Going-to-the-Sun Mountain
A rainy forecast for much of the Canadian Rockies on 1 October 2011 prompted me to head south to Montana's Glacier National Park in hopes of finding less inclement weather for scrambling.  My original plan was to climb something in the Logan Pass area, but as I rounded Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun road, I was struck by the distinct form of the road's namesake mountain.  Even better was the fact that the two normal routes, as described in J. Gordon Edwards' A Climber's Guide To Glacier National Park, were snow-free.  Gladly leaving my crampons and ice axe behind in my car, I breezed up the excellent trail from Siyeh Bend to the junction with the Continental Divide trail.  Turning northward, I hiked well past two medium stream beds looking for the "devastated" area where Edwards suggests leaving the trail.  If there is such an area, it is now overgrown and not entirely obvious.  Anxious about straying too far north, I left the trail at a third stream bed and began working my way up the rocky drainage.  In retrospect, I should have just turned up the first stream bed, but in any case, I made it into the large bowl below the west face of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain without too much fuss.  The cliff bands in the middle of the bowl were more challenging to get through than I had expected, but this would only be the warm-up for tougher climbing higher up.

After reaching the saddle separating Matahpi Peak and Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, I ascended a bit of the ridge toward the latter before working my way across the west face.  Given the less than ideal weather, I was surprised at this point to see a figure approaching on the same face.  Perhaps I was fatigued and feeling anti-social, but for some odd reason, I gave this person a wide berth.  Although we both stopped to acknowledge one another, we were barely within shouting distance, and without further ado, we kept going in opposite directions.  Soon after, I picked up a trail that traverses below the cliffs guarding the upper mountain, but because of the foreshortened view, I had some difficulty determining where the routes through the cliffs started.  I muddled about for quite awhile before summoning the courage to ascend what would turn out to be Edwards' Class 4 gully route.  In the meantime, I noticed that my acquaintance was well on his way up nearby Matahpi Peak, and he eventually reached the summit while I was still struggling to clear the last of the cliffs on Going-to-the-Sun Mountain.  Though technically easy, the last 250 metres of elevation gain is exceedingly tedious, and it felt like an eternity before I finally stepped up to the summit cairn.

When I read the summit register, I was surprised to learn that the person that I had crossed paths with earlier was none other than James Yearous, a peak-bagger from Lethbridge, Alberta with whom I have shared a few summits in the past.  Given the lateness of the day, I abandoned any notions of following James up Matahpi Peak and turned my attention to the descent.  After descending the tedious section fairly quickly, I had some difficulty downclimbing one spot in the Class 4 gully.  Further down, I took a more direct line into the large bowl below the west face, and consequently, I had to do some extra route-finding to get through the cliffs there.  I eventually followed the first stream bed back to the trail before returning to my car in the dark.

