Day 10 - Jingle Bells and Ice Bergs

Trip Start Jul 22, 2011
Trip End Aug 15, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Montana
Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lyn here for a change. Luce woke up at about 0900, Cian and Tegz a bit later. They have had a quiet day, washing, tidyding up, locating the fudge at the local store, two blocks North, two blocks West. (East Glacier is about 5x5 tiny blocks, with dirt roads). They watched some TV, chillaxed. I am sitting at the dinner table in the kitchen (1900 mountain time) whilst Luce cooks Surf and Turf with a few beers under my belt. Oh yes I had a Ben and Jerrys Cherry Garcia earlier too. All the things a diabetic should not do. But what the hell I have earned it and more today.

After a hectic night preparing last night, I was up at 0630 and by 0700 was driving to the mountains with Ioan, eating my porridge fused with syrup navigating the road of many switch backs. If I wasn't in such a rush to do the 50 mile drive I would have stopped to take some pictures of the double rainbow  at the top of our street. It was also raining and we had no waterproofs. I would have gone back to the house to get them but time was of the essence so we had to make a move.

We were aiming to catch the 08.30 lake shuttle at Many Glacier Hotel, so we could hike the Grinnell Glacier trail. It’s normally 11 mile hike, but you can catch the boat and it shortens the walk by 3 miles. 8 miles up hill sounds better than 8 + 3 lakeshore miles.

We made good time, entering the National Park enterance at 08.20. When I confirmed the launch location of the shuttle the ranger looked at me and said there is no boat today the Grinnell hike is closed. WHAT ! ( I have one day in my life allocated to this and its closed !!) Well due the the very heavy snow fall this winter the trail has had to be closed until they can blow the snow with dynamite. They cant do this until the bears have moved on .... I think I took longer than normal at the park entrance gate, as cars were queuing behind me and the ranger just looked at me while I talked gibberish ... what can I do ......

Like all good hikers and anyone married to Luce, I had a back up plan, Iceberg Lake, as a shorter 10 mile alternative. ( I always have a backup plan, but Luce did come up with this one)

So we parked in the nearly empty car park and saddled up, we are in Montana you know!! We had aqua sacs and water bottles, apples, trail bars, sandwiches and wraps, malt balls and bear spray (one each quickly locatable) and one additional accessory, the bear bell. This was to hang off Ioans ruc sac and drive us bloody mad ...

We were about to hike up a valley with water and fish one side and bear houses (caves, rock outcrops, trees and bushes etc) the other. Bear alley is not an understatement. There was no one else on the trail when we set off.... so it was with jingling bell we went. The ranger said to make lots of noise when I mentioned Iceberg Lake.   I proceeded to lead whilst talking loudly to Ioan (who is not the most talkative of my kids). From the car park we went immediately up hill to break the tree line, before we traversed the side of the valley upwards for several miles. We were in and out of trees with our bells going and me talking. In the end I began singing "jingle bells, Ioan smells all the bears have run way, oh what fun it is to hike with Ioan’s jingling bell" You had to be there to relate to the terror. After about an hour’s frantic hiking, we were motoring. We found a few hikers in front of us so we felt a bit more safe and then slowed down a bit.

We rounded a corner to find a guy sitting with 4 camping chairs reading a book, just at the fork of the trail, it was about 09.30. We spoke for a few minutes. He is doing his Master’s thesis, and wanted us to complete a quick questionnaire on our way down. We noticed he had his ankle in plaster. At this point, Io and I were strong, we had 2 miles to Iceberg Lake and at the fork were 2.5 miles away from the Pitamakin Tunnel.  This is a 185 foot tunnel cut through beteen two valleys. A must do, we have nothing like it in Wales !  So we said to ourselves and this guy, yes, we will do the questionaire, once we do both hikes.

