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Ahern Pass via Chalet, MT
mini location map2021-08-11
68 by photographer avatartibber
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Ahern Pass via Chalet, MT 
Ahern Pass via Chalet, MT
Hiking avatar Aug 11 2021
Hiking9.88 Miles 1,291 AEG
Hiking9.88 Miles   8 Hrs   9 Mns   1.46 mph
1,291 ft AEG   1 Hour   24 Mns Break
1st trip
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Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
Well my phone couldn't hold up with all the filming I was doing and keep up with the power so the stats are from my watch except to the Overlook which was around 5 miles. I tried to upload the .gpx route from my watch but it kept wanting to upload the Avalanche Hike even though the map showed this hike. Anyway, this was our geology tour that got off to a late start and less 6 participants that didn't show up to the Chalet. Well that was our gain as we would have Jeff Kuhn all to ourselves except for one of the Chalet hosts that would join us at the Algal Reef where we had lunch.

Luckily it was a beautiful day though windy. You first hike over the lava rocks and formations near the Chalet. And Jeff went right into let me show you and tell you mode which was great. His wealth of knowledge is so beyond the pale. He's been at this for a long time starting out as an employee at Many Glacier Lodge 20 years ago or more. As we got near the intersection with the Chalet campground, he pointed out the now missing ranger cabin that had been taken out by an ice flow. Wendy, Gary and I accidentally ended up at this cabin in 2011 as we had walked too far to get water so I included footage from that video in this one.

As you round the corner you say goodbye to Heaven's Peak and hello to Longfellow and the rest of the Livingston Range. Below you is the flat slabs of the Purcell lava flow which surrounds this area. There was also a HUGE double fire near this area in 2003 ... 004Win.pdf that ended up being called the Robert Megaplex Fire as several fires joined together and burned around 107,000 acres. You can see where the line was. I was here when the Trapper part of the fire had started. High above you is the Rainbow Ridge rock cliffs. It is pretty long.

As we walk a little further, we get to the crux of this hike, rocks. Much of the rockery in the park is argillite in various colors and due to various processes that occurred. I found myself reading a whole bunch on Glacier Park geology as I was making my videos. Each time I go to the Park, I learn just a little more. It's like each time I go to a photography workshop, more of what I learn actually sinks in. When I post up my photos, I will add links to further knowledge about this most incredible geology.

What makes Glacier's geology unique is though it is a young place, much of the older rock is in the top layers so they actually know a lot more about the area because of that. I just found this outstanding webiste about Glacier Park's geology that was made in 2019. If you have any curiosity at all, this will address it in a very simple way. Once on the site scroll down to activate the pages: ... bfda5ddcdd Glacier is a lot like the Grand Canyon too because of all the different layers (though obviously not as colorful as the Canyon). One of the things we had to learn to distinguish was the white striping being calcite vs quartz depending on where it was. The thing to remember about Glacier is it was under a sea and thus a lot of the rock you see reflects that. And, the volcanic activity took place under water... at least that's my understanding.

We did see some nice antlered-deer down the hillside. We were hiking far below the west flank of Swiftcurrent Mountain and under overcast skies but that made the colors really stand out in some cases. Every so often we would stop and Jeff would share his knowledge while the rest of the time we would be gawking at the scenery, mostly the mountains to the north as both Tina and I have hiked in the Lewis Range and over to Boulder Pass. We hiked up a hill to where the remaining trees were white now though much of the hillside was barren from the fire and it didn't look like anything was growing back.

As we gradually came around a long corner we were standing above a very barren flat lava (Purcell) bed far below us. If you look at the route via satellite and zoom in a little you can really see the geology of the area including probable sea and/or glacial action. We eventually come to drop into the Ahern Drift area that both Tina and I have always heard so much about as it doesn't get clear of snow until August most years. In fact, Jeff showed us the route they had to take a week earlier to get around the snow cover on the trail.

It was awesome to hike along the Purcell Sill as it's usually high up (that black band you usually see in the high part of certain mountains around the park). Jeff explained the sill to us as we walked by the part that was limestone that was now a low-grade marble. I tried to include some of his remarks in the videos so if you like this stuff, you'll have to tune in. Even better, you should go and sign up for one of his workshops at the Granite Park Chalet next summer.

