Missoula County Highpoint Trip Report

Lowary Peak - "Peak X" (9,369 ft)

Date: July 21, 2007
Author: Jim Perkins

From Missoula, take I-90 to exit 96: Highway 93 North/200 West to Kalispell and Glacier Park. At mile marker 32 on highway 93, turn east at Mountain View Road into St Ignatius. Turn right (south) on Main (which is North Main then South Main) to Toweepah Street. East for about 2.3 miles on Toweepah to St Maryís Lake (SML) Road and head south. After about one mile, SML Road will make a left turn (east). Watch for road sign on fence post. Stay on SML Road for 2 miles paved and 4.2 miles dirt ("washboardy" but OK) and then turn left and up to dam. Head to the only camp spot at the northwest end of SML, about 0.25 mile after seeing the lake. Trail starts on the other side of the camp spot from the Lake and follows a dry creek bed (at least in mid-July) initially.

For those of you who hate foreplay with their hikes, hereís some good news! This Lowary Peak Trail minimizes switchbacks and averages over 40% grade (4,600 feet of gain) for the first two miles. Steeper and tighter with way more deadfall than Borah! This is not the hardest part of the trek, however. Keep reading.

At about 7,850 feet, you will make a serious turn to your left and begin to see some of the most beautiful highcountry imaginable through Vacation Pass, replete with waterfalls, spires, lakes - breathtaking. A veritable highcountry Disneyland! Stay to your left, keeping just East St Maryís Peak in sight for now and you will walk on the nicest, softest ground covering around. Once you pass this 0.5 mile stretch, you will see the objective -- Peak X -- also known as Lowary Peak . For my part and after 18 months of Montana County Highpointing, I just had to get one up, this one time, on the master, Mr. Packard. (Before I give Bob a verbal noogie, I have to say that I could never imagine finding most of the last 44 county HPís and their trailheads without Bob Packardís cohp.org write-ups. I owe you many beers, Bob. You are an inspiration to me. THANK YOU!) Noting that Bob Packardís write-up on this HP indicated that he did East St. Maryís, then Peak X, but passed on summiting Peak Y, I had a new challenge.

I butt glissaded (a first on an "in" move) the snow field down from the base of St Maryís to the saddle to Peak X, then up to Peak X, which is the closest peak. Then I dropped off the ridge for about 100 yards, then back up to the ridge connecting X & Y and made the coldplay over to Peak Y. YES!! Back down and up to East St. Maryís and, for the first time in my life, I had actually done one more peak than Bob on a Montana County HP. I almost spontaneously combusted! You set the bar high, Mr. Packard and I finally raised the bar. On my 45th time. And Iím 45.

Of course, this overwhelming joy only lasted until I started the last two miles of the hike. I used trekking poles down and my toes still jammed the ends of my boots, which they havenít done in a long time. This down is as tortuous as it is optionless. I cannot believe I thought of doing this hike in the winter. I was a hurtiní, sweatiní pup by the time I reached the lake. I would do the up again for the beauty up top, but, Iím still deciding about the down?

A few additional notes:

You will need a Flathead Reservation Use Permit ($22) to legally be here. The permits can be purchased at the usual locations. I came up the night before (Friday night) to camp at the trailhead, however, someone was already there. So, I slept in the back of my toppered pick-up in town to the soothing sounds of barroom banter in the streets and headed back to the trailhead Saturday morning for a 5:40 am start. The night before my hike, I accidentally drove about 4 miles past the turn to the SML (apt to do in the dark) BUT saw two mountain lions on the road. I never knew they had such long tails. They probably weighed about 80 pounds each. So on the road, fine; on the trail, not so much.

Climb statistics: 2.5 hours from trailhead to 7,850 feet, about two miles. 1 hour, 35 minutes to Peak X, a little over two miles. 40 minutes to do Peak Y and back to the Peak X / East St. Mary's saddle. Probably an extra 20 minutes to do East St. Mary's. Then, about 4.5 hours down from East St. Mary's to the car. Painful!