Summiting Cataract and Piegan Mountains

We arrived in Glacier National Park early on August 12, following Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Siyeh Bend trailhead. Our original plan was to make the 9 mile hike to Piegan Pass and back, with an additional scramble to the summit of Cataract Mountain. No point in wearing ourselves out so early in the trip, we figured.

On our initial climb, we were treated to excellent views of Piegan Mountain – a 9,220’ peak rising 3,377’ above our tiny Honda Fit back at the trailhead. The massive Piegan Glacier – responsible for carving a crater into the top of the mountain – was also visible.

Piegan Mountain and Piegan Glacier

Pollock Mountain (L), Garden Wall (C), and Cataract Mountain (R)

We stopped for a short lunch at Piegan Pass, then began our energetic scramble to the summit of Cataract Mountain.

Allison attacking the climb

Iceberg Peak – tomorrow’s destination – is visible in the distance (far right)

Although considerably smaller than many of the surrounding peaks, Cataract Mountain offered terrific views into the surrounding valleys.

Sheer cliffs line the northern face of Cataract Mountain

Allison explores the ridge along Cataract’s summit

It was only around 1:00pm when we arrived back at Piegan Pass, and I think Allison was starting to pick up on some of the subtle hints I’d been dropping over the previous hour.

“Check out that glacier on Piegan Mountain! It would be pretty cool to see it up close.”

“One of those hikers I talked to earlier really carried on about the view from the top of Piegan Mountain.”

“It looks like there might be a non-technical route over there on the west side.”

Beginning the ascent of Piegan Mountain (on left; mostly off-screen)

As you can see from the above picture…she caved.

Searching for the best route

After 40-50 minutes of gradual (but grueling) climbing, we reached the saddle connecting Piegan Mountain to neighboring Pollock Mountain. From here we were faced with a very steep approach to the summit, guarded by towering cliffs to the north and fields of loose scree to the south.

Allison shows off her bouldering skills

This final section involved some steep scrambles – interspersed with brief free climbs and lots of route-finding.

Looking down on Piegan Glacier (seen from below in picture #1)

We reached the summit of Piegan Mountain after a little blood, a lot of sweat, and…well…not really any tears to speak of. The view was well worth the effort.

A rock cairn atop Piagan Mountain; Pollock Mountain (L), the Garden Wall (L-C), and Mt. Gould (C) are visible in the background

View from the summit – looking south

The descent was mostly uneventful, aside from my close encounter with a mountain goat. We came face-to-face as I inched my way along a ledge, and very nearly startled each other over the side of the mountain.

Returning to Piegan Pass; Cataract Moutain visible in the background

FYI: I probably won’t be able to post this for several days, but I’m writing from our campsite in St. Mary’s. We’re turning in early. The plan for tomorrow is to tackle Iceberg Peak via Swiftcurrent Pass.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This looks just beautiful but I’m sure the photos don’t do it justice. You two have done a lot of hiking the last few years. Which trip is your favorite so far?

    • This is definitely a top contender. Southern Utah was right up there, though (Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, Bryce Canyon).

  2. !!!

  3. Just as beautiful as I remember. For my money Glacier is the most spectacular park in the lower 48. You guys are getting up close and personal with the mountains and I am definitely jealous!

  4. WOW!

  5. Looks like fun, but def not our idea of a vacation!! Glad you can share it with us!! 🙂

  6. Hi There, the photograph with the sub-heading “Sheer cliffs line the northern face of Cataract Mountain” is stunning. I was wondering if you would give me permission to make a painting that is based on the photograph. please email me at and let me know. Thanks!

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