Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Jasper / Hinton

This area covers the mountains accessed by Yellowhead Highway east of BC border, Maligne Road, and Highway 93A.

Steven Song
 
Indian Ridge
Jan 26, 2013

The slope of Indian Ridge appeared to be a true slog (on scree, not on snow). Since we wouldn't go b ...more

ack to this Pass, whether grabbing The Whistlers or not, we had to haul up snowshoes. The slope went on forever. Oh, I forgot this is a 2720m summit, more than 100m higher than Marmot... At least the view was getting better and better. And once we topped out on the ridge, we were treated with gorgeous view.

The summit bump looked to be nearby, but actually far away. We still needed to haul up the heavy stuffs for a good amount of distance and elevation. On the other side, glad we did this part of high ridge traverse, instead of going straight up to the summit. The view is needless to say, awesome towards each direction, especially giants like Edith Cavell.

The summit castle looks to be moderate from far, but actually a walk-up. We both enjoyed our 3rd summit of the day. We took a 10min break here. I went down the other side for a few meters to check out the connecting ridge to The Whistlers. It looks to be very steep, snowy, and corniced. A fall would be really bad towards skier's left, and possibly triggering an avalanche towards skier's right. And there were a good amount of this stuffs to deal with. We were both physically tired and mentally fatigued, and none of us was in the mood of challenging this traverse. For peaks like The Whistlers, I don't like to take any risk. We can do it at anytime we want.. It's as easy as one can expect from Whistler Creek in winter, and from the gondola side in summer.

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Steven Song
 
Muhigan Mountain
Jan 26, 2013

There was more post-holing going up the treed slope on the other side. On average we sank to knee de ...more

ep, but there were also some slabs providing easy travel. Once we made to treeline on the other side, there would be very minimal post-holing for the rest of the day. The slope was surprisingly lack of snow, and the snow was very shallow and firm. By this time we were way ahead of schedule, and it would only take us 1 hour to get up Indian Ridge, then we would be done for the day. So I pointed out the possibility to increase our ambition, that was, to grab an officially named peak, far away from where we were, Muhigan Mountain. That was on my list ever since I spotted it on topo map, and we would have good chance to make it if the snow was firm all the way. To do so we had to aim for Indian Pass, the col between a bump and Indian Ridge. It was very foreshortened and it took us 1 hour to get there from treeline. During which we were treated with excellent view.

Even though we are peak-baggers, we have to admit the alpine traverse from Whistler Creek to the base of Muhigan was the highlight of this day. We got impressive looking mountains all around us, and excellent weather as well. This is not a popular traverse and I haven't read even one trip report for Muhigan, not even as a summer ascent. I was thinking about bushwhacking straight up Muhigan from Highway 16, which will be a much shorter way to grab this peak. Glad I didn't do that, or I would miss all the views between Muhigan and Indian. We were facing about 100m elevation loss immediately after Indian Pass. We tried to side-slope around the bump (for reference, I name it Indian Pass Bump, I won't claim it as a summit though), resisting losing too much elevation. Side-sloping on snowshoes on hard snow was very painful on our ankles, and there was one boulder field forcing us to take off snowshoes. It was too dry! Too dry even for snowshoeers. For skiers, you probably want to wait until March.

We regained a bit of elevation and made to the next pass. This pass doesn't have a name. If counting Marmot Pass, then this will be a "three pass route". Maybe I should do the Six Pass Traverse this spring. The terrain ahead of us looks to be even drier, and we decided to ditch snowshoes at this point. It would be useless and we certainly didn't want to haul them for any further. Even though by this point, our second objective, Muhigan Mountain, still hadn't showed up. We mistakenly thought a bump on the west shoulder of unnamed peak as Muhigan, but as we got closer, we realized our mistake. It was still far away. Once we topped out on the shoulder, we got our first view of Muhigan. Indeed, still a long way to go. By this time, more Tonquin Valley peaks started to show up, and obviously, some of them are nothing more than scree slog. We also got a good view of Mount Geikie. I guess there's no need to introduce this peak...

So we started side-hilling around the unnamed peak towards our objective. This section holds snow quite a bit and we had to post-hole for a few hundred meters. But overall we made a good decision to leave snowshoes behind. Apparently the direct traverse to Muhigan requires some scrambling on snow covered terrain, and doing so at such a remote place wasn't that inspiring. However, as we got closer, we decided to give it a go to save some distance. It was moderate with a couple of difficult moves. In summer, it will be easy scrambling. Of course, a walk-up route exists if you don't mind to traverse further west for a hundred meters. By this time, some clouds were moving in, obscuring the views. Too bad we didn't get a sunny summit panorama. There was a glass register, to our surprise. However we couldn't open it. We didn't stay on the summit, and immediately turned around. We were 17km away from car, and we had to maintain a fast pace. We were using a fast pace, and it only took us 1.5 hours to get here from Indian Pass.

