. Elizabeth Moore

Red Eagle Trail
Participants: Mary Hanson, David Kahl, Julie Kahl
This trail turned out to be lot different than we thought it would be. From a map it looks like you hike a trail high above Upper St. Mary’s Lake. The trailhead starts in the Park, just as you go in the St. Mary’s entrance, even before you get to the Visitors’ Center, you turn down a road to the left and a historic ranger station. Most of the vehicles in the parking lot had out of state plates. Meeting time was 9-9:30, and while waiting we walked the short distance to the ranger station. It was the first Park Service ranger station built in the Hudson Bay drainage, in 1913 (GNP was founded in 1910). A slightly younger barn had been moved there later. A picture on the kiosk shows a mountain lion crawling in the second story windows, over the porch of the ranger station. Mary observed that though the barn was the typical chinked log structure, the rangers’ cabin had been built with the logs so fitted it was not chinked. Interesting.

We started up the Red Eagle Trail, exactly at 9:30, it was an easy trail, but not as wide and well used at the major trails in the park. A loop trail -The Beaver Pond Trail- looped off of this one and came back down behind the ranger station. The Red Eagle Trail started out from the parking lot,  in old Douglas fir forest that had never been cut so some of the trees and fallen logs were quite large. We were going up the side of a ridge with views of Upper St. Mary’s Lake below us. Soon we were in a burn from 2006, with lots of standing dead yet, and the Doug fir began to drop out. By the time we came to the junction with the Beaver Pond Trail at 1.3 miles/2.1k, we had pretty much topped out the ridge and now the rest of the trail was on a divide between Upper St. Mary’s Lake and Divide Cr. to the east. In another mile/1.61k or so there was a low ridge between us and the lake, so no more lake views. We were at around 4500 ft/1371.6m and Red Eagle Mt. was directly ahead of us. We did go through a few unburned edges, but gradually the Doug fir disappeared and there was the standing dead of lodgepole and aspen, with a very thick under growth of new aspens, in the 12-15 ft/3.66m- 4.57m range, and lodgepole pines. Most of the trail was through a patch work of new aspen and open meadowy areas. In one spot we saw
a hole a few feet down off the trail that had brackish water in it, we were obviously in a narrow saddle on the ridgetop, so it was hard to believe it was a spring that high up (it did rain a bit up here last night). There were a few 2-timber bridges or deck walks over drainage channels. For the most part the trail had “cleared edges,” but in a few places the young aspen were growing up to the trail and these sections became kind of “bear spooky,” except the young aspen were growing so close together that nothing
larger than rabbit could get through them. We did see some elk tracks in the trail for a short while. Most of the meadows had high grasses and dried members of the parsley/parsnip/carrot family about 5 feet/1.55m high. I saw one each of sarvis and huckleberry bushes with dried up berries, there were some thimble berries David and Mary were eating. Some of the goldenrod (goldsel) still had a little color in their blossoms and some fire weed with still purple tips. On the Beaver Pond Trail was some
knapweed, and we saw one lone pink sticky geranium blossom and some tattered purple asters, some of the aspens were starting to turn yellow. We would sometimes gets surprises as we came out of a aspen copse: one cleared area was covered in snow berry bushes with rather large berries showing against their dark green foliage, in another clearing with tall snags there were birds perched in the snag branches we couldn’t identify (later ID’ed as cedar waxwings). On the way back we saw a bald eagle and along the way chick-a-dees. This trail is the trail to Red Eagle Lake, which has a campground on the Continental Divide around 8 miles/12.87k back and we encountered back packers coming out. One was a young lady who had just graduated from Arizona State U, and who had decided on her way back to Georgia to visit a few National Parks. She had come here from Mt. Rainier and was headed for Yellowstone next. She told us about fellow campers from Michigan, who’s plan was to hike out today and then drive all the way back to Port Heron, MI when they left. We encountered them in two groups and chatted briefly and exchanged greeting with two slightly older women also coming out.

We had decided to hike until noon then have lunch and start back out. We were approaching 4 miles/6.44k at that point and started looking for a place with a view and logs to sit on for lunch and ended going another 1/2 mile/0.80k to find a good place, with a view of Red Eagle Mt. in a small clearing. We had some lunch and took some photos and
started back out. The wind came up from the east as we re-walked the ridge, pushing the smoke back west. When we got back to the trail junction with the Beaver Pond Trail we took it, it said it was 1.2 miles/2.0k to the ranger cabin, but by the time you got to the parking lot it was probably 1.3miles/2.1k, or the same as the other trail. The Beaver Pond trail was narrower and steeper then the Red Eagle Trail had been, and as one would guess dropped down into a drainage to get to the beaver pond. We came
up on the west end of a pretty good-sized pond, and there was an island with a large beaver lodge, but we didn’t see any beavers. There was a female robin sitting on a sand bank and we saw a small duck swim between grass clumps. We surrendered our vantage point to a family and went back up to the trail that followed along the pond, with the beaver dam on the east side. There was a diving duck at that end. Now we had to climb up out of the drainage to a sub ridge that separated this drainage from the main stem of Divide Cr. More ridge top with aspen and open spaces except more groves of Doug fir moving in. It was through Doug fir that we descended to the ranger cabin, a little before 3:PM, the GPS said exactly 9 miles/14.48k.

This was a really nice, uncrowded trail. I looked through maps and websites to get more information: the trail junction with the Continental Divide Trail, the one that goes down to the Virgina Falls Trail at the west end of Upper St. Mary’s Lake, is around 5 miles/8.05k back. One site said the trail from the Ranger Station to St. Mary’s Lake -coming out at Jackson Overlook- was a little over 15 miles/24.14k (not sure if you can come out at Sun Point anymore). Going all the way through would be a nice trip for someone looking for an intermediate through hike, or to do on the Sunday after the Saturday Kercher Classic hikes.  Julie Kahl


Autumn Creek Trail at Marias Pass
Participants: Joan Schumacher, Mary Hanson, Candy Hartman
We started with Mary and Joan doing the vehicle shuttle to the exit location about 6 down the west side of the pass and then parked in the pull out across from the parking lot at Marias pass to begin the hike. Our main purpose for choosing this trail was to see it in the summer time since it is usually done as a cross country ski. The hike begins and ends crossing the railroad tracks and is a gentle downhill grade most of the way other than a few creek gullies. The trail got brushier as we went but it does provide good access to some of peaks running along it. There is one area 4-5 miles in that showed evidence of an avalanche running over the trail. Once the tracks are crossed at the end of the trip there is a long downhill on the access road leading to the highway. Candy Hartman

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