Peak(s):  Mt. Siyeh - 10014
Wynn Mountain - 8406
Peak 9190
Cracker Peak - 9833
Date Posted:  08/25/2016
Modified:  08/26/2016
Date Climbed:   08/19/2016
Author:  Somewhat of a Prick
Additional Members:   RamanDestroyer
 The Skyline Experience   

The Skyline Experience
8-19-16

Wynn Mountain
Peak 9190
Cracker Peak
Mt. Siyeh

~ 21.25 miles and 7500ft elevation gain. 17 hours round trip



(Red to Siyeh, Blue line back)



My friend Jesse had gotten me into hiking in the summer of 2012, the summer after I had moved to Denver. I still remember us emailing different 14er routes and trip reports to each other while we were at work, ooh'ing and aah'ing at the scenery on the different route images. We had a great time hitting Elbert for my 1st 14er and then progressing to our first Class 3 route on Kelso Ridge about a month later. We hit quite a few mountains that summer, and I still view that as a special time for me. It was like the first chapter of a book you just can't put down.

We had hiked quite few peaks in the summer of 2013 together as well. We rode into Chicago Basin and got those four in a day and got Kit Carson/Challenger a bit after that. That winter we were turned back on Lindsey as well as Belford, but not due to lack of effort on our parts. I didn't think that day on Belford would be our last hike together for several years, but life happens.

Jesse ended up moving to Montana and I promised him I would get up there and hike with him this summer. He asked what I wanted to see, and not knowing anything about Montana I gave him my two requirements:

1. I wanted him to show me the best of what Montana had to offer, I wanted to be impressed.
2. I wanted to be beat to hell by the time I got to the airport on Sunday for my flight home.

Needless to say, he delivered.


He had heard via word of mouth of an off-route trail over 20 miles long with a 5.5 mile ridge walk that covers 4 summits, culminating in a summit of the grand Mt. Siyeh in Glacier National Park. It was called the "Skyline Experience". Naturally I was extremely intrigued and off I went researching the route, only to find limited information and one trip report on the internet. We poured over the maps and studied the beta that was available for weeks on end, constantly messaging each other with little tidbits that we found that could be of use. I felt like I was in the summer of 2012 all over again, and it felt awesome.

I flew into Missoula on the 18th, Jesse picked me up and we drove the 4 hours to the famous Many Glacier Hotel, the beginning and the terminus of the Skyline Experience. It was raining all throughout the park on our drive through the park to the hotel, both of us had a concern of snow for the next day in the back of our minds. We checked into our room and prepped our gear, food, and water for the next day. We crashed and got about 3 or 4 hours of sleep and the alarm came fast for 3AM, clocking in for the shortest recorded stay at the Many Glacier Hotel in history. Well we assumed so anyway.

At 3:50 AM the route began on the Cracker Lake trail, which was a fine mix of mud, water from the previous night's rain, and horseshit. Mile after mile went by, trying in vain to stay out of the horseshit. There was a spooky feeling to this early part of the hike. There was extremely heavy fog and a nearly full moon trying to poke through. I had one hand on my bear spray, ready for a grizzly encounter which I was sure was going to happen with our poor visibility. After two miles, we continued on the Cracker Lake trail while the horse trail, Cracker Flats, split off. We still found some horse crap on the Cracker Lake trail, but not nearly as much. The first obstacle of the day seemed over.

We still had another few miles to go until we left the maintained trail to start the bushwack up a drainage. The fog relented after a while and with the full moon we got a great look across the valley at our first mountain, Wynn Mountain. From what we could see it had definitely snowed. We stopped here and had a 10 minute conversation about what we would do. We decided to forego microspikes to save weight on the long crushing day, a decision I was now regretting. I thought we had just cost ourselves a chance at the route before it hardly even got started. We decided to trudge on, hoping the sun would burn off all snow and rime.

Once Canyon Creek is crossed after about 5 miles or so, you take an immediate left to bushwack your way up an extremely dense, slippery drainage for the better part of a half mile. We found that sticking to the left side of the drainage was the best option, only until the very end did we end up crossing over to the right side. A feint use trail can often be found on the left side as well, making the bushwack slightly more manageable. A thin lair of nearly invisible slime covers almost every rock in the drainage, one must be extremely careful when stepping on rocks here. A slip could send you over the many small cliffs and cause serious injuries.

