Friday, September 05, 2008

Mount Cleveland (August 2008)

Ascent of Mt. Cleveland with James, Jollin, Brad and Amy.

Drove to Waterton Friday night with James and slept on a picnic table after arriving late to the village. Saturday, we took the tour boat accross the lake and bushwhacked along the mystical elk trail to our high camp.

The elk trail was pretty much straight bushwhacking about half the time and we debated somewhat intensely whether to stay low (near the stream) or to try and gain elevation more aggresively and try to establish a high camp to save time on our summit day. In true Canadian fashion, we compromised and ended up following a route that was neither high nor low, side hilling (traversing) some pretty steep terrain through dense bush with our full packs. Did I mention the heat? It was pretty interesting! In the end we did end up finding the perfect spot to establish a high camp (as described in Gord Edward's guidebook).

We ran into Chris Clack and his buddy Pat, who had hoofed it to the US side after missing the boat late Friday night. During the week, we had invited them to join our group but they'd decided to go ahead of us and made a one day attempt at the summit on Saturday... they were pretty beat from the long approach the evening before and ran out of time. Pat appeared by himself, as he had run out of energy and had been waiting for over a couple of hours for Chris, who had carried on upslope solo. We were somewhat alarmed, and were imagining Chris lying somewhere, broken and maimed. There was a poster on the bulletin board at the border crossing about a missing hiker and that might have added somewhat to our anxiety... We started to look for Chris and were hurrying up from our campsite to where Pat had last seen him, when suddenly Chris appeared, much to our great relief! We parted company and Chris and Pat hurried back to the boat launch (speaking to Chris later, they made it there before it got too dark).

Sunday, we awoke early and summitted by 11:30. We didn't spend too much time at the summit, as we were a bit preoccupied with catching the last boat back. Descending already before noon, we ran into a group from Calgary who appeared out of nowhere on the summit ridge. They had seen a grizzly bear just below... we had seen lots of signs of bears (scat and tracks) but had been careful and made quite a bit of noise. Apparently at around this time of year, it is common for grizzlies in Glacier Park to be spotted on some of the park's high peaks as the bears gorge on moth larvae and moths. Big bears, small insects! They must taste really, really good for them to make all that effort.

Scurrying back down, we were back at our tents by 2:30. Brad, Amy and Jollin decided to hurry back to make the 5:30 boat, while James and I decided to take our time.

The others succeeded in catching the earlier boat while James and I made it to the beach around 7 PM. The others were in fantastic, fast scrambling shape... I was not as fast as those speedsters and found myself frequently in the back and was much relieved that James did not want to speed back to catch the early boat too! Having to hurry to catch the boat was both a blessing and a pain... good, because it kept us moving quickly and not wasting time, but bad because it would have been nice to have a bit more summit time (we were only up there for 20 minutes or so... I would have enjoyed taking a nap up there and spending a good hour! It was a nice view up there, but if I ever go again, I will try the Stony Indian route and avoid the bushwhacking.