Stony Indian Pass

Page Type
Montana, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
A few days
Rock Difficulty:
Class 3

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Stony Indian Pass
Created On: Sep 5, 2017
Last Edited On: Mar 24, 2018

Route Description

Your journey to Mount Cleveland begins at the boat dock in Waterton, Alberta. Take the scenic cruise south down Upper Waterton Lake, where you will cross the international border. The boat will dock at the south end of the lake, which is in Glacier National Park, MT. From here, you will walk southwest a quarter mile along the lakeshore to the Goat Haunt Ranger Station, elevation 4,196'. You will be required to present your passport here to ICE agents. GNP rangers may also be around to check your camping permit.

Once you have cleared Goat Haunt, proceed south on the Waterton Trail. After 4.9 miles, and a net elevation gain of 400', you will reach a trail junction leading to Stoney Indian Lake. Turn left, and begin your 2.6 mile, 1,725' climb up to Stoney Indian Lake. This is where you will camp for the night, assuming you have a camping permit. In the morning, you will complete the remaining one mile, 600' hike up to Stony Indian Pass at 6,908'. This is where you will leave the trail and begin your ascent up to Mount Cleveland. You can also reach this point using trailheads on the eastern side of GNP, but it is a much longer hike than from Goat Haunt.

Once you leave Stony Indian Pass, your goal is to reach the famous Mount Cleveland Ledge Walk. See the attached page from Greg Slayden. It contains a GPS track that will take you from the pass to the start of the ledge system. You should download the track into your GPS. It isn’t necessary to follow the track in lockstep, but it helps guide you up the slope.

There are six phases to the climb above Stony Indian Pass. Phase 1 is from the pass to the start of the West Side Ledge. Phase 2 is the West Side Ledge. Phase 3 is the East Side Ledge. Phase 4 is from the East Side Ledge to the 8,700' saddle south of Mount Cleveland. Phase 5 is from the saddle to the south summit. Phase 6 is the summit plateau.

PHASE 1: From the pass, leave the trail and head east up easy grassy slopes. However, the terrain will soon turn to scree. This will become a difficult stretch as you slog up the steep and loose slopes. Your best option is to more or less follow the GPS track as it zigzags up the slope. You will discover that you can take some shortcuts and variations, but you should always keep the track close by. It is easy to get confused in this area. As you near the ledge system, the track will turn to the left and head for the corner. You will reach the West Side Ledge just before you turn the corner. There is a cairn here marking the start of the famous Mount Cleveland Ledge Walk. This is the end of Phase 1.

PHASE 2: Turn the corner and begin walking north on the West Side Ledge. The ledge is generally easy to follow as it gradually ascends towards the Cross-Over Notch (CON). From a distance, the ledge may look dangerous and exposed. But in reality, on a clear day, the ledge walk requires little more than a pair of steady feet and a little gusto. The West Side Ledge is definitely less exposed than the East Side Ledge, and is fairly easy to traverse. There is one notch in the ledge that you must cross, but it isn’t too difficult. As you near the CON, you will notice a rock cairn on the ledge. This is your signal to descend off the ledge. If you continue on, the ledge soon narrows and becomes exposed. Some climbers have traversed this narrow ledge directly over to the CON, but that is a risky proposition. Descend off the ledge about 30' to another rock cairn. Turn right and begin a fairly level traverse north towards a gully that will lead you to the CON. The Class 3 gully is steep and loose. Climb up the gully to the CON. You will get your first view of Mount Cleveland from here. This is the end of Phase 2.

PHASE 3: This is the start of the East Side Ledge. The east side traverse is definitely more exposed than the west side. It may look horrifying from a distance, but it is not. There is basically a trail the entire way. The ledge narrows in some areas, but it never reaches a point where one small slip will send you plunging straight down. Most of the time, the ledge really isn’t exposed much at all. However, it all depends on your individual point of view.

From the CON, start heading north along the gradually ascending East Side Ledge. The nearly one mile long ledge winds around several blind corners, but just keep going. The route is obvious - just follow the trail. You will have some stunning views along the way. As you near the end of the East Side Ledge, you will notice some rock cairns directing you to climb up and around a left corner. This is the end of Phase 3.

PHASE 4: Follow the cairns and turn the corner. You are now off the ledge and onto a steep, loose scree slope. You might be able to find a faint path. This will make it easier to traverse the slope. Make a gradually ascending traverse on the slope towards the 8,700' saddle south of Mount Cleveland. This is the end of Phase 4.

PHASE 5: From the saddle, you will notice a beaten path on top of the rocks that heads north towards Mount Cleveland. Take the path and head north towards the obvious Red Band. The route is easy to the Red Band. However, once you get to the Red Band, you will have to start scrambling. There is a cairned route through here, although I suspect there is more than one way through the rocks. We found an ascending ledge on the right side of the ridge. Slayden’s GPS track might aid you through this section, but we didn’t use it. We just followed the cairns and made our way through. This section involves some Class 3 scrambling. Once you are past this rocky section, the going is easy until you come to the black talus slope. The talus is not easy to climb. It is steep and loose in places, and the rocks can shift. Continue up the talus until you reach the south summit. Here you will get your first view of the true summit. This is the end of Phase 5.

PHASE 6: From the south summit, the route is obvious. Continue north up the now easy, gradual summit plateau. The summit cairn will soon appear in the distance. Make the final push to the summit, where you can enjoy the alpine views.

Hiking distance and elevation gain from Goat Haunt: 10 miles, 6,500'.

External Links

Greg Slayden Peakbagger Page

Goat Haunt Info