Triple Divide Peak ~ A Lesson of Water, Fire and Grace 7/24/2015


A scene right out of the Old West! The Cutbank Valley.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” ~ Isaiah 43:2

At the time of this hike fire was consuming the St. Mary Valley but this majestic and far less traveled part of the park remained unscathed. And with that in mind I embarked on a journey to Triple Divide Peak. This is a very unique mountain on the Continental Divide, one of only three in the world from which a single drop of water at the summit can flow in three directions to the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.


Triple Divide Peak on the right, Razor’s Edge to the left.

The guide book says this summit attempt should be done in two days, but being the hardy souls that we like to think we are, Tim and I set out to defy the fire and climb a mountain!

Unfortunately, our very early departure was met with bad news upon our arrival at the trail head… the trail was closed due to the Reynolds Creek Fire! How could this be? I checked the website the night before and this trail was listed as open. We dispatched to the ranger station in despair where we found the friendly ranger enjoying his morning coffee on his warm sunlit porch with the locals. (If this is what it takes to be a ranger, sign me up!!) I asked if the trail was closed due to the fire and he said yes. When I told them the website stated otherwise he said “that damned thing… well we’re not going to stop you. A group climbed it yesterday and another the day before.” I told him we did not plan to hike through to St. Mary and he said we should be fine. They just wouldn’t come looking for us! Ha! So we embarked on our adventure. Defying the fire and with a spirit of rebellion in our step we headed back to the trailhead to make our mark! I will admit to feeling a bit wary – venturing where no one else would go. In the end I wish they closed all the trails so I could hike them in peace!


A lovely meadow on the way to the pass.


Just below the peak there stands a blonde….


The long valley we traveled up and down.


The ridge from which we popped to the top.

It was a LONG day. Much longer than I expected and I found it a tougher climb than Mount Siyeh even though Triple Divide Peak is only 7467 ft compared to Siyeh’s 10,014. We had a steep 7.2 mile hike in to the pass before we even thought about climbing to the summit. The scree slopes were MUCH steeper and had none of the small pebbly character of Siyeh’s, Rather, we scrambled through broken slabs of rock that left their dent on my fingers. We found a shallow couloir in the middle of the ridge and decided to make our way up. Once again, my scrambling prowess came to life and I made it to the top with ease.  I have no idea how I am able to do this, it must be my slight stature that allows me to maneuver up these cliffs like a mountain goat, I just remind myself to NOT LOOK DOWN, not once or ever, while I am going up!
The shifty rocks of the couloir behind us, we were immediately buffeted by intense winds at the saddle and our thoughts turned to the fire one valley over. How wild the fire must be with winds like we encountered!


There she blows….


Praising atop the Peak.

Tim kept telling me to stay away from the edge for fear that I would blow off… honestly, what fun is that?? Good grief! Amazingly once we made it to the top of the peak the wind was surprisingly absent . We enjoyed relative calm with soothing background music of the rushing wind around. It was like all the forces of the continent were sucking the wind away from us. I always save my lunch for the pinnacle and sure wish we would have this time too, but we were hungry after hiking 7+ miles and afraid it would be too windy at the summit to enjoy so we ate at the pass. Needless to say we both felt deprived of our celebratory meal at the top!


A perfect place for lunch, if only we still had our lunch… Ah well, daydreaming works well too!

The hike back down was a long one. The scree slopes proved to be as difficult going down as they were up. Once we landed at the bottom I looked like one of those souls who emerged from the World Trade Center on 9/11- completely caked in dust with blood oozing from my finger tips and shin.


The sole companion on my solo trek down.


As darkness creeps in, mountains shine in splendor.

Back on the trail we made pretty good time until huckleberries sidetracked us and when that happens time becomes moot. Bless his heart- Tim,as do I, loves his huckleberries. However, on a 16 mile hike?? I will give him some grace as finding huckleberries this year is like panning for gold but as the time edged past 6 pm and 5 miles of trail still waited ahead of us, that grace was fleeting. I was hungry and tired and made note of the darkening clouds boiling over the mountain. Even a threatening storm would not phase my huckleberry hound. And so, in my impatience and with visions of a good Mexican dinner at Serranos dancing in my head I tried to get some movement other than berry picking from my partner by heading on down the trail… mentioning the gathering clouds that concerned me not to mention my rumbling stomach. My childish and impatient efforts did not work. Instead, I found myself alone on the trail and feeling very exposed to the wilds of the Cutbank Valley. Suddenly I was seeing all sign of recent bear activity whether it was there or not! Smart Morck, real smart! Certain my meager attempt to get us to our Mexican meal was instead going to turn me into a grizzly bear’s delight, I waited, with ears primed to any sound of a predator’s approach, for my huckleberry hound.  And then he came a-sauntering down the trail, looking none too pleased, whether it was over the condition of the berry crop or my antics, I refuse to ponder. Needless to say neither of us received our playful banter  as playful. “Did you get your berries?” I asked sweetly…. “NO! Did YOU get hailed on?” “NO!” and with that our conversation ceased for the long walk back to civilization (My Hyundai Santa Fe…)

Ah well, we are only human and fatigue tends to bring out our failings. Perhaps that is the reason the last mountain we pass on the trail is named Bad Marriage Mountain! We didn’t get off the trail until well past 8 pm after starting bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 11 hours earlier. Dinner was long behind us and a long drive home ensued. Thank GOD for Neil Diamond!!!!


Atlantic Creek at the end of the day.

Post Script Update: After a good night’s sleep and a day or two to cool our cockles, we regrouped and made peace over Chocolate Love ice cream cones. Neither of us were without fault for the negative way an otherwise fabulous day in the mountains ended. But we learned a thing or two in the process… we both need to be considerate of each other’s needs and as in so many other things in life, moderation is key.  Each of us is worthy of respect and each of us is fully capable of being respectful. Relationships require us to leave our pride at the doorstep, Humbling ourselves before one another and God, asking for forgiveness, admitting where we were wrong, and asking to be heard as we explained our needs goes a long way towards a healthy reconciliation. We keep God in our midst and ask for His grace as we move forward. We know we have a relationship that can weather storms and stand strong on a foundation built out of love, respect, trust and friendship.  Oh and huckleberry picking is a sweet respite from the dusty trail as long as the picking party doesn’t start gathering dust!

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 

Psalm 19:14


Bad Marriage Mountain