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From Streetside to Summit: A Bike and Scramble Up Mount Zengel

Easy Scramble
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A Wee Bit if Bypassing Pyramid's Shoulder
Friday, June 30, 2017

Since moving to Jasper I have wanted to head up a peak self-propelled leaving right from the front door (this being a much more attainable task than trying that from Edmonton!).  A bike approach seemed pretty critical, and of the candidate peaks something up the Pyramid Fire Road seemed to be a good plan (relatively close to town, lots of elevation but equally a very quick descent, and good travel conditions).  One of the peaks that Eric, Steven, and I had been eyeing up on our Southern Victoria Cross Traverse a few years previously was Mount Zengel, a scrambly peak to the North of the much more well-known Pyramid Mountain.  

Appropriately caffeinated, I set off on my mighty orange steed heading first up the Pyramid Bench by means of Trail 15 which snakes on either side of the Pyramid Lake Road popping out just by the lake itself.  Travel was quite good though it certainly woke the legs up (and the thought of how much biking elevation was still to be gained was a little bit discouraging).  After an impromptu work phone-call break near the regular trailhead, biking continued and (with a fair bit of pushing upwards rather than peddling for muscle-variety) kept huffing and puffing upwards over the next couple hours until eventually reaching the base of Pyramid Mountain itself.

First stop before starting the uphill in the lot by the museum.


Up the fire road!


At the junction between the Palisade and the Pyramid trails, thing get a little soggier after here.


Almost at the end of the fire road!

After stashing my bike it was time to make a beeline over to Zengel.  Feeling a little bit lazy I decided to try to skirt the shoulder of Pyramid Mountain quite low (knowing that all the elevation gained would be lost again on the other side) and was pleased to find a relatively pleasant way of traversing the slopes that soon after turned into actually pleasant travel once on the north side of the ridge.  The Victoria Cross Range is a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of town (especially around the Canada Day weekend) and traipsing downward to the valley bottom was very relaxing (never really worrying about footing or routefinding, just following the terrain).  It is quite a difficult task in this particular valley to avoid stepping on wildflowers, there are quite a few around.

Branching off to gain the lower shoulder of Pyramid.


Pretty decent views from the lower shoulder!


A nice lower bench below the shoulder. 


On the backside of Pyramid, Zengel on the right!

Taking a look up at Zengel itself, it looked like there would be two main scree gullys to ramble up.  The further west gully had some snow patches draining down over it and it looked like that would be very soft (nice for going down, not so nice for slogging up) so I opted for a ridge traverse, heading up east of the peak and then descending the western slope.  Travel on the lower part of the peak was actually pretty nice, with game trails making the scree a little less arduous to work up, the last 200 vertical meters to the ridge were a bit trying though.

Nice gentle terrain from here to the valley bottom.


Looking back up at Pyramid.


You can just barely see people on the summit of Pyramid.


Some fairly tiresome scree to gain the summit ridge.


Once on the ridgecrest itself travel was really nice with wide-reaching views and a hint of a breeze to keep the heat of the sun was becoming overwhelming.  A meander higher upwards revealed a cairn on the broad plateau below the summit.  Taking a look there was actually a plaque inside with a dedication to Sergent Raphael Zengel, for whom the peak was named.  A little bit higher the true summit had a larger cairn and a register that Sean had placed a few years prior.

Working up the ridge to the summit, neat rock wall below.


The plaque with a dedication to Sgt. Raphael Louis Zengel of the 45th Battallion of the Saskatchewan Regiment (for whom the peak is named).


Cool views looking west towards Buttress Mountain with even a tarn below.


A patch from the Saskatchewan Regiment that a group of soliders left on their ascent of the peak a couple years prior.

From the summit, much of the Victoria Cross Range (at least the highpoints of peaks) can be seen along with good views to the east.  Carrying on towards Buttress Mountain looked interesting via the connecting ridge (not 'scrambly-interesting' though).  After a lengthy break I rambled down the wet-looking scree which was indeed pretty decent for descending.

Looking eastish from the summit.


Linking up Zengel to Buttress looks like it might need a bit of ropework..


Back down the wet and loose scree towards the valley.


A very remote-feeling area for being so close to town.


Once back down in the valley it was one foot in front (and often above) the other hopping up boulders to gain the ridge.  I opted for a highe line than on the way in and met up with the regular trail for Pyramid along the crest.  A bit of a down-scramble later and it was back to the bike for a very quick descent (my GPS clocked me with a max speed of 47 km/hr on one of the straightaways).  Suffice to say, biking down is very energetically efficient, even doubly so when following the Pyramid road back down to town!


A nice patch of moss campion.


Back up on the ridge of Pyramid, a bit of descent and then back on the bike!


A fairly lenghty day, I'm quite liking bike approaches this year!

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