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Sat, Jul 8 2006 - Three Sacred Peaks: Scarface, Morningstar and Poia (View Original Event Details)

Coordinator(s): Mark Hertenstein, Tom Kotynski
Participants:Tom Kotynski, Mark Hertenstein

Write Up:
Blackfeet legends lend their names to the mountains of the Badger Two Medicine Wilderness Study Area. Three of those mountains in the Blackfeet Sun Dance legend are Poia (elevation: 8,274 feet ), Morningstar (elevation: 8,376 feet), and Scarface (elevation: 8,282 feet). They are a tempting target for any climber south of Glacier Park. Eleven GMS members showed up for a climb of these three for a long (19 miles) day with lots of elevation gain (5,100 feet). Each peak has its unique qualities. Three-headed Scarface sits at the end of a long limestone ridge; Morningstar presides over a remote valley with grand views of the entire Badger Two, and Poia has yellow-brownish rock on it that is reminiscent of Yellowstone Park. Seven climbers reached all three summits. All enjoyed the beauty of the southern edge of the Badger Two Medicine. We labored under bright, hot sun while our thermometers exceeded 90 degrees. That heat felled at least two of our climbers who turned back less than 1,000 feet below the final peak of the day, Poia.

The Poia legend represented in these three sacred peaks is the Blackfeet equivalent of the Christian Christ legend. Poia is the son of a god, Morningstar, and the Blackfeet maiden, Feather Woman. Poia's face is scarred (becoming Scarface) for his mother's transgressions. He ultimately redeems the Blackfeet by bringing them the Sun Dance.

Our route followed the North Fork of the Birch Creek Trail from Swift Reservoir for four miles to Small Creek. At Small Creek we went off trail and found an elk trail as we climbed through thick forest to a great basin between Scarface and Poia. Here we ascended the long limestone wall that leads to Scarface. Once on top of the ridge we could see Scarface's three peaks. The summit is the middle peak. Morningstar is an impressive looking peak connected by a sometimes sketchy limestone ridge to Scarface. It is a drop of more than 600 feet to the saddle between the two mountains. We climbed Poia by dropping 1,200 feet on good, skateable scree to a basin below Morningstar. It was a 600-foot climb to a saddle at the base of Poia and another 600 feet to the Poia summit ridge. We returned to the trailhead via a gentle, long ridgeline that eventually took a sharp plunge to the North Fork of Birch Creek near Killem Horse Creek. The views from all three peaks are expansive and breathtaking. To the north and beyond are the Badger Two Medicine. To the south and east the Bob Marshall Country and Rocky Mountain Front. To the west, the Bob Marshall all the way to the Swan Range. To the north beyond the Badger, Glacier Park and Great Bear Wilderness Area. We were very pleased to see that the Ralph Thornton-Bud Iszler party had left registers on Scarface and Morningstar that included a printed page with the story of the Poia legend. When we climbed these three last year there was no evidence of any recent climbs. These mountains are too beautiful and special to be ignored.

Have some photos from this event that you'd like to share in our photo album? Please forward them to Tim Anderson at Please note that we prefer to receive the photos in approximately 640x480 or 750x500 pixels - do NOT send original high-res photos. If you have a LOT of photos, please submit up to twenty of your favorites (only) for a day event, or up to forty of your favourites for a multi-day event. Thank you.

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