Ascent of Triple Divide Peak on 1994-07-26

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:George K.
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Tuesday, July 26, 1994
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Triple Divide Peak
    Elevation:8020 ft / 2444 m

Ascent Trip Report

I woke up early and was pleased to see it was a beautiful day. I ate some breakfast in the deserted common room of Brownie's Hostel and drove the winding, curvy roads to the Cut Bank Road, a badly potholed dirt track that led through flocks of cows to a parking area. I parked a little before 7:30 AM, planning to climb Triple Divide Peak, the point where the watersheds of the Mississippi, Columbia, and Hudson Bay meet--if Hudson Bay is considered part of the Arctic Ocean (which it sort of is, but really isn't), then this peak is the only place on the surface of the earth where three ocean watersheds meet.

There was a guy in the parking lot about to start up the trail, and after a brief conversation we found that we were both going for the same objective, and we agreed to team up. The guy waited while I got changed and I got my pack together--I decided to take my ice axe, figuring that if there were any snowfields to cross I'd feel pretty bad if I didn't have it. The guy agreed, and he got his, and we started up the trail towards Triple Divide Peak.

My hiking partner for the day was George from Boulder, CO, a vacationing banker (I think) out for a hike today while his family rested back at their hotel. George had climbed all 54 Colorado 14,000 foot peaks, and had been part of an unsuccessful Mt. McKinley expedition, so he was in excellent shape and we had no trouble keeping up a steady pace and a steady conversation about mountain adventures, which was good for scaring away grizzly bears. We had bells and keys tied to our packs, too.

We hiked gradually uphill on trails through forest and then open meadow for about seven miles, reaching Triple Divide Pass easily as it started getting awfully hot out under the cloudless sky. Triple Divide Peak towered over the pass, presenting a crumbling cliff that our guidebook (Edwards) said was easily climbable, but it looked very steep. I wanted to give it a shot, but George balked, so we instead contoured across the face of the peak to the south, through meadows and steep, crumbly talus, looking for an easy route up through the band of cliffs connecting Triple Divide with Razoredge Mountain. We saw some bighorn sheep in this beautiful, high wilderness cirque.

We found a cleft that looked ascendable, and, using our ice axes in the rotten rock, we managed to climb up to the top of the cliffs without too much trouble. George and I agreed that our axes sure came in handy even though we didn't use them in snow. After a rest we climbed the gentle (for Glacier National Park) summit ridge over a few false summits and, a little after noon, we had arrived at the 8,020 foot summit of Triple Divide Peak.

We took a long rest here. The views were awesome, especially of the inaccessible Mt. Stimson to the west, a 10,000 foot peak that supposedly sees only five ascents a year. We both poured a little bit of our water on the summit cairn--theoretically, that water would flow in three directions to New Orleans, LA; Astoria, OR; and Nelson, Manitoba, and the total of those three distances (over 6,000 miles) is greater than for anywhere else on earth. We ate our lunches and took lots of pictures, and it was nice to get someone to take pictures of me--I didn't have to go look for a rock to balance my camera on.

George and I had both had thoughts about climbing another peak, perhaps Mt. Norris, a bit further along the ridge from where we were, or else Mt. James, a huge, gentle rock heap on the other side of Triple Divide Pass. However, we were both tired, and had perhaps underestimated the toll that an almost nine-mile hike each way would take. So we left the summit at 12:45 PM and returned the same way we hiked up--down the summit ridge, carefully down the miserable rock of the cleft, across the snowbanks, meadows, and steep, rotten talus of the open cirque, and then down the trails to our cars. Once down in the forest we saw the first other hikers we had seen all day, several groups of backpackers that seemed to be getting a late start. I ran out of water near the bottom (I sort of wished that I hadn't poured some on the summit!), and soon was in the very familiar tired, footsore, and thirsty state so common at the end of long days. George was pretty tired, too, but we diverted ourselves by continuing our conversations.

We arrived back at our cars at the Cut Bank Ranger Station at 4:30 PM, and, as we were throwing our stuff in our cars, we exchanged addresses and said that we might meet at Brownie's, since George wanted to stop there to get some drinks--it was on the way to his hotel in East Glacier. He left first, and I never caught up, since I went very slowly on the horrendous Cut Bank Road and on the steep hills and hairpin curves of MT 49.

I did see George briefly at Brownie's, and I wished him well and thanked him for his company before going upstairs to my new room--the maid had nicely moved my junk and made my bed. I shaved, took a shower, and then ate a big burger at the Whistlestop Diner next door, a very informal place that was very quiet until a family with about six kids came in to eat. I then hung out on the porch at Brownie's and engaged in the only youth hostel socializing of my trip, chatting a bit with a young kid from Calgary, a hostel worker girl from Kentucky, and another guy I think was European. I had some ice cream while sitting there, self-conscious about my still somewhat-disheveled state.

Despite the usual hostel noise in the hallway, I got to sleep early in my private room and slept long and well.

Triple Divide Peak looks like the prow of a battleship in this view from near Triple Divide Pass (1994-07-26).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2860 ft / 871 m
    Trailhead:Cut Bank CG  5160 ft / 1572 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 45 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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