When was the last time you climbed a mountain? I’m not talking about a basic hike up to some overlook, no, I’m talking about having to get your hands dirty and physically balance yourself up some rocks. Scary? Perhaps. Tough? Definitely.
Whether you’ve done something like that recently or you’ve never even attempted to summit a peak, it’s something you should definitely try at least once. Even though it may be a bit intimidating at first, Glacier National Park may just be a great place to start. And the “easiest” peak in the park for you to get under your belt is Mount Oberlin.
Located due west of the Logan Pass parking lot, Oberlin can be seen from a large portion of Going to the Sun road. From ‘The Loop,’ it’s the prominent feature in a small series of peaks. From the Logan Pass parking lot, it’s seen all the way to the right (paired with Clements Mountain).
Mt Oberlin is an 8180ft/2493m mountain located in GNP Montana. It’s partner peak is Divide Mountain and the two are considered the easiest in the park – meaning this is where you should get your introduction in the Glacier National Park mountaineering. Elevation gain is nearly 1600ft to the peak, is 4 miles round trip, and is best used between spring and fall.
The mountain was named by Dr. Lyman B. Sperry of Oberlin College, Ohio. In 1896 Sperry led the first party to reach the glacier that bears his name today, and later oversaw the building of the trail providing access to Sperry Glacier.
Climb Play By Play:
This climb starts at Logan Pass parking lot / visitor center. My recommendation, based purely on time of year, is to arrive prior to 8 am. Traffic at the center has been on the rise and the number of visitors daily in the park has been increasing nearly 20% every year for the past 5 years. This means if you don’t get there early, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Once you have all of your gear together, supplies packed, and you’re locked/loaded for the trek up, begin walking towards the visitor center. As you approach the main staircase you’ll find there’s a handicap accessible ramp located nearby. Take this ramp and follow it until you find a chained off path that looks like it leads directly to the trailhead. There’s a small tree in the middle of the trail, so it’s hard to miss. Step over the chain and you’ve officially started your climb.
Following the trail is simple, as it is very easy to follow. There are a couple of blind corners, so be sure you and your party are making plenty of noise to avoid a bad encounter with bears. As you continue you’ll find that each step is pretty simple as and the views keep getting better. The trail will eventually look as though it will diverge, so be sure to follow the portion of the trail that leads to the ridgeline rather than scrambling directly up the SE face of Oberlin. This is due to conservation efforts and ease of traverse.
Once you hit the ridgeline, you start to reach some looser rock. Due to the old and eroded nature of the rock in GNP, you’ll want to take it slow and steady in any place you don’t feel sure-footed.
Continue the push through the class 3 scrambling which, in all honesty, isn’t scary on this hike, You’re climb will then come to a minor fork about 3/4 of the way through the hike. There will be a nice smooth route through some larger gaps in a narrow crack or you can take the bend that seemingly goes to nowhere. This bend is where the class 4 portion of the hike exists as you will be doing scrambling with little wiggle room for recovery in the event of a fall. So, proceed with caution.
Once you get past this, small hiked/game trails become visible once again with strategic cairn placement to aide the rest of your ascent.
And that’s it, you’ve reached your summit. Time to bask in the glory of the sun and claim your peak in the heart of Glacier National Park. When you decide it’s time to descend just take the same route down as the route is easier to find on the down than on the up.
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Until the next one, get out there and enjoy YOUR adventure!!!