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GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

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GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby Dartmouth Hiker » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:37 pm

It looks like a friend and I may be making an attempt on Mt. Cleveland next summer, probably in mid-July.

First of all, what are our chances of a relatively snow-free ascent? I get the impression that snowpack can vary widely year to year, and unfortunately I'm probably limited to about July 13 as a late estimate of when I'd be up there. While I can handle a bit of snow (I've done Gannett and a handful of winter 14ers), the thought of doing that mile-long traverse along the Stoney Indian Peaks with significant snow on the route makes me blanch. I'll be keeping an eye on snow depth levels as the time gets closer, and comparing with past years...

Secondly, regarding the standard route, I was wondering if anyone has also climbed either of the Maroon Bells and could compare. Depending who you ask, it seems like the standard route on Cleveland is anywhere from mostly class 2 to class 4, and it sounds like the tougher climbing is mostly going from Stoney Indian Pass to the crossover point on the ridge. Is the goat path relatively safely navigable throughout? Does the route after the pass compare with N Maroon? I was a bit on edge for that climb, but by and large had an absolute blast. S Maroon didn't freak me out at all, aside from weather concerns.

Lastly, does anyone have information on the West Ridge route? I'm looking at this as a possible alternative way to the summit if snow levels are too high on the standard route. By the easiest route, how difficult/exposed/steep is the route, both on rock and snow? I may end up buying the guidebook describing the route, but would really love to hear any firsthand experience as well.

I appreciate any help or advice anyone can offer, especially given the relative scarcity of good information on Cleveland...for such a spectacular peak, it seems to be pretty rarely climbed.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby rebelgrizz » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:19 pm

You should PM Flatheadnative.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby EarMountain » Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:37 pm

IMHO the climbing of Mont Cleveland from Stoney Indian Pass involves only class three climbing in the most difficult sections. The most difficult pitch is in the gully where you cross over the ridge but that is still class three. The snow on the traverse route tends to melt out early but the gully mentioned Abe might have snow on the west side. There is also a persistent snow drift just below the summit dome that could be problematic in mid July.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby Dartmouth Hiker » Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:11 pm

EarMtn--thank you, that is encouraging news! I'm guessing the gully, even with snow in it, would be a relatively short snow climb and probably less than 45 degrees? If it's too crazy, and 4th class options on rock existed around it, I'd be fine taking those as well. As for the snow drift closer to the summit, is that simply more of an annoyance of trudging through deep snow, or a true avy risk?
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby EarMountain » Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:41 pm

That snow drift forms the distinctive sharp angled snow drift seen on Mount Cleveland from afar. It lies on top of an area of big talus. By mid July the snow will most likely be firmed up. On warm days it could e easily climbed but if the snow is large enough carrying an ice axe would be prudent. At the edges of the snow, where it is thin, there is the potential for breaking through the snow onto the big blocks of talus below. Caution should be used there. The snow might also be bypassed by climbing further left.

If there is the possibility of snow in the gully where you'll cross over from the west to theceastcside of the approach, an ice axe would be a nice company there.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby Dartmouth Hiker » Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:55 pm

Thanks for the clarification. Regardless of the route we end up doing, and unless we receive word of a 100% snow-free route to the top that early in the season, we'll be bringing ice axes and probably crampons, regardless.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby Klenke » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:55 pm

Dartmouth,

You would do well to research and have at the ready the route info for Stoney Indian Traverse AND the West Ridge Route. Why? Because when you get there, unless you've got a permit way ahead of time, you may not be able to get the one daily camp permit for Stoney Indian Lakes that greatly facilitates doing the traverse route. As such, you'll need to have the West Ridge as a back-up. If you cannot even get a permit for the West Basin (one permit allotted per day?) then you will have to do it from Goat Haunt in a long day.

One other difficult section of the Stoney Indian Traverse are the one or two gullies on the east side of Stoney Indian Peaks. In early season a snowfinger may extend below the traverse ledge. Getting across this snowfinger could be spicy without protection.

One thing you can do is on the way over to Waterton Lakes (assuming you take the ferry boat up the lake to get to Cleveland) stop on Chief Mountain Highway at about where the park sign is (see this photo) and look at the traverse to see what it would entail. That's Mt. Cleveland at center in the photo.

This picture shows the traverse and snowfinger (my photo from August):
Image

More info here.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby Dartmouth Hiker » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:05 am

Paul,

Thanks--that is some very handy info, especially in regard to being able to see a good part of the route on the way in! I have heard of the legendarily-bad permit system, and will have to put in applications when the time comes and hope for the best. Is there any limit to the number of campsites/nights allowed at Goat Haunt? As for the snowfinger, would it present much challenge with axes and crampons, and would it likely be relatively brief? I can (uncomfortably) handle a bit of snow traversing, I just wouldn't want to do the entire route that way...
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby EarMountain » Tue Nov 13, 2012 1:07 pm

Re: Glacier Park Backcountry Permits

In General a maximum of 3 consecutive nights is permitted at any one backcountry campsite. That includes The Goat Haunt Shelters, Kootenai Lakes or Waterton River. These are the three close camps that one might use for a day climb of Cleveland via the West Bowl or Northwest Bowl.

The Stoney Indian Lake campsite is the closest campsite to Stoney Indoan Pass but it may not be open in mid July. Check the 2013 Backcountry Guide carefully because advance reservations at this campsite cannot be made for dates before August first.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby Klenke » Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:49 pm

Here is another view of the East Face traverse of Stoney Indian Peaks and the the snowfinger:
Image
Note that there is another gully to the left in the photo that also could have a snowfinger in it in early season. I can't remember which of the two gullies was deepest. Both can be crossed with ice axe and crampons. One reason to get a look at it ahead of time from the highway is to be able to rule out taking that weighty gear if you don't need to.

