June 23, 2013
This is another peak that has no “mountain” nor “peak” in its name. It’s on the Victoria Cross Range, just north of Jasper townsite. Everyone probably would have seen it when visiting Jasper but it’s relatively unknown and there is no online trip report to rely on. It’s dwarfed by the nearby more prominent and popular Pyramid Mountain. Eric, Ben, and I did it as the second peak of our epic Victoria Cross Range traverse in one day.
After summitting Pyramid Mountain at the ridiculously early 6:20AM, we immediately started the descent via its southwest ridge. Like the normal ascent route (north ridge), this ridge is also full of boulders. The entire upper mountain is pretty much a giant boulder field. Oh well, sounds familiar if you’re a fan of Jasper area? After a long time we hit a orange band that goes all the way down Pyramid’s west face. It looked from above that it would offer mostly scree run. It wasn’t, but not overly too bad. It’s a mix of scree and rubble until we eventually merged to snow line. The snow was too icy and steep to glissade. We carefully plunged-step down the entire snow line which took us quite a long time. We probably had just lost 600 vertical meters. This descent brought us to a beautiful alpine tarn, and right in front of us was the impressive Mount Kinross.
Based on our observation that Kinross has a easy line up but I guess that’s probably the only line up. We figured that since we would not get Zengel anyway so why not just leave Kinross behind to save some time and energy. We would traverse high to its left side and if that’s a scramble then we would give it a go. If that’s not, then we would come back for its scree/snow route. The unnamed peak south of Mount Kinross looked to be quite challenging from our vantage point. My original plan was to traverse over this unnamed peak that would offer the most direct line up Cairngorm, but now we had to think twice. We made the call of following Reinhold’s route that essentially goes over the high col between Kinross and the unnamed. I’ll name this col “Kinross Col”. I probably wouldn’t go this way if not knowing Reinhold had done it since the terrain around that col looked to be pretty intense.
The sun finally started to shine on us once we hit that steep scree/snow gully, but looking back, we also saw a storm moving towards us. Slogging up to Kinross Col was tiring and tedious. The scree was pretty loose, and the snow wasn’t the greatest for step-kicking. On the way there it was obvious that we probably couldn’t get Kinross from this high col, and once at the col, the direct ridge looked to be quite intense. I kinda want to at least give it a try before calling it’s not a scramble, but guess the weather had other plans as well. A shower soon killed my thought and we immediately descended the other side of this col, which was again, loose scree.
We managed to find a break on skier’s left to cut over and exit the scree/snow gully. And now, we finally could get a head-on view of Cairngorm which looked to be quite slabby. The left hand side skyline ridge looked to be probably the easiest line up so we aimed for that. There were a couple large snow patches. I did get surprised quite a few time, sinking suddenly to waist deep, but overall it was easier than side-hilling on boulders. The northeast ridge was again, full of boulders. It was pretty much all big boulders for the entire line. Higher up the clouds rolled in and we were in a grey-out, but thankfully it cleared up soon revealing some very nice low clouds scenery over the other side (Jasper side). It was a moderate scramble up this ridge.
After taking an obligatory summit break we immediately pressed on the rest of our traverse. We didn’t want to retrace our steps down Cairngorm since we thought it would be pretty easy to descend the other side (closer to Mt. Kerr). We started down its southwest ridge, but immediately decided to bail down the ridge line since we saw a line that pretty much goes all the way down to the bottom. The ridgeline was full of big boulders and travelling was slow, and we were keen to use the temporary scree to speed up our progress. But too bad, the scree soon ended at a series of friction slabs. Form here on we got ourselves involved in some pretty serious terrain. At many times we thought we’d be cliffed out, but once around every single blind corner we could spot another possible slab to descend. We noticed an intense thunderstorm building up towards north and it was obviously moving towards our direction! Our route eventually ended up at a huge slab with a crack wedging between it and a vertical wall. At this point we just had to commit to it and I went down first – very awkward but manageable. Ben followed me shortly behind down this crux, and Eric was about 10 minutes behind. And thankfully the thunderstorm hadn’t caught up with us yet.
We rested on a boulder field for quite a while watching the storms. There must be at least a thunder for every 20 seconds! At this point we decided to head north into the forest for some sheltered area, and thankfully on our way there the storms ceased and eventually passed away. We didn’t know if this was the only storm or not. It was only 11:30 am and I doubt if that’s the only storm. We figured it was the time to hurry up to Mt. Kerr.