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April 2006

Adventure Guide: Glacier National Park

Explore six new routes through the most rugged, scenic, and wildife-rich mountains in the Lower 48.

3. Redgap Pass/Yellow Mountain Traverse

Trace high, rarely trodden goat trails to broad ridgeline vistas.

Glacier’s ubiquitous mountain-goat paths present tantalizing invitations to peakbaggers and other highwire fans–but these game trails typically come with a bit of danger. Not so on this dramatic 30-mile out-and-back, which makes for a fine 3-day trip with two nights of camping at pristine Poia Lake. Called “the red scree strolls” by J. Gordon Edwards in his historic Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park for the terrain they cross, goat tracks are usually steep, loose, and very exposed; this track is solid and–while often steep–never life-threatening. The route follows superb trail to Redgap Pass (mile 10.4), offering vistas of Ptarmigan Wall and gargantuan Mt. Merritt. From the pass, you’ll climb gently rising mountain-goat trails along the broad ridgelines of Seward and Yellow Mountains to the latter’s seldom-visited 8,966-foot summit. While afternoon lightning storms and a lack of water are concerns, footing is not.

The hike’s off-trail portion begins at the Redgap Pass cairn. Look 100 feet south for a faint path that quickly firms up, traversing the south face of Seward Mountain to Seward Saddle. Beyond that, go a quarter-mile around either side of Pt. 8,325 to reach a red talus pass. Just ahead (east), the rock turns to gray ridgeline marked by a prominent goat trail. Do not follow the trail, which ends at concealed cliffs. Instead, go to the right of the ridge, descending east-southeast 300 feet through short ledges and timberline trees to the top of a tan talus slope at the base of the cliffs. Contour east along the margin to reach open terrain. From there, it’s 2 miles across broad slopes to Yellow Mountain’s hidden summit. Note: If you lack strong routefinding skills, consider turning around at Redgap Pass.

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