The long drive to Glacier National Park left us with half a day to climb Altyn Peak. Following the route descriptions in Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park, we wanted to ascend the mountain using the South America route and descend via the Western Saddle route. But the brief descriptions left us scratching our heads. Although we didn't do either route, we summited and had a rewarding trip.
We had no trouble finding the trailhead: it's just past the junction at Swiftcurrent Falls. We parked at a pull-out past the trailhead. The steep, unrelenting trail follows alongside a drainage that cuts through a cliff band. Past that, open slopes stretch to a cliff band below the summit ridge.
We saw a few possibilities to reach the ridge: circumventing the cliff band left, up a weakness in the middle or through a bowl right of the summit. The South America route suggested going up the east end, but that was hidden from view.
As we drew closer, the features of the cliff band resolved into sharper focus and ascending the bowl looked probable. On closer inspection, steep rocks barred the way, save for a short chimney. I reached it with Sonny close behind. Meanwhile, Dinah passed us to check the east end route that the book described. Leaving the chimney for Sonny to explore, I followed Dinah to the east end.
Unfortunately the east end appeared too difficult and exposed to attempt, especially without helmets. But since Sonny made the summit from the chimney, Dinah and I backtracked to it and soon joined him on top.
After a long stay on the summit we headed to the Altyn-Henkel col. We looked for – and expected – an easy way down from there but it was not to be. A long, circuitous route around steep slopes eventually brought us back to the drainage in the cliff band. We could have done without going to the saddle, but ascending Altyn Peak was an enjoyable scramble.
Altyn Peak (mouse over for our approximate ascent route)
Heading up the trail
The trail follows a drainage that breaks through the cliff band.
Nearing the break
Sonny takes the left side of the drainage.
I take the right.
Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine below
The summit comes into view.
Sonny pauses after we climb above the cliff band.
Yellow buckwheat (mouse over) blankets the slope.
When we ran into Andrew and Mark Nugara the following morning in St Mary's, we learned that
while we were climbing Altyn, they were climbing Mount Wilbur (right, mouse over), ascending
the east face seen here.
As we ascend, we encountered colorful rock.
A rocky staircase aids our ascent as we head to the bowl.
Higher up, we encountered scree. By keeping left, I encountered less scree than Dinah and Sonny.
Cliffs below the summit
Sonny makes his way along the cliff base.
I go to inspect a chimney hidden on the left.
Sonny scrambles up the chimney (mouse over for a close-up)
Dinah heads to the east end.
Sonny reached the summit but I'm stymied for a way up the east end.
Dinah and I return to the chimney, just behind the pinnacle above me.
After scrambling up the chimney we ascend a gully part way before moving left onto a scree slope.
Almost at the summit
A warm day, we spent nearly an hour on top of Altyn Peak.
Mount Grinnell in the foreground
Going to the saddle. Mount Henkel on the right.
Below the saddle, we search for a way down.
Traversing mid-slopes back to the drainage.
Back at the drainage
Columbian ground squirrels at Logan's Pass
Many Glaciers 1:24,000 Topo (3.4 mi, 7959 ft, 3031 ft)
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