OverviewThe East Face of Clements Mountain rises 1,200 feet vertically above the permanent snow fields at its base. At only about one mile from the Visitor Center at Logan Pass, it offers one of the shortest approaches to any of the technical climbs in the Park.
There are several routes on the face. Named routes described in Edward's A Climber's Guide to Glacier National Park are the East Face Couloir Route and the Helmut Matdies Routes. There are numerous possible variations of the East Face Couloir Route. The South Ridge Route traverses well on to the East Face, then back off.
The Helmut Matdies Routes start about 20 feet apart and are differentiated by Edwards as the Northeast Shoulder Route and the East-Northeast Shoulder Route. The East route involves about 200 feet of direct aid followed by Class 5 climbing to the top of the shoulder. The other route, called the "Helmut Matdies Classic" in an edition of the Journal of the Glacier Mountaineering Society (No. 25, 1994) consists of 5 pitches rated 5.5, 4th, 5.3, 5.5, and 5.3. This issue of the Journal includes a good topo of this route.
The East Face Couloir Route provides a much easier way up this impressive face but still involves some Class 5 climbing with the amount varying depending on the variation chosen.
Gordon and Alice Edwards made the first ascent of the East Face via the East Face Couloir on 26 August 1950.
ApproachNPS PDF file with maps and descriptions of Logan Pass access routes
The route as per Edwards is accessed from the Oberlin / Clements saddle. See the above PDF for the approved NPS approach. Note, this is a much nicer hike than going up the boardwalk and across the moraine.
If traversing on to the face via the South Ridge Route, hike the Hidden Lake Nature Trail to the Overlook. The route starts from there.
The direct route from the bottom is best approached via the moraine from the Hidden Lake Nature Trail. See the above PDF file for the approved NPS approach.
Route DescriptionGNP Rock & Grading Systems
The East Face Couloir proper begins about half way up the face. The line of drainage and rock fall below its base forms a weakness in the lower cliff bands.
There are three basic ways to access the upper couloir. Traverse from the north which is the route first climbed and described by Edwards. Traverse from the south, starting on the South Ridge Route. And, in my opinion the most interesting which is to climb directly up the lower face into the bottom of the couloir.
Direct East Face Couloir This route involves low fifth class climbing (about 5.0 to 5.3) on the lower red cliff band and on the gray cliff band just below the base of the couloir. The approach to the rock above the snowfield at the base can involve moderately steep snow and problems with a moat depending on the time of year. In recent years, the snowfield has nearly melted away by September. Route finding is quite easy as the route climbs in almost a straight line from the base of the face to the summit.
Climbing on the Direct Route:
East Face Couloir as per Edwards This route traverses into the couloir from the north and very high on the face. Edwards recommends a high traverse to avoid some fifth class climbing low in the couloir. There is still some marginally fifth class climbing involved. GMS trips have graded the climb III(4)MM and III(5)MM depending on who is leading it. Edwards says some class 5. GMS Grading System
One climbs the lower northeast shoulder from the saddle between Clements and Oberlin continuing to nearly the base of the steep part of the shoulder that is ascended by the Helmut Matdies Routes. The highest practical ledge (frequently marked with a cairn) is traversed to the couloir, which is then ascended directly to the summit. Landmarks for the correct ledge include being above a lingering snowfield (early season) and a fairly prominent patch of scrubby trees.
Note that there are numerous ledges that could be traversed to the couloir. The lower the traverse, the more class five climbing must be done. On the other hand, the high traverse ledge system is very narrow and quite exposed (but not difficult).
Climbing on the East Couloir as per Edwards:
East Face Couloir - access from the south This route traverses into the couloir from the South Ridge Route.
The South Ridge Route starts at the Hidden Lake Overlook and ascends a steep gully / couloir to the ridge crest and then to the base of a prominent single "finger" of rock. At this point, the route traverses onto the East Face. It is quite easy to continue the traverse on fairly spacious ledges to the East Face Couloir below the gray band. It appears that one could also traverse above the gray band, but I did not go this way and am not positive.
It is possible to descend via the East Face, but most parties will probably opt to walk off via the West Ridge Route.