Iceberg Lake is a pristine, alpine gem in Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
The day begins with a short walk in light drizzle and gusty winds, for an early and hearty breakfast at the Swiftcurrent Inn Restaurant. The prearranged hiker's lunch is ready and following a final pack-up, the hike from the Ptarmigan trail-head begins about 50 yards (45.7 m) behind the room at the Swiftcurrent Inn.
Today's hike along the lower slopes of 8,770 ft. (2,673 m) Mount Henkel with formidable 9,321 ft (2,841 m) Mount Wilbur on the other side of the valley to the left leads to Iceberg Lake in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
Mount Wilbur's summit is enshrouded in cloud and will remain that way throughout the day. The rain stops but the wind continues.
The round trip hike to Iceberg Lake is 9½ miles (15.2 KM) with gross elevation gain near 1,250 ft. (381 m). The hike progresses alternatively between forested areas and open spaces offering spectacular vistas.
After climbing 700 vertical feet over 2⅝ miles (4.2 KM), arrival at Ptarmigan Falls on Wilbur Creek signals choosing the clearly-signed left trail junction to Iceberg Lake.
The hike to Iceberg Lake heads directly towards the impressive Ptarmigan Wall.
Just prior to hiking up and over the final ridge created by glacial rubble, there is a beautiful unnamed alpine tarn to the right. The day is warming up into a mixture of sun and cloud.
The first view of Iceberg Lake is spectacular on the hike down to the shoreline. Here, the wind is fierce and cyclonic but we have good shelter in forest near the lake. Sun reflecting on glacial flour makes the color of the water milky-blue and emerald.
Iceberg Lake, at 6,100 ft (1,860 m), is tucked away in a north-east facing cirque and receives little sunlight throughout the year. The lake remains frozen over until late spring and early in the season Iceberg Lake is often banked with snow and congested with floating ice including icebergs from calving glaciers. The surface is clear of ice today but alive with whitecaps and windswept mist created by powerful gusts of wind.
The size of the glaciers is shocking. They are virtually gone. In 1850 there were 150 glacial fields logged in Glacier National Park, Montana. Now, there are only twenty-six glaciers remaining with a forecast all may be gone by the year 2030.
This alarming experience will be repeated many times over the next several days. This National park is an incredibly beautiful place but Glacier National Park has very little glacial ice remaining. The National Park has many awesome features beyond glaciers which will continue to attract anyone who enjoys and values adventure in the wilderness.
There is still plenty of glacial ice remaining in Canada's Glacier National Park at Rogers Pass in British Columbia but glaciers there are also slowly disappearing.
On the return hike, a very large bull moose is standing on the trail and contently feeding on trail side shrubbery. Substantial hiking traffic is backed up in both directions. The situation is a bit comical. The moose is clearly in charge of the situation.
There is no opportunity to off-trail around the moose so, with a slow, cautious and friendly approach towards the moose and a clap of hands, the moose ducks off-trail about 20 ft. to feed on new brush. There are good views of the huge animal as hikers proceed on their way from both directions. The very large moose is busy feeding, obviously comfortable with human presence and quite frankly, couldn't care less.
The retreat from Iceberg Lake on Ptarmigan Trail arrives back at the Iceberg Lake/ Ptarmigan Tunnel junction by noon.
The conundrum is created by a potential decision to follow the original plan and return to Swiftcurrent Inn for the planned, easy, ramp-up day, or alternatively, take advantage of time and position to turn the day into a significantly aggressive endeavor by including the hike to Ptarmigan Tunnel. What to do?