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Mount Chester II
Kananaskis, Alberta
August 24, 2013

How fallible is one's memory when no trip record is kept. When Dinah and I climbed Mount Chester 12 years ago we took no photos of our route, just scenery shots. In trying to recall that trip we came up blank: we remembered nothing. Redoing it was like seeing it for the first time.

We set off for the usual route: Chester Lake to the gully, gully to the saddle, and saddle to the summit. At the trailhead, we found that the first 200 m of the logging road had been washed out. The June flood had toppled trees and carried rocks down, and now a rough path meanders through the mess. Past that, we saw no sign of destruction and followed the road 2 km to the bike racks (although I can't imagine anyone wanting to push their bike through the washout at the start). After the racks, the path narrows to a single track all the way to the lake.

At the end of the lake, we followed a side trail across a creek. The trail pushes on almost to the ascent gully before vanishing. Although it's possible to head directly to the gully, it seemed more practical to climb the grassy slopes on our left before turning toward the gully. When we came to a spot where we could descend to the gully on our right, or keep left and climb the steep, grassy slopes, we waffled. Slogging up the black scree held little attraction, but we didn't know if we could climb up the slope and reach the gully higher up. Our curiosity and optimism got the better of us, however, and we took the slope. Later we learned steep slabs line the left side of the gully all the way to the saddle making any crossover impossible. Gully or slope, one is committed at 218295.

The slope proved to be more difficult than we expected, more difficult in fact than the rest of our ascent. The terrain is steep and rife with vertical rifts. We encountered routefinding challenges as well as mild exposure. It's undoubtedly easier and quicker to ascend the gully (our posted GPX track is of our descent which used the gully).

The scramble from the saddle to the summit was straightforward and fun. Most any line up the broad slope could be taken as all converge at the base of the summit bump. Minutes later we were standing on top of Mount Chester. Unfortunately clouds and haze dulled the alpine scenery. Disappointing especially since the forecast had called for sunshine. But mother nature never pays heed to the weatherman.

We made our way back down to the saddle and then down the gully. Except for skidding on a couple of hard-pack spots, the descent here was easy. We left the gully just past the end of the slab and made our way back to Chester Lake trail. The easy trail gave us a chance to reflect on the day's trip. We saw and experienced much on Mount Chester, and we wondered how we could have forgotten it all 12 years ago.

KML and GPX Tracks


Starting up the trail


Looking back at the first section: the road is washed out but a rough trail is in place


Mount Chester ahead


Entering the meadow where we'll soon cross the stream


Crossing the stream by Chester Lake


The trail will soon disappear and we'll head up the grassy left slope


Looking back after we start climbing


Following the curve of the grassy slope, we'll swing right and reach the gully


The angled rock with the black line running through it marks the end of a slab that extends to the saddle. The easiest place to reach the gully is on the right (mouse over).


Ascending the slopes next to the gully


Taking the last steps to the saddle (mouse over for a close-up)


From the saddle, a trail runs below rock slabs


Once past the slabs we started scrambling up


One of many ledges we climbed up


The dark rock of the summit bump appears above us


Higher up, the grade steepens


And the rock becomes more interesting


Scrambling up the base of the summit bump


Despite appearances, the summit bump was easy because of a network of trails on ledges (mouse over for a close-up)


Looking down at the ledges on the summit bump


On the summit


Coming down fast on scree


A ptarmigan blends in with the rock


Starting down the gully from the saddle


Slabs run along gully


Passing the end of the slab. Note the figures on the skyline ascending the slope.


Pika on a rock near the lake


Last look at Mount Chester and the ascent gully


82 J/14 Spray Lakes

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