We retraced our steps down the moderate part. It was good to do some hands-on stuffs. This is Ben descending the ridge. We simply retraced our footprints back. Note that I'm using footprints here, not holes. There was only a short section of post-holing (on foot), but other than, it was a walk on either scree or rock-hard snow, and occasionally, ice. Weather started to get better again, oh well.. Due to the change in sun direction, we got different view on the way back. We thought of grabbing this higher unnamed peak, but decided to wait for another day, maybe summer time (too give a better reason for claiming it). And soon we made back to our snowshoes, and then we slogged back up Indian Pass. It also took us exactly 1.5 hours from summit of Muhigan to the Pass. Guess we were getting tired.

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Steven Song
 
Marmot Mountain
Jan 26, 2013

Never thought of doing 37.5km distance on snowshoes in January. This distance is even marginally lon ...more

ger than my 15-hour ascent of Castleguard in May. But on this Saturday, January 26, Ben and I did it, 13 hours on full force.

This time we decided to go back to tradition, to sleep at trail head. However, non of us knew Marmot Basin was gated in midnight, so when we arrived there, we had no choice but driving down to Portal Creek (Tonquin Valley TH), which is the closest place we could park... This means we had an extra 5km distance one way with near 300m more elevation gain.. Oh well. It was obviously frustrating but my logic was, we both have no trouble doing 3000m elevation and 40km distance in summer, so the only thing we had to do was to wake up a bit earlier. So we set up alarm at 4:30AM.

We woke up under a full moon. Excellent! That means we didn't need headlamp at all. So we had a quick breakfast (one sandwich for me) and got ready pretty soon, and we started the day a few minutes passing 5. Having the entire day ahead of us, we tried to walk as fast as we could up the Marmot Basin Road. The only way to walk faster was to jog. We made to the gate in just 30min and hopped over it, then another 20min brought us to the upper parking lot. Nobody was working there, and we quickly spotted the Whistler Creek TH. You could snowshoe up the ski runs all the way to the summit, but I believe Sunshine Village is the only one allowing to do so, so in order not getting caught by ski patrols, you need to wake up very very early. Unless you can walk and snowshoe as fast as me, you probably want a wake-up time around 3:30. There will be snowmobiles going up the runs by as early as 6:30, and you have to at least making to the upper basin by that time. Anyway, the Whistler Creek Trail is maintained by Marmot Basin so it was very easy to follow. Under full moon, it was quite a peaceful environment.

It was a long way around Marmot Mountain to its backside. I didn't calculate, but it should be around 10km away from our parking lot. Again, this was such a memorable ascent due to the full moon. Too bad I don't have those fancy camera gears so I can't show you any photo. All the nearby peaks were clearly visible and we knew exactly where we were going. I think doing 4AM start under full moon will become my favourite in the future. We tried to slow down on the upper slope as we started to realize we were too fast. We would miss the sunrise photos if we kept going up under this pace. But, I guess the most comfortable way is to keep your regular pace. I usually take more photos to slow down the pace if I want, or to take short breaks, but given the face our cameras didn't work under faint light, we soon went back to our pace... It didn't take us long to arrive at Marmot Mountain summit. The sky was slowly getting brighter, but we were still way ahead of schedule. We waited there for about 20min until the coldness forced us to descend. It must be below -15 degree, and under this temperature, we must keep moving. Ben's camera is better than mine and he could take a couple of photos without blurring, but that's it for this summit. I really like the awesome looking Peveril Peak, and I'm glad Ben got a photo of it.

In order to get better photos, we took a slightly less direct line. Instead of dropping down straight towards Whistler Creek, we decided to descend the ridge towards Marmot Pass. On the slope we were treated by the ever-changing colours. I especially like the reddish view over Mount Kerkeslin. The snow was excellent (rock hard) for going uphill, which also means, it was terrible to go down. Every step was on the knees. Of course, even though there wasn't enough snow, we could still find lines to glissade. But given the face we wanted to slow down, we didn't bother with that. And of course, the impressive Terminal Mountain and Manx Peak was always eye-catching, and I finally could get a photo of them without blurring...

We didn't drop all the way down to Marmot Pass, instead we cut straight down the slope to save some distance. More interesting colours started to show up, and we quickly got down to treeline. Some post-holing was waiting for us, but it was brief. We soon crossed the Whistler Creek and started up the other side. By now, we had done the most significant elevation loss in this traverse. We were treated with some alpenglow views.

