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A Two Day Trek Up Marble Mountain and Flat Ridge

Difficulty: 
Easy Scrambling
Elevation [m]: 
2969
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
65.1
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1100
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
2890
Ascent Time: 
7:30 Car to Marble's Summit, 1:15 Bivy to Flat Ridge's Summit
Bushwhackyness: 
A Little Between The Trail and Marble's Base
Tripdate: 
Saturday, October 18, 2014

 

For the last few weeks Steven and I had been thinking that each trip would be 'the last of summer', moving into winter-mode instead.  But consistently each week would warm up, melt off any snow, and stave off winter for one more week.  We resolved to take advantage of this by going for a remote objective along the South Boundary Trail (which we knew was in fabulous shape thanks to Eric's beta from his Mount Aztec trip a couple weeks prior).  We set our sights on two peaks west of Brazeau Lake, Marble Mountain, and (the "impressively named") Flat Ridge.  Both peaks looked pretty easy and we reckoned would be ascend-able even if a blizzard did decide to roll in.  Setting out from the Nigel Pass trailhead we got a bit of a late start trying to see if the early morning rain showers would subside as the forecast suggested.  Shortly after our timetable won out and we gore-texed-up and started on the lengthy approach.

The trail up to Nigel Pass was in as good shape as we were told which made for quick travel.  Looking to the west it seemed a storm most foul was hovering over the Columbia Icefield and we were glad to be heading further east into the front ranges!  By the time we reached the pass (about 2 hours) it was exceedingly windy but looking much calmer and drier towards the east.

 

Setting out from the Nigel Pass trailhead in the rain.

Thankfully the rain didn't last for long.

The trail up to Nigel Pass is in great shape.

Almost at the Pass.

Lots of nice fall colors around here.

Very windy looking towards Cataract Pass.

Looking towards Nigel Peak from the Pass.

 

Once down the other side of the pass travel was made even quicker on the excellent (and exceedingly flat) trail paralleling the headwaters of the Brazeau River.  This flat section wasn't that memorable being mostly in the trees, but the occasional open section did grant some good views of impressive unnamed peaks that certainly deserve names (looking at my pictures later many have massive visible summit cairns!).  Eventually we reached our drainage and left the trail heading up into the bush below Marble Mountain.  Bushwhacking was actually pretty nice, with open old forest and only the occasional massive log to jump over.  We didn't want to drop down to the creek fearing a dense bush-slog so stuck high near treeline planning on sidehilling to a ridge to the west.  This proved to be a good plan (and is probably the best descent route too!) and we traded bush for views (an equitable trade anyday!), though a chain of visible clearings by the creek were enough to tempt us downwards the following day...  Once on the ridge we could see the rest of the route up Marble Mountain and it looked delightfully straightforward.  We ditched our packs, donned our parkas, and set on upwards amidst an increasingly chill wind.

 

Over the Pass it was much less snowy.

Steven on one of several bridges along the Brazeau Lake trail.

From the trail looking up at a prominent unnamed peak.

Zoomed in view of the peak.

Me trudging along the trail, photo by Steven Song.

Very wide open trail down by the river.

Looking up we could see Marble Mountain from the trail.

Here we left the trial at the drainage coming down from Marble.

Open forest made for good travel with Mount McDonald in the distant left.

Very sandy soil below Marble.

Steep sidehilling.

Bit of bush to contend with below Marble, photo by Steven Song.

Looking back towards Nigel Pass.

Looking at a bunch of nice looking unnameds near Marble.

 

Thankfully as we ascended the views became better and better with tons of neat texture in the clouds to make for snazzy photos!  There were no challenges between the ridge and the summit, just one foot in front of the other.  From the summit (which had a massive cairn) tons of peaks were visible both in the main and front ranges.  Lots more peaks around here deserve names than what are currently on maps!  Descending down Marble was quick and shortly we were back at our packs and at our bivy, on a snow-free area beside a bubbling brook below Flat Ridge.

 

Steven most of the way up Marble Mountain.

Really neat views given these conditions.

Partial summit view from Marble Mountain

Wider summit view.

Looking towards Brazeau Lake.

So much interesting lighting in this view!

Looking down on Flat Ridge.

Flat Ridge with stars from above the bivy.

More stars above Marble Mountain.

 

The next morning we woke up to crimson skies above and swirling clouds to the north.  The way up Flat Ridge is very straightforward, go up and you'll get there.  We chose a gradually ascending line to hit the ridge first and get views northwards in case they were shrouded in cloud at the summit.  Views from the summit were actually quite nice and many pictures were taken with the interesting cloud cover.  Even some of the giants of the Columbia Icefield were briefly visible!  We couldn't find a cairn on the actual highpoint so quickly built one and then went to investigate the south end of the ridge (closest to Marble) which did have a cairn though no visible register.  After enjoying the views for a while (and trying to decide which peak was Aztec Mountain) we headed back to the bivy and started the trek back.

 

The next morning had nice sunrise colors.

Looking west from below Flat Ridge.

More great lighting on unnamed peaks.

Steven up on Flat Ridge.

North towards Pobotokan Mountain (on the left).

Some scrambling requried to connect up to the highpoint NE of Flat Ridge.

Wider summit view from Flat Ridge.

Steven walking over to the cairned highpoint near Marble.

View from the cairned highpoint.

One last pano.

A bit of snow always makes for good views.

Back down by the creek looking up towards Flat Ridge.

 

Once back on the ridge below Marble we could either retrace our steps sidehilling or head down into the clearings beside the creek.  For variety we opted for the creek plan which ended up costing us time and extra bushwhacking but even so wasn't too terrible.  Eventually we were back on our ascent track and shortly after back on the official trail.  Once back on the trail we were both happy to have brought mp3 players for the long way back to the car.  Thankfully visibility was better than on the way in and we could get some decent views to keep our motivation up.  As we approached Nigel Pass the sky started to clear somewhat and we were treated to nice view of Saskatchewan as well as looking at the terrain down Cataract Pass.  The last push down from the pass to the car felt a little bit sloggy but didn't take too long and surprisingly enough we made it back to the car with plenty of time to spare till sunset (giving some nice parting views of Cirrus Mountain) from the approach road.  Overall I was quite pleased with this trip and am anxious to come back to the South Boundary Trail next year (possibly early on once that pesky caribou closure expires)!

 

Looking down at the open bushy terrain below Marble Mountain.

Still a long ways to get back on the trail.

Thankfully, the bush is fairly open.

Looking up at an unnamed ridge north of the trail.

Looking up towards Nigel Pass.

At Nigel Pass looking towards Cataract Pass.

Still a fair ways back to the car!

Zoomed in toward Saskatchewan.

Back down on the approach road.

Cirrus Mountain on the left and an impressive unnamed tower on the right.

Good two day trip for this time of year!

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