A scary incident happened on my drive home later that night.  Just south of Nanton, Alberta, my car inadvertently struck some debris on the highway.  Cruising at approximately 120 kilometres per hour in the dark, I had absolutely no chance to see the object that I hit.  The car started vibrating, and I knew right away that the object had punctured one of my tires.  I then pulled over, turned on my hazard lights, and grabbed my headlamp to check my tires.  My front left tire was totally flat and had a large irreparable gash in its sidewall.  Shivering in the cold wind, I scrambled to put on some warm, dry clothes before proceeding to change the damaged tire.  Minutes later, another motorist pulled up behind me to check if I was alright.  He had managed to avoid the debris and had even stopped to remove it from the road.  It turns out that the object I hit was a jerry can, and there were in fact two of them on the road.  After thanking the motorist for stopping to check on me, I finished changing my tire and drove home without further incident.  In retrospect, I am thankful that nothing more serious resulted from the collision.
Of course, this is a foreshortened view of the west face. This is Going-to-the-Sun Mountain as seen from its namesake road near Siyeh Bend.
Being close to the road, this spot is popular with tourists. The trail starts briefly alongside Siyeh Creek.
Also a rather foreshortened view. Matahpi Peak is visible through the trees.
I should have left the trail much earlier. Sonny climbs up an avalanche slope.  Visible behind him are Heavy Runner Mountain, Reynolds Mountain and Bearhat Mountain.
The true summit of Piegan Mountain is the point on the right above the double snow patches. Piegan Mountain dominates much of the view to the west.
Guess which one is the more popular peak. Here is a closer look at Heavy Runner Mountain (far left) and Reynolds Mountain.
A good warm-up for the upper mountain. The cliff bands guarding the lower bowl present some route-finding challenges.
According to Wikipedia, over 90% of gastropod species have dextral (right-handed) shells like this one. Sonny finds an intact snail shell.
Still a lot of climbing ahead of me here! Here is the west face of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain as seen from the upper bowl.
Wow. Matahpi Peak boasts a dramatic east face.
The source of Baring Creek. The Sexton Glacier is tucked below the east side of Matahpi Peak.
Man, I look dorky in that helmet! Sonny steps carefully along the edge of the abyss.
Of course, that's NOT the true summit in the photo. This is looking up the north ridge of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain.
If you look carefully, you can spot the Siyeh Pass Trail. Goat Mountain lies to the east.  Baring Creek is visible in the valley below.
I wonder if Matahpi Peak would make a good ski ascent... Here is another look at Matahpi Peak from the traverse below the cliffs guarding the upper mountain.  Mount Gould is visible in the distance at left.
Not too exposed, but some awkward moves required. This is the bottom of the Class 4 gully described by Edwards.
Ugh. Above the upper cliffs, the remainder of the route is mostly Class 3 terrain.  The view here is severely foreshortened.
Not the nicest day in the mountains, but I'll take this! Sonny sits atop the 2939-metre summit of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain.
Fusillade Mountain is also visible right in front of Gunsight Mountain. Mount Jackson, Gunsight Mountain, and Edwards Mountain are visible to the southwest.
Mount Gould is high on my to-do list. To the northwest are Piegan Mountain and Mount Gould.  Siyeh Bend is visible below Piegan Mountain.
It's amazing that the snow patch on the left can persist throughout the summer despite being on a south-facing slope. As Edwards says in his guidebook, "Mount Siyeh obliterates the view to the north".
What a gloomy day! Summer is definitely over, and all the tourists have gone home. The eastern view includes Goat Mountain (left), Saint Mary Lake, and Red Eagle Mountain (far right).  Also visible in the distance is Divide Mountain.
Not sure how I missed this on the way up. Might be an easier route? This is the bottom of the diagonal chute as described in Edwards guidebook.
The weather always seems to clear up at the end of the day. The sky over Reynolds Mountain and Bearhat Mountain starts to turn reddish late in the day.


Now that's more like it!

Reynolds Mountain (far left), Bearhat Mountain (left), and Clements Mountain (far right) are silhouetted against the western sky.


This was the peak I was planning to climb on this day, but I decided to wait for nicer weather. Here is a closer look at Clements Mountain.
It was scrumpdillyumptious!! Sonny finds a rather large wild strawberry.
Sure makes up for the gloomy weather earlier in the day! Twilight arrives in Glacier National Park.
Sorry, I just can't get enough of this mountain! Here is a last look at Clements Mountain.
~@#$%^&*!!! This is the aftermath of Sonny's collision on his drive home.
I'll be back to do Matahpi...maybe from Siyeh Pass. This is the route as viewed in Google Earth.

Here is a key to the waypoints:

  1. Bottom of cliffs on ascent
  2. Top of cliffs on ascent
  3. Bottom of Class 4 gully
  4. Bottom of 1st set of cliffs on descent
  5. Bottom of 2nd set of cliffs on descent
A pretty nice scramble...I recommend it! Total Distance:  approx. 9.8 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  9 hours 9 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  1137 metres