Marc Ankenbauer's 10+ year quest to jump in every named lake in Glacier and Waterton National Parks for charity.
168 lakes. Only 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ZERO LAKES LEFT!!!
-- Marc jumped into Fisher Cap Lake on Sunday September 8th, 2013 to complete his goal! --
Read about Marc and how this project started...

Nyack Lakes – Into the Abyss – Lakes #155 & #156

Folks, don’t try this at home...or in Glacier!
FULL SAFETY MESSAGE

Anyone who has hiked the Dawson Pitamakin loop in Glacier knows where the Nyack Lakes are, they just might not know it.

They are these two little lakes at the bottom of what looks like an impossible drop 3000’ feet below the goat trail path that is the actual trail.  The only part of the Nyack Lakes that I’ve been excited about is simply to have them off “the list”.

Nyach Lakes 01 - Glacier Explorer

My trusty partner Pat and I have been debating the best way to address these lakes for years now.

No option is a “good” option.

Either climb 3000’ up to Dawson Pass then drop in on them 3000’ down a constant steep slope, then climb back up that 3000’ back to the Dawson Pass trail and drop back 3000’ back to Two Medicine Lake…OR

You get down there and bushwhack out two miles of 15’ high vegetation till you meet up with the upper Nyack trail and five more miles to a camp, then another 15 miles out the Nyack Valley to the Middle Fork of the Flathead, OR

Up 3000’ to Cutbank Pass which would have been 17 miles out to Two Medicine.

I know that read like a car stereo manual but it’s as straight forward a description that I could give.

Pat came to my apartment to stay and debate out methods, set on picking one or the other.

We sat looking at each other and not wanting to pick from the quiver of awful options.

We actually still had no plans set when we woke up at 6am.

“What are doing”? I asked?

Dunno…what do you want to do?

Dunno…

Wanna flip a coin?

Sure…

Nyach Lakes 02 - Glacier Explorer

So, Pat flipped a two Pence piece that oddly enough was sitting on my table in which I haven’t a clue where it came from but at 6am, you just flip the coin.  You don’t ask questions.

Three flips, landed on the “squiggly thing” twice.   This meant we camp and make it a two day endeavor…

So, obviously at the last moment we decided we were going to hike in and out in the same day.

Uh…6000’ feet elevation gain, 6000’ elevation loss.

14 hours later, we were done.  Never to go back again.

If you ever ponder this, Stop It.

Go somewhere else.  Fast.

Nyach Lakes 03 - Glacier Explorer

We caught a boat ride from a friend across Two Medicine lake covered in fog but calm as glass.

Nyach Lakes 04 - Glacier Explorer

It was truly an amazing sight.

Nyach Lakes 05 - Glacier Explorer

It was a great way to start a terrible death march.

Nyach Lakes 06 - Glacier Explorer

A hard frost had settled on the valley the night before leaving frozen leaves and visible breathe.

Two moose hung out a mile above the north shore of Two Medicine Lake.

Nyach Lakes 09 - Glacier Explorer

They were not too happy to have us push past.  One started to follow me.

When in doubt, NEVER mess with Moose.

They kill way more people a year then Grizzly Bears.  They just freak out and stomp on you till you are mush.

The north shore trail was posted for Grizzly activity, so we made a whole lot of noise at this early hour.

Nyach Lakes 09 - Glacier Explorer

The walk up towards the Dawson Pass was great, cool and the lighting was amazing.

Nyach Lakes 10 - Glacier Explorer

When we arrived at pass, we also saw about 10 bighorn sheep.

Nyach Lakes 11 - Glacier Explorer

Two even butted heads silhouetted by a sea of mountains.

Pretty beer commercial of them.

Above Dawson Pass is a shoulder of Flinch Peak and from there extends a flat almost goat trail that leads four miles along the continental divide.

Most hikers enjoy the views as they stroll effortlessly along the spine of the continent.

Nyach Lakes 12 - Glacier Explorer

We, instead surveyed for a good route down to two arbitrary bodies of water at the bottom of a truly enormous valley.

As we sat enjoying a snack and making decisions, two CDT hikers passed by.

