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A Scramble Up the South End of the Endless Chain (GR 715137)

Difficulty: 
Moderate Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
2647
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
16.0
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1050
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
1200
YDS Difficulty: 
3
Bushwhackyness: 
Not That Bad
Tripdate: 
Sunday, June 25, 2017

With unseasonably warm weather rolling into the Park on a day off, heading up somewhere higher seemed essential.  After throwing around a few different options with other folks I opted for a solo scramble up the southern end of the Endless Chain Ridge (a good looking viewpoint that I had spied before from Replica Peak).  Looking on the map there was a survey site listed near the top of the peak (though one map had it on the summit itself and another on the false summit to the east).  Old survey markers are neat to come across so I reckoned a bit of a ridgewalk might be a nice way to lengthen the trip and would aim to make a high loop hitting the summit at the end.

 
Leaving the Poboktan Creek trailhead there were thankfully no bear warnings in place this year restricting usage.  The trail to get to the Maligne Pass/Brazeau Loop junction was in quite good shape and actually a little bit chilly setting out in the morning.  On the map it looked like a decent line up would be roughly following between two creeks descending down from the ridge, good landmarks to decide when to leave the trail!  Breaking off upwards the forest was actually quite open (with a few notable exceptions with bushy willows crowding around some of the wetter areas) and a meandering path quickly lead up towards treeline.  As with many parts of the park, game trails were plenty and certainly helped with footing on some of the brief sections of steeper slopes.  Open alpine meadows lay above with much heather and other assorted flowers in various stages of bloom.  Making a line for the lower, east, side of the ridge made for nice views early of Replica and Coronet Peaks, as well as the more mighty summits near the Brazeau Icefield.
 

Setting off along the trail, quite nice travel conditions.

 

Almost time to head off into the bush.

 

Good to see new growth.

 

Higher up, alpine meadows await!

 

Once hitting treeline the views really start to open up.

 

Looking east towards the Brazeau Icefield and associated peaks.

 
With a fair bit of lingering snow (woefully unsupportive near the edges of the patches) finding the survey marker was going to be quite difficult and despite a bit of wandering I found no sign of it along the ridge.  Looking down towards Maligne Pass things still looked frosty on the upper tarn but the heat of summer was starting to work its way into the valley.  Getting over to the summit directly following the ridge seemed a little bit spicy so I opted to drop down a bit onto less angled terrain that looked quite pleasant.  After crossing a few narrow snow slopes (that were surprisingly still quite hard given the warm air temperature) nice moderate scrambling on solid quartzite lead up to the summit ridge and then swiftly after to the summit.
 

The direct line up the ridgecrest seemed kind of steep from this vantage.

 

No sign of a survey marker around here.

 

Looking south from the lower highpoint.

 

Not too much more in terms of elevation to the actual summit.

 

Thankfully I did not have to lose that much elevation to reach the ridge.

 

Really neat coloring on the rocks from different minerals.

 

Not far to the summit now.

 

Quite a nice cairn atop the highpoint.

 
Trying to spend a little more time working on interpretation recently, I hauled up my copy of the Handbook of the Canadian Rockies and took to identifying all of the plants that I had seen along the way up.  It is quite nice double checking things right away!  Looking north to the rest of the Endless Chain Ridge the terrain actually looks mostly scramble-able (with the odd section of a rap or verticalish technical rock to keep on the crest).  A full traverse would be quite the day but could be kind of cool!
 

Not a bad view of the Winston Churchill Range!

 

Looking north to the rest of the Endless Chain Ridge.

 

A good book for weight training ;)

 
Heading back downwards the full heat of the day became all to obvious.  Thankfully between the descent being entirely downhill, and passing right beside a creek, things were actually quite nice.  Before too long I popped back out onto the official trail a few meters from where I had left before and started the walk back to the car (passing several folks including one fellow armed with a compressed air noise gun as the full extent of his gear who was hoping to see a bear?).  Once back down at the car I headed down to the Sunwapta River to get some practice on my packraft in a current.  It seems to be quite a seaworthy craft!

 

Down, down, down, back to the bush.

 

A very interesting looking growth pattern.

 

A nice patch of anemone.

 

Back down by the road, not a bad day out.

 

A short and sweet scramble, the full traverse of the ridge is quite tempting.

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