From the drainage, first light hitting Siyeh. Cracker can be seen to the left of Siyeh:


View of the drainage:



Once out of the drainage we got a good look at our ascent up Wynn. It was covered with a nice thin layer of snow and rime on the rocks, but nothing too bad. A quick look around showed some snow on 9190 and a good amount on Cracker Peak, but those were still several hours away and the sun was out in full force, thankfully. We aimed for the cliff chutes on Wynn, as the route description on Summitpost says to do. However, these were in the most shaded area of Wynn and holding the most snow so we decided to take a detour up a different slope to have the best footing possible.

View of our route up Wynn:


Looking back down from the upper talus. From left to right, Peak 9190, Cracker Peak, Mt. Siyeh:



I would rate Wynn as a solid Class 2 hike, with the most dangerous part of ascending Wynn being the half mile long drainage. Actually, there were some class 3 moves up the drainage. Perhaps there were better ways around these than we found, though. Once atop Wynn, the rest of your day is all but visible, not counting the descent off Siyeh. It's a 5.5 mile ridge walk from Wynn to Siyeh, with 9190 (Maroon Bell #3) and Cracker in between. It's a long fricken day. We hit the summit at about 9:30am.

Summit pictures from Wynn:

Lake Sherburne:






After a good break on Wynn to load up on cheddar cheese, Gatorade, and cookies, we started the 2+ mile stroll over to Peak 9190. This part of the route was amazing, the sun was really starting to hit all the peaks and it's a mindless walk so one can really just take in the beauty of the landscape for an hour or so and just leave the brain on cruise control. There is a feint goat trail that we found and we just followed that over to 9190, skirting around "Sherman Jr.", soon we approached Peak 9190.

Nearing 9190, looking back at Wynn (center right):


Cruising to 9190:


9190 ahead:




Me with 9190 behind me and Cracker Lake below:



Peak 9190 reminded me so much of one of the Maroon Bells. Crumbly mudstone that you had to be extra careful of. I'd rate this peak as a Class 3, assuming you take a good line to the summit, but it could easily turn into Class 4. Despite the mudstone both of us really enjoyed the scramble and the views from the summit were stunning. Ahead were the giant horns of Cracker and Siyeh, we were beyond excited to go charging into them. The relief of these peaks is absolutely incredible, yeah Siyeh is BARELY over 10k, but it has the largest vertical drop in the lower 48 at 4200 feet from the summit to the lake below, and nearly the rest of the route you follow the edge of the cliff overlooking this drop. So many times we stopped just to crawl to the edge and marvel at the view. It never got old.

Jesse scrambling up 9190:



Summit shots from 9190:

Cracker & Siyeh looming:





Mercifully there isn't much of a descent off 9190, not a lot of elevation loss in between it and Cracker. The hike to Cracker offered in my mind the best view of the impressive face of Siyeh. Weather was on our side so we took our sweet time between 9190 and Cracker so we could soak in the views. We summitted 9190 at 12:20

Shots between 9190 and Cracker:



The big face of Siyeh






Hard not to crawl to the edge for the pics




The push on the upper stretches of Cracker I would rate at a solid Class 3, with much better rock than 9190 as well. It was an enjoyable scramble. We pretty much stayed on the very edge of the ridge until the final stretches it got a little cliffy and we meandered around a little in order to find the best path up.

View of the upper part of Cracker. We stayed to the very right side of the ridge:



Summit shots from Cracker (no clue of our summit time for this one):




The descent off Cracker appeared tricky in the beta we had found. There is a youtube video link in the summitpost trip report and one of the guys was having issues downclimbing off a small cliff. We found an easy walk-around from the downclimb:


View of Siyeh shortly after the descent off Cracker:


The ascent up Siyeh was similar to Cracker; we hugged the right hand shoulder right next to the cliff. All along the way up Siyeh, we saw bear crap so we were constantly on the lookout. Once we neared the summit block, it smelled like a zoo, it was obviously a grizzly den. We were on high alert. Right after the stank hit us, Jesse spotted a momma grizzly with a cub down a quarter mile or so flipping talus and pigging out on moths and bugs. They paid no attention to us, but they were slowly meandering their way up to the shoulder on the other side of Siyeh that we needed to hit for our descent.

Jesse snapped a quick pic of the bears, obviously way more interested in the bugs than us:


As mentioned, there is a summit block on Siyeh. We had some issues finding the best way up without getting into Class 5 territory. The best way up that we found was the part of the summit block that you come up to right after the class 2/3 talus scramble, this part is obvious. If you find yourself wandering around the left hand side of the summit block searching for an easier way up, we didn't find one. We backtracked to the beginning section and found a Class 4 way up. A tad tricky, but it got the job done. We reached the summit at about 3:45pm

Summit of Siyeh:






An absolutely stunning summit, the most beautiful I have ever seen. Unfortunately with momma bear and cub meandering their way up towards our descent saddle, we couldn't hang out long. We just snapped a few pics and bolted, with the intention of grabbing a snack on the descent off.

