August 26, 2014
Kananaskis – Smith Dorrien Valley, AB
Mt. Jellicoe is a somewhat obscured peak buried deeply in the British Military Group in the heart of Kananaskis Country. It caught my attention initially through Andrew Nugara’s Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies book. For that reason ideally I should do it in winter on snowshoes but that would require the perfect condition and weather. And if that kind of condition happens chances are I’ll be on other peaks such as Collie or Ayesha. So it never got realized in this past two winter/spring seasons. Now came to this summer, Jellicoe was originally our back-up plan in case we couldn’t get up Mt. French. However, we summitted French too early in the day and we increased our ambition to grab Jellicoe as well. Doug and I quickly made our way down Mt. French, strapped crampons on and onto Haig Icefield.
The summer route is essentially the same as winter route. We aimed more-or-less straight towards the SW corner of Jellicoe across Haig Icefield. The glacier was dry and crevasses were easily avoided. There were still a few crevasses we had to step across, but nothing trickier than that. It’s quite a long way across the icefield and at the meantime we had to lose some elevation. Towards the opposite end of the glacier we talked to a snowmobiler who obviously was in charge of the cross-country ski team. He informed us another route up the summit which sounded a bit more technical. So we decided to stick to the original plan.
We ditched all the unnecessary snow gears to speed up the ascent. From the base to the summit ridge was essentially a huge scree/rubble slog. The lower slope was steeper and offered a few hands-on parts on firm rock, but soon after that we were back to scree slog. We broke a “spine” on the slope and crossed over to the climber’s right side and eventually made to the ridge. We followed the ridge up until it narrowed down at the false summit.
The traverse to true summit was class 3 scrambling only in dry condition but with considerable amount of exposure especially towards Smith-Dorrien Glacier. In winter I know most parties had to pitch it out due to massive cornices. We quickly made our way over to the true summit. The views were fabulous towards each direction even with the smoke. This summit offers a better view of the glaciers than Mt. French and we also took a lengthy break on the top.
Since we had a long way back down we had to start descending. Coming down the scree/rubble was not as fast as on French but still pretty quick. Soon we were back to where we ditched gears. Strapping crampons on we set on Haig Glacier back towards French/Robertson col. There was considerable melting by this time of the day at for many time we had to plunge in shallower water on top of the ice. Thankfully my boots were water-proof but Doug wasn’t nearly as lucky. Near the col we had to be extra careful with the crevasses as the snow bridges were no longer trustful. We jumped a few of the holes without touching the questionable snow. Back down French Glacier, it was hard on the knees so we soon bailed to the rock on skier’s right. We picked a different line than on the way up, staying lower avoiding side-hilling for as much as we could. It’s indeed a better route and soon we were back in the forest.
The rest of the way back was a true slog. There were a few waterfalls adding to the variety but not by much. I was already very tired and negotiating all the micro up-hill sections and the dead falls was quite exhausting. And the trail would never come to an end. Well, it eventually would and we were back to the log jam to cross over French Creek. Back onto the old logging road, what was left was a easy walk back to the car. Our round trip time was 14 hours 20 minutes including all the stops which was not a bad pace.
The drive back home was again, exhausting. Doug did all the drive back to Red Deer but I didn’t manage to catch up any sleep during this part. On the way back to Edmonton I had to stop and take a nap at about halfway, and eventually got back by about 3 am in the morning. And I noticed the forecast for the next couple days had down-graded so we made a very correct call of pushing a bit on this Tuesday. It was a very successful and satisfying trip.