Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Glacier Backpacking Trip - Day 1

So after stuffing ourselves thoroughly the night before, we slept in a bit (7am) and then started laying out our gear we'd need for the next 3 days. We knew our packs would be heavy, and we knew the route would be brutal so I tried to optimize our weight as much as possible. I would take as many of the non-consumable items as possible, and let Jill take mostly consumable items so her pack would get lighter throughout the duration of the trip.

My pack held both our sleeping bags, the tent, the stove, my clothes and more pounds of camera gear than I care to admit. Jill had all the food, her clothes, our water and all the odds and ends that quickly add up to real pounds. We estimated our packs to be 25ish pounds for Jill's and probably 35-40 for mine. Heavier than we needed, but as Jill says "If I want to haul 35 lbs of Snickers bars up the mountain then I ought to be able to." I tend to agree with her.

So for our west to east journey across Glacier, we headed to Lake McDonald to start our journey. We opted to just park at the start and catch the shuttle after our trek rather than setup the shuttle so the car would be waiting for us at the end.

Jill looks eager to start the 7.5 mile uphill slog

We got started on the trail around 9:30am, late enough that the horse traffic on the trail was in front of us, meaning we'd be force to deal with the "trail apples" left behind for us. The first couple of miles offered no warm up, as the trail climbed steadily and steeply away from Lake McDonald before leveling off a bit for miles 2 - 4. After a couple of hours of steady workman like efforts, we came to the first junction and set down for some lunch to give us some energy for the final half of the day's climbing.

Still looking pretty happy even after a whole lot of climbing

After lunch we pressed on, encountering quite a few people on the way back down. Most we talked to had stayed at the Chalet, a $255 per couple per night experience, in a high alpine environment. Most had either hiked up "the easy way" or had taken horses up. Everyone seemed quite eager to continually tell us "its all uphill" as the zoomed by on the 7.5 mile descent.

As we got within a mile of the chalet, we could see its dramatic setting up above us. We still had a steep mile of climbing to reach it, but the scenery was getting better and our destination (for day 1 at least) was in sight.

Rounding the corner to the last push, the chalet was but steps away. Jill posed for a quick picture near the arrival and then we headed up to this oasis on the mountainside. We were told meals were available, even to us poor campers, but the real delight was finding out they had $1 candy bars. I'm not much of a fan of the chocolate, but after a long day and a 600 calorie dinner a Butterfinger tasted like heaven.

Just about 1/4 mile past the chalet was our campsite. We were the 3rd group (out of 4) to arrive, so we grabbed one of the two available sights and dropped those heavy packs as quickly as we could. We setup camp, hung our food up on the bear poles and then just relaxed around camp.

Home, sweet home - for the night at least

Jill reads while I try my best at an artistic shot

After arriving at camp, we were a little surprised to see that despite being in the back country, it was somewhat "group" camping. The 4 sites at Sperry were pretty closely put together, with our site being Site #1 and only about 10 or 15 yards from Site #2. 3 and 4 were close together, but at least 100 yards from us. The other difference from our other experiences was the group food storage and cooking areas. Normally, each site has its own area for cooking and storage area. It wasn't a big issue, and we actually enjoyed talking with the two guys staying in site #2. We traded some stories and just talked in general before retiring to our respective campsites for sunset.

Not a bad place to spend the night

So day 1 was in the books, and after our brutal first day, the days should get progressively easier (although far from easy days). So the gaudy numbers for day 1 stacked up as:

7.66 miles
3,775 feet climbed (300 descended)
3:23 minutes moving time (2.3 mph avg)

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