Hike #2: Siyeh Pass Trail Glacier National Park Montana
Siyeh Pass trail is a stretch goal for us. This could be a one way trail, starting at Siyeh Bend and ending at Sunrift Gorge, but we made it a round trip hike, turning back somewhere near the highest point. Trail started off easily enough with a gentle hike through the evergreen forest. It was a little unnerving to hike where grizzlies roamed, so we tried to make as much noise as we could. This trail also appeared to attract a more professional crowd, with people who looked fit and hiked at a rapid clip, in contrast to us who were breathing hard even at a lesser elevation gain. Overall this trail had a 2000ft elevation gain.
We started out hiking by a river, took a sharp right away from the river, and plunged deep into the forest. The forest went on for a while, before opening up to a fork in the trail where the river met us again. Picking the trail that led to Siyeh Pass, we continued on, coming into an open meadow with little lakes and clusters of trees. The views in the meadows were stunning, mountains curving down on both sides and far into the distance. At one point, we could see Piegan Glacier, a white snow-looking solid mass sitting in a bowl shaped mountain. It was amazing to see a glacier without binoculars, and with glaciers disappearing at a rapid pace, who knows if it would still be there when we visit in the future.
As we continued through the meadow, hiking along the bottom of Mahtapi Peak, we met up with the river once again. This time, we would have to cross the river to continue. We stood perplexed, trying to figure out a way to cross without getting wet. Some people came along and simply jumped and hopped their way across rocks scattered in the river. Somehow we just could not see how it would work out. After much agonizing, we forged ahead, precariously balancing on rocks and made it dry to the other side. Phew!
With that, a different landscape began. The meadow was behind us, and the path ahead was dry, rocky and barren, with a few brave tiny flowers peeking out beneath rocks. The grueling part of the trail was upon us. This short section of slightly less than a mile had a 700ft climb, with countless switchbacks, heading up a lower section close to the Mahtapi Peak. The wind was howling and the air was frigid. It was as though we went from spring to winter. At some points, we were almost knocked off our feet and had to crouch. Despite the conditions, we did not forget to check the panoramic views as we gained elevation. Somewhere along the climb, we could see a turquoise lake hidden at the bottom of the mountain, fed by the melting snow. The lake looked like a 10 minute walk away, but distance judgments were extremely off kilter here. Mountains and lakes that appeared within arms length were actually hours or even days of hike away.
We climbed what we thought was a short hike to the top, but it actually took a lot longer for us to get there. With great relief, we finally came to the end of the trail, marked by a large snow field off the side of Siyeh Pass. We sat down next to the snow field to catch our breaths, the only spot that was surprisingly spared the whipping wind and ate our lunch. We watched as a couple squirrels chased each other and almost bumped into us, and enjoyed the view down into the valley where Boulder Creek ran.
Siyah Pass trail was a tough hike for us, where most of the challenge laid in the final section hiking up the switchbacks. The trail is a relatively short hike, but it is packed with amazing views of glaciers, mountains, rivers and meadows, and the rare treat of drastic landscape changes from a thick forest to meadow to bald windswept mountain. Hard to imagine a trail that boast giving hikers the experience of all 4 seasons in a few hours, but Siyeh Pass trail certainly proved such trails exist even for us amateur hikers!
Priscilla Schmidt : @pristye