January 26, 2013
Muhigan Mountain is an easy, but rarely ascended peak in the Trident Range of Jasper N. Park. Folks had went up directly from Highway 16 to its top. That’s the shortest way to bag this peak, but involves about a thousand vertical meters’ of bushwhacking. Ben and I bagged it from Whistler Creek side over two passes and incredible scenic terrain. It wasn’t on our original plan though, instead we increased the ambition partway through the trip.
We dropped down to Whistler Creek from the summit of Marmot Mountain. There was more post-holing going up the treed slope on the other side. On average we sank to knee deep, but there were also some slabs providing easy travel. Once we made to treeline on the other side, there would be very minimal post-holing for the rest of the day. By this time we were way ahead of schedule, and it would only take us 1 hour to get up Indian Ridge, then we would be done for the day. So I pointed out the possibility to increase our ambition, that was, to grab an officially named peak, far away from where we were, Muhigan Mountain. That was on my list ever since I spotted it on topo map, and we would have good chance to make it if the snow was firm all the way. To do so we had to aim for Indian Pass, the col between a bump and Indian Ridge. It was very foreshortened and it took us 1 hour to get there from treeline. During which we were treated with excellent view.
Once at Indian Pass, we got our first view of the other side. The big peak on left side is actually an unnamed peak. Muhigan Mountain is behind it, and slightly lower. Even though we are peak-baggers, we have to admit the alpine traverse from Whistler Creek to the base of Muhigan was the highlight of this day. We got impressive looking mountains all around us, and excellent weather as well. This is not a popular traverse and I haven’t read even one trip report for Muhigan, not even as a summer ascent. I was thinking about bushwhacking straight up Muhigan from Highway 16, which will be a much shorter way to grab this peak. Glad I didn’t do that, or I would miss all the views between Muhigan and Indian. We were facing about 100m elevation loss immediately after Indian Pass. We tried to side-slope around the bump, resisting losing too much elevation. Side-sloping on snowshoes on hard snow was very painful on our ankles, and there was one boulder field forcing us to take off snowshoes. It was too dry! Too dry even for snowshoeers. For skiers, you probably want to wait until March.
We regained a bit of elevation and made to the next pass. This pass doesn’t have a name. If counting Marmot Pass, then this will be a “three pass route”. Maybe I should do the Six Pass Traverse this spring. The terrain ahead of us looks to be even drier, and we decided to ditch snowshoes at this point. It would be useless and we certainly didn’t want to haul them for any further. Even though by this point, our second objective, Muhigan Mountain, still hadn’t showed up. We mistakenly thought a bump on the west shoulder of unnamed peak as Muhigan, but as we got closer, we realized our mistake. It was still far away. Once we topped out on the shoulder, we got our first view of Muhigan. Indeed, still a long way to go. By this time, more Tonquin Valley peaks started to show up, and apparently some of them are not that difficult by appearance. We also got a good view of the Tonquin’s giant – Mt. Geikie.
We started side-hilling around the unnamed peak towards our objective. This section holds snow quite a bit and we had to post-hole for a few hundred meters. But overall we made a good decision to leave snowshoes behind. Apparently the direct traverse to Muhigan required some scrambling on snow covered terrain, and doing so at such a remote place wasn’t that inspiring. However, as we got closer, we decided to give it a go to save some distance. It was mostly moderate scramble. In summer, it will be easy scrambling. Of course, a walk-up route exists if you don’t mind to traverse further west for a hundred meters. By this time, some clouds were moving in, obscuring the views. Too bad we didn’t get a sunny summit panorama. There was a glass register, to our surprise. However we couldn’t open it. We didn’t stay on the summit, and immediately turned around. We were 17km away from car, and we had to maintain a fast pace. We were on a fast pace, and it only took us 1.5 hours to get here from Indian Pass.
We simply retraced our footprints back. Note that I’m using footprints here, not holes. There was only a short section of post-holing (on foot), but other than, it was a walk on either scree or rock-hard snow, and occasionally, ice. Weather started to get better again, oh well.. Due to the change in sun direction, we got different view on the way back. We thought of grabbing this higher unnamed peak, but decided to wait for another day, maybe summer time (too give a better reason for claiming it). And soon we made back to our snowshoes, and then we slogged back up Indian Pass. It also took us exactly 1.5 hours from summit of Muhigan to the Pass. Guess we were getting tired.
Now it’s time to grab the last summit of this day, Indian Ridge.