| Sinopah Mountain, Glacier N.P.
Trailhead: boat dock at Two Medicine Lake (not to be confused with Upper Two Medicine Lake or Lower Two Medicine Lake)
Round-trip distance: between 9 and 10 miles
Total elevation gain: close to 3,000 feet
Class 3 with some routefinding, loose ledges and a bit of exposure
After checking into our hotel room in East Glacier, we took a little drive through town to investigate our food options. While cruising down the road, I noticed a herd of horses galloping down the road directly toward us. I've never encountered a situation like this before, so I basically just stopped in the middle of the road, not knowing what else to do. We just sat there as they kept barreling down on us. It was kind of freaky watching the horses run by (to the left and right of our car) like we were a rock in a river of horses. Most of them galloped around us without any trouble, but one young horse flinched right in front of us, as if he was trying to figure out which way to run around the car. Luckily he made it by without contact. One of the ranchers at the back of the herd tipped his hat at us as he passed by.
I managed to snap this pic while we were waiting for the herd to pass:
The next morning, our objective was Sinopah Mountain. We started our journey at 8 a.m. at the boat dock at Two Medicine Lake. The place was dead, as we didn't see any other people in the area that morning.
Sinopah Mountain and the boat dock at Two Medicine Lake:
We had heard and read about many bear encounters in Glacier National Park, and as we started down the eerily quiet trail it felt like we were going to have one. If I were a bear, that forest would be paradise, especially with all its berry bushes (huckleberries, in particular) along the trailside. Apparently, bears love huckleberries, evidenced by all the scat we saw containing undigested berry skins. Long story short, we were in the heart of what I called bearitory, and it was somewhat unnerving.
As we hiked, we stayed "bear aware" by talking, scanning the terrain around us (although, in many places you couldn't see more than 30 feet in any direction because the bushes were so thick) and keeping my finger nervously poised on my canister of bear spray.
For the first few miles, the trail undulated mildly as it paralleled the south side of Two Medicine Lake (though the lake was never visible).
Just before Rockwell Falls, we hung a sharp right and followed a faint trail up a steep slope. Because of the dense foliage, it was a bit nerve-racking because, again, we didn't want to have our own bear encounter.
After breaking above treeline, and then pushing up a loose-scree slope on a faint trail, we came upon our first routefinding quandary: Which gully to go up?
According to J. Gordon Edwards' book, "A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park," we were to told to aim for the east gully (right, in the photo above). In actuality, there is a far-east gully, but as you get closer to the base of the cliffs, you realize Edwards is talking about the one right above you.
To get to the base of that gully, we followed a dry creek that ended up being kind of fun (class 2 and low 3 scampering and scrambling).
Once at the base of the cliffs/gully, we still had 1,000 feet of vertical to go. This is where the solid class 3 climbing began in earnest.
In the beginning, the climbing was loads of fun and it was some of the best class 3 climbing I've done. However, that would soon change.
As we ascended, that solid rock faded away and we found ourselves on loose, sloping shelves of rotten rock. Oh, and there was also some scary exposure mixed in as well.
It doesn't look very steep in this next photo, but just know that you wouldn't want to trip on a shoelace here:
Wherever we could find solid rock (over the loose crap), we took it.
Our 1,000-foot gully climb started off on the left side, but we ended up on the right side as we neared the summit. Here's a shot looking back down:
At about 11:45 a.m., we gained the summit. My expression shows my exhaustion (mentally and physically) as well as a hint of relief.
We didn't stay long on the summit; just long enough to snap some pics and watch a helicopter fly by, which was at least a thousand feet below us in an adjacent valley.
Upper Two Medicine Lake and neighboring mountains, viewed from Sinopah's summit (note the striking similarity to the Bells in Colorado):
Looking down on the challenging descent before us:
More pics from our descent:
After making it back down to the main trail in the valley, we checked out Rockwell Falls:
On the return, we carefully made our way back through bearitory.
Just after 2:30, we made it back to the parking lot. Some bikers, who were gearing up next to our car, asked us about our hike. When we told them we had just climbed Sinopah (that striking mountain across the lake), they didn't believe us.
Back in East Glacier, we dined on burgers, beers and ice cream. I highly recommend the huckleberry ice cream.
We noticed this sign across the street and it gave us a good laugh:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):