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Steven Song
 
Opal Peak
Nov 12, 2012

This is the 3rd day of November long weekend, and I woke up under cloudy sky in town of Jasper. It w ...more

asn't as cold as the previous two nights, but I still quickly made my way to A&W for warmth. I was a bit worrying about the snow condition on Opal, as the slope is very avalanche prone and I had to solo that part. There's an alternative plan on the south end of Skyline, namely Sunset Peak, so it was okay. After breakfast, I drove towards Maligne Lake. The road was quite icy at places but was manageable.

I could see screes on the upper slope of Opal so it should be okay, so we kept our original plan. This only involves 1100m elevation gain, so we didn't need to rush. I did all of the trail-breaking though, and mom was following me. Near treeline, snow got much deeper. Despite the fact I was wearing 30' snowshoes, I still sank to knees, almost to the bottom of the snow pack... It was so unsupportive.

To get to the base of the peak, I had to loose some elevation. According to the map, this area is called Opal Hills. Mom decided to wait for me at here, as she's not used to big slope. The left hand side skyline would be the safest in terms of avalanche condition, but I figured out the snow wouldn't be deep enough to slide. I could just pick a straight line up the face and the step-kicking would be awesome. I ditched my snowshoes at treeline and changed to crampons. The scree was frozen solid and there was a layer of ice so crampons would be necessary. The step-kicking up the face was great but went very slow due to the foreshortened view. I knew this was a 2800m peak so at least I had to get up higher than the peaks on Skyline.

Higher up, I went into the clouds.... White-out on the summit. After a quick photo for the big cairn, I soon started the descent. It was very windy and cold. Plunge-stepping down the slope was way faster and in no time the view started to show up again. I re-joined mom at the base, and we retraced out footprints down the mountain. Round trip time: 6 hours

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Steven Song
 
Mount Solomon
Oct 8, 2012

The last day of long weekend, we chose an easy objective near Hinton. Mount Solomon is just a hike w ...more

ith 600m elevation gain.

Direction:
Go north on Highway 40 towards Grand Cache, after crossing Athabasca River, watch for sign towards Brule / Black Cat Ranch on your left side, and turn left. After about 11km, watch for sign to Black Cat Ranch, turn right onto a gravel road, and follow the road to the end. The trailhead is on the right side of a gate, and is well marked.

There's a maze of trails but all of the intersections are marked. You just need to follow sign #18: summit of Solomon trail. The trail went on longer than expected. I thought it's just like another Exshaw Mountain, but I was wrong...

The summit is actually treed, but does offer good view towards the front range and Brule Lake. You probably want to descend about 20m towards west to a better viewpoint. The weather was bad throughout the day and most peaks were covered in clouds. Glad I didn't push on doing Utopia... There were two registers which surprised me a bit. No familiar names though.

Due to the cold weather, we didn't stay long. I also had some homework unfinished so the sooner we got back home, the better.

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Steven Song
 
Roche Bonhomme
Oct 7, 2012

I felt good on energy after the intense Jasper Skyline traverse. My original plan for the 2nd day wa ...more

s either Marmot Mountain or Opal Peak, but since I still had a good amount of energy, I decided to increase the ambition a bit, namely Roche Bonhomme. I could vaguely remember the trailhead was somewhere near Maligne Canyon hostel.. Instead of bushwhacking to hell like what Eric did, I decided to slowly drive up the road to try finding the trail head. There it is! It's about 200m up the road and there's a good cairn marking it.

Mom hasn't done a hike since June, so we had to go up slowly. Anyway, the trail was pretty easy to follow. It doesn't have switchbacks which I like. But for mom, she had to stop regularly due to the lack of exercise. The treed slope went on forever. I think near 90% of the elevation gain is done in the trees, so make sure you know this before doing this peak, or you'll get very frustrated. The treeline on Roche Bonhomme is higher than on the treeline on Signal Mountain, probably because it's west facing. The clouds lifted up for temporarily when we hit the treeline.

Mom still hasn't been used to loose ground so she decided to wait for me at treeline. Anyone knows how to help beginners getting used to big slope / loose scree? I followed the somehow obvious trail straight up the mountain. The trail leads up to the summit ridge. It's all just steep hike / easy scrambling to get here. The sky clouded over again...

The summit ridge is easy scrambling with one moderate step just after false summit. It might be much easier if dry, but I had to deal with slippery condition. After that, there was a 20m knee deep post-holing section, and soon I stood on the summit. The view could be much better without the clouds. The mountains in Colin Range look impressive. I could see why these peaks are not written in the scramble book...

