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...

Running Crane Lake : Grizzly Bears, Icebergs and Captain Clint #161

Remember in early July when it was like 5 million degrees in the Western United States?

Obviously an exaggeration, but it did break records in Las Vegas and Death Valley of 117 and 129 respectively.

This was also when Glacier’s already hot summer took it to the next level.

It was breaking 90 daily for a couple weeks.

That is very hot here.

RC27

 

I was still recuperating from the brutal Lilly Lake outing.

And with temperatures like this, I didn’t really want to hike much of anywhere.

But I had to choose something from the list.

They weren’t going to jump in themselves. ..Now were they?

 

running crane - Glacier Explorer

 

So, my friend Captain Clint and I decided that the best thing to do on a hot day was to go swimming.

Come to find out, Running Crane Lake was the cure for this summer time scorcher.

There would be very little bushwhacking and lots of lovely clear lakes.

But there would also be absolutely no shade on an outrageously hot and sunny day.

 

RC1

 

Captain Clint, is actually a Captain.

He heads the Two Medicine faction of the Glacier Boat Company.

Countless visitors have experienced the park through his brand of intimate knowledge and sharp, witty banter.

He is one of the biggest characters I’ve ever met and we were “goinona mission”.

It was gonna be a good day…

Two Medicine to Running Crane Lake and return in a day.

And lay our overheating bodies in as many pools of water as possible.

This was our task…

 

RC2

 

We left Two Med at 6:15am and B-lined it to the Dry Fork Junction which is on the way towards Old Man Lake.

We paused to rest by the creek for five minutes before continuing on.

 

RC30

 

As we walked up hill slightly, we looked down where we were just sitting and saw a bear cruise down valley.

He was literally in the exact same spot we had just been resting five minutes earlier.

I’ll call that great timing for everyone involved.

 

RC3

 

From here on it was all off trail as we headed toward the saddle between Spot and Red Mountains.

 

RC4

 

I had been up there once before when my good friend Josh Paulson and I went to Lonely Lakes in 2005.

Josh is a well more comfortable climber than I was or still am.

I knew at the time that I had to start working on the off trail lakes and Josh helped work me into that era of the project.
He also turned me into a trekking pole believer!

Eight years later I owe the project to trekking poles, gaiters and goat trails.

Thanks for all your help and insight.

 

RC5

Josh and I in 2005.  It was windy… Really Windy…

 

This is an extremely windswept and barren valley.

In winter, the winds must absolutly howl through here.

There was a tiny rivulet stream running through flower filled scree.

 

RC6

 

Our early start allowed us to have shade until almost the saddle.

That was huge!

 

RC31

 

At the top we paused to take it all in.

Many climbers have stared down at the Lake Creek Valley, but few ever roam around in it.

Clint and I both knew how special this area and today was.

We had a lot of distance to cover, but were excited about the opportunity.

Seeing as it was July 2nd  and we had the opportunity, we both made a snow ball to throw over the cliff before dropping in.

That kind of stuff still makes two boys from Ohio and Texas smile.

 

RC7

 

We dug our heels in and scree skied directly down towards the Lonely Lakes.

Halfway down we had to choose a gulley and luckily chose correctly.

Once down at the lake we looked back at our descent and found that we took the only “good” way.

We kind of funneled down to the ideal cliff exit, which was consistent with how our day progressed.

 

RC30

 

Since our real objective was Running Crane Lake, we resisted temptation to hang out at the Lonelys and pressed up the next ridge.

 

RC8

 

We rose above Lonely Lakes which were cradled by Red Mountain’s namesake hues.

 

RC(

 

Eventually Running Crane came into view tucked high into the upper valley.

Josh and I peered out at Running Crane in 05’ but short on time, we left it for another trip…

 

RC10

 

Eight years later Clint and I hardly broke stride past my previous stopping point.

Onward across a couple snow fields and down bright red scree filled slopes.

 

RC11

 

As the lake came into view we noticed icebergs floating near the beach.

We both looked at each other and knew that those bergs were our destination.

How often do you get to climb out on icebergs on a 90 degree day?

This was going to happen!

 

RC12

 

The snow beyond the lake had a melt spot that looked exactly like a soaring eagle.

