The traditional way that we’ve done the “Garden Wall Trifecta” (climbing Bishops Cap, Pollock Mountain, and Piegan Mountain) has been starting at Logan Pass, climbing them in the order of Bishops Cap, Pollock, then Piegan, then coming out via Lunch Creek. Since we only had one car, we decided to drop bikes at Logan Pass, then park at Lunch Creek and do them in the reverse. It was a fun way to explore the summits on a perfect, sunny August day.
We went through the west entrance at around 6am and dropped our bikes off around 7am at Logan Pass. We stepped out of our vehicle at Lunch Creek around 7:30am to a few bighorn sheep descending from above the road.
We followed the climber’s trail up into the gorgeous bowl that is Lunch Creek. The block shape of Pollock Mountain loomed large in front of us and another herd of bighorn sheep grazed up and to our left. Snow patches were still providing ample meltwater for the waterfall that was coming down from the cliff above and the wildflowers were in full display.
Having done the route before, we knew to go just to the right of the waterfall, although, the climber’s trail at this point is well enough established that you don’t have to analyze things too thoroughly.
Once above the waterfall, we sauntered through more alpine meadows while a hoary marmot scurried along. We crossed one of the many snowfields to get to the rift at the head of the drainage and followed it up to the saddle between Pollock and Piegan enjoying ever sprawling views behind us whenever we needed a break.
Once at the saddle, we enjoyed ample views while American Pipits and Gray-crowned Rosy-finches flitted amongst the shale-y landscape.
We turned south toward Piegan Mountain and followed the climber’s trail where it forked. To the right, it swings way around the cliffs and wraps up to the summit, while the left heads up through a fun route picking it’s way straight to the summit.
To the left we went and ascended up to the summit with ever-impressive views. We were doing this trip not only for the enjoyment, but to collect goat scat for a DNA study that the park is doing. As we got close to the summit, we found a few goat beds with very old scat and determined that they were too old to have any rescuable DNA on them, so we left it there and found the summit cairn.
The tops of the mountains in Glacier National Park never get old to me and the ones along the Garden Wall are particularly accessible and laden with views. From the top of Piegan, we were able to see one of the park’s remaining glaciers a few hundred feet below us.
Knowing we had a few more summits, we headed down to the saddle and started working our way up Pollock Mountain and it’s famous “cleft route”.
The climber’s trail, like before, was easy to follow as it skirted below the imposing cliffs with impressive spires. Just past the main spire, the route scampers up to the cliffs where we poked around and found the cleft. A bit of squeezing up through it and we were up the final, gradual approach to the top.
You will tire of me saying this, but the views were incredible here as well. From the summit, we could see clearly the Livingston Range and a lot of the upper reaches of McDonald Creek. The rest of the Garden Wall stretched north from us in a series of spires, mountains, and rotting shale.
One of those spires was Bishops Cap which looks much different from the ridgeline (and more imposing). We made a couple of mental notes of where the climber’s trail started from the saddle. Before we headed down, we noticed a female White-tailed Ptarmigan with four chicks which delighted me to no end as they were the first ones I’d seen this year.
We went around them and headed down to the saddle and found the climber’s trail once again and approached Bishops Cap. I knew that we needed to wrap around at some point, but the route first charges straight up, then wraps around. We, however, wrapped around first, so we ended up with a bit more technical than we wanted, but we ended up in the same place.
After the big, scary move up the little chimney, we were at the summit. A large swarm of insects all got the invite to the party and were buzzing around looking for mates on the summit cairn (a fairly typical practice for a surprisingly large variety of insects I’ve found). We looked straight down the 2,500ft + east face of the summit and out to the Piegan Pass Trail. Once again, panorama views all around.
We also noticed that some clouds were beginning to form. Not anything imminent and we were taking off anyway, but we noted it as we down climbed, then headed back to the Pollock/Bishops Cap saddle.
The first 1,000 feet down or so is a soft river of scree; a pain to come up for sure, but a delightful way to lose a lot of elevation. Eventually, however, the rock becomes more consolidated and then becomes a solid creekbed. From that section to the Highline Trail, the picking is slow.
The clouds continued to build and we dropped down onto the trail and began heading up to Logan Pass. The wind started up and we wondered what the folks who were just starting out hiking at 4pm were thinking heading along the trail with weather like this approaching.
The bikes were waiting for us at Logan Pass. We unlocked them and coasted down to our car. We could see it raining hard down in the St. Mary valley and were glad to be putting our bikes on our car at 5pm.