I retraced my steps down. The upper slope was good to get down, but once entering the trees, the descend was pretty hard on the knees. If not because of the deadfalls, I'd prefer to bushwhack down beside the trail as the mossy ground could be much better... However, the tens of deadfalls made this idea impractical.

At the end of the day, we went to the nearby Maligne Canyon for photos.

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Steven Song
 
Bald Hills
Mar 25, 2012

I've been hoping to do a hike in Maligne Lake area for a long time, and Bald Hills offers a perfect ...more

introductory. I got a perfect day with bluebird sky. The only downside was the considerable - considerable - moderate avalanche condition. I had to stay off steep slopes since I was soloing. Bald Hills was supposed to be done during Winter in the Mountains Course offered by ACC as a ski trip, however due to the superb condition we ended up doing Hilda Ridge. Well, if we did Bald Hills on that day, we wouldn't make to the summit though. There is not much to say about the trail itself. The beginning is very packed down so that you can carry your snowshoes here to speed up. After a while, there is a branch going left, steeply uphill. I took this one, the shortcut. You can pretty much follow the ski tracks to the alpine bowl. Remember, the summit is on your left. I didn't know this and I thought the one in front of me is higher so I ascent that one... I realized my mistake about halfway up, but since I was there, I decided to summit this little one anyway. If the avalanche condition is not considerable, I probably can traverse to the true summit, but on this day, I chose to retrace my steps down to the bowl. From the bowl, it's about 20-30min trudge to the true summit. The view is superb. I know most people don't make to here though, instead they usually turn back after breaking treeline. However, what I can tell is, the view to the other side is far more fantastic than the view towards Maligne Lake side. Return the same way. Due to similar characteristics, I would compare Bald Hills with Twin Cairns in Banff and Burstall Pass Peak in Kananaskis, and they offer unparallel views.

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Steven Song
 
Folding Mountain
Mar 24, 2012

This March was a bit less than ideal. We got storm after storm. There was only one sunny weekend, an ...more

d I experienced the strongest wind ever on Coffin Mtn. And due to the record breaking snow, probably every mountain in the Rockies requires snowshoes. FINALLY, we got a blue bird weekend over the entire western Canada!! Folding Mountain is a somehow not-so-well-known mountain near Hinton, outside Jasper National Park boundary. It receives much less attention than the nearby Roche a Perdrix. Approaching from Edmonton, the trail head is about 15min drive after leaving Hinton. Park at the Roadside Turnoff, and walk along South side of Yellowhead Highway towards East for about 10min. The trail head is marked by a huge yellow hiker sign (bigger than your head).

I would say, if you have to do the entire thing on snowshoes, then do NOT underestimate this mountain. It has a fair amount of net elevation gain (1200m?) with a long approach. We felt lucky to saw fresh snowshoe tracks at the beginning, only to find it completely disappeared after the first significant elevation gain. I think the folks who made the trail turned back here. They made one fourth of the way up. Most part of this mountain is forested, with lots of up-and-down sections. Breaking trail and bushwhacking on your own without GPS here is a bit dangerous because you are likely getting lost. We also saw cougar tracks (not 100% sure) near one boulder opening area. I felt nervous when seeing large animal tracks (I'm not soloing so it's okay). Good thing we did manage to regain the trail. The trail is very easy to follow despite the snow cover. Because the forest is very dense, the folks who made the trail had to cut down the tree branches a lot. So just follow the cutline. Near the treeline you will be on a ridge with exposure (hiker's standard) on your left. Follow the edge up to the treeline. The last 150m or so elevation gain is on scree and talus. I would say it's easy scrambling to the summit due to the steep and loose terrain.

From the summit, it looks like you can walk on the ridge all the way to Fiddle Peak without difficulties. However, we were running out of time here. Instead of traversing to Fiddle, we traversed further SE on the ridge for about 40min before turning back. Since I haven't done Roche a Perdrix, I will probably gonna ascend Fiddle via Roche a Perdrix side (requires difficult scrambling), and descent via Folding Mountain (long and tedious). This naturally makes a loop ridge traverse that requires a full day. Any die-heart scrambler volunteer?. I'm quite interested in that though.
The descent is nothing but tedious due to the several uphill sections. It would be extremely boring if you are alone.

Despite the long approach in forest, the summit view is excellent. Although Roche a Perdrix has better scrambling involved, Folding Mountain do stand on a relatively isolated position, and as a result, you can see more mountains that you wouldn't see from Perdrix. On the way driving to Jasper, we stopped at several viewpoints to take advantage of the sunset hours. We got several great shots of Roche Miette, the mountain that I ascent one month ago.

