When Raff asked me to climb Mount Warspite on Tuesday, I had my doubts. The Scrambles book made this mountain sound like a serious endeavour: 8-12 hours and Raff wanted to start in the afternoon! But Raff had heard it was a moderate scramble that could be done in a short time. He clinched my interest when he told me Tuesday was the last nice day before the weather turned cold and wet. I agreed to join him.
We arrived at the Black Prince trailhead and set off at a brisk pace at 2:45 pm. It was warm and the weather looked promising although smoke haze dulled distance views. We moved quickly up the trail to the hanging valley. At the end sat Mount Warspite, commanding attention. It took longer than I expected to cross the valley and reach the gully leading to the col. Ascending the gully was not easy. The soft dirt mixed with loose rocks was worse than scree.
We hugged the right side as it afforded some solid rock, but it steepened considerably as we ascended. We ended up in a narrow side gully that wasn't safe: a loosed rock could funnel down to a partner below. The broad main gully is safer to ascend for parties.
When Raff appeared directly below me, I was able to slip over to the next gully on my left. In this gully the rock was even more crumbly and I inadvertently launched debris harmlessly down. I worked my way left hoping to get into the main gully but the ridge of rock I was on dropped down steeply. I continued ascending and hoped the ridge would flatten out. Eventually it did and I made it to the edge of the main gully. I gave a thumbs-up to Raff to let him know the way was clear.
From there we followed a sheep trail in the soft, black scree that led to the col. From the col Warspite looks stately, like a towering cathedral. It didn't look possible to scramble up so when Raff said, "Let's check it out," I mused that he might have said, "Let's chicken out ." We went to check it out.
From the col, Kane's route description was clear and accurate. We ascended left of the chimney. After reaching a shoulder things began to look better. We did much of the ascent simply by following trails in the scree, although a couple of tricky spots merit a difficult rating. The worst section was a crumbling rock band, but after searching around we found solid rock to scramble up.
At one point, where we failed to consult the description, Raff scrambled up a steep rock section. He was already committed to climbing up, but I turned back and hiked up the ridge to meet him. A few minutes later we were on the summit.
We spent 20 minutes taking pictures and looking around before deciding it was time to go. We retraced our steps to the col. From the col we followed the animal tracks until they disappeared. Then we made our own tracks in the scree of the main gully until we reached the bottom. Daylight had faded to the point my camera baulked at taking photos. We reached the trail and left the hanging valley.
To our surprise it rained for a while. Soon after the rain ceased, it became too dark to see well and we brought out headlamps. For the next 45 minutes, they would light our way back to the car.
Mount Warspite is not the long, difficult scramble I expected. Except for a couple tricky sections, it's largely an enjoyable, scenic hike and a short one at that.
Warspite Lake has almost disappeared in the dry weather. Here, we headed for the SW corner
of the lake where we found the trail.
The trail leads to the hanging valley ahead
Fall colours are appearing (click for a larger image)
Interesting rock point near the trail
Warspite cascades are only a trickle
At the end of the trail, Mount Warspite looms ahead (click for a larger image)
Looking back across the hanging valley
Approaching the gully
Starting up the gully
It may be possible to scramble up the rock ridge on the left
Raff starts up the next gully (click for a larger image)
Raff claws his way up the gully. It's steeper than it looks and the ground is hard
(mouse over to zoom back)
Raff reaches the main gully
View of Mount Warspite from the col is foreshortened
View after climbling a short way from the col
Raff studies a cliff band rife with loose rock. There's actually a path worn along its base.
We found a spot near the middle of the path to ascend.
Looking down from the cliff band
Raff scrambled straight up from the gully below the summit while I walked up the ridge
on the left
On the summit
Mount Invincible appears on our left as we descend
Below the rocky towers
The setting sun turns the rocks orange
Coming down the cliff band
Raff climbs down to the col. Mild exposure and loose rock here. (click for a larger image)
Halfway down the gully, the black dirt gives way to gray scree
Daylight is going fast
82 J/11 Kananaskis Lakes
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