Another Look at Triple Divide Peak

January 23, 2017


Photographer: Rod Benson
Summary Author: Rod Benson

January 2017 Viewer's ChoiceThe shorter summit in the foreground here, just to the right of center, is Triple Divide Peak (8,020 ft or 2,444 m), located in the southeastern part of Glacier National Park, Montana. Like the vast majority of peaks in this park, Triple Divide is a horn, beautifully sculpted by glaciers during recent ice ages. These pyramid-shaped peaks are formed as three or more glaciers erode the sides of a single mountain. What makes Triple Divide extraordinary is the role it plays in dividing three major watersheds. Runoff from its east side flows into the Gulf of Mexico, the west side flows into the Pacific, and the north into the Hudson Bay. Runoff is melted snow or other forms of precipitation that drain off the land.

You might think a mountain with so much responsibility would tower over the landscape – not so. In fact, Triple Divide is surrounded by taller peaks in every direction. This photo was taken from Norris Mountain, within feet of the Continental Divide (the ridge that runs from the lower left to Triple Divide across to the right side of the photo). Divides are simply higher areas (not always distinct ridges or peaks) that separate drainage basins (watersheds). The Continental Divide (also known as The Great Divide) is the most famous of all divides in the Western Hemisphere. The ridge that runs from Triple Divide to Mount James (9,375 ft or 2,858 m), at upper left, is another divide – called the Hudson Bay Divide. It separates the Gulf of Mexico and Hudson Bay watersheds. The faint trail that can be seen descending from the pass between Mount James and Triple Divide leads down into the Hudson Bay watershed.

The hike to Triple Divide Peak starts at Cut Bank Campground and follows a nice trail to Triple Divide Pass (7.5 mi or 12 km one-way). From there you must go off-trail to reach the summit. The trip out and back from the campground is a difficult 16 to 17 mi (26 -27 km) hike with 2,900 ft. (884 m) of elevation gain. Also, see the Earth Science Picture of the Day for January 14, 2003. Photo taken on July 30, 2016.

Photo Details: Camera Model: Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS; Lens: 4.5-54.0 mm; Focal Length: 4.5mm; Aperture: ƒ/10.0; Exposure Time: 0.0050 s (1/200); ISO equiv: 125; Software: QuickTime 7.6.6.