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Wandering Around The Royal Group (Mount King George Mount Princess Mary and Mount Prince George)

Difficulty: 
Mountaineering
Elevation [m]: 
3410
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
41.1
Bushwhackyness: 
Somewhat Dense And Some Deadfall On The Approach Trail
Tripdate: 
Friday, August 8, 2014

There had been talk of getting the crew (Eric, Steven, Vern, and I) together for a remote 11000er for some time. After some deliberation we decided upon Mount King George, a highest peak in the Royal Group a collection of peaks near the Alberta/BC border to the west of Mount Joffre. Our aim was to ascend Mount King George itself and maybe some of the other peaks seeing how much time we had over a 2.5 day period.

To access Mount King George you have to travel down the Palliser River Road a BC logging road which starts off from Settlers Road on highway 93 in Kooteney National Park. From the well flagged trailhead we set off in search of the fabled bridge across the Palliser River (that had been described in several online sources). Sadly after the flooding damage in 2012 it seemed that the bridge was no longer though a decent sized log had fallen (possibly with human assistance) spanning the river which we could cross by scooting across. Once across the river the real navigational fun started… The Royal Group is not very well travelled and the approach trail is representative of this. Most of the approach consists of bounding over deadfall or trapesing through dense bush, while steadily moving upwards. The key thing to remember on the approach is always follow the flagging. As of 2014, there is a steady stream of yellow/orange/blue flagging tape marking the route at less obvious junctions (of which there are many). If you have gone two minutes without seeing any flagging after leaving the creek it might be worth looking around for some, loosing the path is very easy to do. After just under five hours of travel (and about 10km distance) we made it to our bivy site below Mount King George’s lower south glacier in time for a few hours of sleep.

The next morning we set off up the south glacier route of Mount King George. One very obvious observation is the large difference in size of the lower glacier compared to what is listed on topo maps (the actual glacier is maybe 40%). Standing between the lower and upper glaciers is about 400 vertical meters of loose scree followed by traversing on ledges. The upper glacier is the only technical section of the route, consisting of 40 degree snow with a very fatal run out all the way down, don’t slip! After traversing across the steep slopes, the grade levels off and all that stands between you and the summit is a snow/ice couloir. Summit views were fabulous, but very smoky, especially to the South there was a lingering cloud of haze. After hanging out on the summit we had the whole day ahead of us and redirected our efforts to our next peak Mount Princess Mary.

We had some vague beta that Rick Collier had ascended Princess Mary and that it was a scramble and with that we headed back down to the col and picked our way up loose slabby slopes. Most of the route was moderate scrambling with a few optional difficult moves to get towards the summit ridge. It turned out that Mount Princess Mary was quite an enjoyable peak and with fabulous views looking back towards Mount King George! Heading back down to our bivy site, tired but quite satisfied we still had another full day to spend so moved our camp down lower to a more favourable site to take on Mount Prince Alberta and/or Mount Prince George.

Rising an hour or so before the sun the next morning we set out originally planning on heading up Mount Prince Albert. From our campsite we quickly gained the glacier on its western edge by heading up rocky slopes intermixed with waterfalls. I haven’t done much travel on dry glacier and I must say that threading our way through the open crevasses certainly made for a neat way to start the morning. Even in pre-dawn light it was obvious that today was going to be smoky looking back to the southeast. A little after sunrise and a fair bit of weaving through crevasses we made it to the start of the ascent up Mount Prince Albert. After getting a feel for how soft the snow was (and how wide open the ‘shrund above looked) we had a group discussion and decided to redirect our efforts to the much less snow-condition-dependent Mount Prince George. This proved to be a good choice as even just getting to Mount Prince George and back down to the camp would take longer than expected. Ascending Mount Prince George was a simple matter of following the gentle snow slope upwards and then heading up some moderate scrambly sections to reach the summit. Summit views were extremely smoky to the south and east but looking back to the rest of the Royal Group was unobstructed and exceptionally pretty. Mount Sir John especially drew our eye and may be the focus of a future trip! To get back to our camp we hugged the eastern edge of the glacier which led us to a nice looking tarn and descending well worn rocks with plenty of waterfalls. Once back at camp there was still the matter of descending back to the car during which we were very glad for the large amounts of flagging, it is very easy to get off route! I have to highly recommend heading out to the Royal Group, it is a great remote area with enjoyable peaks, fabulous views, and plenty of solitude.

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