About twenty-five years ago I bagged my first Glacier Park peak as part of a summer workshop for teachers. We were learning about the history and geology of the park as we hiked and climbed around the park over a 4-day period. I still remember standing on Dawson Pass, looking up at Flinsch, and thinking, “that does not look like something I can climb”. Thankfully, the instructor thought otherwise – and I trusted the guy, so off we went. I’ve never forgotten the pain of hiking up the steep rocky slope, the rush of climbing the crux, and the feeling of exhilaration as I stood on the summit. I was hooked.
Still got it?
I’ve climbed many peaks since that day, including several that were much more impressive than Flinsch Peak, but lately I’ve been wanting to visit Flinsch again. Although I’m not as strong as I used to be – age does that, I have a lot more confidence, and am less-bothered by the pain that comes with climbing steep slopes. I wanted to see what it would be like – how would I respond? I also wanted to do the Pitamakan-Dawson Loop, supposedly one of the best long trail hikes in the park (~18 miles). So, I made plans to hike the loop counter-clockwise, (Pitamaken Pass to Dawson Pass), going off-trail at Dawson to climb Flinsch as I had 25 years ago. Murray, my go-to friend for anything “Glacier” agreed to join me.
Murray (retired) drove up from Helena Thursday morning to nab a campsite at the Two Medicine Campground 20 miles west of Browning. I got off work at noon, then made the 270-mile drive from Hays. He in his camper and me in my tent, we enjoyed one of the quietest nights of sleep I’ve ever experienced – no loud vehicles, no dogs barking, not a peep out of anyone! We rose early Friday morning and hit the trail at 6:20 am. Except for a very light haze due to wildfires somewhere, the day couldn’t have been better. The weather was splendid and the loop lived up to its billing. The trail from Oldman Lake up to Pitamakan, and then on over to Dawson Pass is one of the most impressive stretches I’ve walked – much of it on or along the Continental Divide.
A matter of perspective.
The part of the loop trail along the north shore of Two Medicine Lake was closed due to grizzly bear activity, so we needed to be down at the lake by 5:15 to catch the last boat back to the campground. It took us 3 hours to reach Pitamakan Pass, then another 2 hours to arrive at Dawson Pass (around 11 am), giving us plenty of time to have a bite to eat and then climb Flinsch. It was amazing to be up there again – felt like a full-circle sort of thing. In fact, I think I enjoyed and appreciated it even more than I did 25 years ago – age does that.
After getting back down to Dawson Pass we got back on the loop trail and hiked 4.5 miles down to the dock, arriving there at 3:20, just as one of the boats pulled up. However, there were way more hikers than there were seats on the boat, so the pilot hauled one load across the lake, then came back and picked up the rest of us at 4 pm. FYI – If you plan to use the boat (fun, and cuts a couple miles off the loop hike), be sure to get your tickets ahead of time. Our day included 18 miles of hiking/climbing, 2 miles of boat-riding, and 4,600 feet of elevation gain.
- Photo Tour of the Flinsch Peak Adventure.
Best viewed on a larger screen – Be sure to read the captions.
Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com so far, including several in Glacier Park – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.