While doing the Big Traverse one week ago, Neil (Travelin' Jones) and I were already planning on this weekend's plan, namely Mount French... However, a snow storm made things questionable. We still wanted to give it a go, and if things don't look good, we had Mt. Jellicoe as the back-up plan. We met at Burstall Pass trail head at 6:45am. Things were far worse than anticipated. Almost all of the 3000+ peaks had snow on, especially those around Mt. Sir Douglas. Neil had failed French last year due to verglass, snow, and white-out, and there's no way to fail it twice. I'm not in favour of doing Jellicoe from French Creek side due to obvious reasons. I prefer doing Jellicoe from Turbine Canyon side. That side is much more scenic, and more important, doesn't involve bushwhacking, nor glacier travel. So, after some discussion, we finally decided to set our eyes on another nearby high peak, Mount Galatea, with the option to grab Gusty and Fortress.
So we all drove across the dusty Smith Dorrien road, and parked at Chester Lake parking lot. For scramblers, you should be able to get to Chester Lake in one hour. While circumventing the lake on the north side, watch for a well defined but unmarked trail that leads to Three Lakes Valley. Looking back, the morning light shown on Sir Douglas and Birdwood was gorgeous.
Not far up, we broke through the trees and arrived at the first lake. We could see the yellow larches, but because we were in the shadow, I decided to save photos for the return. The trail becomes less and less distinguishable as we venturing further in the valley, and finally disappears in the sea of rubble and boulders. Now we were at the base of our first objective, Mt. Galatea.
I would say, following the exact line given by Kane, 90% of the ascent is a rubble slog... I don't want to describe too much here, as it was all about preserving. We got our first sunlight of the day about half way up the slope, and thus our first break - sunscreen break. After what seems like eternity, we popped out on the summit ridge. Now, the fun part began. We tried to stick exactly to the ridge crest for as much as we could. At places, we had to expose ourselves to the entire NE face drop-off, probably 1000m relief. The scrambling gets very difficult at other places. But the trick is, every "climber's" section is avoidable on climber's left side if you don't mind to side-slope on rubble, so we didn't have a feeling of doing a serious ascent at all. Soon we made to the summit, 3 hours 20 minutes after leaving our cars. The view would be much better if there was no forest fire on-going... But too bad, we got a smoky summit view.
We did a long summit stay, probably more than half an hour, before heading down. We went around all of the difficulties and simply picked the easiest line on tedious rubble. This way, the mountain is moderate at most. There's very little scree run so descending was very hard on the knees. After the endless rubble slog, we eventually made back to Three Lakes Valley. Now we could focus on the views.