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Utopia Mountain
Jasper National Park, Alberta
July 22, 2006

Distance: 9.8 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1320 m

Bagging Utopia Mountain closes the Jasper chapter in Scrambles for Dinah and me. This is a good thing. If the price of gas keeps rising, we won't be able to afford the 400 km drive to Jasper in a few years!

After our second night at Whistler campground, we drove to Miette Hot Springs where we met Trent whom we ran into the previous day on Pyramid Mountain. When he learned we were doing Utopia Mountain he said he was interested in joining us.

After doing over a hundred Kane scrambles, we were wary of omissions or vague descriptions. On this trip, however, the route description unfolded with no surprises. We followed the Sulphur Spring interpretive trail and took the stream branch soon after passing a new wooden bridge. We followed intermittent trails on the east bank. When the trail disappeared, we easily boulder-hopped up the creek.

Eventually we came to a trail that led up alongside a huge washout. The hike up this steep trail brought us to the first ridge. Scrambling up this was more difficult than I expected, but we found a weakness that took us to the crest next to a cairn. After ascending this ridge for a time, we traversed the slope to the second ridge. Downclimbing a crack landed us in the grey scree gully.

We didn't attempt the crux on the second ridge. It had already rained once and the forecast called for a risk of thunderstorms. We didn't want to be caught on an exposed ridge in rain or lightning, so we slogged up the scree gully. I scrambled up a ledge adjacent to the gully for a short way, but when I could, I dropped to the gully and rejoined Dinah and Trent.

After a long slog up wretched scree, we came to the plateau where we could see both the false summit and summit. Aided by a trail, we continued up more scree and reached the ridge and trudged to the false summit. We took the crux just before the summit in stride, or rather in scrambling, and arrived next to the summit cairn.

After spending 20 minutes on the top, we headed back down. After we reached the top of the scree gully, dark clouds moved in and it began to thunder. Fortunately, we were on the edge of the storm and only received a few drops of rain.

We descended the detestable scree down to a grass slope. From there we made our way down and right through trees. The bushwhacking wasn't bad as we stuck close to the base of the cliffs on our right. In a short time, we were back at the creek. After some boulder-hopping down the creek, we came to a trail that led back to the washout. Other than being a hot day, the rest of the trip was without incident. We made good time following the trails and creek back to the main trail.

Jasper is a beautiful area. Maybe we'll return and do some non-Kane scrambles if gas prices don't become outrageous!


Our first view of Utopia Mountain from the road to Miette Hot Springs

Following Sulphur Creek

This American dipper seemed to lead us up the creek. Whenever we got close, it would fly a few metres up the creek and look back at us.

Ascending the trail next to the washout. The first ridge is in the distance.

The trail is steep, but it quickly takes you to the treeline

At the first ridge we'll look for a weakness to ascend

Looking back at the creek

Halfway up the first ridge

Looking back at the first ridge

View from the second ridge shows the scree gully (centre)

Trent balances on the ridge

Downclimbing the second ridge to reach the scree gully

I scrambled up the ledge, but Trent and Dinah took the scree

A rock rises from the scree

View of the summit (left of centre) from the top of the scree gully/plateau

Looking down at the plateau. Sulphur Ridge is in the foreground. Roche à Perdrix is on the upper left.

Hiking up the false summit. True summit is left.

On our way to the true summit from the false summit

Scrambling up the crux below the summit

Halfway up the crux

Looking down the crux

Trent, Dinah and I on the summit

Dinah and Trent on the way back down

We descended the gully to the green slope at the bottom

Looking up the scree gully

Back at the stream

83 F/4 Miette

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