Mt. Grinnell stands tall between two incredible drainages in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park. While not on the Garden Wall, the easiest way to access it is from the Lake McDonald side via the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. I did so with my wife, Kristen, and my buddy Blake Passmore of Climb Glacier National Park.
After some playing around with dates, we settled on a Wednesday that allowed my wife to join us in our attempt to summit Mt. Grinnell. The plan was to drive up to the Loop on Going-to-the-Sun Road, hike up to Granite Park Chalet, then follow the Highline Trail south to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. From there, we would summit, then come back down via the Swiftcurrent Glacier basin. We would traverse below the glacier, then work our way back to the Swiftcurrent Pass trail. While we almost made an eleventh hour change to do the loop backwards (Swiftcurrent Glacier basin first, then out through the overlook), we ultimately decided to go the original way which worked out well.
The forecast in the morning called for “Abundant Sunshine” which held true to its word. We hit the trail in the cool of the morning and ended up at Granite Park Chalet for a 9:30am snack. From there, we passed some bighorn sheep on the way to the overlook where we visited with some wonderful ladies from Canada. We spent more time in scree than we wanted too, but eventually found the climber’s trail a bit higher up the slope than we were. Once at the saddle, however, the route was obvious.
We headed up the windy slope stopping frequently for the amazing views. The ridgeline walk is one of the reasons why I love climbing in Glacier. From the summit, we could see into the Grinnell Glacier basin all the way down to Lake Josephine and out to Lake Sherburne. On the other side was the Swiftcurrent drainage starting with the glacier and lookout of the same name. Trails looked like scratches in the landscape and the people looked like ants along them.
The route down to the glacier was scoped, debated, and ultimately decided upon. We found a shelf that looked like it would work and it provided nice passage all the way down to the moonscape basin below the glacier. Swiftcurrent Glacier’s blue ice and silty water, combined with the rock and low growing plant life made for a magical and “other-worldly” place. Of course the views all around kept us in awe.
We worked our way up through the rocks on the other side to drop down into a greener bowl. From here, we could have walked up the ridge and dropped back down onto the Highline, but we wanted to see how it connected with the Swiftcurrent Pass trail. We traversed the basin and climbed up an obvious green chute and had another bite to eat before landing on the trail and heading back down.
All in all, a nice big, incredible day exploring off-trail routes in Glacier!