Glacier Ridge, Triple Divide Peak, Whaleback
By: Allan Conrad
Some subset of our initial group climbed each peak. Everyone returned safely. That makes the trip a success. That does not make the trip perfect, however. We got a late start because the leader left his food at home. Not everyone got the peaks they hoped for. We did have to ford a couple streams. A family who packed in was resident in the A-1 campsite the ranger had told us about in Cloud Canyon. We got chided by the backcountry ranger for not having the right permit, but fortunately we did not get evicted from the park. Despite all that, the pluses outweighed the minuses by a good measure. We saw many deer and grouse. Two in our group even saw a mother bear and two cubs. And we climbed some fine, distant peaks in a delightfully scenic area! Cloud Canyon is worth the walk.
By 7 am, six of us were hiking toward Rowell Meadow, heading for Scaffold Meadow and Cloud Canyon. Four of us camped about three miles east of the Roaring River RS. This is one of those routes which after 16 or 17 miles we were just 500' above our cars! The next morning we picked up our gear, admired the classic image of Whaleback across Big Wet Meadow and noted the spot where our two sign-outs had camped in an attempt to get a closer starting point for Whaleback, their first destination. We were headed for a campsite a few hundred yards south of the Colby Pass trail in Cloud Canyon, west of Whaleback. We found an alternative spot to raise our tents before heading out to do Glacier Ridge. (The trail shown on the 15' maps is now only a faint, on-and-off path.) Making very sure we were headed for the correct ridge/summit, we made the ascent in four hours and were back in camp after a total of seven. We enjoyed the summit block of GR either from on top or from the summit register at the base.
The route to Triple Divide Peak was quite discernible from GR. In the morning of the third dav we came across an Outward Bound group headed for Colby Pass via the saddle in the south ridge of Whaleback. We felt that would be an impressive undertaking with packs, something they could be proud of. Since the steepness of that route does get your attention. We found much snow·on the south shore of Glacier Lake. so we chose to skirt it on the west and traversed east below snow fields (~100 ft below the ridge) until we could intersect with the rib marking the North Ridge route well above Glacier Lake and climb to the proximity of the ridge via that path, just west of the summit. We were on top by 11 am and back in camp by 3 p.m., in time to pack our gear and get back down the trail another four miles of so before dinner.
As we approached our campsite, a nice. Deserted stockman's camp along the river a couple minutes eastward along a use path below the NE bend in the trail at UTM 602628, maybe 1.5 miles above Roaring River RS, we were graced with a splendid thunder storm observable in the western sky. We almost got through dinner before the precipitation was over us. Fortunately. we did not have a lengthy bout with the weather. In the morning we had the benefit of a trail which was moist enough to significantly reduce the dust. As we approached the long haul out of Sugarloaf Valley to Pond Meadow we were wishing the overcast skies would return so the heat of the sun would not aggravate the slog. That's the way it turned out. For a time we were pelted with hail and steady rain. No rain was falling when we got to our cars by 1 p.m.
Thanks go to my substitute assistant. Kathv Price and the participants: Jim Adler. Daryn Dodge. Elena Sherman and Scott
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