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Mount Joffre and Mount Marlborough

Difficulty: 
Easy Mountaineering
Elevation [m]: 
3450
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
40.0
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1637
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
3030
Ascent Time: 
9:50 car to summit of Joffre, 2:05 from base of Marlborough to summit
Bushwhackyness: 
Little if Hidden Lake is low, a bit more between Mount Sarrail and Aster Lake
Tripdate: 
Saturday, June 21, 2014

At long last, the stars aligned and Mount Joffre came up as our weekend objective. Joffre had been discussed countless times over the last few years (in pretty much every season) as a possible objective but plans always seemed to go awry. This time, Steven, Vern, and I would not be swayed and despite a less than certain forecast set out to ascend another 11000er with the belief that “there has to be a decent weather window during at least some of the weekend”. As it turned out weather was actually much better than anticipated and we had a lovely weekend.

Setting out from the Upper Kananaskis Lakes parking lot the first problem of the trip revealed itself, a trail closure on the normal approach on the south side of the lake would mean re-routing and starting on the north side of the lake. Distance-wise this doesn't amount to that much of a change but the other trail has lots of ups and down, and is harder on the feet, but that being said at least Aster Lake itself wasn't closed so we couldn't complain too much! Actually the approach went by quicker than expected and not long after crossing the roaring Kananaskis River we reached a trail junction with a large HL etched into a tree. We gathered that probably meant “Hidden Lake” and followed the trail quickly getting us into a bunch of deadfall that guarded the path to the lake. That being said this approach to Hidden Lake is considerably nicer than the route Steven and I took previously that starts a little further East. Reaching Hidden Lake we found the water level to be quite low allowing for an easy walk along the shore further ignoring bush (what luxury!). Leaving the lake behind we quickly found the Aster Lake trail and followed across scree and steep snow reaching the lower slopes of Mount Sarrail. From here the trail became difficult to follow and we took to following a rough GPS route towards Aster Lake (knowing that at some point there was a large U turn in the official trail). Sure enough when we came across a seasonal lake near the warden cabin there was much zigging and zagging but eventually sticking near the south side of the creek led us to the (still very frozen) Aster Lake.

At this point it was early afternoon and we were surprised how nice the snow was holding up given the tropical heat of the day and strengthened our resolve to summit Joffre today if the weather held out. Crossing around the lake proved to be a tiring slog of switching between boots and 'shoes but soon enough we were firmly in snowshoeing terrain and heading up the valley towards Joffre itself. We left our bivy gear just before gaining elevation up to the moraines guarding the peak which ended up being a less than ideal plan (if we had lugged things another 200m there was an excellent bivy site with windbreak already set up which would have had phenomenal sunset views, oh well no worries). To this point the trek had been one foot in front of the other snowshoe plodding and after getting a closer look at the last big slope we were pretty certain given excellent snow conditions that we wouldn't even have to take the 'shoes off all the way to the top! There was still a great deal of snow beneath Joffre at this time of year and it was difficult to tell where the glacier actually began (and we couldn't see any signs of crevasses). Making full use of the heal lifts on our 'shoes Steven lead a track straight on up the last 200m of elevation which admittedly did push the snowshoes to near their limit. I would very much recommend using crampons and an axe on this slope if snow conditions are anything but perfect! Eventually the slope started to ease up and we found ourselves on a nice broad summit with lovely wide reaching views. The summit views speak for themselves and like most 11000ers in the Rockies the views did not disappoint. After thoroughly enjoying the views we switched to crampons and leisurely made our way back to our camp for a well deserved dinner and rest

The next morning we were well ahead of schedule and decided to ascend another nearby peak, Mount Marlborough which we had noted the previous day had a nice snow-line heading all the way to the summit. Though considerably less lofty than Mount Joffre, Marlborough proved to be a trickier ascent and the snow directly beneath the summit was considerably steeper than anything on Joffre. We were able to use the 'shoes all the way up to the ridge but just barely, crampons and axe is definitely the way to go if heading up the snow-line we took! Summit views from Marlborough were excellent and gave a great different perspective for the area which you don't get some the loftier Mount Joffre. Looking back at our tracks still visible on Joffre's big slope made our route look quite ambitious! It turned out Marlborough was Vern's 400'th summit, an excellent achievement! With snow starting to soften even now we quickly put on crampons and rambled down the steep slope back down to Aster Lake and started the plod back to the car.

Another excellent trip up and excellent peak with excellent friends. Now time to decide what 11000er to aim for next!

 

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