Climbed on August 6, 2009The purpose of this Trip Report is offer some insight into the Great Cleft route on Mt. Pollock. The information found on SP was paramount in our successful route finding, and I would simply like to append to that info. with some pictures and details that I feel make locating this route much easier.
A little background on the TR title...
On this trip, 14 of the 24 members of my extended family reached the summit of Mt. Pollock in Glacier National Park. My family, aptly nicknamed the 'Grizwalds' after the likes of Chevy Chase and his clan in movies such as Christmas Vacation, has a history of going on adventures that always end up turning into life-long memories that we continue to recollect and laugh about. Of this group of 14, the experience level ranged from active GNP climbers, to those with a few peaks under their belts, to those who have never even thought they would be climbing a mountain in the Park. Needless to say, a Grizwald Adventure was in store.
OverviewAfter quickly posing for a group picture, we left the Lunch Creek parking lot shortly after 8 AM with cloudy skies and cheerful moods. As I looked up the large basin ahead of us, I pointed out to my 12 year old cousin that we were going all the way to the top of the mountain looming above us.
After a beautiful walk through the pine forests next to the Creek, we climbed next to the great waterfall into the basin above us. Our next target was the large opening in the cliffs that gives entrance to the diagonal chute up to the saddle of Piegan/Pollock. The chute was still choked with snow, but there were seemingly infinite route possibilities up to the saddle. As you can imagine, with 14 people picking their way through the cliffs, rock fall was a large concern.
Upon reaching the saddle, we gazed at the sheer face of Mt. Siyeh rising over 4,000 ft. above Cracker Lake. Behind us, the Logan Pass area had opened up offering breathtaking views. We located a faint climbers trail leading up the base of the Pollock's upper cliff band. The trail then skirted the cliffs along a field of loose scree.
I then consulted a series of photos that I found here on SP that warned of the 'wrong finger' that is easily mistaken for the finger of rock that Edwards describes. After continuing past that large finger, a series of cliffs open up to your right that appear climbable. Climb up through these cliffs as high as you can go, while looking up to your right for a crack of light next to a large buttress of rock. This is the Great Cleft. It is very difficult to see from the climber's trail.
Some maneuvering is required to gain access to the ledge at the base of the cleft. As described by Edwards, the first 15 ft. or so is very steep and would require a rope if not for the adequate foot and handholds present.
After the initial climb, the Cleft widens and flattens, eventually exiting near the top of the cliff band. From there, it as an easy stroll through several remaining cliffs and a short scree field to the summit.
The Cleft was well marked on the top, making it easy to locate on the way down. Descending the steep part is much trickier than ascending. For safety, we had a member anchor himself above this pitch and belay each person down for added caution. However, a confident climber will not need a rope.