I've been talking to Dan Kim via facebook for a long time, and finally got a chance to climb a mountain with him. He wanted something in the short to medium range as he had to get back to Calgary by 5pm. Because this would be my 100th summit, I'd like something bigger. So? A big mountain but also a short ascent? I threw out several possible objectives, Mt Galatea, The Tower, Mt Rae, Mist Mtn, Mt Chester. We agreed on Mount Chester, the shortest of these.. Because Chester is so short, we just decided to meet at 8AM at Baldy Pass parking lot (TH for Midnight Peak, as both of us have done that), then car-pool to Chester Lake parking lot.
The ascent of Mount Chester can be divided in 3 sections: 1 hour to Chester Lake; another 1 hour to Chester - Little Chester col; the final 1 hour to the summit. Compared to the day before, I felt much more energetic, oh well, probably the weather is really a factor. The trail to Chester Lake is not steep and provided a good warm up. Because we talked a lot, this section passed by very quick. We passed another group of 4 also heading to Mt Chester at the start. Surprisingly we didn't see any bear digging nor bear scat... Is here supposed to be an active grizzly country?? I've snowshoed to Chester Lake in winter, and the view in summer is totally different. Actually, I like the summer view more.
At the lake, we followed an obvious path / trail skirting around the lake on west side. This trail led us directly to the bottom of the big gully. I don't know why Nugara writes Little Chester to the snowshoeing book. Man, this is dangerous in winter... Anyway, there was still some snow in the gully now, and it actually provided better footing than the nearby scree. Getting higher, the snow got icy and we traversed climber's right to the muddy scree. The scree wan't bad neither and we were able to keep a steady pace. 1 hour after leaving the Lake, we arrived at the col. My suggestion for this section is, you gonna keep your eyes on Little Galatea, as you have to get up almost that high when you finish the gully. The gully itself is very foreshortened.
I took a short energy break at the col, eating one muffin, and we soon started the trudge up the west face. Again, this slope is foreshortened. If you want a real perspective of it, I suggest you go Little Chester first to take a view of that. By this time of the day, both Dan and I were getting faster. From the col to the top, we kept a fast pace almost without a break. Sometimes we ignored the beaten path and just used the slab / rock, which was easier on the way up. By the time we almost reached the summit, the group of 4 topped out on the col..
The view was amazing!! Impressive mountains to the west, from Mt Joffre to Mt Assiniboine, too many names. I've already got similar views from Little Galatea and Rummel Ridge in winter so it was not that surprising. Towards the other side we were able to see the front peaks east of Kananaskis Valley. Mount Galatea looks impressive towards north. We also walked down the north ridge for about 20m to see Chester Lake below. On the other side, we could also see Headwall Lake. Too bad the register was missing.
We stayed for more than half an hour, and started the descent. Honestly I didn't want to leave the summit, but since Dan had to get back early we had to descend now. We followed one of the several beaten paths, and we were able to find scree run here and there. At the col, we decided to give Little Chester a shot. Although named, I don't consider this as a separate summit, unless I did it as a snowshoeing ascent. The reason is obvious, there's only about 20m elevation gain from the col to the summit... However, we did get some good perspective of the west face of Mount Chester from Little Chester, so this extra 15min is worthwhile. Also, if I start to see Little Chester on other peak-baggers' summit log, I will consider this as a separate one :)
Getting down the gully was easy. We could use either snow or the scree. The scree wasn't a perfect scree run but still easy on the knees. The snow was too hard to plunge-step. Dan was able to boot-ski down, while I just used the scree. Lower down, we both started using the snow as it softened quite a bit. Soon we were back at Chester Lake, where the afternoon sun made the view more beautiful. On the way back we got better view of our objective, Mt Chester. Coming down Chester Lake trail on a Sunday afternoon provides a perfect example of "Hi"king... Kananaskis Country is getting busier now.. It's good as more people are getting out.