Tag Archives: Piegan Mountain

A Lost Peak Named Big Knife Mountain

The History

Back in the day before Glacier became a National Park there were a lot of folks naming peaks and places.

You could name a mountain for your business associate or a government official.  You could name a lake for that special someone at home.  Sometimes people did not even need to visit and they got a landmark named for them.

Eventually, it all came down to some officials making recommendations to Washington D. C. and changing names.  There was a whole criteria that needed to met so they could weed out a few inappropriate names.

One character that played a big role in naming places in Glacier National Park was James Willard Schultz.

Pollock Mountain from near Piegan Mountain

Schultz’s “Big Knife Mountain”

Schultz’s Big Knife Mountain is Pollock Mountain.  At least that is what Schultz and his companions wanted to name it.

Schultz apparently wanted to name it for a white man, likely, W. C. Pollock.  Pollock is the actual namesake for the Schultz’s Big Knife Mountain.

Piegan - Pollock Saddle

Lunch at the Piegan – Pollock Saddle

Big Knife and Long Knife were well-used Native American terms for “white man.”  They have been used since early colonial times.

You might already know that there is a Long Knife Mountain between the USA – Canada Border and Kintla Lake.  I would show you a picture but it was cloudy the day we visited.

“Big Knife Mountain” is a thrill to explore.  It is usually approached from Lunch Creek but can also be reached from Piegan Pass after hiking from Siyeh Bend.

There are multiple opportunities for exploration for those who do not wish to summit Pollock Mountain.

Here are some suggestions for adventure.  

The waterfall at the top of the canyon is spectacular.

The waterfall at the top of the canyon is spectacular.

Volume 1 of Climb Glacier National Park has photos and descriptions to help you reach of all of the places listed below.

  1. Lunch Creek Waterfalls.  Take about 30 minutes and hike to the waterfall that you can see in the distance from the bridge at Lunch Creek.  A few climbers trails thread their way through the krumholtz before consolidating into a main trail.  Stay on the right side of the creek as you ascend.  Krumholtz is the small evergreen trees that are found above treeline in Glacier National Park.  The Lunch Creek Basin is full of it.
  2. Lunch Creek Basin.  Spend about 2 hours exploring the basin above the waterfall.  Look for a trail to the right of the waterfall that leads to the basin.
  3. Piegan Pass Flowers.  The slopes above Piegan Pass are often littered with flowers.  If you are lucky you will find the goat trail that leads all the way to the saddle between Piegan Mountain and Pollock Mountain.
  4. Piegan – Pollock Saddle.  A great place for lunch above the Lunch Creek Basin.  Look for mountain goats, marmots, flowers, snowfields and a few climbers.
  5. Summit Pollock Mountain by The Great Cleft Route.  This is a classic Glacier route.
The view from above the Great Cleft

The view from above the Great Cleft

For more information on how to reach the summit of Pollock Mountain please see the route description on pages 110 – 119 in Volume 1 of Climb Glacier National Park.

Thanks for joining me and reading about the peak that might have rather been called Big Knife Mountain.  This mountain is certainly easier to reach and climb than Long Knife Mountain near Kintla Lake.

Glacier National Park history is fascinating.

Not all of it is true but it is all interesting.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2013

What’s Up With The Wind In Glacier National Park?


The Home of The Windmaker: A Blackfeet Legend

The east side of Glacier National Park is well-known for its powerful blasts of wind.  Mere breezes gobble up wrappers, gales remove hats and cyclones carry small children away from their families in a weird Wizard of OZ way (well not really, but you’d better hold on to them!).

The HistoryThe wind frequently gusts over 60 mph near Marias Pass and Browning, MT.  Hurricane-like gusts have knocked railroad cars off the tracks near East Glacier Park, Montana.  Along the eastern front the wind has been recorded in excess of 100 miles per hour.  That’s a scary powerful wind.

One particular wind event reminded me of the power of the wind when I was lifted off the ground by a strong gust of wind while standing in the saddle between Pollock and Piegan Mountains.  I certainly was glad to not be standing on the summit of Pollock Mountain at that particular time.  Fortunately, we were not far from the leeward side of the ridge and crawled to reach safety out of the wind blown chaos.  Not all that brave, but I survived.

Here is a legend that explains its origin.

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

Many years ago, when a heavy wind swept across the plains, a chief of the Blackfeet faced the storm and made a vow to find its origin.

He crossed the plains and entered the mountains.  His way led through the dark canyons and dense forests, where the wind rushed and roared.  The terrible wind and the dark and gloomy surroundings filled him with dread, but he pressed forward until, at last, he saw in the distance, close to one of the highest peaks, the shining water of a lake.  During a lull in the storm, he crept close to the shore and watched.  Suddenly from the middle of the lake, arose the huge antlers of an enormous bull elk.  His eyes were red and flames darted from his nostrils.  When he waved his huge ears, a wind arose, so fierce and terrible, that the waters of the lake were whisked up into the air.  When the elk sank again beneath the waves, the wind went down.

The chief hurried back to his tribe to tell them of his wonderful discovery of the home of the Medicine Elk, the Wind Maker.

If you get caught in the wind.

– If you find yourself hiking or climbing and a strong wind begins look for an area that is sheltered and is out of the wind.  Give it a while, maybe be it will stop.

– Turn around and head home if it does not abate in within your time frame.

– If it is blowing hard when you plan to start the day consider driving over Logan Pass or Marias Pass and find something to do on the west side of the park.

– Please do not attempt to summit a mountain in a strong wind.  Glacier has strong winds AND then there are gusts that can knock you off the trail while hiking or even move your entire body while climbing on a route.

– Be safe and live to climb again!

What piece of Glacier National Park real estate do you want to learn more about?

Send me a message and I will get to work.

Do you have a spooky wind story to share?

Thanks for joining in for this small bit of fun history about Glacier National Park.  Not all of it is true but it is interesting.


For more information on the winds of Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Reservation visit BHS science instructor studies the wind in East Glacier Park.

Source: McClintock, Walter, The Old North Trail or Life, Legends and Religion of the Blackfeet Indians, University of Nebraska Press, 1992 (reprint of 1910 edition)

© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2014