July 28, 2012
Kananaskis – Smith Dorrien Valley, AB
On this past Saturday, I joined Andrea Battistel and Shaun Luong for a short, but difficult scramble up Mt. Burstall. I originally thought about doing either Snow Peak or Commonwealth Peak afterwards, but due to the forecast of thunder showers, we decided to do only Mt. Burstall. This way, we could also save energy for the next few days’ big plans.
According to So Nakagawa, Burstall should not be treated lightly. We all gave it a full respect. Oh by the way, here is a tip of weight saving that I discovered on this trip. You can take a picture of Alan Kane’s description, rather than bringing the entire book with you… Apart from Kane’s route description, I suggest you to remember two features for this little peak, the rock rib in Vern’s trip report and the slab crack in Bob Spirko’s trip report.
We met in Calgary at 7AM, and arrived at Burstall Pass trail head by 8:40AM. I remember there’s a maze of snowshoe/ski trails in winter, but this time, the main trail was clearly marked. The partly cloudy sky in the morning gave some nice photographing opportunities along the trail. After 20-30 minutes of walking, we arrived at a large boulder (you won’t miss this giant rock). 5-7 minutes later, we had to look carefully for a trail with a cairn on left side. Although you might start to see the correct ascent gully, it’s better to continue to this cairned trail to minimize bushwhacking. We could tell there was a heavy rain last night because all the vegetation was wet. Even though this trail was easy to follow, light bushwhacking on some overgrown parts was unavoidable. As a result, we got soaked pretty quickly… 10 minutes later, we broke through the trees.
Now, we were treated with this view. Going further up climber’s right on the obvious scree ramp was attempting. In fact, it’s the worst… I knew from Vern that the easiest line up is the mini rock rib on the left side of this picture. Indeed, it offered the least resistent line uphill. The black scree on both sides of this rib offers great ski run down, but not up.
The view was foreshortened. It was still a slog to get up this gully. When we arrived at the saddle, we were treated with a spectacular view to Mounts Cegnfs, Murray, Smith-Dorrien and Robertson, as well as the upper slope. We took an energy break there.
A well troden path led us up the next section, a tedious rubble slog… Keep a positive attitude, as the fun scramble section will soon arrive. After we topped out on the summit ridge, Mt. Sir Douglas and Burstall Pass area showed up. Too bad we started to lose clear sky from here… Now comes the fun part. From there to the summit, you pretty much either follow the ridge, or drop slightly down climber’s right and traverse. I need to point out here, you shouldn’t experience anything that’s more exposed than Mt. Lady MacDonald. If so, look for a faint trail to your right and traverse below the ridge crest. Even though the photos look serious, I would rate this mountain as lower to middle range of difficult. There’s no serious move involved. Soon you will arrive at the crack mentioned in Bob Spirko’s trip report. Scrambling up this crack is straightforward. There’re tens of holds and the crack is wide. Once topping out of this crack, climb up an exposed step (about 2 m high), followed by balancing over the most exposed section of about 2 m long, then you’re just 10 seconds away from the summit.
Mt. Burstall iwas surrounded by giants so you’re guaranteed a good summit view. By the time we got there, it already clouded over so we didn’t get the best view though. We stayed there for 30 min having a lunch break. The register was missing… As we were watching the dark clouds getting closer and closer, it started to rain/hail… We knew thunderstorm would come soon, so headed down.
Lower down the slope, we could see a guy going up solo. Surprisingly he could recognize Andrea, and he thought I was So. Small world though, he is Granticulus and he’s also a member of ClubTread Community. He did Snow Peak in the morning, and that was quite a big day. Getting down the upper slope was as tedious as going up. Those rubbles were unpredictable. Some look stable but actually not, some look solid but will slide or roll if you step on them… Once down to the col, we decided to go up a small outlier which involved some interesting balancing. Form there, we got better perspective of the upper slope on Burstall. We chose the black scree on skier’s right of the rock rib, which offered really good scree run. Granticulus managed to catch us on the way back on Burstall Pass Trail. It’s very nice to meet great scramblers on the mountains! He told us that the other side, Chester Lake trail was closed due to bear activity…
On the way back to Calgary, we stopped at King Creek, checking the condition on Mt. Fox, our objective for Sunday.