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Steven Song
 
Hawk Mountain
Feb 20, 2012

One of the most serious winter ascents due to the extremely exhausting snow-whacking... However, in ...more

terms of views, this is one of my favourites. I've prepared for this mountain for a while, and I almost can remember the exact route without using Kane's book. But, I forgot one thing, that it, the route has a section of treed ridge, which often holds lots of snow.... BAD BAD BAD I didn't bring snowshoes with me.

You have to walk about 35min to approach this mountain, with some elevation gain and loss, then start to climb up. You have some dead falls to negotiate not far up, followed by some miserable ice, snow, dirt, scree, slabs, and vegetation covered ground, which leads you up angling right behind a small treed area. The higher you go, the more slippery it is. Not far up you will find that you are at the crux chimney. I came straight up the chimney, which definitely deserves the difficult rating, especially there was even some ice, but not exposed. The section above the chimney was terribly looooose. Again, its mainly slab with ice, snow, vegetation, dirt, clay, scree, and rubble on top. You mainly traverse on some ledges so better don't fall or slip. But if you are concentrating enough, it won't be a problem, at least for uphill.

When you top out on the main ridge, the crux section is done. Most parties can relax from here. But for me, damn the snow, what's waiting for me was, a 2-hour-knee-to-waist-deep post-holing. Come on man.. I knew retracing my steps down this section would be way faster according to my previous experience of post-holing, so after estimating the time, I set up my turn around time to 3:30, which gives me 3 hours to get down the crux section before dark. Fortunately the post-holing part stayed only for 2 hours. It definitely exhausted me, and after this section, I was only half way up the mountian.

Soon I topped out on a rock outcrop, which indicates the discontinuity of the ridge, ohh man.. There're more treed area to deal with. There's no way I gonna start another post-holing section. So I just decided to deviate from the proper scramble route and do some exposed slab scrambling on the west face (not too difficult though), to avoid most of the snow on the treed ridge backbone. It took me another 40min to finish this section and finally I'm out of the trees. Now I can see Morro Peak is getting smaller and smaller the farther up I go.

There're many many false summits to overcome. I saw several groups of bighorn sheep on this part. Good thing they’re not cougars... Once you can see Roche Miette topping out behind Jacques Range, you are getting closer to the final summit block. The final summit block is quite steep, and has elevation gain of 300m... I pushed myself up, almost without break except for taking pictures. It's mainly a moderate scramble to the top from here, but due to the snow, it's more like the easy side of difficult. Note some snow slopes are quite steep and do not have good run out zone. Ice axe is definitely mandatory here for safety. Eventually, after 5.5 hours trudging, I stand on the summit. The last ascent was back in Sept, 2011. I spent 15min or so on the summit, having energy break, soaking in the views and taking numerous panoramas, as well as, signing the ACME Register.

I basically retraced my steps on the way down. I had to down-climb those exposed slab ledges that I've mentioned above before getting into the real post-hole part. Coming down and retracing my steps the post-holing section is quite fast (30min) compared to coming up (2 hours). Coming down the loose area above and below the crux was actually slower than coming up (extremely loose). I bypassed the crux on the way down. This bypass is definitely easier, as I could face downhill all the time, but definitely more exposed. So it's a trade-off thing. The whole descend took me a bit more than 4 hours in total. So I spent 10 hours on this mountain.

Kane's book says it's 5-8 hours round trip time, while it's way too optimistic. Considering the previous three days' hard work, the winter condition, and the terrible post-holing, my round trip time seems like way too long. If I do this in summer in good condition, I might can finish in 7-8 hours. I guess the proper time would be 8-11 hours for most parties. If you gonna try this in winter, I would say starting at 8 and bring your snowshoes even though the entire route appears dry from Yellowhead Hwy. (I started at 9 and barely made back before using headlamp).

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Steven Song
 
Signal Mountain
Feb 19, 2012

The third day of my 4-day-Jasper-peak-begging trip. Park at Signal / Skyline Parking lot or Maligne ...more

Canyon Parking lot, take the Jasper Skyline Trail. This is a very long hike / snowshoe trip. Soloing all the way is extremely boring, especially for the 9km-one-way trail in the woods. You don't have any view in the woods, and you just simply work your way up a very gentle grade on the mountain. For skiers, Signal Lookout is probably the most popular destination in this area in winter. For for me, a peak bagger, I wouldn't satisfy if only make to the Lookout. To get to the mountain, you don't need to go all the way to the lookout, instead at the treeline, go straight towards the summit. The ground usually gets wind-blown once completely above the treeline. It's merely a easy scramble, or just an off-trail hiking to the summit. There's a big cairn, but I still can see higher points further down the ridge, and according to Gem Trek's map, the summit lies further south. So I just traversed the entire thing to make sure I summitted the mountain.

