OverviewMatahpi Peak dominates the southerly views of hikers enjoying the Preston Park area of Glacier National Park. Although Going-to-the-Sun Mountain overshadows views of Matahpi Peak for most park visitors, who simply drive to Logan Pass, this attractive pyramid sports a variety of enjoyable climbs and fantastic summit views. Total one-way distance is around 3 miles with an elevation gain of a little over 3,500 feet.
Judging from the summit "register" (a weathered Gatorade bottle filled with scraps of paper), Matahpi Peak is more popular than Going-to-the-Sun Mountain (GTTS). Thi si unsurprising, since the easiest route up Matahpi is a quick and obvious 1000-foot class 2/3 scramble up the south ridge from the Matahpi/GTTS saddle. The views from Matahpi's south ridge to Sexton Glacier are simply breathtaking.
Other routes to Matahpi's summit present considerable mountaineering challenges. The northeast ridge tempts hikers over Siyeh Pass with a class 4 scramble up a false summit, followed by an extended knife-edge traverse to the true summit. Both the northwest and southeast faces boast imposing headwalls which present extended multipitch technical climbs.
Getting ThereEasiest access to Matahpi Peak is via Going-to-the-Sun Road, the only road which crosses the Rocky Mountains through Glacier NP. If climbing the south slopes route, park at the Siyeh Bend trailhead, elevation 5850 feet. This trailhead is approximately 5 miles east of Logan Pass. Yearly progress on the opening of GTTS road can be found on this NPS page.
Red TapeVehicle entry to Glacier National Park costs $10, good for seven days. Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed for most of the year (usually early November to late June); without it, the approach is 12 miles longer each way. The NPS recommends that all climbers "register" at the Logan Pass Visitors Center, though this is not mandatory.
When To ClimbThe peak is not intrinsically impossible to climb in the winter months. In fact, adequate snow coverage makes much of the approach over rotten rock easier. However, closure of Going-to-the-Sun Road adds 25 miles to any round trip climb. The obvious strategy would be to ski up Going-to-the-Sun Road.
- NPS camping page. "Glacier has 13 campgrounds with approximately 1000 sites. Fish Creek and St. Mary Campgrounds may be reserved in advance. All others are first come/first served." The closest campgrounds to the trailhead are Rising Sun and St. Mary.
- NPS Lodging Page. These are lodging options actually inside the park.
- Outside the park, there are some camping/lodging options in the village of St. Mary, 12 miles from the trailhead. Babb, Montana, 5 miles north of St. Mary, has limited lodging options.
GMS Climb Classification SystemFred Spicker and
Vernon Garner have put together an excellent fact sheet outlining the peculiar climb grading system (developed by J. Gordon Edwards) used in Glacier NP. Generally speaking, the brittle meta-sedimentary rocks in the park make rockfall a hazard and require careful placement of protection.
EtymologyFred notes the following: It turns out that the Blackfeet had another name for the mountain already and the newcomers to the area goofed it up: "MATAHPI PEAK - The name, meaning "Face Mountain," was the old Blackfeet name for Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, because of the snow field that resembles the head of an Indian Chief near the eastern summit of the latter peak, when viewed from the east at certain times of the year. The name was erroneously applied by white men to the small peak immediately north of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain."