Princess Mary, Mount


Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Summit Elevation (m): 
Summit Elevation (ft): 
Quick 'n Easy Rating: 
Class 4 : you fall, you are almost dead
Difficulty Notes: 

Steep, loose southwest gully to a loose, low 5th scramble up the summit block. Ice or snow would complicate things greatly.

Trip Report

After descending the glacier and loose scree of King George's upper mountain, we realized that with a whole afternoon still ahead of us and perfect weather, we should attempt a scramble of Mount Princess Mary. After all, there was no way we were slogging all the way back here again - no matter how beautiful it was! ;)


I had printed out a trip report from Rick Collier's successful scramble of Princess Mary, but in my early morning fog of sleepiness I hadn't packed it along. Oh well. We'd be adventurous and see if we could guess a good route from below. The spirit of adventure lives on! We only had a limited choice from our current vantage point on King George. There was an upper scree bench on Princess Mary's west side and a lower one. The upper one looked hard to reach, so we opted for the lower one, hoping to traverse around it and find a reasonable ascent line somewhere.


We were all feeling a bit bagged so we put one condition on the ascent. It would have to be fair means - i.e. a scramble, not a climb. We didn't have the energy or will to pitch it out. Steven led the way along the rubble slope and before long we rounded a corner and found ourselves staring up at a huge staircase bowl leading all the way up to the summit block. Of course we had no idea at the time, but this is likely the same gully Rick used in 1990 to ascend the peak.


[Descending loose scree from the cliff traverse on King George.]

[Steven leads the side-hill traverse around to the SW face of Princess Mary.]

[King George rises impressively above Ben and Eric as they traverse the west slopes of Princess Mary en route to finding a route up to her summit.]


We dropped most of our gear at the bottom of the gully before slowly starting up - each person picking their own line (this avoided rock fall issues as the terrain was horribly loose). We picked our way up the bowl, eventually working to climber's right on a fairly easy ridge to the upper summit block where things got interesting. We managed to get up a loose, steep gully (4th class) before topping out near the col between the true summit on our left and a false summit on our right. The terrain from here to the summit was much more serious and probably breached low 5th class a few times for short sections.


[Steep scrambling lower down - this was the easier stuff near the bottom.]

[Nice staircase terrain - kind of like Murchison's amphitheater but smaller.]

[Ascending above the steeper lower terrain to the even steeper upper terrain. ++]

[Looking back along the scree traverse from where we started the SW face ascent. King George visible in the distance.]

[The terrain is also very loose.]

[With careful routefinding there were non-technical ascent paths.]

[Eric negotiates a steep chimney just before the summit block.]

[Looking ahead to the final challenge - getting up to the summit!]


We all made it to the summit - Steven took the ridge direct, Ben took most of the ridge and Eric and I found a third way! Whatever works! The views of King George were fabulous, it was hard to believe we were just up there.


[Looking towards Joffre and Kananaskis - the smoke has cleared up and now our summit views are stunning! ++]

[King George at far right and views to the west and then east to Joffre at far left. ++]

[Another old register.]

[Mount Sir Douglas]

[Mounts Sarrail and Foch are the two with snow.]

[Joffre at left and Abruzzi just right of center with snow. ++]

[Pano includes (L to R) Northover Lyautey, Sarrail, Foch, Warrior, Cordonnier, Petain Joffre, Abruzzi and many more. ++]

[A slightly wider pano includes Prince Albert at far left. ++]


After signing another old register (1970) we started the slow and careful descent. I was initially a bit worried about it, but taking our time and sticking close together made it pleasant enough. Soon we were at the gear drop and done all the hard stuff.


[Careful downclimbing off the summit block.]

[We stuck close together and took our time so it didn't seem that bad.]

[It's still 4th class terrain!]

[A forest fire in the distance.]

[Lots of narrow, loose traverses.]

[It's best to stick close on terrain this exposed and loose.]

[Big terrain - rocks would pick up a LOT of speed as we kicked them down... Eric went first! :)]

[We traversed back to the nasty scree slope we started up King George on rather than try to find a shortcut down. This was a good decision on hind sight.]

[Heading back to our bivy.]

[Looking up at Princess Mary. We traversed the obvious scree bench to around the tallest rib visible here before heading up.]

[Big terrain.]

[I love this terrain]

[Looking forward to the world's nicest bivy! Located at the stand of trees - a very nice spot.]

[Looking over the bivy site towards Joffre.]

[The bivy site - Ben and Steven just visible walking to it.]


[A very special place.]

We ambled towards the bivy site and packed up camp before heading off for the Prince Albert bivy site in anticipation of Sunday's objectives, Prince Albert and Prince George. The traverse to the main bivy site near the east glacier and south ridge approach was more involved than I was expecting. We initially had a trail (the same one we'd followed up the night before in pitch darkness) but eventually we wanted to traverse around the south end of Princess Mary and back towards the east glacier valley. We managed to find a route through and walked into a very spacious and deluxe bivy site with plenty of daylight to spare.


[Reluctantly leaving a very nice bivy.]

[Initially the route was very pleasant.]

[Getting a bit overgrown.]

[The South Glacier drainage creek plunges over this waterfall near the bivy site.]

[I'm not gonna lie - this was a PITA in the dark!!]

[Things start to get manky.]

[We traversed into the East Glacier valley by following sheep trails under steep cliffs on Princess Mary's south / east flanks.]

[Tired, but having fun.]

[We finally break free of the cliff band and view the broad upper valley that used to have the East Glacier in it.]

[Lovely alpine meadows.]

[The desolate moonscape that is the glacial moraines from a receding east glacier.]

[Finding our way to the large bivy site under the east glacier.]


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