M A Lightweight Guide to the Crown of the Continent

by David Chenault

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Article Summary:

The typical backpacking season in Glacier is early July through mid September, and for good reason. The snow pack in Glacier and the Bob can be massive, and even after most has melted, creeks normally knee deep can rage chest-high. Several high passes with north-facing slopes, such as Gunsight and Ahern, often require an ice axe and crampons into late July. The result, especially in Glacier, is that the brief summer is very crowded. The backcountry fills up, and getting permits for desired trips is often impossible.

There are good reasons this brief window is so popular. As mentioned above, technical barriers exist which make spring trips more strenuous and intimidating, and while snow can and will fall in Glacier any month of the year, after September 1st the probability is vastly increased. By late October of a typical year the high passes have begun to fill up with the season's snow, and the tools to travel safely over snow and in avalanche country become vital. By December, what are dry trails in August are usually feet deep in snow, a state of affairs which often continues well into May.

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