Tag Archives: Pollock Mountain

Head vs. Rock

CGNP Education-smallOkay, once again, this is your head and this is a rock.

It is usually bad news when they meet.

Consider these stats:

  • In the United States, every 21 seconds someone sustains a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and over 50,000 people die from these injuries every year while 235,000 are hospitalized.
  • The American Association of Neurological Surgeons reports that 21% of traumatic head injuries occur in sports and recreation.
  • Males are twice as likely as females to be injured.
  • In one study, wearing a helmet while climbing may have made a difference in 25% of the critical trauma fatalities.
  • Helmets also protect against fractures, concussions, and lacerations.

In the month of July my friend, Chris Rost, climbed to the true summit of Heavy Runner and to the summit of Pollock Mountain.

While neither of these climbs, in and of themselves, was particularly notable Chris was involved in two incidents that further stress the importance of wearing a climbing helmet. Chris is a medical provider and knows a thing or two about keeping his head protected.

Wearing a climbing helmet is a great idea anytime you are around places where there is potential for rock fall or there is a risk of falling.

Helmets are also quite handy for protecting your head if you stand up too tall while ascending a cliff or cleft.

Example #1: Wear a helmet whenever there is potential for loose rock. 

While rappelling from the true summit of Heavy Runner Mountain Chris’s helmet prevented him from getting injured. The video is courtesy of Chris Rost.


Chris told me that the rock was about the size of his hand and is he convinced that he would have got at a minimum a nice cut on his head if not some more serious injury.

Example #2: Wearing a helmet prevents injury to your head.

Hair on the rock

Hair on the rock

In this example a climber was ascending the Great Cleft route to reach the summit of Pollock Mountain. Chris Rost was in the area when this climber was injured and got permission to take the photos. We have intentionally not revealed the climber’s name.

Helmets protect your head if you stand up too tall.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been surprised that when I stand up I hit my head on a rock. Most of the time I have a helmet on and it is just a surprise.

Here are a few recommendations:

  • The best helmet fits well, is comfortable, and is in your price range.  Purchase one that meets these criteria.  Climbing stores, like Rocky Mountain Outfitter, can help you with this.
  • Ouch?!

    Hair donation site, ouch?!

    Make sure you watch the video.  Jandy Cox from Rocky Mountain Outfitter shares his knowledge about different types of climbing helmets as well as how to get the proper fit for your climbing helmet.

  • Carry it until you need it.  There is no need to wear a helmet until starting the challenging portion of the route.  Wear it when you need it, take it off when you don’t.
  • Hang on to it.  There is an orange  Black Diamond helmet on the slopes of Mount Cannon after it slipped out of my sweaty hands while adjusting the fit.
  • Carefully inspect your helmet if you drop it.  Be careful when you lay down your pack.
  • Falling = replacement.  If you need to replace your helmet that means your old one worked.
  • It only works if you wear it!

Thanks Chris Rost for this reminder.

No rocks were injured in the production of this video and photos.

You obviously can see the benefits of purchasing and wearing a climbing helmet.

Be safe out there and climb smart.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2015

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

Conquering Failure

Climb Glacier LogoChanging your definition of success and failure requires courage, practice, and tenacity.

Mountains help us define what is truly important.

We don’t change the mountains, the mountains change us.

So it was with my first two summits in Glacier.

Summit #1

Pollock Mountain in an August snowstorm.  An auspicious beginning to something that I grew to love.  But at that particular moment it was not a lot of fun.  It was miserably cold, there were no views, and nowhere to totally get out of the wind.

Headers On RouteAfter a quick bite to eat we descended through the Great Cleft and upon returning to the saddle I nearly got blown off the mountain.

Read my blog about What’s Up With The Wind In Glacier National Park?

If I had based liking climbing on this day’s events I might have never gone again.  It could have been an epic fail.

Now I know that reaching the summit is just one small part of a the journey.  That is what I enjoy about Glacier … it is unpredictable.  I waited another 6 years before seeing what the view was ACTUALLY like from the summit of Pollock Mountain.

Smoke and haze

Smoke and haze

Summit #2

Clements Mountain during August fire season.  Another not the best moment for climbing but this time there were views.

This particular climb resulted in getting off-route and climbing through some dangerously loose class 4 cliffs on the north side AND getting very lucky to be on the route when we climbed up.  Life could have been seriously altered if circumstances were different.  Potential for misfortune was high.

Good things come from challenging circumstances.  During this climb the concept of the red-line on photos was discussed for the first time.

The scary class 4 climb

The scary class 4 climb

Since then, standing on summits has unleashed a latent drive inside of me that cannot be quenched.  I had never climbed in Glacier before Summit #1.  I had never felt that healthy feeling of “fear” before my experience on #2.  They motivated me to grow and continue as a peak bagger.

Here is the truth of the matter.

During college in Minnesota and 7 years of life in eastern Montana I pined away WANTING to be in the mountains and missing them so much.

But I discovered something when I came home to the mountains.  That drive is not for summits.

The quest is to enjoy each and every moment of this precious life that I have been given.

Not that I don’t want to take risks, I just want to be safe.

So don’t look for the “next big thrill,” instead strive to make each moment count with family and friends.

For me THAT is what makes me feel fulfilled and satisfied, but there is at least one thing that I want to do that’s “risky”.

What Keeps You From Beginning Something New?

The only time you fail is when you don’t start.

Perhaps you don’t think Climbing In Glacier is for you?  Read Is Climbing Glacier For You?

Consider these quotes.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  Benjamin Franklin


Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.  Winston Churchill


What Motivates You?

Do Something You Have Never Done Before!

Imagine yourself standing on the summit of Rising Wolf Mountain.

Visualize yourself standing on the summit of Rising Wolf Mountain.

  • Set some goals.   If your goal is to climb Rising Wolf Mountain consider setting a goal to jog or walk 4 times per week for 8 week before making your attempt.
  • Make them measurable.  Use a program such as Runkeeper on your smartphone, a journal, or even a spiral notebook to keep track of your progress.
  • Reward yourself as you reach the milestones.
  • Consider finding another person or group that has similar goals and join forces to make getting there more enjoyable.
  • Visualize yourself accomplishing the goal, such as standing near the summit cairn of Rising Wolf Mountain, while you are working toward the goal.

I Want To Jump Out Of A Perfectly Good Airplane.

How About You?  What Do You Want To Do?

Post a comment and let me know what you want to do and tell me when you want to accomplish it.


© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2014


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