This peak is a Glacier Park classic that is on my top ten list because of its extraordinary views throughout the climb and its mixed terrain. A memorable group consisting of Ray Allen, John Burnham, Mitchel Brown, Sean Fitzpatrick, Pat Heimark, Trevor Helwig, David Koel, Jerry Moore, Alda Sigvaldason, and I showed up at 8:30 am to start the climb at the Piegan Pass trailhead. The initial ascent pleasantly followed the forested trail until we left it at an open drainage that I prefer because of the minimal uphill bushwacking involved. This drainage eventually deposited us into the bowl between Matahpi and Going to the Sun at which point we followed the bottom of the basal cliffs to begin the slog up to the saddle between the two peaks. While the views along the way had been tremendous, the view from this saddle was exceptional. Here, the Sexton Glacier and the Baring Creek drainage are visible below one’s boots, while in the opposite direction there is an aerial view of Mt. Jackson and the Logan Pass area. After regrouping at the saddle, we traversed toward the planned ascent route: the diagonal chute variation of the West Face route. It is easy to walk past the bottom or “entrance” of the chute, so if this route is the desired ascent, my recommendation is to scan the upper reaches of the mountain for the shadowy break before going too far to the standard West Face route. It is less vertical than it appears from Logan Pass!
For the ascent through the chute, I requested that all climbers proceed in a single-file fashion such that one climber could touch the backpack of the next climber. This chute is steep with loose talus that can be dangerous even for a small party; with ten climbers, it required over an hour to climb it safely. From the top of the chute, the climbers were rewarded with another airy view of the Baring Creek drainage before tackling the class 3-4 cliffs leading to the summit ridge. During lunch on the summit, we could see the travelers far below “creeping their lowly way up the valley” as Gordon Edwards mentions! We decided to descend the standard West Face route for safety reasons and to save time. Altimeters proved useful here as we were able to identify the elevation at which we had begun the diagonal chute without descending too far into steeper cliffbands. Ailing joints among the group after a 4,000-ft-plus gain slowed the descent, but the weather, views and camaraderie were impressive enough that I believe everyone enjoyed the climb. I was pleased to have three Canadian climbers with us, but they showed us up once again: two of them (Alda and Trevor) also summited Matahpi Peak while the rest of us descended, yet they actually caught up with the main group before we hit the trail! The Chinook winds must follow them everywhere, eh?
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