14.3 miles hiked, Camping at St Marys lake campground @ 4626ft
Highest elevation today: 7326ft (Piegan Pass)
We are out of the room at a respectable-ish time and head to reception to check out. I ask about the food we saw two hikers dropping off in a hiker box there. I can see there are cliff bars and kind bars on the desk, the staff go very red faced and say we have to check at the ranger station as they don’t have a hiker box. Riiiiight.
In beautiful sun we walk along the west side of Swiftcurrent lake, described by the Ley maps as the more scenic alternate. It seems the east side is purely through trees, so I think we’ve chosen well.
A boat docks in front of us that came from the hotel and a giant bunch of tourists plod out, taking up the trail and walking veeeery slowly with a thousand bear bells. Irrational rage boils up as we manage to pass one or two, only to have a child dart in front of us blocking our paths. They are cunning these day-hikers. Eventually I just put on a saccharine smile and yell out excuse-mes and we all push obnoxiously past. It’s quite hilarious as we look back and realise they walk about 200m along the path where the boat has darted ahead and the get back on board. Woah nature! Totes back country! #Wilderness
Thanks to the downpour yesterday and a thousand horses on the trail since then we are squooshing our way uphill through sticky sticky mud. It tries to steal my shoe a few times, but just manages to add an extra 2kg of weight on the bottom with each step.
We come into a meadow and have a wee rest and a snack before a freezing river crossing (no bridge! Boo!) and the climb starts up to Piegan Pass.
It’s absolutely stunning. Giant jagged mountains stare down at us, the ground is lush with grass and flowers and trees. We are heading straight towards Morning Eagle Falls and it is breathtaking. We stop to take more and more photos as we get closer. The trail is winding up through snow now and there are a couple of sketchy crossings so I finally take my ice axe out.
We’re near the top and there are some animal tracks zooming across the snow -wolverine tracks!!! Very very cool. I don’t ever expect to see a wolverine, but to see its tracks is pretty amazing.
I stop for a minute to photograph and chat with a social marmot, then up to the top! There is a cool rock shelter someone has built as a campsite where speedy Crunchmaster is waiting and we sit for 5 before heading over the otherside.
It’s a steep drop to the valley below amd we hike along a thin path on the side of the trail. The valley below leads to the Going To The Sun Road, the peaks around it a perfect mix of greens and blues with patches of snow.
The avalanche chutes are sketchy on this side. We have a nervous few moments watching Grizzly start across the first veeerry slowly (without axe or spikes) only to have him stop halfway and declare that he doesn’t like it at all. I take out my axe again and finally don my microspikes and it feels so much safer!
We spot a mamma bear with 2 cubs far across the valley climbing around some bushes in a snow patch. Thankfully far away!
2 more dodgy chutes and the path leads down below treeline into the forest. There is a LOT of snow here! Compacted so no postholing, but it still makes for slippery slow downhill hiking.
It takes us a long time, but eventually I see cars I can head Grizzly’s voice at the bottom talking to someone. A hitch before we’d even got to the road!
We jump in and enjoy the fast view along St Mary’s lake. We are at the St Mary’s campground tonight as there were no permits available at Reynolds where we wanted to camp.
As we arrive at the campground there are some hikers with a car in a site at the entry. They give us some giant rotten news- the trail is closed further ahead due to a mountain lion killing an elk right in the middle of the trail!!! And on the other side of the triple divide pass it is closed due to aggressive bear activity. Whaaaat??? We make plans to visit the ranger station in the morning and see what alternate trails we can come up with. Boooo. Giant booooo.
We find the hiker/biker site we have reserved and there are 2 bikers there. They’ve taken up the 2 tentsites so we settle with a tentsite on the gravel.
There is some good news – phone reception tonight for Grizzly means we get to eat dinner and watch Game of Thrones! #Wilderness 😉