Highline trail – GNP
Perhaps one of my most interesting hikes of 2014, largely documented by shaky video… It was my first attempt using a new action-geared video recorder I’d picked up second hand. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well. The few photos I have certainly don’t do this majestic trail justice but I will always have the memory.
On this trek we decided to do the opposite of what most do when they venture out to conquer this legendary GNP trail, we decided to start at the loop. The loop is at the bottom of the trail, yes the entire trail is on an incline, and at the top is Logan Pass. So we parked up at the Pass and jumped on the shuttle with a nice, friendly driver and down to the loop we went. Up at the Pass the wind was harsh and cold, we were glad it wasn’t like that down at the other end of the trail. The day began rather uneventful, just a pleasant hike up observing the splendors of this lovely national park.
Coming from this direction the Granite Chalet isn’t far in to the hike. None the less by the time we made it up there the wind was catching us and we both forgot hats on this particular day. We were cold, really quite cold.
Inside the chalet you find plenty of seating at large picnic style tables.
There’s a warm, inviting fire.
The windows are fogged from the warmth and moisture wafting off of hungry hikers eagerly enjoying the food they packed in.
Moving on we soon came across a split in the trail where you had the option to go up and look out over Grinnell Glacier. At this point we were not far in to the hike so we eagerly took off up the side trail looking forward to seeing the glacier.
We spotted this little fellow a few yards up the trail.
The sign indicated the trail was relatively short, less than a mile. The part we did not know, with 8+ miles of the Highline trail left ahead of us, was that the trail jets up almost 1,000 feet in elevation in that distance.
We were also unaware of the conditions we would find at the top. The wind threatened to blow you off of the narrow, fog drenched rocky path as you ascended. The climb was tough but we made it, out of breath but glad to have conquered the seemingly long trail. Wind whipped around so hard at the top, instinct kicked in pushing us to dive behind the large rocks perched on the cliff of Grinnell glacier’s crater. There were a few others that had braved the climb and the weather. As the wind propelled fog sailed across the crater below we were able to catch glimpses of the spectacular ice formation contained within the mountain side.
The wind became stronger and stronger, it was clear we couldn’t stay here long. When we saw another small group of hikers coming out of the mist and darting to find any break possible from the wind we guided them to the spot we’d found and bid adieu. Heading back down the mountain side was barely easier than the climb up, out of the gray around us hail began pelting down. We cinched up our rain jacket hoods and tried to keep our heads down, thankfully the hail subsided half way down.
By the time we made it back to the Highline trail we were thankful for the sprinkling rain drops and mild wind. I had brought along a pack of hand warmers, still ill-prepared for the weather we’d found on a half mile above, so each of us took one and tried to warm up our hands as we walked.
The rest of the trip allowed glimpses between the fog of stunning scenery.
In case you were wondering, our hands never did warm up. As much as we tried that tiny hand warmer was not nearly enough to thaw our frozen appendages.
There are areas where you can look down on the Going-to-the-sun Road. So cool!
At the end (or the beginning for most people) before dropping in to Logan Pass is the famed area with the guideline… to be honest though, after all the trail prior to it and the riveting experience climbing the steep trail to Grinnell Glacier, this part was really easy. It didn’t even seem narrow in comparison!
The view on the other hand, certainly did not disappoint!
Now as beautiful as this is, I can still recall how cold my thighs were. Yes, I said my THIGHS, I didn’t have rain pants on that day and clearly did not realize how the weather was up there. You know the way your feet go cold and numb, it feels funny to walk right? Well it can happen to any part of your body really, any part that isn’t covered or insulated properly.
So at the end of this spectacular event, after again braving the fierce winds at Logan Pass, we were all too thrilled to make it to the car. Oh we were so happy for the heater in the car and even more glad to eat all the extra snacks in the car!
Given the choice, opportunity and knowledge of exactly how this trip would go, I honestly tell you I wouldn’t have changed a moment. We giggled at folks perusing the trail in wet jeans, shuttered at girls in tiny shorts, and made endless jokes about how numb various body parts were. It was a wonderful day.
Happy trails my friends!