Five Gnarly Climbs in Glacier National Park

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, Glacier National Park, Montana.Mount Ober­lin
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.

Going-to-the-Sun Moun­tain
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.

Kin­ner­ly Peak
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
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.

Glacier National Park, Montana.