New guide book details Glacier climbs

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Blake Passmore considers himself an ambassador for Glacier National Park, and it’s easy to see why.

The 54-year-old Kalispell man has published eight books about the park, including the recently released fifth volume of “Climb Glacier National Park.”

He’s also published “Up on the Roof,” a pictorial of the park’s high places, and two volumes of “What They Called It,” which tells stories of how the park’s signature landmarks got their names. Passmore spent considerable time researching in Glacier Park archives, as well as National Geographic material.

“I want more people to be able to experience what my climbing partners and I have experienced,” Passmore said. “The more that do so will understand why it must always be protected, and care that it is.”

While J. Gordon Edwards is fondly referred as the park’s “patron saint of climbing”, Passmore has picked up where he left off.

Edwards, who died of a heart attack July 19, 2004 while climbing on Divide Mountain, published “A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park” in 1961.

Passmore, like so many Glacier climbers, was referencing Edwards’ iconic book when he and some of his partners got off their chosen route during a climb on Clements Mountain.

“We got into some really hairy stuff,” Passmore said.

That experience led Passmore and his climbing team — which has included Dr. John VanArendonk, Scott Burry, Brad Roy, Chris Rost and Mike VanArendonk — to develop a guide that uses current technology, including global positioning systems, photographs and colored, topographical maps.

The result, as the phrase “See the Route…Follow the Route” says on each cover, is a collection of books that strives for explicit detail.

“My goal is that no one dies with one of my books in their backpack,” Passmore said. “I want to make people fall in love with Glacier National Park.”

Passmore said people that knew Edwards have told him that “he would have loved these books.”

He also pointed out that his books are written for beginner and intermediate climbers, and none are overnight trips.

“That’s the beauty of it, these aren’t technical climbs,” he said. “Climbing in Glacier is all about getting to the summits of spectacular peaks using goat trails, scrambling through short cliff sections with limited exposure and walking along ridges with fantastic views.”

Growing up in Fairmont Egan, Passmore’s love of high places developed quickly as he went into the Jewel Basin with his father, Gil.

“Those trips there in my youth really sparked a passion for the mountains,” Passmore said.

Passmore, who works as a mental health specialist for Pathways at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, spent seven years in Sidney, Montana before returning to his Flathead roots in 1999.

After going to work at the Western Montana Mental Health Center on the critical response team, he met Dr. John VanArendonk, who shares his love of climbing.

Publishing the books has been a labor of love for Passmore.

“I wrote for about our climbs, and got a lot of feedback from others, so that just evolved.

“I liken finishing a book to giving birth. Laying out the books is very relaxing for me. It’s a great mix for my personality types — creative and organized,” he said.

The fifth volume includes 98 peaks with routes in the St. Mary, Cut Bank and Marias Pass areas. The first four volumes include Logan Pass, the Garden Wall, Siyeh Bend, Two Medicine Valley, Firebrand Pass, the Northern Highline, Lake McDonald, Sperry Glacier and Many Glacier.

Passmore has climbed 91 peaks in Glacier and either he or a team member has climbed every peak that is listed in the five volumes.

He says he doesn’t have a favorite, but the shared experiences with family and friends are what he holds dear.

“Recently, my 4-year-old granddaughter said to me ‘Papa, I’m gonna climb a mountain with you.’

“After you hear that, the only destination for me is to be in the center of her heart,” Passmore said.

Passmore said he and his group are going to take a break from doing any more books for a few years.

“It’s kind of freeing to not being doing a book and I’m going to work more on my photography,” he said. “We will do one more, but there’s no specific time frame yet.”

Passmore’s latest book is available locally at Sportsman & Ski Haus, Snappy’s the Bookshelf, Book Works and Bad Rock Books; in West Glacier and inside the park at visitor centers; and online.

For more information, visit Passmore’s website at

Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at (406) 758-4441 or

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