Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Piegan Pass GNP Montana Aug 2

After checking out maps, reading trail descriptions, reviewing shuttle times, then chatting with the Ranger at the St Mary Visitor Center about conditions, we came to a consensus that Piegan Pass would be our hike for today.  We agreed to keep our options open and assess as we went along and if conditions were safe, we would carry on further.  The selection was limited of safe places to hike where crampons, ice axes and knowledge of self arrest were not advised.  Yet, even after doing all the necessary homework, our day turned out to be a wild adventure!  

The Piegan Pass trail head is at the Siyeh Bend just before the last stretch up to Logan Pass.
We followed the creek for a short period then veered off into the forest for a few kilometers before reaching a wide open space where we would spend the majority of our time.  You can see the trail ahead of me which leads up to Piegan Pass.  Between where I am and where the trail ahead is, there were two short steep slippery snowy sections to traverse.
As we got higher, I kept looking back and at this point the view was great of Siyeh Bend in the center of the photo and that's where our cars are parked.
We reached the Pass and could see down in the valley on the other side.  The turquoise tarn nestled at the base of the wall was a pretty sight.  This was our lunch stop and where we took time to assess and discuss options.   A couple of other folks along the trail had some info to share but not much more then we knew already.  We decided to carry on and continue the assessing process as needed.
Looking at this eastern face of The Garden Wall, it was hard to imagine that on the other side of this is a long large wide grassy slope carpeted in wild flowers.
We can see for the next stretch that conditions are fine so begin our steep descent but switch backs and scenery make it an enjoyable and quick one.   At the end of this portion of descent, its time for one last longer rest to snack and enjoy the view before heading into the trees for the balance of the hike.  At this point, conditions have been great and still look great ahead, time is on our side, so we decide the Many Glacier Hotel will be our destination and we will catch the last shuttle from there back to St. Mary then transfer on to the Park shuttle to get back to our vehicles.
Not long after our longer stop, we come across a very steep slippery snowy slope that hasn't yet been crossed.  Others begin the traverse and I start to but just can't do it so take the three steps back and descend the steep slope on solid ground trying not to kill too many glacier lilies and thinking I will feel safer crossing over at the lower portion then climb back up on dry land on the other side.  As myself and my friend who sticks with me get lower, we see the trail on our side again.  We wait here for those that traversed across because they need to complete the switchback then traverse back again to reach the trail lower down.  At this point, we are waiting for them to appear and to watch them cross this slope.  One friend did loose their footing, tried to self arrest but couldn't and slide to the bottom landing in a drainage below a snow bridge but thankfully came away unscathed and O.K.  I couldn't watch the rest of them cross from that point on!
We finally reach Cataract Creek, our descent is done.  Now it is pretty much flat the balance of the way so can make up our time along this section.  This is a beautiful view looking back at where we were and Morning Eagle Falls in the middle of the photo but we need to cross the creek and we see the wooden bridge on the other side of the creek laying in a protected area in the bushes.  The Rangers have not been out yet to but the bridges back in place.  The creek is high and cold and fast and we walk it looking for options to cross.  We were warned about snow bridges and that some have collapsed and others are ready to do so.  This snow bridge is our only option to cross the creek at this point.   We assess it, test it out, then all make our way safely across.
We come across another place where the bridge is on the other side, and where the creek is wider, there isn't a snow bridge, so we need to do a bare foot crossing and all the assessing and the crossing take up time that now leaves us in rush mode to make the last shuttle at 5:30.    With 3.7 kms to go its serious business so heads are down, the pace is rush, voices are loud and we motor to the Hotel arriving at 5:08, thankfully with time to spare, so we think.  We find out the last bus left at 4:45!  No more shuttle runs, no cabs, no tour buses!  We are a long way from our vehicles which are almost at Logan Pass.  We talk with the Hotel Shuttle Hostess, who is able to contact a shuttle driver who is willing to come get us and take us to St. Mary but we have to wait an hour for him which is absolutely fine.  He drives us right to our camp site so we tip him big time.  I drove the two drivers from the morning up to Siyeh Bend, they hop in their vehicles and we all drive home!
It was great to be in an area away from the hoards of hikers where we could own the trail for the majority of the time.  I appreciate an area where the landscapes are varied and it is so wide open that you can see forever.  I really enjoy when the trek gets wild with unique situations that make for a memorable adventure! It pays to keep options open, to take chances and to explore because you can end up in places where you feel like you are "on top of the world!"

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos! Im sure its nice to have a break from the snow every once in a while!

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