Glacier NP & Recent Running

P1000649 Ptarmigan Lake from Ptarmigan Pass/Tunnel



Over the 4th of July weekend we had the privilege to spend some time in Glacier National Park just 3hrs north of our home in Missoula.  We were joined by great friend Jean Tiran who was in town visiting us from Auckland New Zealand.


We did some great camping close to Saint Marys and at Many Glacier in the park.  A highlight of the trip was a 29 mile long run from the entrance of the park at Many Glacier looping all the way around back to the end of the road where we camped at Many Glacier.  The run began with a 1,000ft climb in .9 miles up the “Sherburn Cut-Off” and then things mellowed out up to Poia Lake.  Following Kennedy Creek the trail then climbs up to Redgap Pass.  I ran down to the beautiful Elizabeth Lake and Belly river where memories came to mind when I hiked past the lake with friends a number of years back.  From the lake I ran the steep climb up to Patarmigan Tunnel where I was looking forward to dropping down into one of my favorite drainages in the park and my camp for the night.  After following the cliff side trail I came to this:

The doors were closed to the tunnel.  There was no way I was going to turn around after nearly 20 miles of running, but there is a reason for the tunnel, there is no easy way over the ridge anywhere close.  I could see a faint, faint trail scaling the side of the cliff past the tunnel and I was off and following it.  

P1000645 The “way” over Ptarmigan Tunnel

The route was very exposed and scary and I proceeded with full concentration and focus.  Around the corner was some 4th class scrambling with some serious exposure, which lead to more vertical scrambling up.  I made sure I was comfortable down-climbing everything as I had no idea if my route was going to actually lead to the other side, or if I would be able to get down the other side.  Finally the route brought me to a class 5 (vertical) climb of maybe 15 feet.  

The Crux The Crux

I got the sense that this was the top of the ridge, but again, I had no idea what would be on the other side.  I committed and made the top very carefully and was pleased to see a walkable off trail section of scree that lead to the other side of the tunnel.  This far side of the tunnel and trail to Patarmigan Lake, Iceberg Lake and then Many Glacier itself is the most busy trail section not on Going-to-the-Sun Highway (main road through the park) and there were tons of people at the tunnel entrance.  Needless to say, I was greeted with surprise and curiosity.  I explained myself and a gave great warning of the dangers lurking on the other side of the ridge, took a picture or two and was on my way.  The Ptarmigan and Iceberg are phenomenal, but you will usually have to share the lakes with a lot of the classic National Park visitors, if you know what I mean.  Being pretty tired and ready to finish after  7,000ft of climbing I did my best to be courteous on my way down.  I ended up consuming about 500 calories of Vitargo and felt strong all day.  This long run was a real treat and reminded me that Glacier might have the best mountain running in North America… even better than the San Juans of Colorado.


P1000657 P1000688

I managed about 21,000ft of climbing over the week of 4th of July, which is perfect for Speedgoat preparation.  I also have been enjoying the Monday TT up Centinel and managed to do my first TT up University Peak, which has 2,700ft of climbing in 3.7 miles vice Sentinel’s 1,800ft in 1.8 miles.  I’ll put up a FKT link soon on my home page.

South Kootenai Lake South Kootenai Lake

Last Wednesday Jeremy Wolf and I had a good long run adventure in the Bitteroots.  Wolf and I parked at the Bass Creek Trailhead and then ran down back to the highway and then eventually hitched a ride to Kootenai Creek road and ran the 2 miles to the trailhead for Kootenai Creek.  The Bitteroots are rough and wild and this run was a full fledged reminder of how wild they are.  About 4 miles up the drainage the trail became overgrown with bushes and plants both slowing down our pace and scratching the heck out of our legs.  Making the split in the trail 8 or 9 miles up we went and visited the North and Middle Kootenai lakes via a nearly un runnable trail where we really, really got good and scratched up.  After running 2 miles in a little short of an hour we were at the South Kootenai lake, the most beautiful of all three, ready to cross over into the Bass Creek drainage, when I realized I didn’t have my phone in my pocket anymore.  I either left my phone at the South lake or it had fallen out in between.  I had to go back solo though the horribly rough trail and attempt to find my phone.  I ended up finding the phone on the trail not far from the first lake where we saw a moose, I then ran back to Jeremy at the North Lake.  Jeremy had found that the lake wasn’t where our trail to Bass Creek was, instead it should be down the way we had come from.  I made my way for the 4th time down the trail and we started to look for our trail cutting north.  We never found the trail or sign for the trail.  The state atlas we had looked at showed a trail that was no longer and we made our way back to the trailhead… while our car was at Bass Creek.  Down the 2 mile road and at the highway Wolf had run 33 miles and I was closer to 36 and we both were tired and hopeful we could hitch a ride quickly.  We landed a ride which took us all the way to our car… run finished.  500 calories of Vitrago got me through this long run just fine.


  1. Tim Mosbacher July 16, 2013 5:02 pm  Reply

    There is a intermittent trail between the two drainages but is easier to locate coming from the Bass Creek drainage. Willows have overgrown much of the trail making it very difficult. When you are on the trail it will only be good for around a hundred yards then disappear. From what I remember, the turn off from the Kootenai side was about 1/2 to 1 mile below the creek crossing before the fork between the three lakes.

    • admin July 17, 2013 2:52 pm  Reply

      Thanks Tim! That is where we thought the trail was, but with a relatively wet and cool spring maybe it was just extra overgrown. I went up Kootenai again on Sunday and wore compression socks to avoid getting my legs as bloodied (only went up 6 miles and played in the creek with the family after). Today I ran up Sweeny Creek/Ridge Trail and made it up to the ridge and got my overdue fix of views from the high alpine. Sweeny is much more friendly with regards to the willows and bush growing over the trail… I thought it would have been the opposite.
      Thanks again and keep enjoying the Bitteroots!

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