After enjoying the views on the summit of Triple Divide Peak, Andrew and I set off for the much higher Norris Mountain that sits ~1.6 km to the west. In regards to the name, as much as it would be cool to have it connected to Chuck Norris, Blake Passmore states, “It was named before 1904 for Hank Norris, a white man that joined the Blackfeet Nation and reportedly owned all the land between Upper and Lower Saint Mary Lakes… The original name was Tall Man Mountain and Norris was quite tall and thus the name that George Bird Grinnell provided fits nicely.” (Climb Glacier National Park, Vol 5, 92)
The trip over from Triple Divide Peak was not difficult, and the diversion that we made to the top of “Chuck” – the large prominence that towers above the col – was worth it as the views were spectacular. Once we arrived at the north end of the mountain, we then tried to follow the vague route description given by Passmore, but ended up abandoning it just beneath the summit when the prospect of down-climbing became daunting. Instead, we headed further to the south and to an obvious gully that we had instinctually thought of using as we approached the mountain. Had we used this gully at the beginning, we would have saved ourselves at least an hour. Doh! I’m sure that Passmore’s route exists as Edwards himself in, A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park, notes “There are many class 3 routes to the summit” (309), but we ultimately found ourselves in what I would consider sketchy territory. Had we known that there was an easier route down the gully, I think we may have persisted, but we had no such information.
Thankfully, it was a only a moderate scramble up the gully to the summit, as I would’ve been choked if Norris had ‘Chuck Norris’d’ us after investing all that time and effort. 😉 . There was plenty of loose scree near the bottom, but as we went higher, we kept to climber’s right and the rock improved. Once on the ridge, we only had to scramble up a short section of solid rock before it became merely a walk to the summit. From the summit the views were impressive, and we had a much better view of the hydrological apex that is Triple Divide. We could also see the Pumpelly Glacier on Blackfoot Mountain , the Logan Glacier, and part of Red Eagle Glacier. Unfortunately, the summit of Mount Stimson was beclouded the entire day as this would have otherwise made for a fantastic view to the southwest.
Though this ended up being a very long day, it was a great trip. A HUGE thank you to Andrew for making such a great choice of destinations!
To get to Triple Divide Peak and Norris Mountain from Lethbridge, drive south on Highway 5 to Cardston, then take Highway 2 to the Piegan-Carway Border Crossing. Once across, continue on Highway 89 for ~53 km until you come to the turnoff for the Cut Bank Creek Road. Turn right onto the gravel road and follow it for ~8 km until you arrive at the parking area just prior to the campground. This is the trailhead for the Pitamakin Pass Trail (for reference, I’ve included our GPS track for last week’s trip up Mad Wolf Mountain on the map). Follow the trail for 6.3 km (the sign says 6.3 km though my GPS indicated it was 6.46 km) until you arrive at the junction for the Triple Divide Pass Trail. Up to this point, the trail gains very little elevation and can be hiked quite quickly. Turn onto Triple Divide Pass Trail and hike another ~1.1 km to the junction with the Medicine Grizzly Trail. Again, the elevation gain is light. Remain on the Triple Divide Pass Trail and hike another ~4.2 km to reach Triple Divide Pass. Here is where the trail begins to gain significant elevation. We covered the entire distance from the Cut Bank trailhead to Triple Divide Pass in 2.5 hours.
Triple Divide Peak rises above the Pass and we decided to use Passmore’s scramble route up the east face. I will reiterate again that I would not recommend this route for inexperienced scramblers or those with vertigo. Passmore rates it as class III (4) and the 4 comes just prior to reaching the ledge where the goat trail is. The entire route is chossy with lots of loose scree and a steep angle of attack in the middle- to upper-section. For me, the crux of the trip was getting onto the ledge and for Andrew, it was following the goat trail along the ledge. The ledge looks fairly wide once you get onto it, but as you round a corner and begin to head southeast, it narrow in spots to less than 30 cm. Be warned that the exposure is extreme.
After summiting Triple Divide, we made the ~1.6 km hike to the base of the summit block of Norris Mountain, detouring along the way to check out the views from a prominence that we nicknamed, “Chuck”. The gully that we used to get to the summit was brutally obvious as we approached the base. Unfortunately, we wasted an hour or so trying to ascend directly beneath the summit when the gully would’ve gotten us up right away. There is plenty of loose scree on the lower section of the gully, but the rock gets better the further up you go. Once on the ridge, we had no difficulties scrambling up a short section of solid rock before walking to the summit.
We descended using the gully and then traversed beneath the summit of Triple Divide to reach the south ridge that connects to Razoredge Mountain. We followed the ridge almost to its end before finding the gully used for the much easier, South Ridge Route described by Passmore and Edwards. Here is where we descended to the base of the cliffs before following an obvious trail back to Triple Divide Pass. We then returned the way.
Including the time spent on our initial route up Norris, our total distance travelled was 34.2 km with total elevation gains of 1572 m. Our total roundtrip time was 11 hours and 43 minutes.
Heading towards Norris Mountain after leaving the summit of Triple Divide Peak. We nicknamed the prominence on the right, “Chuck”. 😉
The col offers a fantastic view! Split Mountain is on the right.
