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...

The Lake Plan – How I’m going to accomplish being the first person to jump in every named lake in Waterton and Glacier National Parks

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

Beargrass sunrise - Glacier Explorer
Anything as elaborate as the “Waterton Glacier Lake Jumping Project” has to eventually have logic, logistics and “A Plan”.

Those of you that have spent lots of time in Glacier may be interested in those logistics.  You have looked at some of these lakes from peaks high above and pondered which way I had to go to get there.  Heck, I have relied on your recon to keep me safe and pointed in the right direction through the years.

But, so many of you have more or less no idea where I’m talking about, it’s just a wild, pretty place.  I can imagine it’s tough to really gather how much logistics and how many minute details go into something like this.  Unless you have spent an exceptional amount of time in Glacier National Park, it’s nearly impossible to understand that this is not just a passing, chaotic aquatic weekend endeavor.

So, I figured I would take this week to explain some of my logic.  My plan if you will.

As I write this, I have 12 lakes left out of 168.  132 are in Glacier and 38 are in Waterton National Park, Canada.  Two of them are in both countries, so added together; the number is 168 instead of 170.

Through the earlier portions of the project, I would simply go anywhere that was still on the list.  Since the list at that time was seemingly insurmountable, it was easy to simply go wherever my friends were going.  They all had to be checked off and it was an open slate.

As the years have passed I have sat up late nights, alone and with friends just planning.  Asking some of Glaciers most well experienced explorers their opinions, pouring over maps, photos and climbers guides over beers around a fire.    Planning routes, planning logistics, planning who would be good candidates to accompany me.

Some lakes, you just needed a willing participant.  Others I needed a more skilled climber (which doesn’t take much) to help me through the scary parts.  Sometimes I just needed an open afternoon and the willingness to drive there.

 

brian, pat, marc pic - - Glacier Explorer

NOTE:  I have always tried to make it known, but again…Thank you to everyone who has helped me get this far.  This project would have never, ever, ever happened without my friends who kept me safe and sane.

Some trips were five lakes in a day, and others were one lake in four very dirty, tiring, crazy days.

There is an immense amount of planning.

The twelve I have left are as follows.

Gem, Bench, Miche Waben, Camas, Evangeline, Ruger, Grace, Lilly, Running Crane, Medicine Owl, Carthew Pond and Fisher Cap.

Twelve arbitrary and very different places in a multinational , million acre+ expanse of mountains, stream crossings, alder bushes, cliffs, devils club, waterfalls, marshes, glacier basins, downed trees and thimble berries, gravel roads, river fords, PBJ’s, blisters, odd suntans and LAKES.  Can’t forget them.

I will not be able to finish this year.  I had high hopes, but life is what it is.  I have other things going on other than jumping in lakes and so do my friends.  So, between weather, weekends, snow melt and accompaniment and LIFE…It’s just not going to happen this year.

So, as of right now, here is the plan as well as it can be explained.

I do not want to finish at the absolute end of the season next year.

GEM and BENCH are two lakes that have to be done this year because they have to be done late season.

GEM LAKE

gem - Glacier Explorer

It is a tiny pond at the top of Comeau Pass which is in the middle of an expansive off trail route called Floral Park.  The route goes from Logan Pass to Lake McDonald through a high elevation shelf that drains Sperry Glacier.  The route simply does not melt out till late in the season and that is not going to get rid of all snow, just the sketchiest parts.  People have died on this route, mostly based on not understanding the enormity of the challenge in front of them, bad weather and sparse route finding skills.  This must be done late season and with that, I plan on completing it this year.  I did this route five years ago and was not aware that this was a named lake.  It’s just a pond on top of a pass.  Who would have guessed.  I am looking forward to it though, it’s an amazing place. I want to make sure it is known that this is not an advertisement for Floral Park.  It is a huge endeavor that many have taken lightly and been sorely mistaken.  If you do ever try it, Please do your homework, go with a group and know how to use a map.  PLEASE!!  (1 Enormous Day hike, at least 12 hours)

BENCH LAKE

bench - Glacier Explorer

Everything is approachable from more than one way, but there is always the “best way”.  This lake should be accessed by going to Canada and boating back into the US into a roadless area called Goat Haunt.  This is already the middle of nowhere to most people, but from there you must hike about seven miles of trail, then leave trail and cross the Waterton River which would be very big early season.  Goat Haunt is known for its wet, dark forest that has in my humble opinion the heaviest ground cover in the whole park.  You will find yourself climbing thousands of feet up the side of 45 degree angle slopes of 12 foot high alder filled with devils club and every other nasty plant we have.  It is plunked right in the middle of the molar tooth that is Kootenai Peak.  For this and every other reason, I just want this to be dry and clean as possible.  This too must be done this summer. (Two night’s backcountry, one huge day in the middle to get the lake)

*From there it would be nice to get a couple more done just to help make next year not as hectic.

