Friday, 19 September 2014

Cinquefoil Mountain (2260m) - Jasper, AB    May 31, 2014

Over the last weekend in May we took a trip up to Jasper for three reasons. Firstly I had seen on a page I follow on Facebook that this mountain was dry because someone had just climbed it during the weekend before and had mentioned that there was almost no snow. Secondly just because I wanted to go up to that area despite the long drive. Thirdly to go to the Miette Hot Springs possibly one last time before Parks sells all the hot springs and they become privately owned. Which I am very much not looking forward to. It is guaranteed they will raise prices, the only question is how much.

We left on the Friday with only a campsite booked for Saturday night. The hope was that it was too early in the season for most of the people who "car camp" to have taken up all the spots. Car camping means setting up your tent next to your car at a front country campground, not sleeping in your car as most non-backcountry people seem to think I mean when I use this term. "Real" camping is when you go backpacking and camp in the backcountry far away from any road. Therefore the need to call what most people do for camping something else. Everyone in the community uses this term. But I digress, so I was hoping that the campsites along the Icefields Parkway you can't book wouldn't be too full because it was too early in the season for the car campers. The first one, Mosquito Creek was full, then the next two were closed because Parks hadn't opened them for the season yet (why?) so we had to go all the way up to the Columbia Icefields campground before we got to another open one. We didn't camp there because I thought we might as well leave it to the climbers, and Heath did agree we could try the next one which is slighly lower altitude instead and not much farther on. Jonas Creek campground was not full yet but getting close. We took one of the last two spots and as we set up the tent someone came in and took the other one. It is a nice little campground as far as car camping ones go, or maybe I was just so happy to be back in my tent after the long winter I didn't notice it's flaws. It was quite close to the road.

The next morning we set off past Jasper townsite to our mountain. We had made an attempt on this mountain two years ago in the middle of July only to be turned back when we were not able to follow the Merlin Pass trail once it reached the small lake. We went left/east at the lake and got into deep marsh and started getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. The most I've ever seen. Epicly bad. We soon gave up and bushwacked back to the car and jumped into it, and then spent quite a while killing all those mosquitoes that got in with us before discussing what to do next. We ended up paying for the gondola up to Whistlers and doing Indian Ridge instead. Not the most satisfying trip but we managed a summit anyway.

This time we would again start off down the Merlin Pass trail and try left again. No luck. We went back to the end of the really good trail right at the lake and tried right. Still no luck. This used to be an official trail before, so it was annoying we couldn't find any sign of it. We had t0 give up finding where "the brush and forest open up", we could not get past the lake area.

We gave up and tried a different approach I read about online on my favorite trip report site. Instead of taking Kane's approach we walked along the road until we were right at the end of the ridge coming down off the mountain. From there we were supposed to bushwack to the ridge. The only thing they didn't mention was the drainage ditch running along the side of the road. We found the only shallow spot to cross it then bushwacked first through swamp then brush and thistle to the ridge. The first twenty meters up were super steep and we didn't find a trail but simply got ourselves up a steep slope next to a tiny rock face. We found a trail at the top of that, and on descent we would continue to follow it down which worked out better. At the time we were just so eager to get onto the ridge we didn't bother looking for a good way up. We didn't expect a trail till we were on the ridge. Obviously a lot of people go this way now. Or a lot of goats do. At least the mosquitoes were not bad at all this year as last time.

Cinquefoil Mountain from the road after we walked, quite far along it to get to the end of the ridge from the Merlin Pass trailhead.

The trail we had found continued onto the ridge and joined the stronger trail from Kane's old approach, to continue up the mountain.

Looking back after we ascend the second steeper section up the ridge. Kane's old approach looks like it probably comes in from the west below this.

After continuing up a short way we saw some sheep.


Younger sheep

The trail up the ridge was pretty easy to follow. There were a couple sections where there were multiple trails at different levels, or a trail on the ridge vs in the trees, but all options seemed to work from what we saw. Anything that didn't would obviously be a sheep trail.

Looking back down after getting up the next steep section. 