From what we had gathered, its universally agreed upon that the descent off the West Couloir of Siyeh to connect to Piegan Pass to loop back to the hotel is absolutely god awful miserable. I'm here to tell you the beta is correct. My best analogy would be to take Maroon, put it on top of Challenger, then stack that on top of Mt. Wilson. Then descend off. You lose 3k feet of elevation gain in 1 mile, to give you a sense of it. The worst part were the 3 or 4 major cliff bands that you have to navigate your way through. This was by far the most mentally taxing part of the entire day, at a time when we were the most tired. A descent off this route requires extreme concentration.

Image of the descent off Summitpost:


Image of Jesse and I getting started on our way down:


I noticed the large rock circled in red, it was the start of the first major cliff band but was also a great place to sit against in some shade and grab a snack since we were denied that opportunity on Siyeh. We headed down to it and that's where grizzly encounter number 2 occurred.

Jesse was the first to the large rock and hopped up on the big rock to take a look down to scout our way through this first cliffy area before our snack. As soon as he jumped up and looked over the top, he noticed another momma grizzly with a cub drinking water that was running over these rocks. He looked straight at me and said "bears". At first I thought he was joking around, but then he immediately grabbed his bear spray and I knew he meant business. At this point I could hear the momma bear letting out her roar/bark. I unclipped my bear spray and started screaming cuss words at the top of my lungs, along with Jesse. Fortunately from our perch, the momma bear couldn't quite reach Jesse, but it was very close. I hopped up on top of the rock with Jesse but the mom and her cub had retreated and were running down Siyeh. I was impressed with just how fast they were running down Siyeh, if there is ever a doubt whether or not they will catch you even up on scree, they will. It was shocking. When they were a few hundred yards away (I was still full of adrenaline) I shouted one last "Yeah thats right! Keep running!" She paused, stood up on her hind legs and barked at us once more to let us know who is really boss.

Post bear encounter shot:


The bears took off and started running up the ridge seen in the right of the above photo, fortunately out of our way for our descent. We sat there for a good 20 minutes to get the adrenaline out of our blood. The real freaky part is if we had not been hurried off Siyeh, we would have just gone around the rock to its left and waltzed right into the bears drinking water and that had the potential of being very deadly.

We navigated the first few cliff bands very slowly but surely, but the last one had us stumped. We had downloaded the gps file from the one trip report out there, http://www.summitpost.org/first-time-on-the-skyline-experience/809600, and checked the line they took and it seemed pretty nuts, we couldn't believe they actually went down that way. We spent 15 or 20 minutes going up and down the cliff wall that ran the length of the couloir, finally Jesse found a decent Class 3 downclimb out. If you're following the gps track above, the better route we found was 100-200 yards to the left of the notch they climbed down.

It took about two hours or so to descend Siyeh. We were extremely relieved to be down on sweet sweet tundra. We took a nice break here, it was extremely well deserved.

View from the bottom of Siyeh:


Looking back at Siyeh, the many cliff bands are noticeable:


There is a mile or so tundra walk from the bottom of Siyeh until you intersect with Piegan Pass that takes you back to Many Glacier. We basically just followed the creek. We knew the hotel stopped seating for dinner at 9:30, and it was going to be very close to make that time. We still had about 6 or so miles to before the hotel, so we needed to be pounding miles on very tired bodies. I had scoped the menu out ahead of time and that buffalo chili burger was going to be mine, Jesse and I were more determined than ever.

We connected to Piegan Pass trail before long and started hammering the miles, even jogging here and there. Then we stumbled upon fresh bear crap in the middle of the trail and after the last encounter we were on high alert. I had my bear spray at the ready and so did Jesse. We hit the 4 miles to the hotel sign at about 7:30 and thought it was in reach. We were moving extremely fast, determined to devour those burgers. At 8:50 we hit the hotel parking lot, exactly 17 hours from our departure. We slipped on the sandals and strolled into the high class hotel. Dirty, smelly, and beat to hell, but we felt like kings.

And damn, did those burgers taste magical.



Comments or Questions
DeTour
User
Great read
08/25/2016 20:57
Congrats on a classic experience. Very entertaining to read. Siyeh - ayah!


