Piegan Mountain 2, 19 August 2018

Piegan Mountain (2810m) from the summit of Pollock Mountain.  This would be my second trip up Piegan in just over a month and though I normally avoid repeating summits, I’m glad that I was able to get a better look at Piegan Glacier.

After summiting Pollock Mountain, I decided to forgo an attempt on Bishops Cap in favour of re-tagging the summit of Piegan Mountain.  Though I normally try and avoid repeating summits, I had enough great pictures from my July trip, that I didn’t feel like I would be missing the views because of the smoke – which I would’ve if I’d been on a new mountain outside of the immediate vicinity.  Besides, since I’ve been so busy lately it was hard to pass up an easy two-peak day.  🙂

As an added bonus, I ended up running into a group of friendly hikers from the Chinook Outdoor Club in Lethbridge who had ascended Piegan Mountain via Piegan Pass.  I met them just as they were returning to the saddle from the summit.  We chatted for several minutes and I’m still kicking myself that I forgot to take a group picture to include in this trip report.  Before parting ways, they kindly invited me to join them for a beer at the end of the day, but unfortunately, I ended up having to head back to Lethbridge as soon as I was back at my vehicle.  Next time!

From the summit of Pollock Mountain, I retraced my route down the couloir and back to the saddle. From the lowest point on the saddle, it is a ~204m elevation gain over ~933m to reach the summit of Piegan.  Unlike Pollock, reaching the summit can remain just a hike or it can incorporate some scrambling if desired.  I chose the latter and enjoyed picking my way through alternating bands of rock until it became just a walk to the summit.  Once on the summit, I decide to venture as far as I could along the northeast ridge where I was rewarded with a great view of Piegan Glacier.

On return, I opted to head back to the saddle and try my luck going down the gully rather than venturing further to south and using the easy route that Nathan and I had taken back in July.  I deliberately avoided the rock bands and descended quickly to the saddle over packed scree.  From the saddle, I carefully retraced my way down the gully, sticking to skier’s left (climber’s right on the way up) until I came to the section where the walls became steep.  Here’s where I entered the gully and made my way back into the bowl.  From here, I had no difficulty in making the short trip back to my vehicle at the Lunch Creek parking area.

Taking my GPS with a grain of salt even, my distance travelled from the parking lot at Lunch Creek to the summit of Pollock Mountain was ~2.6km with a total elevation gain of 845m.  The complete trip including Piegan Mountain ended up being just over 8km in total distance with a total elevation gain of 1063m.  My total roundtrip time was 5 hours and 44 minutes.

One of the perks of ascending Piegan is the chance to see Piegan Glacier.  Even though glaciers around the world are shrinking as a result of climate change, the USGS notes that, “Piegan Glacier is one of the few glaciers in Glacier National Park that has not significantly changed since photographed in the 1930s.” (Source)

Arriving at the top of the couloir near the summit of Pollock Mountain.

Looking down the couloir shortly after starting my descent.

This yellow lichen really popped against a backdrop of red argillite.

Now that’s a very airy perch!

Though it looks like a continuous ramp from above, the couloir is really a series of scree-covered ledges.

Arriving back at the base of the couloir.  Fortunately, no marmots had stolen my pack (left) though one may have stolen my identity.  😉

Gazing back up the class 3 couloir from the base.  I think it was somewhere between here and the saddle, that I lost my sunglasses…

A smoky view of Piegan Mountain from the slopes of Pollock.

From the notch, I found a better way to get back to the saddle – a small ramp that led down to climber’s right.  This would’ve been a more efficient way to ascend.

From this vantage, the approach from the Lunch Creek parking lot (left of centre) is nicely laid out.

Anyone lose a block of slightly off-coloured, iron-fortified Swiss cheese?  😉

The colourful base of Pollock includes many interesting pinnacles.

The route to the summit of Piegan is straightforward.  From the lowest point of the saddle, it is a ~204m elevation gain over ~933m.

Smoke obfuscates Heavy Runner Mountain (left) and Reynolds Mountain.