The weather was not cooperating at all. It was cloudy most of the day, so despite the relatively isolated location, I could only see the very nearby summits like Mt. Tekarra. I would like to scramble up that thing in the following summer. For the reference see Vern Dewit's report on Tekarra. Mt. Edith Cavell never showed up, nor did Mt. Robson. But I did get great view towards Morro Peak and Hawk Mountain, which I ascended the day before and after, respectively.

The round trip distance is somewhere about 21-23km, and I'm not quite sure the exact. Elevation gain is about 1100m or so, so the grade is very gentle. I didn't even use my shoesnoes’ heal lift system. Round Trip Time is 6.5 hours.

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Steven Song
 
Morro Peak
Feb 18, 2012

We were both tired after the 10.5hr ascent of Roche Miette the day before, so we chose a relatively ...more

easier object, namely Morro Peak. Also, since it has the same starting as Hawk Mountain, we can study Hawk a bit on this trip. Although Morro Peak is short compared with its big brother, Hawk Mtn, it's not particularly easy. I would rate it as a moderate scramble, as you don't have any trail to follow. Just simply work your way through the bushes. Maybe the trail is snow covered so I couldn't see it, but there're some cairns to mark the route. We missed the turn so ended up too far down the Overlander Trail. So? just continued to the Morro Creek to check out Hawk Mountain first. The canyon that separates Morro and Hawk is very steep and impressive. After this side trip, Morgan was too tired to continue on Morro Peak. So we went back to car and I soloed Morro after. It took me 2 hours up and 1 hour down, pretty slow because of the terrible bushwhacking. The summit is even treed... The view is okay if you haven't done Hawk. I did Hawk two days after, and it definitely has way better view. So I guess unless you really want to check this summit off, or you simply want a short day, don't even attempt this peak. It's not fun and probably not worth your effort.

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Steven Song
 
Roche Miette
Feb 17, 2012

Supposed to be only a moderate to difficult scramble, but it ends up being one of my most serious as ...more

cents. It is my first scramble with Morgan Peacock. We skipped Friday because the weather forecast looks gorgeous on that day. Roche Miette is rated as a moderate to difficult scramble. However, due to ascending wrong gully, we miserably upgraded it to a higher level. Morgan rates it as an Alpine Climb Free Solo, while I haven't done any alpine climb so I can't tell, but what I can tell is our descent gully (proper scramble route) is really nothing compared with our ascent gully. Anyway, we made to the summit.

From the parking lot, walk down a cutline for 15min? or so. The trail is obvious because there are deadfalls blocking the cutline ahead. Based on other scramblers' reports, it seems like most people got on wrong trail. There are indeed several junctions on the trail but the wrong one usually has a deadfall on it. Anything like that indicates you shouldn't go that way.

Morgan attempt this mountain last year, so I assumed he knew exactly where to turn and which gully to ascend. However, we counted too much on each other, and we were both not quite sure which gully to ascend...... I seriously didn't even read thoroughly Kane's book about Roche Miette. At the saddle looking towards the summit, the proper gully is on the left side, left of the big snow gully. It looks to me the right-side-most gully is the driest. Ooops, the game began here. The goal is just to climb up. But what we couldn't see was some of the cliff bands' slabs are down-slopping. Combined with the snow and ice, this really makes the feeling of doing an alpine climb. There're several spots that require climber's move, but they're not super exposed. A fall will hurt you or might injure you, but won't kill you. With the successful and miserable ascent of Midnight Peak (a wrong ridge ascent), these moves and situations didn't impose too much problem to me, but for Morgan, it definitely exceeded his comfortable level. He was very nervous about if we could make out of the gully and if not, we had to down climb all the way. I was faster so I decided to go by myself to see if it works (based on my observation from the saddle it's quite doable, but you never know). If it works, he then continue. I didn't encounter any major rock band that's higher than 2m, nor any exposed section. It took him a while (I forget how long) to get through this gully and we were both topping out on the plateau...

Okay... We made two stupid mistakes. 1. You should always respect any mountain especially the ones rated moderate or difficult so bring a route photo, no matter if you've attempt it before or not. 2. If you find out you're on a wrong route, turn back unless all of your team members can downclimb those difficult sections. I'm okay to downclimb those. For several spots I climbed up then down then up again just to make sure I can retrace down if this gully doesn't work, BUT I'm not sure if Morgan can...

