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): 
Quick 'n Easy Rating: 
Class 3 : you fall, you break your leg
Difficulty Notes: 

Rating it alpine due to a glacier approach and very steep snow. Exposed 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.


[A subtle, but nice sunrise from camp.]

[Mount Northover gets some alpine glow.]


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!


[Ben starts up the west gully.]

[Perfect hard snow for snowshoeing.]

[Looking up the gully to the summit.]

[Below the upper bowl the terrain already starts to steepen.]

[A nice morning panorama with CordonnierWarriorNorthover and Lyautey from L to R. ++]

[Looking up the avy debris at our ascent slope.]


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 but he makes it.]


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 the Rockies so much.


[Ben comes up the ridge with a great panorama of summits behind him. There's fantastic exposure on the ridge too. ++]

[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 (Joffre, Mangin, Cordonnier, Warrior, Royal Group, Onslow, Defender, Northover, Assiniboine, Beatty, Lyautey, Sarrail) and valleys, including Hidden and Upper Kananaskis Lakes a long way off at distant right. ++]

[Mount Joffre poking up over it's false north summit 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.]

[Onslow, Defender, Northover and Lyautey in the foreground with the Royal Group, Assiniboine and Sir Douglas at distance.]

[Cordonnier at left with Mount Warrior sitting under the Mount King George at right.]

[Sir Douglas at left with Robertson at right.]

[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 Warrior and Onslow in the foreground. King George at the left and Princess Mary at extreme left out of sight. 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.]

[Another view of Mount Joffre looming over its north ridge with our tracks just visible.]

[Mount Mangin isn't as easy as it looks.]

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

[More of the Purcells.]


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.


[Ben starts down the exposed summit ridge - our route up is from bottom left on the snow and avy debris. Marlborough Pond at lower center right. ++]

[Gorgeous views down the exposed NW ridge towards Lyautey (L) and Mount Indefatigable over Kananaskis Lakes at right.]

[We wisely donned crampons for the descent.]

[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.]

[The snow is still rock-hard, thankfully.]

[Another successful summit - ambling down to our gear on a gorgeous, windless, clear morning. It doesn't get better than this.]

[All the hard stuff done, now we just have a gorgeous hike to the parking lot to look forward to.]

[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 (L) from near the river flats.]

[Our route up and down Marlborough. Other parties have gone to the right hand ridge - we went left up the avy slope. 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.]


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. cool


[Back at Aster Lake. ++]

[Back to a landscape that is busy transitioning into summer. Sarrail rising gracefully at right.]

[Rushing stream coming out of Aster Lake, this is called Aster Creek which joins Foch Creek before plunging down Fossil Falls towards Hidden 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 with Mount Lyautey rising above at left and Indefatigable at distant right. ++]

[Wonderful colors on the calm lakes.]

[Can't get enough of these views as we start one of the exposed snow traverses - note the trail in scree at center. ++]

[Back in the green world around Hidden Lake.]

[Looking down 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.]

[Gorgeous wildflowers on a gorgeous day.]

[Back in the forest with smells of spring in the air.]

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

[Last glances back over the Upper Kananaskis Lake towards the Foch Creek drainage with Sarrail at left and Lyautey at right.]


Looking back on this two day trip, I realize that it epitomizes all that I love about the Rockies in general and the 11000ers in particular. In general the smell of early summer vegetation with the raging creeks, shimmering lakes and tarns and snow covered peaks combined to intoxicate the senses as we hiked through forests and along waterfalls. In particular, ascending the huge north face of Joffre on snowshoes in late afternoon with zero wind and views forever, was another transcendent experience which seems to happen with predictable regularity on bigger peaks (when conditions are perfect). This turned out to be the perfect trip to stand on top of my 400th peak and I am grateful for this memory.

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