Glacier National Park is one of the last pristine pieces of wilderness in the United States. With over one million acres of mountain ranges, lakes and native wildlife to discover it certainly lives up to its nickname as the Crown of the Continent. Hardcore climbers, in particular, have found it to be a fantastic place to visit with a seemingly endless array of crag to explore and switchbacks to traverse.
The region is not for the faint of heart. The rocks are infamously treacherous and unsteady and during the cooler months, much of the park becomes an avalanche zone. If you’re an experienced climber, whether rock or mountain, you’ll find that the untouched rocks here are a great place to find new routes amid the crowd-free wilderness.
Mount Oberlin is widely considered the entry point for mountain climbing in Glacier National Park. It’s one of only two mountains in the area that are considered “safe” to climb with a somewhat straightforward route to the top. The Clements Saddle Route will get you to the peak in roughly half a day and the views from above are excellent. Oberlin is the go-to route for those wanting to climb when the conditions aren’t very favorable for harsher ascents.
The West Face of Going-to-the-Sun houses a 4,000-foot vertical ascent up a crumbling façade designed to weed out the weak. It’s listed as a Class 3/4 but even the most experienced climbers have a tough time making it to the top thanks to crappy infrastructure. If you find yourself easily traversing to the peak, the opposite side of the mountain is where the real challenge lies. You’ll find some pretty great crags to tackle here too.
Mount Saint Nicholas
Mt. Saint Nicholas is often touted as the most difficult and dangerous major summit in the park. Its location in the remote southwestern portion of GNP makes it hard to reach and even harder to ascend. The steep vertical horn of the mountain and sturdy crag makes it appealing for avid rock climbers, while mountaineers love the technical routes to the top. You might have to ford the mouth of Muir Creek to get there, or trek in 18 miles, but the views from the top make it worth the effort.
Expect to set aside at least a week in the backcountry if you’re going to make an attempt at Kinnerly Peak. This massive glacial horn is just less than 10,000 feet high and rests in the remote northwest region of the park. All four sides are incredibly steep, with the one-mile elevation difference on the north face between the peak and Upper Kintla Lake. With a relatively high spire measure and no real trail to choose from, Kinnerly ranks up there with the best of them.
Mount Merritt isn’t the most technical climb in the park, though it’s certainly not easy by any stretch, it does have inarguably one of the most breathtaking views from the top. Scenic overlooks of the surrounding Mokowanis and Belly River valleys along with the neighboring Old Sun Glacier paint a marvelous portrait of one of the nation’s most valuable natural treasures. With only two standard routes available to the summit, expect to spend days in the backcountry making your initial approach. The Mokanis Lake route requires an ice ax to help carry you across a steep screen slope and Class 3 ledges while the Old Sun Glacier path is a complicated route full of 50-degree climbing and exposed scrambling most of the way up.