After this gully part, it was only a leisurely walk to the summit cairn. We checked out the register, the last ascent was in October, 2011, so we made the first ascent in 2012. The descending route (correct route) is quite loose and steep, and I would say it’s only a moderate scramble, not difficult. Compared with our ascent route, it's really nothing but tedious. We had to be careful not to kick down rocks to each other. The lower section is a fun glissade down the major snow gully. After finishing all the scrambling parts, we had to watch sunset on the mountain... We speeded up and barely made back before headlamp time.

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Steven Song
 
Mount Tekarra
Oct 6, 2012

The last summit of the day. Seeing Tekarra from Amber Mountain was very discouraging, oh man, that w ...more

as a long way to go. I didn't do any break, instead immediately started the traverse. This ridge section was very scenic though.

The connecting ridge initially goes pretty easy. Things got trickier as I approaching Mt. Tekarra. The ridge narrows significantly. This section reminds me the traverse from Nihahi to Compression. Same direction (towards north); same difficulty (transition from hiking to difficult scramble); same tiredness (the last summit of an insane traverse); same time of the day (6pm ish); and more important, I was soloing on both... I would rate the connecting ridge as upper moderate scramble in dry condition. For me, dealing the wet quartz really made me feel like doing difficult scramble. Now I arrived at the base of Tekarra.

I circumvented these cliff bands on climber's left side, but after doing so, I found there were two summits, and I didn't know which was the higher. I chose to ascend the left one as it has a weather station but it turned out to be the false summit... I managed to beat sunset to get up here and took an excellent panorama. The gorgeous view made me feel like doing an alpine trip. Normally you won't get these sunset views when doing day trips. The true summit (the south summit) was about 10min away, but I really had to hurry down as I knew the descend gully wasn't easy. I must get down before dark. I still consider myself as finishing this peak though, especially given the fact I traversed this peak.

Based on the earlier observation, I knew the descent gully is somewhere on skier's left side. I managed to find footprints on the snow, but they're not humans. They're apparently sizable bear's track... The footprints ended at the gully. Apparently the bear felt it was too steep for him to descend... But what the heck he was doing on the summit of Tekarra... I took out my ice axe and carefully descended the upper part. I would say the crux was the initial 20m or so. Overall it was actually easier than anticipated and I quickly moved down the gully.

I could see the evening view of Jasper townsite, but too bad I couldn't get a photo of it without blurring.. I carefully descended the last boulder section of the day to safer ground. Because of the snow I didn't have to use headlamp until about 1 hour later. I descended diagonally downhill while side-sloping around Signal Mountain. Eventually I managed to re-join my footprints and followed them back to Signal Mountain road. I took a necessary break and after that, I ran down the final 8.5km. Round Trip time: 14.5 hours.

I've told my mom I would be back in about 15 hours so I made back in time. That's the reason why I ran down the final 8.5km so she wouldn't get too worried. I felt pretty good on energy and we did Roche Bonhomme the next day.

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Steven Song
 
Amber Mountain
Oct 6, 2012

After bagging Excelsior and Center, it was time to continue to the 3rd summit of the day. I dropped ...more

down to the valley floor to rejoin Skyline Trail, there's a beautiful lake waiting for me. I refilled my water again.

I didn't bother to follow the trail up the connecting ridge between Amber and Tekarra. The ground wasn't boulder anyway so I hiked straight up. The trail was covered in snow so it won't save me energy though.

I quickly gained the ridge, and what surprised me was how far I still had to go towards Amber Mountain. I made the bad decision of staying on the ridge crest. The trail, which was not visible, actually traversed slightly below the ridge crest on climber's left side. More boulders punished me for not seeing the trail though.. I bypassed the false summit on climber's left side, and then the summit was just in front of me. Now, I saw a group of 3 backpackers approaching from the other side. They were doing the classic Maligne Lake to Jasper traverse over 3 days. Amber Mountain is really just a bump, but since it has a name, it qualifies a separate summit.

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Steven Song
 
Center Mountain
Oct 6, 2012

From Excelsior/Center col, I started the ascent of 2nd peak of the day. Slogging up Center Mountain ...more

was easier than I thought. The lower slope was good snow. Boulders didn't come until I was 2/3 of the way up. There were several rock crevasses near the summit. They weren't completely covered by snow though, but this really alerted me. I did make a lot of probing though. If you don't probe, you'll get surprised often, and possibly break your legs or twist your ankles... The traverse from Excelsior to Center took me 1.5 hours.

The summit view was still awesome, but given the fact I had just bagged Excelsior Mountain, the views were a bit repeating.