Snow on the ledges can present some snow whales which can be difficult to get around. There are some pictures to that effect somewhere (on Summitpost, I think). The ledge one traverses is just above the prominent gray cliff band.

As for the permit system, I could be wrong but the campsites (there are three sites) at Stoney Indian Lake are one-night-only. We got only one night and people were pretty much coming to our camp to use it as we were packing up to leave after climbing Cleveland. We made it from the camp, up the mountain, back to camp, and out to Goat Haunt in one day with time to spare to get the last boat back to Waterton...and barely make it back across the border before the crossing closed.

At Goat Haunt there are two shelter buildings with four sites in each (like this), so eight sites. I think you will be able to get a site there. I don't know if you can do two nights in a row there but probably.

When you get close to doing this climb PM me and I'll send you some other useful information regarding logistics (if you do the Waterton Lake approach). There are some things you will want to know regarding the Border Patrol, etc.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby EarMountain » Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:19 pm

I'll add to my camping comments.
First there are indeed 3 backcountry campsites at Stoney Indian Lake. Each site can accommodate up to four campers in a group.

Second Stoney Indian Lake is one night only until September 1.

Third, the camp opens late. Therefore no reservations are allowed until August first. The campground might open earlier than August 1 but until it does open no reservations are accepted prior to August 1.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby peakhugger » Wed Nov 14, 2012 7:00 am

See the following for an interesting take on the West Ridge Route:
http://www.summitpost.org/five-star-cli ... dge/420145

Camping at Kootenai Lake is permitted for up to three consecutive nights, with a reservation of course. Last I heard, the Goat Haunt shelters were only occasionally full and would make a good backup plan if you opt for walk up reservations.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby ManyGlacierMountaineer » Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:23 am

As has been stated by others, it is actually not a difficult route (in terms of technical climbing, literally zero). I have climbed it twice, both times via the Stoney Indian Traverse. In my opinion, this is the best way to go in terms of scenery, lack of bushwhacking and lack of a huge trudge up this beast. Cleveland has the 2nd highest ORS (or spire measure) of any non-volcanic peak in the lower 48, only behind Grand Teton. If you take the West Bowl, you'll basically be trudging up one of the biggest slopes you can find in the Lower 48 (vs. starting at a higher elevation and following an amazing goat trail to a gradual ascent of the peak)

As others have also noted, the real problem in climbing Mt. Cleveland is logistics, especially since you cannot reserve Stoney Indian campground for more than 1 day. So, essentially, you will likely want to make this a 3 days trip.

Your best bets are to A) camp at Mokowanis Junction the night before and just after the ascent, B) Mokowanis Jct the night before, then bag Cleveland and move camp to Stoney Indian, C)Mokowanis Jct the night before and then Kootenai Lakes just after (or vice versa). It depends on a lot of things, such as if you want to pay 8 Canadian dollars apiece per day for entry into Waterton Park, if you want to take the boat from Waterton to Goat Haunt (US), or if you want to bypass both and do everything from the American side. Be advised that Canadian border officials at the Ports of Carway and Chief Mt. have been known to confiscate food items upon entry into Canada, even if you are backpacking, especially fruits and meats.

You could feasibly do Cleveland from Goat Haunt shelters and back out, but plan on leaving and returning in the dark if you choose to go from there (I think it would be ~24/25 miles round trip). This of course could be cut down if you are successful in obtaining a Stoney Indian permit.

The good thing is, no matter where you get your permit for camping, summit day will be a long one, so don't worry too much about the logistics of it all in the end. Simply make sure you get permits for somewhere nearby and go for it. The summit view is the best in the park and when you're up there you feel like you are on top of a 12er surrounded by 9ers.

Good luck with the permit and good luck with Mt. Cleveland!

PS - Also be advised that the West Bowl and summit area have quite a bit of bear activity in July and August, as the bears migrate to higher altitudes to eat moths underneath rocks and boulders. I have a friend who saw 8 grizzlies in the West Bowl at one time and I can personally attest there was more bear scat near the summit than I have ever seen ANYWHERE in my 5 years of working in GNP. You'll definitely want to bring bearspray.
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby siyeh » Sun Feb 24, 2013 6:15 pm

ManyGlacierMountaineer wrote:
As others have also noted, the real problem in climbing Mt. Cleveland is logistics, especially since you cannot reserve Stoney Indian campground for more than 1 day. So, essentially, you will likely want to make this a 3 days trip.


This is simply not true. Go to any backcountry desk as a walk up. Tell them the TRUTH. Tell them you are a climber and they will give you two nights at Stoney Indian. Fact. It worked for me both times I did Cleveland. You are right on about the bears on top tho. We had to chase griz off the summit both times. Not much room up there to share real estate
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Re: GNP-A few Mt. Cleveland questions

Postby ManyGlacierMountaineer » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:10 pm

siyeh wrote:
ManyGlacierMountaineer wrote:
As others have also noted, the real problem in climbing Mt. Cleveland is logistics, especially since you cannot reserve Stoney Indian campground for more than 1 day. So, essentially, you will likely want to make this a 3 days trip.


This is simply not true. Go to any backcountry desk as a walk up. Tell them the TRUTH. Tell them you are a climber and they will give you two nights at Stoney Indian. Fact. It worked for me both times I did Cleveland. You are right on about the bears on top tho. We had to chase griz off the summit both times. Not much room up there to share real estate


I think you may have been there after September 1st? I have been working in the park for years and know most of the backcountry desk rangers pretty well and was still unable to acquire 2 nights at Stoney Indian during peak season (pre-Sept. 1st). Also, there is absolutely NO guarantee that you will be able to get desired campsites as a walk-in, let alone for a campsite as popular as Stoney Indian.
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