A French Canadian guy was hiking with an older fella with a ZZ TOP beard and a Mountain Hardwear kilt.

Off course he did, why wouldn’t he?

We exchanged plans.  They told us that they would watch as we descended the slope.

If they saw anything catastrophic, they would hit the emergency button their SPOT locator.  We hoped they would not have to do it, but always nice to have people watching out for you.

Nyach Lakes 13 - Glacier Explorer

The whole time I planned this trip, I figured that I would have two nasty marshes to jump into if I waited too long into the season.

In hind sight I think we stumbled into the best possible scenario.

Nyach Lakes 14 - Glacier Explorer

There is a series of cliffs that a month earlier would still have been running water and making everything slick along with steep.

Instead we found a perfect set of cliffs.

Nyach Lakes 15 - Glacier Explorer

Every time we looked further down slope it seemed they we would cliff out and when we got to there, it was a manageable way to continue.

Thus we dubbed them the illusion cliffs.

Nyach Lakes 16 - Glacier Explorer

The brush on the other hand was horrendous.

Fifteen foot high alder bushes interspersed with prickly whatnot.

Pat forgot to wear convertible pants.  So, when it got nasty, I tossed on my pant legs then threw the gaiters over them.

He is an animal, but his knees were on fire throughout the whole bushwhack and what he said was way into the night.

We plodded though a thick curtain of brush for about an hour.

We tripped a few times over invisible downed trees and Pat even bent one of his trekking poles.

Nyach Lakes 17 - Glacier Explorer

After a while you pretty much lose your mind.

It’s impossible for me to explain the weirdness that ensues when you have been being ripping through mile after mile of plant material.

You have to constantly be yelling so you don’t surprise a bear…

Bushwhacking is a part of this project that never ceases to seem odd.

Why on earth are we doing this?

We are so far beyond the middle of nowhere, screaming and hollering and somewhere , somehow…

We find this fun.  We are happy.

Happy screaming at the top of our lungs such inane things as “Bob Saget” and my uncle’s friend Joe Buckles name.

Or, how about Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes like “get on the choppa”!!

Odd…

Nyach Lakes 18 - Glacier Explorer

Well, eventually we popped out of the brush into a huge marsh.

But, like I said, it was perfect.  It was all dry.

It would have been awful, almost impossible earlier in the season.

Nyach Lakes 19 - Glacier Explorer

So, I put on my water shoes and Pat his Croc’s and we started plodded through foot deep mud enroute to the lakes.

Nasty as it may have been, it worked.

Nyach Lakes 20 - Glacier Explorer

I hopped in the upper lake which was so much nicer than I had ever expected.

Nyach Lakes 21 - Glacier Explorer

I stayed in my swimming trucks and we just pushed down the creek to the lower lake, and hopped in.

Nyach Lakes 22 - Glacier Explorer

Pat has the luxury to pick the lake he wants to swim, since he is just along to make sure I don’t kill myself.

Nyach Lakes 23 - Glacier Explorer

He picked the pleasant lower one with a great view of Mt. Tinkham in the distance.

We enjoyed a short 30 minute lunch, swim, water pumping, video filming and pixie sticking….

Huh?

Pixie Sticking?

Well, no matter how much water you drink to rehydrate, you are also losing salts.

So, we bring Gatorade mix with us.

There is simply too much time involved in mixing it, so we just pour the powder in our mouths and wash it down with a swig of water.

Nyach Lakes 24 - Glacier Explorer

Like eating pixies sticks.

More or less, it works.

I kinda like it, really.

I can’t express how disheartening it was to sit by these lovely little lakes looking up at the ridge we had to regain.

We just did it.  Why did we have to walk back?

I mean, REALLY?

Uh…

I actually see trips like this as being a good analogy for life.

I can’t just build a house.

I can’t not do it.

You just, pick yourself up and keep going.

Hard as it may be, you gotta just do it.

So, we headed out towards the task at hand.

Nyach Lakes 25 - Glacier Explorer

We kept trying to figure out where the trail was…

Somewhere above that grey strip of rock.  A few hundred feet above it.

Did I mention…Uh…

Also, I can’t find my bear spray.

Yeah…

I couldn’t find it.

