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Mount Outram

Moderate Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
YDS Difficulty: 
Prickly Patches of Dense Thrashing to Treeline
Friday, October 16, 2015

Of the peaks direcrly visible from the turnoff at Saskatchewan Crossing, Mount Outram is one of the most striking.  Mount Outram rises 1800 m from the Howse River below and has certainly caught the eye of many scrambles and climbers.  The main difficulty in climbing Outram is crossing the mighty Howse River, which is summer would be a dangerous prospect without a raft, of horse (a raft shaped like a horse would probably work too ;)  ).  Thankfully waiting till fall, accessing the peak becomes much more reasonable.

At the ripe dark hour of 1015ish Liam and I set off from the Glacier Lake trailhead night - hiking the first 9 km in to the Glacier Lake campground by headlamp and starlight.  Getting to the campground only took ~2 hours and after a quick snack it was time to catch some sleep for what could be a long day in the morning.


Looking up towards Mount Outram from the HW 11/93 Junction.


Leaving  the trailhead with stars above.


Stars above Glacier Lake.


A bit before sunrise we awoke to crystal clear skies and lovely alpine glow, I'll have to come back to Glacier Lake in the future with a proper tripod rather than using driftwood!  While breakfasting we had a choice to make, either plan to daytrip the peak (leave our overnight gear here) or go for a higher bivy elsewhere.  We chose the latter which is the correct choice if you are planning to head up Outram, bush and steep slopes make the trek longer than the distance and elevation suggest!


More great views above Glacier Lake in the morning.


From the Glacier Lake campground backtracking slightly leads to the old (but servicable) Howse River turnoff which eventually pops you out East of a small lake where a 'weir - like' pile of rocks makes for a shallower crossing (ours was mid thigh deep and quite frosty).  After that following the flats was quite nice and we made good time towards the ascent valley.


Liam leading the way just past the junction to the Howse River trail.


Looking up at Mount Outram from near the river.


Almost time to cross the river.


Lovely morning for a frosty crossing.


The river flats make for fast travel, especially when frozen!


Not far till the ascent valley.


Very neat lighting as the sun starts to reach the flats.


Nice rock texture on the unnamed outliers nearby, could be worth a try at some point!


Could be a sassy line on the middle rock in the sun!


With the river crossing being not so fearsome getting up to glacier-level was likely the crux of the trip.  Between the flats and the glacier is a whole whack of bush and two headwalls.  We struck up mostly following the creek trying to go higher up at one point when things got denser only to become trapped in even more dreadful bush, sticking closer to the creek on the way down seemed like a good plan!  Eventually our perseverance paid off and we made it to open flats below the first headwall (which should be bypassed on the far climbers right).  The two routes on the right are either a very high line with 'less' bushwhacking (but elevation loss right after) or a more modestly high line and a more complete bush-thrashing experience.  We took the low road on the way in and almost instantly vowed to stick high on the way out!  The bush in this area is replete with prickly-bushes and even before we were half way through the bush we were throughout stabbed with spikes and burs.  Bush-thrashing through here earlier on in the year (or if things are wet) would be far from pleasant.


Off the flats heading up the valley near the creek.


Quite dense and unpleasent bush.


More of the bush to be tackled.


Lots of nice waterfalls in this area.


Looking back down at the flats, and the section above treeline to come.

After the bush we emerged at treeline onto rocky slopes below the second headwall and set about finding a decent bivy.  Sadly the terrain was very uncooperative to flat sections, let alone anything wide enough for a tent, so we would be shelter-less (better for star-gazing!).  After leaving some gear behind we headed upwards, still not able to see any way past the upper headwall (but hopeful that around the corner something would turn up far climbers-right).  Thankfully a little higher up we could see that sticking to steep slippery grass slopes would let us break into the upper mountain, though traversing across was very slippery even when dry!

Liam crossing the headwall.

Once past the headwall we got our first look at the rest of the route and both were impressed with the texture and shape of the upper area of the peak, much more interesting than the topo-maps or sat images suggest!  The rest of the route to the summit was just one foot in front of the other, following a blend of rock and snow that eventually yielded to kicking steps for the last few hundred meters of elevation.  Once on the summit the hunt began for a register but sadly all we turned up was a meager cairn (five rocks piled up) and no sign of other human activity.  Liam brought along a register and I set about building a more proper cairn to house it in.  Liam also hauled up summit-sushi and two cans of ginger beer (though some rogue rock punctured one of the cans giving everything in his bag a beer-ish musk for the rest of the trip).  Mount Outram is a fabulous viewpoint with many peaks tall and small visible.  Mount Forbes, The Lyells, and The Columbia Icefield are the stars of the show, but in an area directly beside The Freshfields with Mount Murchison and Mount Wilson also around there are good views to be had in every direction!  We took our time on the summit and were very thankful that we didn't have to slog all the way back to Glacier Lake!

Looking up at the terrain above treeline, lots of interesting sub-peaks.


Back across the valley towards Howse Peak.


Mount Forbes starts to show up, a huge mountain.


Mount Forbes is lovely from any angle.


Liam on the summit of Mount Outram.


Summit views looking to the north.


Zoomed in to the north.


An HDR looking towards The Lyells and The Columbia Icefield.


Looking East from the summit.


And to the South.


Forbes certainly steels the show in terms of near peaks!


Liam with his summit sushi.

Heading back down we made it to our camp a little past-headlamp time and gorged on a feast of popcorn, mead, cheese, and an array of the finest cuisine the Petro-Can in Lake Louise offered.  That night stars glittered overhead and only a wisp of wind blew through our valley until later in the morning when one troublesome cloud blew over and rained down on our defenseless sleeping bags!

Very fast travel down the upper mountain!


Well-timed sunset colors as we descended the peak.


Liam partway down the upper mountain.


Without snow just an easy scramble to gain the peak.


Across the valley to the Kaufman Peaks, Epaulette Mountain, Mount Cephren, White Pyramid, and Howse Peak.


A fine furry friend we met on the way down.


Lots of starts above from near treeline.

In the morning we had a leisurely breakfast feast with blueberry pancakes (and mead!) before rambling back down to the flats, adamant to stick high to bypass the upper bush and then follow the creek to minimize bush lower down.  This plan worked out fairly well with a few deviations and crossing the creek many times.  Before long we were back on the flats and making out way towards the lake.  After spying decent looking terrain on the flats ahead we opted to stick on the river rather than take the trail back.  In the fall this is a decent option, there were numerous crossings but only one (the last one to regain the trail at the viewpoint) were more than boot-deep.  After the viewpoint (adorned with red chairs which are visible from kilometers away!), a short walk brought us back to the cars and the end of another great trek.

The next morning looking up at the unnamed peaks around.


Sticking high to bypass the bush meant crossing this waterfall.


Back down near the river flats, almost free of bush!


Back on the flats, less ideal weather today.


The fall would be a good time of year to head over to Howse Pass.


Liam crossing the 'weir' on the way back.


This time of year the flats are a good alternative to the Glacier Lake trail.


Mount Murchison in the distance, another impressive peak.


Two chairs from the 'Red Chair Program' that Banff Park put in place.


A fine trip to a great viewpoint.

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