With Pollock Mountain as the backdrop, a friendly group of hikers from the Chinook Outdoor Club make their way back to Piegan Pass.  They had approached Piegan using the trail from Siyeh Bend. I wish that I had been on the ball and had offered to take a group picture, but this was the best I could do.  Sorry that I didn’t have time to make it for that beer!  Next time!  🙂

I started to ascend using a trail but quickly decided that it would be more entertaining to scramble over the series of rock bands that I could see above me (left).

Nothing difficult but still lots of fun.

More of the same.

It wasn’t long before the summit appeared (small bump in the centre).

From here it was an easy stroll to the summit.  On this visit, I would take the time to explore the small ridge on the left.

A telephoto of hikers (centre) from the Chinook Outdoor Club   as they descend towards Piegan Pass.

The summit of Piegan Mountain (2810m).

My approximate route up Pollock Mountain.  Man, that was a ton of red dye that I had to carry up the mountain! 😉

Immediately to the southeast sits Piegan Glacier which the USGS notes, “is one of the few glaciers in Glacier National Park that has not significantly changed since photographed in the 1930s.” (Source)

I’m glad that when I was up here in July, I had clear skies to take in the amazing views.  On this day, not much can be seen at all.  Reynolds Mountain is on the left, Bearhat Mountain is in the centre, and Clements Mountain and Mount Oberlin are on the right.

Leaving my pack on the summit, I set off to explore the northeast ridge.

Under clear skies, the ridge would offer a much better composition of Pollock Mountain, Bishops Cap (centre), and Mount Gould (right).

Mount Siyeh (left) and Matahpi Peak from the end of the ridge.

The chance for a comprehensive view of Piegan Glacier is why I wanted to explore the ridge.  Even with smoke in the air, it is still an impressive sight.  Unfortunately, our climate is changing so rapidly that even resilient glaciers like Piegan may not be around for much longer.

Looking back at the summit of Piegan from the end of the northeast ridge.

Summit selfie minus my sunglasses – which are somewhere behind me on Pollock Mountain.  Bollocks to Pollock I say!  😉

Leaving the summit and heading back to the saddle.

I avoided the rock bands – particularly those of the Finnish death metal variety  – on the way down.  😉

Glancing back at Piegan from the saddle.

This cairn (lower left) did not mark the start of the gully.

The group of four hikers that I had met earlier in the day alongside Lunch Creek, were nearing the top of the gully, so I waited on the saddle before attempting to descend.  Had I tried to go down while they were coming up, I may have created a dangerous situation by dislodging loose rocks.  As the saying goes, “One small rock can ruin your whole day.”

After chatting for a bit, these friendly folks continued on their way with the hope of reaching Siyeh Bend before the last shuttle departed.  I mentioned that should I see them waiting while I was leaving, I would happily give them a lift back to Lunch Creek.  However, I never saw them when I drove past, though I did run into a Park Ranger and mentioned that there might be a group looking for a lift back to their vehicle, and he graciously said he would keep an eye out for them.  Hopefully they didn’t have to hike the road back to Lunch Creek…

Just as I did on ascent, I stuck to skier’s left (climber’s right) of the gully.  This allowed me to negotiate better terrain.

The view back as I made my way down.

Just prior to the point where the walls become steep, I re-entered the gully.

Back in the bowl beneath Pollock Mountain.

One last look towards Pollock Mountain from inside the bowl.

Heading down next to the waterfall.

From this point on, it was a quick trip back to my 4Runner.

Even at the end of the day, the scenery in Lunch Creek still persuaded me to stop and take pictures.

Wow!  There were now four vehicles in the parking area!  😉  I’m definitely glad that I consulted firesmoke.ca to find out where the best place to hike would be, given the huge number of wildfires.  Though the skies were smoky and many of the views obfuscated, there was no discomfort in breathing or even the smell of smoke.  Having already taken pictures from the summit of Piegan on an earlier trip, I don’t feel like I missed too much and it was nice to have the chance to get a better look at Piegan Glacier.  Undoubtedly, the highlight of the day was the scramble up the couloir to the summit of Pollock Mountain.  Hopefully I can return one day to complete Bishops Cap.  🙂

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