CAMAS, EVANGELINE, RUGER LAKES

camas - Glacier Explorer

North of Lake McDonald is the Camas Creek drainage and some of the heaviest Griz country in the park.  There are seven fords of Camas creek that you have to do to get to Camas Creek Campground much less beyond it to the upper two lakes.  It needs to be late enough to have some of those steams dry.  If this doesn’t happen this year, then it will have to be later next year.  Note that July is buggy and this being super wet would make it probably pretty rough.  So, it would be an August thing.  August vegetation is at its peak and this area will be thick.  (Two nights at Camas CG and one off trail day to get the upper lakes)

MICHE WABEN

miche - Glacier Explorer

There once was a trail to the lake but that is long gone and overgrown.  In the furthest reaches of the northeast corner of the park is the Belly River.  Miche Waben Lake is the headwaters of virtually never visited North Fork of the Belly River.  It is a pretty low lying forested valley, but very, very tight.  So, again having this dried out would be important.  There is a waterfall that you have to climb around and I would not want that to be too full.  Plus again, July is skeeter season.  You have to ford the Belly River so you couldn’t do it too early anyway.  Three miles in on the Belly River trail is a faint old trail that is cleared periodically.  It would lead you to the North Fork and from there is a full on schwack for a few miles to the lake.  I know a few people to have been there, but not many.  Good Times.   (Two night’s camp, one day big lake push)

*I would be super happy to get either of these last two done this year, but it’s tough.  Weather has to hold and need someone to go with me.  I don’t do this stuff alone and people do have lives.  If not, then August of next year.

GRACE LAKE

grace - Glacier Explorer

Fourteen mile flat as a board backpacking trip in a remote portion of the northwest corner of the park.  The road to the trailhead is often washed out early season.  It is low elevation, so it would be a great early season or late season trip.  Once you are up there, I have always heard its an amazingly wild, beautiful area.  I want to spend a day exploring the area or I would have pondered a great big 28 mile day hike.  Three day weekends are tough to come by and it is imperative to dedicate them to the off trail hikes that you need a base camp for.  So, that is why I view it as super early or super late season.  When the snow is still in the high country or the snow has started to fly again, this would be a perfect trip.  This is the last on-trail trip I have left in the states.  (Three days, two nights)

LILLY Lake

lilly - Glacier Explorer

I didn’t even know this was a named lake for a long time.  It is not named on the map and you would never even think of it as being a destination.  But, in years gone by there used to be about 300 miles of trails that have been let to grow over in the last few decades.  This lake used to be accessed by one of those trails.  North of Dutch Creek and south of Logging Creek is Adair Ridge.  Tucked into the forested folds of that ridge is a bean shaped lake that I am not looking forward to going to.  It is going to have to be late enough that the snow is gone.  Then the water is running and with all the little folds of forested ridges it will probably be pretty rough going.  I will need a GPS coordinate to even find it because it’s not obvious like the lakes tucked at the base of a mountainous cirque.  The tough thing about this kind of lake is that July will be wicked buggy and by August I would imagine it’s pretty nasty.  The water will have started to evaporate enough that it’s more of a mucky impoundment of water.  I would love to be wrong, but I don’t think I am.  So, I’m hoping to hit this next year around early June.  (Either one huge day or base camp at Logging Lake Ft Campground and spend a day getting to the lake and back to camp)

MEDICINE OWL LAKE

med owl - Glacier Explorer

This thing is tucked in the upper portions of the Red Eagle Valley surrounded by mountains.  My best guess is a saddle in the upper valley that you can climb up and over.   It melts out early enough that I’m hoping to hit this in July but I could be wrong and you never know what the winter snow pack is going to be like.  The valley it is in burnt in 2003, but the ground vegetation has rebounded with a passion.  So, I think that saddle is my best bet.  (Three nights with one day in the middle for the lake)

RUNNING CRANE LAKE

running crane - Glacier Explorer

This thing is tucked in the most remote, inaccessible little pocket on the eastern front.  Between Two Medicine and Cutback is the Lake Creek drainage that flows out into the plains.  The far upper reaches of this valley is Lonely Lakes and Running Crane.  I once saw Running Crane when I did Lonely Lakes, but we did not have enough daylight to get to them.  I am planning to climb Mad Wolf Mountain and walk the ridge toward Eagle Plume Peak, then drop off that ridge.  From there maybe return the same way or try and push out to Two Medicine through a variety of random options.  Either way, I need lots of day light.  Early season you have too much snow, but its light till 10pm.  Late season its clear and melted out but you have started to lose hours of daylight.  So, I think this is a late July or early August thing as long as there is not huge amounts of snow still.  Should be an exciting one.  (One very huge day hike)

