Posted - 07/29/2012 : 8:57 PM
| Andrea Battistel and I had a big plan on Sunday, July 29th. We agreed to do a long and difficult mountain, but uncertain of objective. I wanted to do Mount Smuts to The Fist, the most difficult scramble in Kane list. However, I wasn't 100% confident on the snow condition as the descending gully might still have snow or ice which would make the climb tricky. Andrea threw out her objective, Mount Fox. Okay, that's an equally exciting mountain, therefore I agreed. According to Vern and So, Mount Fox is as difficult as Smuts and Northover. (I haven't done them so I can't make detailed comparison now).
We met in Calgary at 6:30AM, and started the day at 8:10AM. The forecast called for a sunny day so we didn't actually need to start this early. One of the reason was to see the calm Frozen Lake in the morning. Andrea has done lots of cross country skiing in Kananaskis Lakes - Elk Pass area, so she knew exactly where we should go. We set up a fast pace and arrived at Frozen Lake in under 1.5 hours. We passed several large meadows where we could see the entire scramble route. Glad we left our ice axe in my car. It was bone dry. PS: From the junction of Frozen Lake Trail to the summit of Fox, we were following Alberta / British Columbia border, so we could see lots of provincial boundary signs.
Now I know why this lake is named Frozen Lake. It's late July and the Lake is still partially frozen... We did get the calm water but due to the ice bergs we didn't get a good view of the reflections... Despite that, the morning view of the lake is still awesome.
We followed a trail skirting around the lake, soon we were facing a steep gully. Andrea took the bypass which was side-sloping on steep grass slope. I wanted some warm-up so I chose to ascend the gully. Man it was so loose... I should just follow Andrea to the grass slope but on the other hand, I'm glad she didn't go up the gully with me. It's unavoidable to kick down rocks to each other, especially on the upper part. We re-grouped at the saddle above the gully. A faint trail / light bushwhacking brought us to the treeline.
The mosquitos kept us going uphill without taking a necessary break at this point, and we soon started the initial moderate scrambling on steep grass and rock. The scramble got more and more involved as we went up. At one point, Andrea lost her camara bag and it slid down the south slope for a long distance. She did go down to find it but failed... I think she was more concerning about the upper slope so she didn't search carefully (she got it on the way down). As the scrambling becomes more serious, we put our helmets on, and poles in pack. A slight overhanging 1.5m step marks the official start of difficult scramble. From here to after the crux, it's consistant serious hands-on scrambling. You don't want to make any mistake in this long section both up and down. Exposure is not bad as a fall would be on the previous step or the rubble slope on both side. I don't remember any technical move involved neither. Therefore I say this long part is easy side of difficult. But as I mention above, you shouldn't make any mistake. This reminds me the East ridge of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, except for much easier. Trudeau involves several quite technical moves and the exposure is more severe, not even mentioning the wet quartz rock...
Two famous rock pinacles indicate the crux step. I gonna separate the crux into several small pieces:
1. Balance over a 5m long exposed ridge
2. Step over an exposed rock (crack below) to the base of chimney
3. Climb up the chimney
4. Drop down the other side of chimney sligtly, look for a rock window on skier's right
5. Squeeze through the window
6. Climb down the other side of window, traverse over exposed ledge to safer ground.
Non of these requires technical moves, and the exposure is tolerable. The chimney and window might be tight especially with a large pack, but still managable. This part is definitely not easy side of difficult, probably the middle to upper range of difficult. I haven't done Smuts nor Northover so I can't do more comparison. Compare to the several hard parts on Trudeau, Fox's crux is not much of a challenge.
After the crux, the difficult scramble section is almost done. The rest of the climb to the summit is just easy to moderate. However, the looseness of the ground makes this part as demanding as the hands-on section... Tediously tedious rubble slog. A pair of ski poles helps a lot. The high point you see from below is the false summit, which is only 5min away from the true summit. The view is excellent towards each direction. British Millitary Group - Kananaskis Lakes - Kananaskis Range - Opal Range - Elk Range (All of the Highwood scrambles in Kane list are visible) - Petain Glacier & East face of Joffre. Too many names to describe. Assiniboine is also visible. We could see the mountains south of Joffre. I don't even know their names as they're rarely seen. The next high mountain west of Fox is Mount Foch, which looks scramble-able. In between Foch and Sarrail we could see the Royal Group in the distance.
The old register was brought up by Alan Kane. Apart from him, there're lots of familiar names: Dave, Raff, Vern, Marko, Wil, etc.
We stayed on the summit for more than 1 hour. Before getting down, we said to each other to take our time, no rush. Coming down was very tedious. Except for the crux, most of the terrain is same. We had to repeat the same type of movement again and again. I got mentally exhausted, not to mention that any error isn't allowed. We also had to keep our eye on the route. Sometimes we had to traverse slightly to skier's left to overcome more difficult terrain. Generally the ground is loose which doesn't help especially on the way down... Once done the difficult stuffs, Andrea managed to get her camera bag back! Going down the lower steep grass wasn't easy neither. Grass is more slipper than rock, and and slipping and sliding on this mountain isn't allowed... Okay, we took our time here. On the lower part, I followed Andrea side-sloping on the grass slope. This route is for sure better than the loose gully but still not easy.. Then we got back to Frozen Lake.
Coming back the crux:
Side-sloping on grass slope:
We took another energy break at the Lake, and soon set a fast pace down the trail. We almost went all the way down to parking lot without a break. Overall, a very enjoyable scramble recommended to experienced and fit scramblers.