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