Nyach Lakes 26 - Glacier Explorer

I hopped the creek and went back looking for it, but no luck.

So, off to the thickest of the thick and now… also defenseless.

Nyach Lakes 27 - Glacier Explorer

So, I stayed that much closer to Pat who had the sole bear spray.

Nyach Lakes 28 - Glacier Explorer

So, We Yelled LOUDER AND LOUDER!!!!  BOB SAGET!!!!  JOE BUCKLES!!!   HEY OH!!!!

The brush seemed a bit better headed up hill for some reason, but I think it was that we were just over it.

Climb over a down tree, Check.

Walk directly into Alder bushes and brush seven feet above our heads…Check.

Just, HOME!

Nyach Lakes 29 - Glacier Explorer

The rock and cliffs though seemed well worse headed up hill.

Nyach Lakes 30 - Glacier Explorer

Loose scree, talus slopes, the illusion cliffs…

Nyach Lakes 31 - Glacier Explorer

Onward!!

Nyach Lakes 32 - Glacier Explorer

All a race with time as we just simply didn’t have that much daylight left.

Nyach Lakes 33 - Glacier Explorer

At one point, when I was just beat and staring uphill at Pat whose young legs carry him faster up the steep slopes, he yelled out.

TRAIL!!

Nyach Lakes 34 - Glacier Explorer

Pixie Sticks or not, I had started getting cramps in my hamstrings.  His shouts of joy pushed me uphill and on to the trail though.

We had an hour and half before complete darkness.  We had to drop 3000 feet in 4 ½ miles…And we had to haul it.

Nyach Lakes 35 - Glacier Explorer

Dig for that extra energy that really doesn’t exist.  Just the thought of missing our friend’s boat pick up spurred us on.  We didn’t want to do even more miles and in the dark.

So, ONWARD!!!

Nyach Lakes 36 - Glacier Explorer

As in hurry as we may have been, we had to stop for a couple pictures on Dawson Pass.

Not often are you sitting on top of a huge pass at sunset.

Normally you make sure you aren’t stuck in that situation.

So, you have to click a few.  Thanks Pat, for making me stop a minute.

Amazing View!

Nyach Lakes 37 - Glacier Explorer

So, we ripped it out.  Somewhere along the way we decided that we were going to scream like the guys selling beer at a baseball game.

Instead of beer and peanuts, we were selling Tepid Huckleberries…

Don’t ask.  I don’t know.

So, as we bombed down the pass towards Two Medicine Lake, we were selling “TEPID HUCKS” in our best Brooklyn accent.  I bet the poor people staying at No Name Campground hadn’t a clue of what these two Looney’s we yelling about…

But we liked it.

Got to the boat dock at dark, picked up and by our friend and whisked away to a grilled cheese sandwich and cold lemonade….  Well, and a beer.

But, oh the Lemonade!!!

To Life!

So how about you? Have you ever had to do something that you knew you were gonna hate, but then it ended up being pretty good? If so, tell me about it in the comments. (Did I mention I’ve got a new commenting system *hint *hint.)

4 comments
anders olson
anders olson

Burly day!  Congrats Marc, I've always wondered what the hike down to Nyack Lakes from Dawson Pass is like!

MattMizwicki
MattMizwicki

I keep picturing being in that camp ground and hearing you guys screaming "Bob Saget" and "Joey Buckles". Too funny. 

Glacier Explorer
Glacier Explorer moderator

Thanks Anders.  It was a really cool area to get to since I've been looking at it for over a decade.  I can't tell you that it was overly fun, but I'm happy to have gotten it taken care of.  I'll never look at that valley the same again.  Hope you've gotten some good adventures in this summer.   

Glacier Explorer
Glacier Explorer moderator

 @MattMizwicki Yeah, you gotta pick something to yell in Griz country.  Sometimes its the host of Americas Funniest Home Videos.  Wonder if we would have made the final round in the show if there was a video.  Thanks for reading along!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Lakes from near where the two men descended the same ridge. Photo courtesy of Mark Ankenbaur, please read his recent story and look at the photos he has of this area. Mark is attempting to be th…Glacier National Park’s Chief Ranger Mark Fouts in a press release October 16, 2012, said, […]