Clint liked the Eagle…

 

RC13

 

Hot from our hike here, we jumped in immediately and dealt with lunch and photos later.

 

RC13

 

Sprawled out on the rocky shore, we ate our lunch and smiled widely.

Clint was telling an animated story and threw his hands in the air.

At that exact moment, we looked left and saw two sub adult grizzly bears running away from the lake.

I don’t think they saw us until Ol’ Captain Clint told a rousing story about lord knows what!

I’m guessing they had some swimming plans of their own and they weren’t expecting that two loud humans got to the pool first.

I certainly do appreciate them letting us continue.

Thanks guys.

 

 

Obviously, from that point on I kept one eye out for the bears and one on my icebergs.

They never returned, which is good… but what an amazing sighting.

With the time we had left we hopped up on the icebergs which had started to float around by now.

 

RC14

 

We had to jump off before the wind blew us down lake.

Ah, July 2nd in Glacier National Park.

 

RC15

 

Clint eyed a high point on the ridge off Red Mountain and we pushed for it.

The views were amazing!

 

RC16

 

The skyline to the west was the Cutbank Valley and a sea of layered peaks.

 

RC17

 

To the north was the Madwolf Circuit with Eagle Plume directly above Running Crane.

The South was Red Mountain and the ridge we had just come over.

And, to the East was the Great Plains stretching past Browning and the Sweetgrass Hills all the way to Chicago…

 

RC18

 

Red Mountain is obviously red but the Eastern part of the ridge is tan.

At one point, there is the transition and it looked like the red and tan rocks had a fight.

Fallen rock soldiers strewn about, making the transition very chaotic.

 

RC19

 

As we wondered down the ridge it had officially gotten HOT!

The sun beat on us making the idea of the Lonely Lakes extremely inviting.

We made really good time by starting early and knowing the route from last time I was back here.

 

RC20

 

Just beyond the red and tan rock battle, we found a nice ramp back down to the lakes.

Clint had beaten me to the upper Lonely Lake.

While I was still high above the lake, I watched him cannonball off a lakeside boulder.

 

RC21

 

Thus began a two hour, swim, snack, swim, drink, swim, kick it fest at the Lonely Lakes.

 

RC22

 

There is a flower filled rock shelf separating the upper and lower lakes.

Between them are two tiny ponds which we named the Upper and Lower – Middle Lonely Ponds.

It’s a catchy name.

I know.

They were comparatively quite warm, but only about two feet deep.

Clint skied down a snow bank into the Upper Middle Lonely pond in his Chacos.

 

RC23

 

The lower Lonely Lake was spectacular also.

We continued our lazy, swimming ways while tucked into a piece of shade made by the rock shelf.

We must have said, “This is amazing” 763 times throughout the day.

We just somehow earned the perfect high elevation, mountain lake swimming extravaganza!

And on a hot day.

 

RC24

 

Last time I was back here it was 50 degrees and the wind was blowing so hard that I had to put rocks on my clothes so they wouldn’t fly away.

The swimming conditions were much different.

I would like to thank Good Juju, Glacier Park and a hot weather pattern for this one.

 

RC25

 

Eventually we left our cooling salvation and headed up the rocky ridge towards Two Medicine.

We took a slight detour to check out a vegetation filled waterfall chute.

Today was a good day!

The scree was soft, the ridges sound, the views extensive and crisp, and the water cold and clear.

 

 

A couple miles from Two Medicine we bumped into what we believe was the same black bear from this morning.

He didn’t seem to have any time for us.

We stepped off trail behind some trees and he cruised past us bound for his next destination

Clint and I mused about how he was headed home on his work commute.

This morning he headed down valley to his 9 to 5 and tonight he was headed back up valley.

Headed back to the casa to have a bear beer and put his paws up.

I figured we should follow suit.

 

Thanks for a great time Clint.

We got a hold of a great lake trip and four bears in one day.

That is certainly a Waterton Glacier Lake Jumping Project single day bear record.

Most of them aren’t this good and it was even better with the great company.

 

RC28

 

Josh Paulson, thanks for showing me the way on this one.

You’re the man.

May you all be having a great summer and enjoying your bear beer and your commute.

To Life,

Marc Ankenbauer

 

 

 

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

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