Onwards and upwards, in the raising sun we hiked up and up and up ... it was never ending but towards the top just when we had a tiny glimpse of the lake the trail turned, we lost height and had to plough through some snow fields to get to the shore. But what a view, every step was worth it. We ended up inside a bowl of sheer clifs rising 3100 feet above us ( the top was Iceberg Lake Peak at 9120 feet. We were at 6000 feet, not less than about mile from the shoreline.

The snow had just piled up around the lake and caused lots of little icebergs to float in the water. They moved around with the wind a bit. The water kept changing colour as the wind and sun changed the extremely clear water a deep aqua colour. Everyone knows what Lake Lousie looks like in Canada, now I know why, Iceberg Lake was very similar. Amazing.

The rock was sheer and in the bright sunlight and closudless sky, absolutely amazing. We spent a good hour here (looking and eating of course.)

Where the snow fields had entered the water, big cracks were appearing and moving ever so slowly. My photos don’t do it justice, so I gave up and started memorising what it looked like.

When we arrived there were about 15 people sitting around quietly, but the time we left, there were only two people left.... it was so peaceful. On the way down not 20 minutes from the top we started passing lots of people on the way up, the further we descended the more people we passed. We were fully kitted, like all the early walkers we met, but by mid day it was trainers, a hand bottle and young kids. It was getting very hot. All the shade we had during ascent in the trees had gone, the sun was overhead and Io and I just laughed at the state of people as they were walking up. Mad. One family asked how far to the top (read the sign posts, don’t you know where you are going ??)

We stopped at our Thesis student and competed our questionnaire, and were duely bitten to death by horseflies and other bugs. We had a chat with the guy, and had to ask him the one question Io and I had debated. How did he get the four chairs, all his gear, clip boards etc all with a broken foot, to which he casually replied, he had carried it all up this morning as if to say, like whats the big concern. Io and I were blown away, we expected him to say his friend helped him or something ... mad!

So we felt quite feeble when we decided not to do the The Pitamakin Tunnel as it was 2.5 miles and quite an uphill steep hike. The last 800 feet are up switchbacks to get to the tunnel, some 1300 feet above where we were right then. The thought of 5 miles and that ascent made up our minds. It was getting too hot, so we decided to go onwards and downwards.

We walked without stopping until we got down to the car completing the hike just over the 5 hour mark, finishing about 13.30 and some 10 miles completed. The car temprature put us in the 80’s so we walked over to the shop for an ice cream to celebrate. We went outside and got talking to one of the independant Glacier Guides. He asked us where we had been etc and I told him our change of plans. He mentioned the reason the Grinnel is closed was that someone slipped to their death there two weeks ago, crossing the snow fields... hence its closure. A lot of hikes are closed off in the park due to the heavy snow, especially in the more remote locations and longer hikes where there is no maintenance. So Io and I were lucky to get up to Iceberg.

I drove home the hour and a half from Many Glacier, while Io slept. We came into a hero’s welcome.... I spoke to Luce and the kids, had a shower and hit the sack for about 2 hours, then had some food and beer....

So thats my day and first blog entry...... my feet are sore, my arms burnt, my body aches and I am so happy with myself. Ioan btw, is in bed, annoouncing at 20.00hours was tired, no stamina, lol.
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mcfarlne on

Hey Lyn, Nice to have a blog from you for a change. I have to say i am not disappointed, you are as much of an informer as Luce is with her informative writing prowess :0). I am still loving the amazing pictures and think back at my time in Alaska doing exactly the same type of hiking as you are doing. Talking very loudly, bear bell shaking madly and your heart beating rather fast at every corner lol.

mam on

Well done Lyn Good hike good Blog and Ioan fancy having to walk and put up with your Dads singing Lol

juliephilip on

Well done Lyn and Ioan. Great write up Lyn and fantastic photos. Like Chris, we can relate to hiking in some very remote trails in the US and Canada and singing loudly like idiots just incase! Unlike you though, we never did see a bear up close. We did have a scary moment passing a couple of mooses on a trail though - not quite the same!!

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