Marlborough, Mount


Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Summit Elevation (m): 
Summit Elevation (ft): 
Elevation Gain (m): 
Total Distance (km): 
Difficulty Notes: 

Rating it alpine due to a glacier approach and very steep snow. 4th class ridge to the summit from the top of the snow / glacier.

Trip Report

After a perfect day on Mount Joffre I woke up the team at 03:30 on Sunday morning for an attempt at my 400th peak - Mount Marlborough. We packed up camp under a clear, cool sky and soon found ourselves under the approach gully up the north west side of the mountain. The snow was fairly hard, but there was a punchy crust if you went looking for it. We knew that we had to get up and down the steep south face to the upper ridge before the morning sun started to hit it. There was recent avy debris in the upper bowl so we knew that parts of the slope wanted to slide.


We dumped most of our gear on a rock island near the bottom of the gully and started 'shoeing up. The approach was perfect! A narrow gully led easily up to the upper bowl where we could see our route steepening significantly. It's always fun scoping out a new route "on the fly" with no idea if it'll actually go or not. Steven mentioned that maybe we should swap crampons for our 'shoes but I was a bit concerned about punching through the crust and said the 'shoes would probably go right up to the north west ridge. Should have listened to Steven on that one!


[A subtle, but nice sunrise from camp]

[Northover gets some alpine glow]

[Ben starts up the west gully]

[Looking up the gully to the summit]

[Getting higher]

[Looking down the lower gully - it's pretty steep already in places lower down]

[Just before the upper bowl there's some steep terrain]

[A nice morning panorama with Cordonnier, Warrior, Northover and Lyautey from L to R. ++]

[Making our way into the upper alpine bowl]

[Alongside the avy debris and getting steeper]


As we climbed up beside the fresh avy debris the slope began to steepen significantly. We've had a lot of experience on steep snow slopes the past month or so (Collie, Ayesha, Trapper, Cirrus, Joffre) and there's one thing that's always true - when the slope reaches and exceeds 40 degrees you must be in crampons! Near the ridge I began to get a bit dizzy from staring at the snow as I climbed (and probably due to a major head cold and all the exertion of the past 24 hours...). This was not great timing as the slope also steepened just past the 40 degree mark and the 'shoes began to feel very insecure. It was way too late to change to the crampons at this point so we all powered up to the ridge above, using inertia and determination to override gravity temporarily!


[Now it's bloody steep!]

[Should be wearing crampons now...]

[Ben comes up the last little bit of snow to the ridge - a bit too steep for 'shoes]


Once on the ridge top we could see that our route worked out just about as perfectly as a "blind" route could - we would definitely make the summit. If we tried reaching the ridge any quicker we'd have run into 5th class terrain. As it was, the ridge was plenty exposed to the summit - certainly didn't want to slip off the north side here! The views, at 08:00 were sublime in every direction and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of "winging" my 400th summit. There's a lot of memories in 400 mountain peaks and Marlborough, although not huge or sexy as a peak, ticked off a lot of reasons why I love climbing so much.


[Ben comes up the ridge with a great panorama of summits behind him. ++]

[Ben walks the last bit of corniced ridge to the summit. ++]

[Vern stands on his 400th summit with his 399th (Joffre) rising in the background.]

[Summits include Foch, Petain, Joffre, Mangin, Cordonnier and Warrior (L to R). ++]

[Looking west at another myriad of peaks and valleys, including Hidden and Upper Kananaskis Lakes a long way off. ++]

[Joffre and Mangin with the Mangin Glacier and our tracks up underneath the triangular north face of the north ridge at lower right. Our bivy was at lower right just out of the photo. The excellent high bivy site is just to the right of the base of the triangular face on bare rock.]

[Mount Warrior sits under the Royal Group]

[Sir Douglas]

[King George is on my hit list for sure. This is the face that I will traverse from R to L before going to the summit. Update: I ended up climbing King George two peaks later in August of 2014.]

[The Royal Group with King George at the left and Princess Mary at extreme left. To the right of King George is Prince Albert, Prince Henry, Prince John and Queen Mary. Prince George sits in front of King George and is barely visible here.]

[One of my favorite climbs - Assiniboine towers over one of my scariest ones - Northover!]

[I love Mount Sarrail's graceful line to her summit]

[I think this is Neville - an impressive looking summit ridge!]

[Our tracks from less than 12 hours ago - straight up the north face of Joffre]

[Views go deep into BC towards Mount Farnham (11,463ft) in the Purcells. Farnham Tower is the obvious leaning appendage.]

[More of the Purcells]

[Ben starts down the ridge - our route up is from bottom left on the snow. ++]


After snapping some summit photos we headed down. We had a long ways to hike out yet and the upper mountain would soon be in sun and we wanted to be long gone by then. Crampons worked great for descent - the steepest roll near the ridge was certainly steeper than anything we'd done on Joffre the day previous as we had to face inward for about 50 vertical meters before we could turn around and plunge step down the rest of the way.


[Coming down the ridge - crampons on and ready] for the snow descent.]

[Vern hanging out on the ridge, waiting for everyone to get their crampons on. Pic by Steven Song]

[Careful descent]

[Another successful summit - ambling down to our gear on a gorgeous morning]

[Nearing the bottom of the gully - note all the rain runnels in the snow? This area got about 4" two days before our trip!]

[A great shot of our entire route up Marlborough from near the river flats]


The hike out past Aster Lake and down the headwall was interesting. Especially with snow, this is not a simple backpacking excursion. Once again we were surprised with the exposure on some of the snow slopes we had to cross - there was more than one "no slip" zone and with heavy packs this becomes even more of a concern. The hike back along Upper Kananaskis Lake was undulating and felt uphill the whole way but with the satisfaction of two successful summits and more great memories we found it hard to complain about that too much. ;)


[Our route up and down Marlborough. Other parties have gone to the right hand ridge - we went left. There is a small glacier on this face.]

[A bit further down on the flats, looking back at Marlborough on the left and Joffre in the distant background on the right.]

[Trekking out after a successful trip - Joffre is huge in the background]

[Back at Aster Lake. ++]

[Rushing stream coming out of Aster Lake]

[Almost done with snow as we near the headwall on descent.]

[A great view from the top of the headwall includes Fossil Falls and the lakes. ++]

[Wonderful colors on the calm lakes]

[Can't get enough of these views! ++]

[Back in the green world around Hidden Lake]

[If you get your timing off this trail and all these flowers will be under water and you'll be in the nasty bush instead of on this nice trail...]

[My favorite place to find these yellow violets is at the back of the Upper Kananaskis Lake]

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