Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sperry Glacier

Despite my love for planning, I’ve noticed that knowing the exact elevation profile and trail description takes away the sense of discovery.  What would it be like to be an explorer? 

           “I’m going up to Sperry Glacier.  I will be back tonight” I text my friend/ emergency contact.
           “How many miles is that?”
           “No idea!”

In a rare departure from my usual way of through planning and reading every trail description, this trip I just set out with just a topo map of Glacier National Park.  I skipped the trail descriptions and looking at guidebooks and blog posts and photos.  I just knew it would involve climbing.  Which I love.

I passed by deep blue lakes and mountain goats-- didn't expect any of this!
There were more lakes right before the pass.  I couldn't believe the colors!
Since I didn't read the trail description, this part was a complete surprise. 
When I got up the stairs... The expression says it all...  I'm excited about EVERYTHING.
I scrambled around on the rocks for a while.  Totally made me feel like I was a real explorer.
The glacier was so huge... like GLACIAL huge.
One the way back down, I tagged along with this women's hiking club for a while, as we passed by the mountain goats.
I liked that by traveling in this more unplanned way, free of expectations and someone else's trip descriptions, some things remained a surprise until I got there.  I could do a more challenging hike that stretched my abilities.  I could meet the terrain with a clear mind.  A refreshing way to experience a trail.

Of course, I’m not recommending skipping the plan ahead and prepare step altogether!  Assess trail conditions and be able to find a hike that is at your skill level.  But for me, studying the topo lines on my map showed this trip suited my skill level, and I felt comfortable enough to skip the trail statistics and hike description.  Going off-trail would have been a different story—I don’t do that in Glacier when I’m solo.  But for established trails, I am confident in my ability to gain significant elevation.  I'm just advocating a slightly different approach to planning, to keep things fresh.  See what works for you!

About this hike

Started at Lake McDonald Lodge, climbed to Sperry Chalet, and then took the Sperry Glacier Trail over Comeau Pass.  Most people don't do this all in one day cause it turns out that it's over 5000 feet elevation gain.*  This website tells how to break it down.

* But if you don't know this in advance, I totally think it really wasn't that bad.  But then again, that could be the reason that I have trouble finding (and keeping) hiking buddies.


  1. * most people don't want to work that hard. That's why finding someone who does is a gem! They are out there, it's just a hunt.

  2. Awesome! That little alcove is awesome, too.

  3. Congrats! You just discovered a zen teaching: Expectation the greater, dissatisfaction most likely follow.

    1. Well said! Will have to remember that! :)

  4. hi Joan and welcome back. This has been a difficult season/year to predict "best time to go". Glacier Park is always spectacular and a good back up plan if not destination. Glad you found solitude in the Swans as I did and didn't.

    1. It was so frustrating to have all those fires, with the smoke changing daily and hourly. Guess that's what happens after so much fire suppression, I just wish I'd planned my 3 week vacation earlier. But then there were these incredible days like going to Sperry where everything just fell into place and the air was clear and I appreciated it all the more for not taking anything for granted.