As we drove up the Many Glacier road it was raining heavily off and on. We wondered if we were going to have to find a Plan B. As we got closer we decided to go for it. The trail to Iceberg Lake begins in the Many Glacier Valley located on the east side of the Continental Divide, to the north of St. Mary. From the TH at the back of the Swift Current Motor Inn complex (marked with a TH sign), the Ptarmigan Trail climbs about 200 yards. We stopped at the first clearing to shed our jackets as it looked like the rain was going to hold off. I knew the climb was short and indeed it was. Once you finished that first climb, it was pretty clear sailing as far as any steep elevation.
At the top of this climb the terrain opens up with great views and the wildflowers start popping up along the trail and beyond. Mt. Wilbur is directly in front of you and the Ptarmigan Wall to the west. Mt. Henkel rises above the trail to the right (north) of you. Within 1/2 hour we run into our first big wildlife in the park: 3 deer. I tried my whistling technique
to get their attention so that they would stop eating long enough for us to get some photos. Ambika was in front so she got pretty close to them. This closeness with the wildlife would be her forte for our time in GNP.
After about a mile and a half, the trail begins to enter some scattered forests. It seemed like it took longer to get to Ptarmigan Falls and the bridge that crosses Ptarmigan Creek than I thot... maybe it had something to do with all those photo opportunities
. The variety of wildflowers is simply outstanding. You can sit on some nice flat rocks just above the creek/waterfalls to have a snack and take photos. This marks the 1/2-way point of the hike. The waterfalls were very nice but hard to photograph from above. As you were rounding the bend coming up the trees blocked a clear view of the Falls.
In a short while you get to the junction with the trail to Ptarmigan Lake/Tunnel. We took the Iceberg Lake Trail. From there you start slowly gaining more elevation. We also finally got to see a nice big patch of beargrass. It is my understanding that last year was a good year for the beargrass; not so much this year unfortunately. It was great to take our time and soak in the surroundings as we worked our way up to Iceberg Lake. Off to our left (south) there was a nice set of cascading waterfalls coming down from Iceberg Creek.
The Iceberg Lake Trail continues through scattered forest terrain for about another half mile before it opens up to reveal the magnificent Ptarmigan Wall that rises almost 3000 feet. The grandeur is all around you. It's difficult to take it all in because it's just so magnificent
. As you get closer you get a good look at Mt. Wilbur to the left (south), Iceberg Peak in front of you and to the east the route you just traversed. You eventually get to a little bridge (5 2x4-like wood plank bridge) that cross Iceberg Creek. What I liked about this is you look slightly to the NE down the creek to a negative edge as it dropped down the side of the mountain. We also saw what I thot were "pixel" (Ambika's adjective) mountain goats but when I reviewed my pics at home, they were actually mountain sheep.
Now you have another couple short steep sections before you reach what I call the Iceberg Lake Overlook. We learned we had just missed a momma bear and her cubs at the bridge and a couple people had actually been held up as they made their way. Ambika set up her tripod and took some photos including a "wendy" before we made our way down to the lake shore to enjoy our lunch. It was a bit nippy up here but we had a great box lunch that we bot from the Rising Sun Two Dog Flats Cafe. The sun didn't cooperate too much while we were here and the icebergs weren't floating out in the middle but nonetheless, it was so wonderful to enjoy such a unique area
As we made our way down we discovered a lot of the flowers were putting their blooms on including the always graceful Glacier Lily. There were just so many different flowers to photograph. It was great fun! We encountered a ranger about 1/2 way back to the Falls. Apparently a hiker had passed out on the trail and they were trying to clear the way for helicopter transport. We passed the fellow and his companions as they were making their way back up the trail to a clearing where he could be airlifted. There was also a ranger coming up on the trail walking two saddled horses. They apparently airlifted the fellow out safely as the ranger and a couple others came back on the trail riding the horses and a couple rangers came back on foot.
It did start to rain as we walked the last mile and 1/2 so we threw on our rain gear. The threatening storm made for some great cloud "drama" as Ambika calls it so I got some more photos looking back (west) toward the Ptarmigan Wall and Iceberg Peak area. The rain was short-lived and we made it to the TH in good shape after enjoying a great time on a terrific trail through some of the most bountiful area of Glaicer Park.
I put in our moving time so that those of you that aren't in "tibbermode" can get an idea of what a normal leisurely hike time would be. With all of our photography and stops we took 9 hours to enjoy this splendid hike. I think the auto AEG is off so I will fix that once I get Scout's official report. Here is a little video I took, mostly of Ptarmigan Falls coming and going and Iceberg Lake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxTFSndiAPc