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Chetamon Mountain Scramble [Attempt]

Difficulty: 
Difficult Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
2496
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
14.7
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1553
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
2119
YDS Difficulty: 
4
Ascent Time: 
8:00
Bushwhackyness: 
Little Dense Down Below
Tripdate: 
Saturday, May 18, 2013

For the second day of our long weekend trip, Eric, Steven, and I set off following the 'best' looking weather forecast into Jasper National Park. After car-camping around Brule we got some decent morning views of Capital Mountain (in the Miette Range) and decided to give that a go heading up the Miette Road. Long story short it had been a while since any of us had been up the Miette Road and we forgot how dense the bush is around there. Not being in the mood for a brutal struggle against the legions of Jasper conifers we decided to keep going down the highway and see if something else looked in decent shape. I had been planning for a while to try an attempt of traversing Chetamon Mountain to Cliff Mountain along their connecting ridgeline and was pretty excited to scout out Chetamon at some point. After some discussion the group decided that heading up Chetamon would make for a pretty solid daytrip so at the very non-alpine time of 830 we set out from a turnoff on the Snaring Road out onto a cutline for the pipeline and then off into the bush.

There was actually a fairly decent path in the bush we followed on the ascent but it still contained a lot of deadfall which made for slow progress upwards. Not much to say about the ascent to treeline other than there is a lot of elevation gain/loss as you go up successive sub-ridges before gaining the true ascent ridge (which is guarded by a steep mossy slope). Once on the ridge one would expect treeline to quickly fall away but this was not the case and clumps of trees held on with determination almost all the way to the false summit! Once near treeline we started to get a lot of snow around, much of which formed into small (and sometimes large) cornices hanging over cliffs. Most of the snow was pretty decent but the odd patch of isothermal stuff made gaiters essential. Once past the last of the dense trees the scrambling began. Up to the false summit is mostly easy/moderate scrambling but it almost always has some amount of exposure (quite a bit in places). Much of the terrain was obscured by snow and it was hard to tell where the snow/rock interface was at times so there could be more or less apparent exposure when dry. Once firmly on rock was when the day started to get complicated. Eric and I had been wearing our mountaineering boots again which arn't the best for gripping the slabby terrain found on the mountain while Steven with his grippy light boots was speeding along upwards. During our ascent the weather been getting progressively darker and more threatening and with potential thunderstorms in the forecast I was keeping a keen eye on the sky. At a nice ledge a good portion of the way to the false summit I stopped and waited for Eric to see what he thought about the weather and we decided that staying out in the open on this ridge would be a bad plan if the rain over by nearby Snaring Mountain crossed the river and came over here. Steven was still in sight by this point so we stopped going upwards and tried to make it clear we were turning around (Steven looked at us for a long while and then kept going upwards out of sight behind a big cornice). Eric and I descended back to treeline in case of lightning and waited for Steven. After an hour or so of sitting around the weather started to look a little better, than a lot better, than downright pleasant during which Eric offered the idea, "do you want to go back up?". That sounded like a great plan and so off we went regaining a bunch of elevation (at least our footsteps in the snow were already well established by this point) up to the rock and eventually came across Steven who made it up to the false summit and then got freaked out by the storm and came down. Together we deliberated and decided to all go back up and see if we couldn't bag this peak. The scrambling up to the false summit was pretty fun with some more interesting bits to gain the false summit itself (if carrying on to the true summit there is no reason to gain the false summit, you can side-hill beneath it saving time). Views from the false summit were pretty awesome especially with the stormy skies to the South offering neat texture to the clouds. The view towards the true summit made it clear that we still had a long way to go along what looked to be an interesting ridgecrest. Travelling from the false summit to true summit proved to be at first moderate/difficult scrambling and then moved into sustained difficult scrambling (some of the difficulties could be made better/worse without snow). By this point Steven had cruised off ahead again and was almost to the false/true summit col. Glancing back towards Eric and then at my watch I was getting somewhat worried about the time, our late start and lost time due to turning back had cost us a long while which made the prospect of getting back to the car before dark less and less likely. After pressing on for a bit to a nice highpoint I waited up for Eric and discussed it with him and we reasoned that it would probably take us about 2 hours to get up to the true summit and back from our current perch putting us at not hitting treeline before dark. Long story short not wanting to break an ankle bushwhacking in the dark we decided to turn back (I had previously mentioned to Steven that we were getting worried about daylight a few minutes prior but he was committed to going on). Eric and I once again started descending back towards treeline and set out to wait a while for Steven (who turned out to be much quicker on descent than we anticipated!). The rest of the descent was pretty straightforward but was definetly more enjoyable than trying to navigate it by headlamp, we got back to the car as the moon had risen and the sun had set. Good day-trip, useful information for the Chetamon-Cliff traverse too!

Thanks to Steven for a bunch of the pictures past Eric and I's turn around point.

 

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