After a bit the trail turns east off and goes through trees more towards the middle of the ridge and a flat section were we had a break. Then it continues on upwards to the next steep section seen in this photo before the final crux section. In the area in this photo there were a bunch of trees cut down here but we couldn't figure out why.

There was a tiny bit of snow going up the last steep section to get to the view shown here. Nothing major though. This is looking onwards towards the crux section. I would say this is getting out of the 'easy' range into lower 'moderate' terrain, and quite a few people on the internet seem to agree with me. Still we figured it could not be too bad and that was why we had brought the dog along as well.

Close up of the crux section. There are multiple ways up the various gullys. Opinions differ on which is the easiest. We started going along where the trail took us in a gully more climbers right, then left it across slabs to get into the gully to the left, more predominate in the center that goes up towards the snow. This section/gully was easier and we could avoid the snow to get to the top of the crux section.

Another view of the crux from a different angle a bit farther on. Here you can see better where we decided to exit our current gully about half way up and go climbers left towards what some people thought was the easier gully. It is where the large slabby bit in the center seems to end and you can go around a corner.

At the bottom of our gully. Doesn't look to bad, but it wasn't that much fun.

Looking back down from a ways up.

Getting to where we will cross a bit of slab to go left into the next gully. That one was easier, at least for the upper section. The slabby part was my least favorite bit and seemed sketchy.

Looking back from the top of the other gully once we are up the crux section. As you can sort of see here, we could easily avoid the snow on climbers left.

On the final ridge to the summit. This entire section is easy and is basically a walk to the summit.

Farther on. Summit ahead of us.

Summit looking northwest back the way we came.

Summit looking northeast at Jasper Lake and Talbot Lake with the Yellowhead highway in between them.

Summit looking southeast. Although this is a named summit, it is not a very proper mountain as it is not even the highpoint of this long ridge. That would be Roche Jaques in the far distance I believe. It is supposed to be a very difficult sketchy scramble or even a rock climb beyond here.

As we descended we met a group coming up along the ridge. They were amazed we had got Keara up the mountain because of the crux.

On descent looking back after coming down the easier gully at the top. I wanted to see if we could continue down this gully system but for whatever reason we couldn't seem to find where the next bit started. We didn't look too hard because Heath wanted to go down more or less the same way we went up. Which is always a good idea so that you don't get onto something you can't handle by getting surprised about your new route. 

We did change the way we traversed back to the other gully ever so slightly. We did it a bit lower down because I didn't like where we had gone up. Not the best decision with the dog though. Here is looking back to our other gully. You can't tell but there is one steep section before we are back in it.

Looking back up that steep section. This was hard for me and I didn't have a dog attached to me. I was scared for Heath. I tried to sort of catch Keara and guide her down, after I got most of the way down, so she wouldn't jump and pull Heath off. It worked out ok this time, but this section was not puppy friendly. I wouldn't recommend bringing your dog on this scramble at all. I don't know how Heath got up and down some of those sections with the dog. I know I couldn't do it. Or at least I couldn't do it without falling or being completely terrified at every hard part.

We met some more people coming up to the crux after we were down the second gully. They were also amazed we were taking a dog up the mountain, and they hadn't even been up the crux yet!

At the end of the crux on the top of the last steep section we had one last break before continuing on back to the car. Keara got a little obsessed over a chipmunk. You can see her starring at it intently. The chipmunk did not seem particularly worried over her though. Pyramid Mountain, another Jasper scramble is visible just above her head.

Chipmunk munching away at something ignoring the dog.

After we had gotten off the ridge on the faint trail we did our bushwhack again and found our low point in the drainage ditch and crossed it. Then did the long road hike back to the car. Beer at the Jasper Brewing Company and food was very welcome but we couldn't linger long with Keara waiting for us. Soon we were at the Whistlers campground setting up our tent. Very busy with a lot of different types of people there, and noisy. I think I'd pick a different campground next time.

Cinquefoil Mountain from farther northeast along the Yellowhead highway the next day. From here it is even more obvious that the top of Cinquefoil Mountain; which is in the center of the photo, is not really a summit but rather a bump on the long ridge to the higher Roche Jacques. Silly right? But the rest of the ridge is very difficult and unpleasant so I'm glad this gets a separate summit name. 

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