Cannon Mountain

September 19, 2009

Mountain height:         2728 m
Elevation gain:            700 m
Ascent time:                4:40
Descent time:              2:30          

Scrambling and a wee bit of climbing with Mark.

Cannon Mountain definitely favours a late-day ascent (a fact that we know after the fact). Another commitment and the potential of the forecasted good weather breaking down later in the day, meant we would have to be up and down the mountain by mid-afternoon. Therefore, we left the Logan Pass parking lot at 5:20 am, thinking that the 18 km roundtrip, horizontal distance would take at least 8 hours to complete.   

Although hiking to Hidden Pass by headlamp, under a star-filled sky was a very pleasant experience, it was not conducive to easy route-finding. The instructions, “traverse below the reddish coloured cliffs”, were fairly meaningless when it was too dark to discern colours right in front of you, let alone of a cliff several hundred metres in the distance. Nevertheless, our slow pace and multiple attempts to photograph beautiful Bearhat, Reynolds, and Hidden Lake in low light, allowed time for the sun to rise. We soon found the correct trail and started up to the col between Cannon and Mount Clements.

Our ascent route took us to the west ridge of Clements, several hundred metres east of the col, but the diversion was a very scenic and worthwhile one. Views towards Mount Cleveland and other prominent peaks to the north were great, even though the skies appeared to be a little hazy. A well-cairned trail marked the route up Cannon Mountain and was also very enjoyable to follow. All the characteristics that we have come to adore about Glacier National Park, Waterton, and The Castle were present: shapely, free-standing pinnacles, lichen covered walls of red and green argillite, and all the other stuff I frequently (and annoyingly) wax poetic over.

As we gained elevation it became very apparent why the trip would be better as a late-day ascent. By far, the most spectacular view of the trip was the one towards the magnificent trio of Clements, Reynolds, and Bearhat, encircling Hidden Lake. The best lighting for that view would be with the Sun in the west. At its present position (above us and slightly east), the sky was more white than blue, the lake all glare and no water, and the three primary mountains were mostly in silhouette. This was a disappointing situation, as this view was our primary motivation for the trip. 

We continued on, scrambling up one section that might be difficult to downclimb, and arrived at the summit at a surprisingly early 10 am. The panorama was indeed fantastic, even with the aforementioned lighting issues and the thin haze. Lake MacDonald to the southwest was huge!

Anticipating the descent to take about half our ascent time, we found an area near the summit, sheltered from the wind, and took a wonderful, extended rest, basking in the warm Sun. This gave us plenty of time to recuperate, but more importantly allowed the Sun to move towards the west a little. With that movement, the view of Clements improved significantly, the peak suddenly baring a striking resemblance to Mount Wilbur. As well, Hidden Lake started to take on its bluish-green hue.

At noon, we couldn’t delay the descent any longer and started down. Although the view towards the lake had improved (and continued to do so as we descended), I imagine that standing on the summit of Cannon Mountain at around 4 or 5 pm would grant one a scene of unmatched beauty in that direction. 

As for the descent, other than one short rappel, it was incredibly easy and fun. From the Clements/Cannon col an obvious trail allowed us to avoid gaining elevation up the west ridge of Clements. Only a constant barrage of photo opportunities slowed us down.

The perfect record continues – now at 11-0, looks like GNP could be in line for matching the Pats 16-0 season of 2007. Given what we have seen and experienced in the Park so far, I’d say the probability of going undefeated is very high!    

Early morning sky colours

Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain

A somewhat dreary view of Hidden Lake and Mount Reynolds

Bearhat and Mount Brown (right) get some sun


Traversing over to the west ridge of Clements

A section of Clements west ridge

More silhouettes and some wispy clouds

The Sun appears from behind Clements

Same as above

Looking back at the section of Clements west ridge we had to descend (much easier than it appears)

Cannon Mountain

The first part of the ascent

Typical rock on the lower section

Same as above

Mark scrambles up the ledgey terrain

A large pinnacle

Arriving at the other side of the ridge

The same pinnacle from above


More traversing

Arriving at the most scenic part of the ascent - the lichen-covered red argillite rock-bands

Checking out the argillite

Mark and the colourful rock

Same as above

An intriguing crack

More impressive walls of rock

The upper part of the ascent

A closer look at the summit block

An eastern outlier of Cannon

The view towards Hidden Lake starts to reveal itself, but without great lighting

Orange rock and Mount Gould at the distant right

The scenic upper ridge

Approaching the crux

Mark near the summit cairn

The summit view to the southwest

Glare on the lake and lots of silhouetted peaks

The Sperry Glacier

The southwest ridge of Cannon and Lake MacDonald

Lake MacDonald

Sitting around waiting for better views

Some improvement

A little more improvement

Mark returns to the summit after our 1.5 hour rest

Returning along the ridge

The view towards Clements (left) gets even better

Same as above

Mark rappels the crux

Even more improvement

Same as above

Clements does an excellent imitation of Mount Wilbur

Siyeh, Piegan, and Matahpi

Yet another view of Clements

Descending past the pinnacle

At the Clements/Cannon col; Gould, Bishop's Cap, Pollock, Siyeh, and Piegan in the background

The impressive northwest side of Clements


The best colours of the day

Reynolds and Hidden lake

Another repetitive photo

Signs of Autumn

A colourful cairn

One last look at the peaks around the lake

The shores of Hidden Lake

A green argillite block below the slopes of Clements

The east side of Clements

Back on Hidden Lake Trail; Going-to-the-Sun Mountain to the right