Monday, August 20, 2007

Siyeh!! Summer's almost over

Paul Cogswell straddles a gap in the ridge 
Cracker Peak is on the ridge line behind me

Paul Cogswell, Ted Cogswell and Mark Hertenstein on the top of Mount Siyeh

Descending one of the many Siyeh couloirs 
As summer draws to a close, I get anxious about whether I’ve maximized this high season.
I felt cheated this year by the fires that blocked me from my beloved Front, and obscured my views from mountain peaks anywhere else.
On Friday a group of us decided that we wouldn’t let the smoky skies keep us from one of our big goals of the summer --- the traverse of the high Siyeh ridge in Glacier National Park.
The hike/climb takes off at the Cracker Lake trailhead in the Many Glacier valley and involves climbing Mount Wynn (elevation: 8,404 feet), and then walking the long ridgeline, picking up Mounts Cracker (elevation: 9,833 feet) and Mount Siyeh (10,004 feet) before dropping down into the St. Mary Valley at Jackson Overlook.
We got on trail at 7:30 a.m., and reached our car at Jackson Overlook at 9 p.m. We felt we had used every bit of daylight as we watched the sun set.
Although there was considerable smoke at times, the sky began to clear as we descended Siyeh about 5:30 p.m.
Conservatively, we figured an elevation gain of over 6,500 feet. While Gordon Edwards’ book puts the hike at 13.5 miles, I’m certain it is farther than that.
Aside from the smoke, everything went right.
We hiked 3.5 miles up the Cracker Lake trail to a bridge, left the trail and worked our way up a dry creek bed to the base of Mount Wynn. From there it was a long slog to the top of that rounded peak. Mount Wynn looks more impressive from the Many Glacier road, but the views from on top more than compensated. We could look down on Cracker Lake, and see ahead of us that 5.5 mile traverse of the Siyeh ridgeline.
Siyeh and Cracker peaks look like two large points hovering over the skyline. From the ridge they looked impossible to climb. Before we reached them, though, there was one other good-sized unnamed red-rock peak 9,190 feet, which required the most interesting climbing of the day. Siyeh and Cracker were merely long, high slogs.
We could see Cracker Lake and a number of jewel-like high mountain lakes from the ridge as we walked.
All the peaks epitomize Glacier’s colorful mountains, the reds, greens, and browns.
The north faces of Siyeh and Cracker peaks are something to behold. They drop down more than 4,000 feet to Cracker Lake.
It is frightening to the inexperienced climber to look over the side of Siyeh peak straight down.
Unfortunately, smoke obscured some of our views, but we could make out Going to the Sun Mountain below us to the south, Mount Allen the west, and many other peaks in the heart of the park.
Coming off Mount Siyeh is always an experience because the climber must pass through a rugged cliff band of about 1,000 feet of Class 3 and 4 rock to reach the trail in Preston Park.
This is a climb well worth repeating, and definitely the best of my summer.

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