In Appreciation of Mt. Wynn

Autumn in Many Glacier

We are a bit busy this spring building comfy cabins, but we usually take great advantage of the quiet off-seasons to get some adventuring under our belts.  A few falls ago, Claire and I climbed Mt. Wynn on a remarkably clear and warm autumn afternoon.  It is often clear and bright here that time of year, but not so often approaching 70 degrees in mid-October.  The Rocky Mountain Front generally experiences at least one major snow event by the time the last of the summer folk depart, but we’d only seen a few minor dustings that easy autumn of 2015.  The route up 8,406′ Mt. Wynn is mostly sun-exposed so we didn’t have anything more than morning frost to crunch through on our way to the summit.

 Mt. Wynn in the fall, with just a smidge of a rainbow

Mt. Wynn in the fall, with just a smidge of a rainbow

The Story Behind Mt. Wynn

 Mt. Wynn, center, and the long, long ridge approaching Siyeh on a spring morning

Mt. Wynn, center, and the long, long ridge approaching Siyeh on a spring morning

Mt. Wynn is located on the eastern edge of the Many Glacier valley in Glacier National Park, just west of us here near Babb, Mt.  It happens to be one of the first things we see every morning when we gaze out the windows at the park as the sun perks up the western range in shades of pink and purple.  It is not the most dramatic mountain, nor anywhere near the highest, but it holds a unique spot in its profile to our home and the long, long ridge approaching Cracker Mountain and Mt. Siyeh that shows the route along the “Skyline Experience” that perhaps I will detail later….if I ever climb it again or flash back to my early days in the park in this space.

 An almost-dry Cracker Flats, with the current Mt. Altyn in the background

An almost-dry Cracker Flats, with the current Mt. Altyn in the background

Mt. Wynn, like many of the mountains in Glacier, has held multiple names throughout its history.  The etymology of this particular peak is fairly simple, as it is named for Dr. Frank B. Wynn, a psychiatrist and former president of the American Alpine Club.  Dr. Wynn died while climbing nearby Mt. Siyeh, the fifth highest peak in the park, in 1922.  At the time, the mountain was referred to by the unimaginative designation of “Point Mountain.”  It was also briefly referred to as “Altyn” after the small mining town near its base (which I hope to detail here shortly!), prior to that title shifting to its current peak just north of the now-Mt. Wynn.  Still following?  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find intel on any names the Blackfeet may have bestowed on the mountain, but doubtless it did not lurk in anonymity before the park’s existence.  President Woodrow Wilson apparently directed that the mountain be renamed in honor of Dr. Wynn to recognize his contributions to the state park system.

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 Working our way up the southwest ridge of Mt. Wynn, with Cracker Lake and Mt. Siyeh in the background

Working our way up the southwest ridge of Mt. Wynn, with Cracker Lake and Mt. Siyeh in the background

Wynn rises as a protrusion of the Lewis Overthrust (hoping to detail that fascinating geologic event in future posts, too) and sits directly above Cracker Flats, where the drowned town of Altyn toils in its sandy grave.  The flats are the entry to Sherburne Reservoir, once a chain of ponds, but now an important holding tank for the irrigation water needed to keep Montana’s Golden Triangle and the Hi-Line producing its delicious, delicious barley, among other agricultural exports.  For our purposes today, let’s be brief and simply say that Mt. Wynn shows off an impressive and seemingly unscaleable cliff face to the public, but (like many of Glacier’s peaks) is more easily climbed from its backside by those of us in the know.

Climbing Mt. Wynn

It is not my intention for this to be a detailed-climbing-oriented endeavor, so for those of you looking to get up ole Mt. Wynn I will direct you to Blake Passmore’s excellent Climb Glacier series (Check him out on instagram @visitglacier, great stuff!), summitpost.org, and the “Glacier Bible”-  A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park by J. Gordon Edwards.  For those of you following along at home, we took Dr. Edward’s  “Southwest Ridge Route” because walking endlessly up talus and scree did not seem terribly appealing.

The approach up the Cracker Lake trail was lovely in the fall of '15 (no horses!) and the route up the creek bed was wonderful.  Not nearly as long as I remembered from my first trip up the “Skyline” with pals back in 2005.  The rest….was longer.  It’s a good ways up through scrub and loose footing, but certainly nothing technical in the least.  I advise getting to the ridge as quickly as possible and taking it all the way to the summit.

 Looking west from the summit

Looking west from the summit

The way down can be fun!   I love “boot-skiing” down loose scree and it makes for short, quick work down from the summit.  If scree and talus aren’t your thing….maybe consider climbing a different mountain.  The summit views from Wynn are spectacular, but it is definitely a slog getting up there compared to some more “interesting” and perhaps more technical peaks.

 The gravel-yard descent

The gravel-yard descent

 Leaving the Many Glacier Valley and looking back on Mt. Wynn to the south

Leaving the Many Glacier Valley and looking back on Mt. Wynn to the south

After an almost-cold pale ale and a lengthy rest on the couch to soothe my aching knees, I decided that perhaps Mt. Wynn was not at the top of my list to re-climb anytime in the immediate future…at least until the perfect day to hit the Skyline beckons once again.

—-Info in this blog post was taken from personal knowledge, experience, and memory- as well as SummitPost.org, Place Names of Glacier National Park, Wikipedia, A Climber’s Guide to Glacier, and Climb Glacier.

Sanford Stone