CARTHEW POND

carthew - Glacier Explorer

I’m guessing this is an impoundment of water below the lower Carthew Lake in Waterton National Park.  Along the popular Carthew-Alderson day hike in Waterton National Park there are two Carthew Lakes…I must have missed this thing.  When I did this hike, I had not gotten the list of lakes from Canada yet and just did the obvious ones on the map.  I am saving this for any one of a select group of friends who love a good day hike but won’t be able to make it on one of these other more extensive trips.  It is the last lake I have in Waterton National Park.

FISHERCAP LAKE

fishercap - Glacier Explorer

This is an idyllic little shallow pond just five minutes up trail from the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn Parking Lot in Many Glacier Valley.  Its border line silly, but this is going to be my last lake.  I am glad that I had the foresight to save an easy one.  I would have probably saved St. Mary or something a bit more logical, but Fishercap is beautiful and easily accessible.  That was what I had left to pick from when it dawned on me that I want my loved ones to be with me when I finish this.  I did not want to be in the absolute middle of nowhere, with one person when this finished itself up.  So, as funny as it seems.  Sometime in mid-August of next year, if all good things come together…I will plop into Fishercap Lake.  I’ll be surrounded by majesty, my loved ones and possibly a moose, five minutes from a parking lot.

That’s the story.  Thanks for listening.  Hope this stuff makes a bit more sense now.

I try to respond to all comments, so feel free to share what’s on your mind about my project. And please use the share buttons. Tell a friend!

All the Best!
To Life,
Marc

p824001 - Glacier Explorer

8 comments
Rrandy Metzner
Rrandy Metzner

Marc, These are amazing stories, I am just beginning to check them out and I am proud to know that you have taken your passion for the outdoors to these awsome extremes and to benifit such a good  cause to boot. Your uncle Marty and I trecked many milesin the Red River Gorge and Smokies together back in the day and I wish that we had done even one trip as awsome as yours. We talked about taking a great western adventure, but it never did come to attrition. I know for a fact that Marty was proud of your mission and I suspect he was just a bit jealous of your accomplishments,as I am. Not that I would take back even one of our journeys together, we always hsd a blast, but your adventures make our trips  seem like play dates.

Take care of yourself on your new exploration trek, i am looking forward to hearing many more stories from this winter and can't wait to hear the accounts of your final lake jumps!

                                                      Randy Metzner

glaciercountyhoney
glaciercountyhoney

The Hillstock/Glacier County Honey Crew will be happy to accompany you to Running Crane and maybe Miche Wabun, depending on how busy we are with the honey!  Love the plan.

MattMizwicki
MattMizwicki

Wow! Some of those last lakes you've got left are sounding gnarly! It's crazy how much planning you've had to do just to figure out HOW to cross the remaining lakes off the list. Keep up the good work. Be careful out there!

Ali White
Ali White

Marc! Hi! I'm a former Glacier Park/USGS person.. I met you at a potluck once... anyways, I went to Evangeline a few weeks ago to help a buddy pull some temp loggers he had in the lake. We had to pull a logger in the creek half way between Camas and Evangeline too. The area above Camas Lake is very marshy. We were walking the creek and wallowing the muddy grass - not a recommended route. Going up to Evangeline the next day we took a MUCH better route. If you head straight up from the food prep area (right below the food prep area is a nice hole to swim in) there are open areas. Head up several hundred feet and you can traverse on open slopes towards Evangeline. There are huge open slabs of rock you'll come to as well that make traversing easy. Then unfortunately you'll come to thick, unavoidable vegetation. It ripped my holster open and ate my bear spray.  But the rock will get you halfway there! It only took us 1:15 to get from lake to lake. No advice on Ruger unfortunately.  Sally Kintner was just at Bench Lake so she might have advice on that route (catch her quick before she's in Ethiopia!!) I've seen Running Crane from the Mad Wolf circuit and that definitely looks like the best way to access it. Be sure to catch the old trail going up from Cut Bank! Somebody (not the park) has been sawing that out so it will save you a lot of time and energy.

Best of luck with your final lakes!!

Ali White

 

Kathy
Kathy

Totally amazing that you've only got 12 left. Well done!!!