Every now and then something geographically big takes a hold of my mind. I day dream about it, pore over maps, read about it. I imagine what the terrain will feel like, and how good it will feel to stop at a stream in the sun to refill water. Two and a half years ago was the last time such a route took hold of my mind, the Tenmile-Mosquito Traverse in Colorado (a 38 mile ridgeline, of which 28 miles are continuously above 13,000'), and it took up two of the most insane days of my life.
I've found a route to inspire me, but I know next to nothing about it. It's 110 miles, all of it within a mile of the Continental Divide, mostly ridgeline, mostly off trail with some technical sections (glaciers and miles of Class 4 terrain, possibly some Class 5). I've been perusing through J. Gordon Edwards' "A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park," which often gives reference to the CDR, but has no description for large sections of it. And the internet has next to nothing written about this route, which only increases the allure. I can only assume it goes.
The route starts at Marias Pass and ends at Forum Peak, on the border with Canada, crossing over the summits of 30+ named peaks along the way, including some behemoths (Mt. Jackson, Mt. Gould, Iceberg Peak) and only crosses one road, the Going-to-the-Sun Highway, at Logan Pass. Along the way, 13 glaciers are skirted or traversed, at least 90 miles of cross country terrain are covered, and no real trail guides the route for more than 2 miles. In short, this is it. It's the purest, most aesthetic route across Glacier National Park, and a route that seems mostly forgotten to time (parts of the cross country route are described as being on abandoned trails from the 1950's).
Most of the route isn't a place I'd want to be in during a storm, which adds the challenge of time. There's a shelter cabin at Gunsight Pass, and a large basin that's traversed west of the Highline Trail, but those (and Logan Pass) are the only places where weather isn't a factor. Right now I'm not sure if the route is even doable in one go, in a fast style. Some of the easier ridgeline sections seem navigable at night, but large sections of the route (traversing from Mt. Logan to Gunsight Pass, the Garden Wall, the ridgeline from Ahern Pass to Mt. Kipp) seem like complex terrain.
I've got about half a year before this goes down, and a few months before I can really train for it with some long days in the Bitterroot, but I'm happy to have found something with all the components for a big adventure--a long route with complex terrain, troubling logistics and the uncertainty of whether it's even doable (if someone's done it, they haven't published a report online).
I've been Googling pictures of the route. It's too beautiful not to try:
The Garden Wall
Definitely scouting this out before I traverse it in the middle of 110 miles
If it doesn't go, the Highline Trail is still within a mile of the divide
Mt. Chapman, near the end of the route
110 miles of this! GAH! So crazy.
Another section worth scouting,
the traverse from Mt. Logan to Mt. Jackson (where this picture was taken)
About a third of the way through the route, the Gunsight Pass Shelter
110 miles into the route, Forum Peak, in Canada
Then just down to the lake and a long drive back
The first peak of the route, 4 miles in,
Little Dog Mountain
Some of these pictures seemed intimidating, but then I looked back at pictures from the Ten Mile-Mosquito Traverse, and realized that this is only a slightly more technical, more chossy, more remote, three times longer version of that. So it won't be that bad.
This section of the traverse really wasn't fun