Peak 8716 is said to have been first climbed by Dr. Walter Cannon along with his new wife Cornelia and mountain guide Denis Comeau on July 19, 1901. According to J G Edwards, the climb was very difficult including a cold one night bivouac enroute and numerous class 4 pitches. Since then, a few adventurous climbers have made this mountain their goal and achieved its summit, but it remains a wild and unpredictable adventure. When Vern Ingraham and I climbed it our second time 8/11/11, it was all we could handle after showers turned the rock into a slick, treacherous pathway back down and we nearly repeated the original bivouac as the daylight began to fade. Fortunately, we were able to finish before dark, but it was an epic adventure which one would prefer to not repeat.
Start of climb
Our first climb was in September, 1998 on a sunny day with dry rock and after reaching the summit we continued across the difficult connecting ridge to the main summit of Mt Cannon encountering some class 4 - 5 climbing along the way. From there it is a simple down climb to Logan Pass, but be warned that there are numerous difficulties in reaching the main summit from Peak 8716.
The elevation gained on this climb is nearly one mile!!
Glacier National Park is located in the NW part of the state and extends up to the Canadian border which it shares with Waterton National Park of Canada. The nearest airport is Kalispell. Amtrac stations are in Whitefish, W Glacier and E Glacier. Depending on your travel plans, it may be worthwhile to fly to Spokane, WA and pick up a rental vehicle. Some rentals there may be more user friendly on multiple state use and mileage allowances as well as price.
The start of the climb begins in a western facing gully on the mountain side of the GTS highway just west of Red Rock Point on McDonald creek where you can park at the pullout. The GPS coordinates at the start are 48.69353 N and 113.81618 W.
Registration for day climbs in Glacier National Park is recommended, but not mandatory.
National Park entrance fees apply in Glacier National Park. See Entrance Fees
There are many camping sites available at Glacier Park; backcountry, as well as car camping. Due to the large number of grizzly and even larger number of black bears who inhabit the area, there are strict guidelines for storage of food. Most of the backcountry campgrounds have facilities for hanging your food from cables or bear proof poles, but you need adequate lines to hoist your packs, etc 15 or 20 feet off the ground. If you are seeking an “undesignated area” camping permit, the rangers may require you to use a bear barrel to protect your food. When we backpacked in to Buffalo Woman Lake, they loaned us a bear barrel since they did not think we could find adequate tree limbs for hanging our food, etc. Hanging your packs is a good idea, since I have seen damaged packs from chewing by rodents. The GNP rangers require you to view an informational video annually before you can purchase your first backcountry permit.
GNP Campground Status and Info
Backcountry Camping Info
Backcountry Camping Sites
Guidebook: A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park
Trail guide: Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks
Glacier Mountaineers Society
partway up gully
The route basically follows the main drainage gully on the western slopes with minor variations if too much water is encountered near the first set of cliffs. We swerved right at the first main set of cliffs since there was a lot of water melting off of the unusually heavy snows of 2010-11. As soon as you reach the top of this first cliffband, fight your way back into the gully. We made the mistake of trying to avoid the bushwhack by continuing up and right, but it only makes it worse when you finally are forced to head back.
tough climbing above
As you climb the gully, you will pass a large knob on your left and eventually run into a class 5 wall at the top of the gully. At this point, climb left and down beneath this wall for several hundred feet on some down sloping slabs to a chimney which is blocked by a large chockstone. It is possible to climb out around the chockstone, but safer to continue a short distance further looking for some ledges that can be climbed up and past this major obstacle.
As you continue to run into class 5 hurdles, we managed to avoid them with class 3 - 4 climbing by swerving left each time until finally reaching the summit block. From here it is a pleasant walk to the highest point on this part of the mountain.
As noted elsewhere, the ridge over to the main summit of Mt Cannon is quite difficult with several class 5 pitches. Although the distance looks relatively short, it is time consuming climbing in the best of conditions.
On downclimbing to the starting point, we considered an alternate gully that goes down to the trail from Avalanche Lake ending up near the foot of the lake in a area of downed timber. Although it looks very inviting from above, after about 800’ of vertical drop, we encountered a cliff band (hidden from view above) extending all across the face that prevented further progress. Fortunately, with a slightly ascending traverse, you can intersect the ascent route just above the chockstone obstacle section.
enticing gully to avoid
On reaching the final major cliff band near the bottom, we were able to find a way down to our right (the opposite side used to ascend) so there is flexibility in route choice if the main gully is too wet and slick to descend at that point.
view west view south view east (Mt Reynolds and Heavy Runner behind Hidden Lake) view north