Tempelton
User
This
08/25/2016 21:49
is an amazing trip report. Thanks for sharing!


SurfNTurf
User
Bro
08/26/2016 09:37
The site is called 14ers.com, what are you doing? These aren't even real mountains. What's next, writing a TR from the Presidential Range? I award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul.

jk 10/10 would click again


Monster5
User
Nice TR
08/26/2016 10:23
The Siyeh face B&W s an excellent photo. On several encounters, I've been routinely ignored by grizzlies; it must've been interesting to get their attention and see that mass running along the slope. Adrenaline for certain. Nice description of a scenic route.


FireOnTheMountain
User
the question begs to be asked....
08/26/2016 13:32
and the result pops up a dude who died trying...BASEing the Siyeh face that is. Wonder what that thing would look like from the lake at its base!! Crazy glaciers and their mountain carving antics.

Nice work dude, a worthwhile loop for sure!


Somewhat of a Prick
User
Just looked it up myself
08/26/2016 13:48
Yikes. That sounds terrifying. The Cracker Lake trail takes you all the way to the lake and the impressive face looms over you, part of me wishes I had more time to hike that as well. I'm sure its pretty amazing looking


lordhelmut
User
Got the full Glacier experience
08/26/2016 14:51
Grizzlies and their cubs, loose descents that put the Elks to shame, amazing views and some classic summits. Apparently the Grizz in Glacier are about half the size of Yellowstone Grizz, which is unnerving to think about. Ever read "Night of the Grizzly"?

The class rating up there takes on new meaning - particularily class 6. Not sure if you read up on any of the Gordon Edward's book, its either Siyeh or Gould where, when describing a route, he basically says "if you are serious about climbing this route, give this Kalispell local a ring" and he left the number and that was that.

Glacier is, by far, the coolest place in the lower 48. Thanks a lot for the TR.


Somewhat of a Prick
User
Night of the Grizzlies
08/26/2016 15:12
I've heard of this book before, I'll check it out. Obviously I'm a bit more intrigued now after my trip up there haha


cedica
User
Thanks for the great report
08/28/2016 14:09
Much more details than I've found elsewhere, amazing pictures too. I would like to do Skyline if I ever manage to go back to GNP, but definitely want to avoid that slope on the way back. I've read about grizzly encounters there from other sources too. Probably worth considering leaving the car on Logan Pass overnight instead.
+1 on Edwards' book recommendation, he said that north face of Siyeh first ascent was in 1979 by two locals who spent two nights on the face. Comparisons to Eiger wall were also mentioned for good measure.
Buffalo burgers in Many Glacier are truly magical. I had one after 18 mile hike, while the last light was waning on Mt. Wilbur. The most amazing dining room view from the most incredibly located hotel that I've ever seen.


NM_Hiker
User
Wow!
08/29/2016 10:17
Excellent photos! #30 "Summit of Siyeh:" is the best imo.

Keep on Keeping On Fellas


goingup
User
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
08/29/2016 18:34
I did Mount Siyeh in June when I was in Glacier National Park for a week and HOLY HELL that's a monster of a peak. I think to this day the loose steepness of it all outweighs every single Colorado peak and traverse I have done combined. We ascend a hellaciously loose class 3/4 route (not the West couloir) but decided the west couloir would be a better descent. Because we did not go up and had no GPS tracks for it we could not find our way down it. The chute we did go down (which was wrong) slid out from under us, we spent the next hour clawing our way up the class 5 rock on the side of it. We then tried to find another way any way off, shut down, so we resummited and ended up descending the exact same way we came up. It was a hell of a day. It is the most beautiful views I have ever seen too! But holy hell, not a place to screw up the route finding.


Somewhat of a Prick
User
^ Even with GPS...
08/29/2016 19:47
it was still a route-finding fiasco, cliff band after never ending cliff band. Definitely not a fun peak to go down, lol


goingup
User
~~~~~~~
08/29/2016 21:24
We saw all the bear signs too but no bears, I can't even imagine having a run in where you guys were. Absolutely Crazy!!! But that place is just so beautiful I think we can def. say it was well worth it.


borped
Question
06/03/2021 20:34
What a great trip report. A quick question for you, looking at topo it seems like going up the shoulder to Cracker and then walking the ridge to Siyeh would be the easiest way up, albeit longer than the more direct hiking/scrambling route. Do you have any photos of the shoulder? I was thinking of making a small loop out of it if possible, up the shoulder to Cracker, to Siyeh, and down the standard route back to the Siyeh/Piegan Pass trail to the road.




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