A summit that delivers

STORY & PHOTOS by KELLYN BROWN

I was told about the elevation gain, that there was snow at the summit, that it would be cold, but I decided to wear shorts anyway. I kept my spandex in my backpack. And after the first couple of miles hiking the trail leading to Great Northern Mountain, I was convinced I had made the right decision.

The beginning of the trail is steep, wooded and occasionally blocked by fallen trees. There are switchbacks, but it mostly just winds straight up a hill and makes you sweat and breathe heavy. It was a clear, fall day and the breeze felt good. Then we reached the mountain’s spine and the snow. Lots of snow.

My hiking partner led the way, postholing through much of it. And the breeze began to bite and the last stretch was agonizingly slow. But it was worth it, and that’s not always the case. Summiting a mountain is rightly coupled with great expectations – the view should make the climb worth it. Great Northern delivers.

The summit offers views of southern Glacier National Park and nearby summits, such as Mount Grant, and the receding Stanton Glacier. During the hike, I annoyingly kept comparing the surroundings to those in the training scene in the movie Rocky IV, where Rocky ran up a mountain to scream “Dragooooooo!” – the name of his Russian nemesis. Although, I pointed out that Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) ran the whole way, through snow, without stopping and wasn’t even carrying a water bottle, which I wouldn’t recommend for this eight-mile round trip.

I would, however, recommend waiting for the snow to melt before summiting Great Northern. If you do head out during the colder moths, bring appropriate gear, like crampons, ski poles and plenty of warm clothing. And put your pants on at the trailhead.

How to get to Great Northern Mountain 

From Columbia Falls, head east on U.S. Highway 2 past the town of Hungry Horse and turn right to Martin City. Drive along the east side of the Hungry Horse Reservoir until the pavement ends after two miles, then continue 13 miles until a sign for “Spotted Bear 39” and “Firefighter L.O. 4” appears. Make a sharp left turn and continue a half-mile to the trailhead at the end of the road. Parking is available before and after the bridge.