Next up was the Algal Reef... say what? Yep, there is this reef of Stromatolites (fossilized algae) in the Ahern Drift area. All of this was at the bottom of the shallow Belt Sea. Stromatolites are already cool let alone a reef of them; after all, they are 1.5 BILLION years old. We had our lunch here amongst them. I brot Wendy's reconstituted refried bean recipe with 1/2 corn/flour tortillas I found at the super market in Polson. We had salsa too. It was very good and filling. Oh, one of the Chalet hosts joined us (can't remember his name but he's 19 and very fast hiker).

Next it was to get to the Pass but first we hiked over three spring debris rock flows that had come off of Iceberg Peak. They cause pretty significant devastation, like an avalanche. Jeff said it took the trail crews a bit to clear the trail thru the debris. I was hoping around the last corner would be the Pass and it was.

We ran into a Glacier guide and two other backpackers that had come from Fifty Mountain b/c site (would love to go there one of these times; it was one of our choices this year but we got Gunsight and Pitamakan/Dawson Pass). They were taking a break at Ahern Creek. From here we would head up to the Overlook. After visiting with them for a moment we headed up not knowing there was a mama grizzly and her cubs watching us. We found this out later when we ran into them at the Chalet later.

The 400 foot climb in 1/2 mile wasn't too bad and the trail was decent. We really had no idea what was awaiting us but after all, it is Glacier Park. The wind was blasting us as we got closer to the side of Iceberg Peak's flank and then just over the horizon was the ever beautiful glacial blue Helen Lake; but not to be out done, to your left was Ahern Glacier with its 1700 foot waterfalls tumbling down it's steep eastern side. We climbed up the south slope of Iceberg Peak to get a better view of Ahern Glacier. Yep, :y: is all I can say!

We went back to the Overlook while Jeff went down the hill a bit. He said you used to be able to climb onto the snow right below us and hike down the valley. There's no snow there now but I did find a video from 2012 that showed the snow right there altho I don't know what time of year it was. [ youtube video ] Anyway, it's pretty cool as a small group of Bighorn Sheep walk onto the snow field. We did notice some eagles flying above us and one of them knabbed something. We also noticed some Bighorn Sheep higher up the side of Ahern Peak.

We hiked down the pass and started heading back. I had to change to my camera for videos which I don't like using anymore because of the lack of stabilization that my phone has. It was amazing that we could see Heaven's Peak from here so I zoomed in as the light was making the snow all shiny. There was a bumble bee working on some asters by the creek too. As we got around another corner I zoomed into a cave which just seemed to contain rocks.

When we got closer to the area where we had lunch at the Algal Reef, I zoomed into the glaciers across the way in the Livingston Range. Next up were a pair of marmots playing around so I got a little movie and pics. The one knew I was filming as it looked right at me. Near this area we came upon some layered rocks that were like sandpaper in texture. We continued hiking next to the Sill now and noticed some quartz which was created by a process of the rocks melding. We stopped again to notice the flat and large Purcell lava bed below us.

The way the light was shining you could see lots of huckleberry bushes that were going into their fall color mode. There was a whole hillside of them :D but not many along the trail to eat. Soon we spotted the resident eagle Greg flying around the top of Swiftcurrent Mountain's edge. There were patches of Fireweed that were also calling out for our attention as we walked through the field of waning Wild Chives.

Later we would see a couple Rocky Mountain Goats high up on the rock side of Swiftcurrent Mountain. I had to do pretty full zooming but got a few good pictures of them. Near here, when you looked back you got great zoomed views of several peaks of the Lewis range including Cathedral, Kipp and Stoney Indian Peaks. The sun was out now with broken clouds so it was real pretty as we rounded the corner and got our first look at the Chalet. What's impressive from here is that you can see the lava bed that is on this side of the Chalet. I really didn't notice it on the hike out. I got an awesome picture.

During this ten mile hike we only saw 5 hikers, two of them from the Chalet that we saw at our lunch spot. Interestingly, we would run into them again when we did our backpacking trip in Two Medicine Valley the day after next. We got back to the Chalet, late for our scheduled dinner time but they let us in the kitchen anyway. We were ready to take the tour again it was so great! And of course, we were lucky and had an awesome weather day.

Videos going:
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Videos coming back:
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WATCH: 9.88 miles (probably a tad more) 7411 feet. 116 avg bpm with max of 161 burning 2698 calories (2.9 miles up to 7411 feet, 3.21 miles down to 6730 feet). Starting temp was 65.8 degrees at 49% humidity (have no idea how or where the phone picked this up since we had no service up there) finishing at 5:18PM.
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For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination.
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.
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