We followed the ridge proper for the first bit, but then found travel to be quicker across the rubble and scree slope. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
The view back to Triple Divide Peak (right) and Mount James (left) from the top of “Chuck”. The trail leading down from Triple Divide Pass zig zags across the slope at the bottom centre.
The view from “Chuck” to the southeast and across to Razoredge Mountain.
The red line shows our futile attempt to follow Passmore’s route. The yellow line is the gully that we should have used from the beginning. Had we known that we could descend using the gully, we may have persisted with our original route.
Another fantastic view of Split Mountain from the north end of the mountain. Little Chief Mountain is in the background to the left.
The view north and past Split Mountain (right) to Red Eagle Lake and Saint Mary Lake.
Arriving at the north end of Norris.
The lower section of Norris did not present us with any problems.
Searching for an obvious way up.
The view down before things became steep.
After finding several long ledges, we made our way back and forth beneath the summit, but could not find a suitable way up. Here, Andrew decides that while he could go up, he might not be able to come back the same way. Not knowing that there was an easier way to descend in the gully kept us from trying anything that we weren’t comfortable down-climbing.
Stymied beneath the summit, Andrew searches for a way up at the northern end of Norris.
After spending an hour or so looking for a way up, we decided to head towards the gully (pictured) that we could see on the way over from Triple Divide Peak. In short, obvious gully is obvious. 😉
The rock improved the higher we went.
Looking down from near the ridge.
Now on the ridge, Andrew approaches another short section of scrambling.
It was an easy walk up from here.
A pano to the east with Triple Divide Peak to the right of centre.
A pano to west and northwest.
A pano to the south.
I thought this view was sweet on the way up, but it was even sweeter from the summit!
A closer look at Split Mountain.
A telephoto to the northeast with Divide Mountain in the distant centre. Medicine Owl Peak is in the foreground to the left of centre and Kakitos Mountain is on the far left. Ampitheatre Mountain is on the right with White Calf Mountain behind it.
Looking east with Mad Wolf Mountain and Bad Marriage Mountain in the distance to the left of centre. Eagle Plume Mountain, Red Mountain, and Medicine Grizzly Peak are to the right. In the foreground to the left is Mount James with Triple Divide Peak to the right of centre.
Looking south and across the valley at Razoredge Mountain. In the distance is Rising Wolf Mountain (far left), Flinsch Peak (left of centre), Mount Rockwell (centre), and Mount Phillips (right).
Mount Stimson is a presence to the southwest. Unfortunately, its summit was beclouded the entire day. Mount Pinchot is to its left.
Gazing west at Blackfoot Mountain (left) and Mount Logan (right).
A closer look at the Pumpelly Glacier on Blackfoot Mountain.
The view to the northwest with Almost-A-Dog Mountain on the left, Little Chief Mountain in the centre, and Split Mountain on the right.
Thumbs up for reaching the summit of Norris Mountain (2707 m)!
After determining that a selfie with my camera on the ground and focused on my nostrils wasn’t a good idea, Andrew decided that he should take my summit picture. 😉 . (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Time to leave…
…but not before one more look to the east.
I wonder if there is a way to follow the ridge further past the gully and then around the pinnacles on the far south end? If so, this may be a longer, but perhaps even easier way to get to the summit.
Andrew heads down the gully.
A bit of proper technique…
…and a bit of bum scooting. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
Heading towards the col between Norris and Triple Divide Peak.
We would bypass the summit of Triple Divide and head straight to the ridge (right of centre) that connects to Razoredge Mountain.
The gully that leads down is located at the far end of the ridge. (Photo by Andrew Nugara)
A gorgeous view of Medicine Grizzly Lake.
A look back at the day’s work.
I definitely want to come back and tackle Mount James!
My view from halfway down the gully back to the ridge. There was plenty of loose rock.
I’d also like to come back and explore the route over to and up Razoredge.
The gully is above Andrew in the centre. This is the South Ridge Route that Passmore describes.
Once we found the trail, it was an uneventful walk back to Triple Divide Pass (left of centre).
Andrew pauses to check out the amazing scenery.
The trail goes between the large cliffs of the ridge and the first small cliff band.
The ledge walk from earlier in the day doesn’t look any less sketchy. 😉
The gully for the South Ridge Route is where the scree rises up to the cliffs in the centre of the picture.
Whew! Finally on the trail and beginning the 11.6 km hike back to Andrew’s car.
More of that amazing crimson argillite.
Andrew checks out Red Mountain (right) and Eagle Plume Mountain (centre).
Arriving back at the Pitamakin Pass Trail. Only ~6.3 km to go!
A late day shot of the south end of Kupunkamint Mountain.
Evening sunlight on the north end of Mad Wolf Mountain.
Arriving back at the car after 34.2 km and 11 hours and 42 minutes. This was a HUGE day but it was also an AWESOME day! Glacier is a hiker’s and scrambler’s paradise and the area around Cut Bank and Triple Divide Pass is so beautiful. I will most definitely be coming back here again and again. As I’ve already mentioned, a HUGE thank you to Andrew for choosing such fantastic destinations for the day!
Also many thanks to Andrew for keeping a stash of Green Apple Gatorade in his car! I finished the last of my 4 litre water supply back at the junction between Triple Divide Pass and Pitamakin Trail, and I was a little thirsty by this point… Lol! 😉 (Photo by Andrew Nugara)