Cairngorm

June 23, 2013

2610m

Jasper, AB

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.

Pyramid to Cairngorm to Kerr to Henry traverse route

Pyramid to Cairngorm to Kerr to Henry traverse route

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.

Great view of this area.

Great view of this area.

This is the west face of Pyramid Mountain. Typical, typical...

This is the west face of Pyramid Mountain. Typical, typical…

Descend the west face, we would soon merge to snow

Descend the west face, we would soon merge to snow

Getting closer to this alpine tarn. Gorgeous reflection!

Getting closer to this alpine tarn. Gorgeous reflection!

Panorama from the tarn

Panorama from the tarn

Another unnamed bump and its reflection

Another unnamed bump and its reflection

Another smaller tarn. Everything looks great in the morning.

Another smaller tarn. Everything looks great in the morning.

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.

Kinross Col and the steep snow/scree gully

Kinross Col and the steep snow/scree gully

Looking back, a storm is coming...

Looking back, a storm is coming…

Pyramid Mountain. We used the rightmost of the three obvious snow lines to descent

Pyramid Mountain. We used the rightmost of the three obvious snow lines to descent

Sloggin' up to Kinross Col

Sloggin’ up to Kinross Col

Eric and Ben

Eric and Ben

This direct ridge up Kinross looks quite intense.

This direct ridge up Kinross looks quite intense.

Descending the other side of Kinross Col. Again, scree and then, snow.

Descending the other side of Kinross Col.

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.

This peak is unnamed. But I would probably come back for it. It looks very attractive.

This peak is unnamed. But I would probably come back for it. It looks very attractive.

Eric searching for an exit line to cut skier's left

Eric searching for an exit line to cut skier’s left

Snaring Mountain

Snaring Mountain

And, this is Cairngorm. We used the left skyline to ascend.

And, this is Cairngorm. We used the left skyline to ascend.

Eric on one of the large snow patches

Eric on one of the large snow patches

Gain the ridge now, panorama view towards Jasper side.

Gain the ridge now, panorama view towards Jasper side.

Clouds were rollin' in quickly

Clouds were rollin’ in quickly

Ben with the typical terrain on Cairngorm behind

Ben with the typical terrain on Cairngorm behind

The clouds lifted up and revealed awesome scenery

The clouds lifted up and revealed awesome scenery

Partial summit panorama. Click to view large size.

Partial summit panorama. Click to view large size.

Zooming-in towards Fitzwilliam area

Zooming-in towards Fitzwilliam area

Mount Kerr, our next objective

Mount Kerr, our next objective

A bunch of unnamed summits looking north

A bunch of unnamed summits looking north

A long shot of unnamed (left of center), and Mount Kinross (right)

A long shot of unnamed (left of center), and Mount Kinross (right)

One of the many interesting views of the clouds

One of the many interesting views of the clouds

The north side is an attractive alpine valley

The north side is an attractive alpine valley

Eric approaching the summit

Eric approaching the summit

The low clouds. You can also see Pyramid Mountain's tip left of center

The low clouds. You can also see Pyramid Mountain’s tip left of center

Mount Kerr with Kerr Lake beneath

Mount Kerr with Kerr Lake beneath

The low clouds and the blue sky

The low clouds and the blue sky

Me on the summit of Cairngorm

Me on the summit of Cairngorm

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.

Mmm... Where were we going?!

Mmm… Where were we going?!

Not the greatest route choice

Not the greatest route choice

But it worked...

But it worked…

An intense thunderstorm around

An intense thunderstorm around

Thankfully it passed by soon

Thankfully it passed by soon

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.

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