August 3, 2005
Saying the ridge crest of Mount Brett has "sections of interesting scrambling" is an understatement. This wasn't just another "difficult" Kane scramble but rather the most difficult of the 19 difficult scrambles I've done so far. For Andrew Nugara who joined me on this trip, it was his second most difficult, after Mount Smuts.
I wasn't mentally physically or mentally prepared for what lay ahead of me. I hadn't yet recovered from my last two trips and my intensive peak bagging in the last three and a half weeks had left me eight pounds lighter. I highly recommend scrambling as a weight-loss program! But the draw to do another peak in superb weather got the better of me.
Andrew and I rode up Redearth fire road to the drainage system we needed to ascend. Actually we cycled slightly passed it so we decided to angle towards the drainage. Finding the drainage was more difficult than we anticipated and we ended up bushwhacking for longer than was necessary.
Eventually we reached the hanging valley with its mixed bag of chunky rocks and thin vegetation. We traveled well up the valley before leaving it to ascend the larch-covered slopes on our right. This put us on the long, curving, treeless ridge that leads to the summit.
The higher we climbed up the ridge, the more rugged it became. Eventually we put away our poles and started grabbing handholds. The rest of the ascent would be mostly hands-on climbing. None of the ridge scared me off, but the sustained scrambling effort took me by surprise. We had to continually route-find and scramble along its length. There were few sections where the ridge wasn't demanding or exposed. The steep sides restricted most of the scrambling to the crest.
We took the difficulties in stride until we came to the second crux, a downclimb with a considerable drop. I went over the top while Andrew searched for a way on the side. I climbed down a short ways but there seemed no easy way to reach the bottom. I climbed back up to see if Andrew faired better with a side descent.
At this point we changed places. Andrew decided to go over the top while I tried the side descent. The side descent was less exposed and easier although it still required care. In a short time I reached the bottom and waited while Andrew descended the over-the-top route.
With the second crux behind us, it was only about a 5-10 minute hike to the summit. It was a beautiful day so we enjoyed spending half an hour on top. Visibility was excellent. We could see Mount Chephren 98 km to the north as well as Mount Joffrey 83 km to the southeast.
While ascending the ridge, I had noted the descent route on the rubbly, undulating west slopes below us. The route didn't appear inviting or direct so Andrew and I returned the same way on the ridge crest. Now that I knew what to expect I didn't mind scrambling back down. In retrospect there is some thrilling scrambling on this ridge!
The rest of the trip was uneventful. We saved time by following an animal trail that angled down towards the valley bottom. Unlike our ascent we closely followed the drainage system to a point where it petered out above the fire road. Andrew used his GPS to guide us back to our bikes. From there, it was a blast riding down the trail!
Pilot Mountain and Mount Brett from Copper Mountain
We came across a grouse family including this chick, while biking up the Red Earth Creek trail
Mount Brett appears far away from the rocky drainage
Brett looks much closer now
Hiking through the larch to gain the ridge above us
From the ridge, Pilot Mountain shows its stately west face
We are still a few hundred metres below the summit
Much of the ridge is narrow.
Scrambling along a knife-edge (photo by Andrew)
The second crux: Andrew came over the top where the "V" is. I
dropped over the west side to the weakness directly left of Andrew.
There was no summit cairn, only a summit register.
Mount Ball rises above Shadow Lake
This shot taken soon after leaving the summit, the second crux is ahead.
No room for error (photo by Andrew)
Andrew scrambles up the second crux.
Andrew nearly at the top of the second crux.
Climbing up the first crux
The difficulties continue after leaving the cruxes.
The view back as we descend to the basin. Note the dry tarn on the lower left.
82 O/4 Banff
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