16TH Annual Glacier Classic- August 22-23, 2020
This was an extreme scaled back version of our annual Glacier Classic. Not willing to let a year go by without our annual August trip to Glacier National Park, three of us managed to keep the tradition alive. With perfect weather, sunny skies and the most virus free air a person could breathe, we were certainly wondering why more folks didn’t join us! After dealing with snow and rain last year, and heavy smoke filled skies the previous two years, it was just too bad we couldn’t drum up the support this year to enjoy the perfect weather. Stupid COVID. Anyway, Bryan Kercher, Laurel Vielle and Forest Dean did our best to carry the torch. Here’s to better everything in 2021!
Longfellow Peak, Saturday, August 22
Myself and two other Rocky Mountaineers, Forest Dean and Bryan Kercher, started our adventure up Longfellow at the Apgar Visitor Center at 6:00 the morning of the 22nd. From the visitor center we caravanned to the road closure on the inside North Fork road, about 4 miles on rough, narrow road. From our parking area at the closure, we mountain biked another 3 or miles to the Dutch Creek Trailhead where we stowed our bikes. From there we set out on the trail at a brisk hiking pace fully expecting to encounter significant obstacles on the trail including thick brush, 7-ft nettles and downfall. But, by some fabulous stroke of luck, we picked a weekend when a trail-clearing crew was working the area and had a minimum of overgrown trail to deal with and no downfall whatsoever. Due to their hard work, we made great time up the trail. At about mile 8 we headed off trail per some previous trip reports and had a mild bushwhack up to the lakes in the basin below Longfellow. From the lakes we discussed our route and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery. From an upper lake we headed up the hardpan and scree to reach the western ridge of Longfellow. It took some route finding to find our way from that point, but once we figured out how to get on the western face of Longfellow, we were on the summit in no time. After marveling at the views and the incredibly clear air, we opted not to do Paul Bunyan’s Cabin due to the time of day. We had the time but none of us wanted to be out after dark. Thus, we headed back down, saving The Cabin for another day. The trip out was even faster due to taking a better line down to the trail and then trail jogging a good part of the way back to the trailhead. The bike ride back up to the vehicles was challenging due to some steep hills on tired legs, but that made the cold beer at the end taste even better. The trip was about 6 miles of biking and 26 miles of hiking/climbing/jogging with approximately 7000ft of elevation gain. Laurel Vielle
Mount Brown, Sunday, August 23
After the big day yesterday, I was left all by myself- Bryan and Laurel both drove home after Longfellow. I tried to spend the night in the back of my truck in the Apgar VC parking lot, but a couple overzealous park officers weren’t having any of that apparently, and rousted me just as I was getting to bed. (I spent the night just outside the park by the old bridge over the Middle Fork). I got up at daybreak and drove to Lake McDonald Lodge and started briskly up the trail at 7am. Made the hike up to the Mt. Brown Lookout in pretty good time, then started east towards the summit. First part of this is easy, but the route eventually narrows to a broken ridge for the last several hundred feet to the summit. This ridge was more than I was anticipating after a long day yesterday, and more than half a dozen beers the night before! Solid class 4 climbing with big exposure had me moving very slowly, but I eventually would my way up the ridge and found the summit about 10am. Deciding to take an easier and less exposed route back, I descended off the southeast ridge and cut across the hanging valley to the south of Mt. Brown before regaining the easier ridge and heading back to the Lookout and then running back down the trail to the Lodge. Took me about 4 ¾ hours. 5500’ of elevation and around 12 miles, I think. With the Sperry Fire of 2017 burning most of this area, the views are really spectacular nearly all the way. This is a really fun peak with quick access- I would highly recommend! Forest Dean