The connecting ridge to Amber Mountain didn't look inviting though. It's not because of the difficulty, I just didn't want to deal with another 2 hours of boulders.. I knew the Skyline Trail leads up to Amber, so maybe following the trail was a better option, although this way I had to drop down to valley floor. I descended the north ridge for a few hundred meters, and then turned skier's left and got several hundred meters of scree run! Thanks! But the terrain soon changed to boulder field again... It was pretty close to the bottom anyway, and I quickly made my way down.

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Steven Song
 
Excelsior Mountain
Oct 6, 2012

I had my eyes on the Jasper Skyline traverse since I snowshoed up Signal Mountain back in February. ...more

Signal is not really a mountain, but rather a bump on the north end of the range. I didn't know where I should go until Friday, when the latest weather forecast suggested that I should head to Jasper instead of Kananskis. I didn't feel like soloing for all three days, so I decided to take my mom on the trip. She hadn't done a hike since Ship's Prow Mountain in June, so I figured out she wouldn't have the fitness for 3 days. It didn't take me long to make the decision of traversing Jasper Skyline north section, after messaging Vern about the route up Mount Tekarra from south side (Amber Mountain side). I knew it's doable from north because I have the photos taken from Signal, so ideally it should be done as a traverse. Of course I wouldn't let mom joining me up this traverse as I had to speed things up if I wanted to success. The parking lot is pretty close to Maligne Canyon anyway.

The 5:30 alarm couldn't wake me up in the morning, as it was too cold.. I re-set my alarm to 6:30 but still couldn't get up in time.. Anyway, I finally started the trudge at 7:30am. If I could get up earlier, the day would be more enjoyable, but now, I had to rush throughout the day. Doing a trip of 40km distance & 3000m elevation gain with snow covering 80% of the ground in October really really requires a headlamp start (6am start).

For those of you planning on Jasper Skyline, make sure you get mentally prepared for the initial 2 hours trudging up Signal Mountain road. You had almost zero view along the way, and the road just went on forever.. Biking is allowed here but the ground isn't that gentle to comfortably bike up. Without a heavy pack, you should make to treeline in about 2 hours. I encountered snow at about 300m vertical meters up. Thankfully the snow was only about 10-15cm deep. If I had to start post-holing at this stage, I definitely wouldn't make it... But the snow did slow me down a bit. The Skyline Trail became harder and harder to follow as I progressed through. I lost the trail for a few times in some large meadows, but I managed to re-gain the trail soon. The clouds were lifting up now and that was really encouraging. The trail hugs around treeline traversing below Signal Mountain, and circumvents the east ridge extension of Mount Tekarra to its back side.

What was appearing to be very close, Excelsior Mountain, seemed to be very far away now, because there was apparently a significant amount of elevation loss to get down to campground Tekarra... Well, I didn't pay attention to the contour lines on the map, so I wasn't mentally prepared for this part. At least it was down-hill so the hiking was relatively fast, and I soon made down to the campground. It's 15km one way to get here from parking lot.

Excelsior Mountain is the big slope directly ahead of me, and looks to be straightforward.. Really? Not with snow on... I re-filled my water bottle at a stream near the campground. By the way, you don't need to bring more than 1.5L water up Jasper Skyline as there're plenty of water sources. I crossed the stream and bushwhacked straight up the slope, only to find I actually topped out on the small hill... Damn, I had to lose all of the elevation.. This was quite frustrating but anyway. I dropped down to the creek bed again, and now I could ascend straight up. Looking back, Mount Tekarra looks impressive. What I didn't know was, Excelsior Mountain is actually higher than Tekarra.

I soon broke through the trees, and now what... A giant slope of snow covered boulder field. What looks like to be a giant rubble slope turned out to be quartz boulder field as I got closer... This could be fun in dry condition, but when wet, the scrambling could get very tricky. I had to hands-down regularly to prevent me from slipping. Slipping and falling on these boulders could result in serious injury so I had to be careful. The slope went on forever, and it felt like eternity. I suggest you to constantly look back at Mount Tekarra, not just because of the view, but also it gives you a good perspective of how far you still have to go. You gotta get higher than Tekarra. The slope itself is very very foreshortened. It took me 6 hours to get up Excelsior from parking lot, which was much slower than anticipated... A big WOW moment was waiting for me at the summit. This is quite a lofty summit as I was looking down at most nearby peaks except for the distant giants like Edith Cavell.

I didn't do the necessary summit stay as I was quite behind schedule. I really had to speed up a bit. I quickly made my way down the west ridge. To my surprise, this involves much less boulders compared to the north face route. It didn't take me long to drop down to Excelsior/Center col. The day continues with an ascent of Center Mountain, then Amber Mountain, and finally Mount Tekarra.

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Photos taken by Steven