July 22, 2012
Kananaskis – Smith Dorrien Valley, AB
I’ve been talking to Dan Kim via Facebook for a long time, and finally got a chance to meet him. He wanted something in the short-to-medium range as he had to get back to Calgary by 5 pm. Because this would be my 100th summit, I’d like something bigger. So? A big mountain but also a short ascent? Mt. Chester seemed like a reasonable idea. A 8 am meet-up time at Baldy Pass trail-head was in the order and we’d car-pool to Chester Lake parking lot.
This is one of the most popular scrambles in Kananaksis Country for obvious reasons – short, easy but scenic. The ascent of Mt. Chester can be divided into 3 sections: 1 hour to Chester Lake; another 1 hour up the NW gully; and then the final 1 hour to the summit. For some reasons maybe the excellent weather I felt much more energetic comparing to the day before. The trail to Chester Lake was not steep and provided a good warm up. This section passed by very quickly with lots of chatting going on. Surprisingly we didn’t see any bear digging nor bear scat… Is here supposed to be an active grizzly country?? I’ve snowshoed to Chester Lake in winter, and the view in summer is totally different. Actually, I like the summer view more.
At the lake, we followed an obvious path/trail skirting around the lake on west side. This trail led us directly to the bottom of the big gully. Some snow was still present in the gully now, and it actually provided better footing than the nearby scree. Getting higher, the snow got icy and we traversed climber’s right to the muddy scree. The scree wasn’t bad neither and we were able to keep a steady pace. One hour after leaving the Lake we arrived at the col. My suggestion for this section is, you gonna keep your eyes on Little Galatea, as you have to get up almost that high when you finish the gully. The gully itself is very foreshortened.
I took a short energy break at the col, eating one muffin, and we soon started the trudge up the west face. Again, this slope was foreshortened. By this time of the day, both Dan and I were getting faster. From the col to the top, we kept a fast pace almost without a break. Sometimes we ignored the beaten path and just used the slab/rock, which was easier on the way up. By the time we almost reached the summit, the other group of 4 scramblers that we passed by topped out on the col..
The view was amazing!! Impressive mountains to the west, from Mt. Joffre to Mt. Assiniboine, too many names. I’ve already got similar views from Little Galatea and Rummel Ridge in winter so it was not that surprising. Towards the other side we were able to see the front peaks east of Kananaskis Valley. Mt. Galatea looked impressive towards north. We also walked down the north ridge for about 20 m to see Chester Lake below. On the other side, we could also see Headwall Lakes. Too bad the register was missing.
We stayed for more than half an hour, and started the descent. Honestly I didn’t want to leave the summit, but since Dan had to get back early we had to descend now. We followed one of the several beaten paths, and we were able to find scree run here and there. At the col, we decided to give “Little Chester” a shot. Although (unofficially) named, I don’t consider this as a separate summit, unless I did it as a snowshoeing ascent. The reason is obvious, there’s only about 20 m elevation gain from the col to the summit… However, we did get some good perspective of the west face of Mt. Chester from Little Chester, so this extra 15 min was worthwhile. (For those of you interested in this bump, I made a successful snowshoeing ascent in February 2013).
Getting down the gully was easy. We could use either snow or the scree. The scree wasn’t a perfect scree run but still easy on the knees. The snow was too hard to plunge-step. Dan was able to boot-ski down, while I just used the scree. Lower down, we both started using the snow as it softened quite a bit. Soon we were back at Chester Lake, where the afternoon sun made the view more beautiful. On the way back we got better view of our objective, Mt. Chester. Coming down Chester Lake trail on a Sunday afternoon provides a perfect example of “Hi”king… Kananaskis Country is getting busier now.. It’s good as more people are getting out.
This was the end of a good weekend spent in the Rockies bagging two more Alan Kane’s scrambles and I’m glad to finally meet up with Wil Tabak and Dan Kim who I’d been talking with for a long while.