After summitting Big Bend Peak (BBP), we decided that the day was much too beautiful to simply head back to the hostel already. Why not bag Mount Saskatchewan Junior (MSJ) while we were in the vicinity right? Peak baggers can be dumb like that.
Steven did his best to help our cause by letting us know several times that according to Raf there was no way off the west side of BBP. We ignored his warnings and started descending anyway. You never know 'til you get your nose in it. We initially descended the west face almost directly below the summit. This was steep, loose and either hard pack or ice depending on the line. We managed to eventually trend skier's right to gain the north ridge a bit lower down but not without some scrambling difficulties. This was probably the most technical part of our day.
Once on the ridge, Steven bailed off the west side almost immediately but that didn't look like that much fun so I traversed right to the end before turning skier's left and traversing back down the snow field towards Steven.
[A very steep descent off the west side of BBP.]
[We first descended this massive slope until the snow turned to ice - then we bailed to the north ridge out of sight to the skier's right.]
[Steven descends a steeper slope while I traverse to the end of the north ridge first. MSJ rises above Steven with a glacier between us. ++]
[Ben and Eric follow me down the north ridge. We avoided the cliffs above them on climber's right.]
[Looking for a way onto the icefields on MSJ's northeast flank.]
From our vantage on the snowfield it looked very steep to descend any further to the glacier on MSJ's northeast side. I wasn't too worried and started traversing south. Soon I spotted a steep, but possible descent and we took it. It worked out fantastic and soon we were tramping our way up snow slopes / glacier to the east ridge of MSJ.
[We find a way off!]
[Eric traverses off the lower slopes of BBP behind me.]
[Looking back at our descent track off BBP's west side.]
[Eric comes up the icefield with BBP in the background.]
The views kept improving as we made our way to the summit. Just before the summit we stayed well left of the 'schrund and ascended very steep snow to the small summit itself. The North Towers of Mt. Saskatchewan were impressive as was the view of Mt. Saskatchewan itself. Eric regaled us with tales of climbing it - it's been on my 'list' for a long time already due to it's remoteness and relative solace. Peaks of the Columbia icefields were also prominent including Bryce, Castleguard, Columbia and Athabasca. After enjoying a short summit stay we started our descent back to the Big Bend parking lot.
[Mount Saskatchewan is very impressive!]
[Eric follows me up the ridge - we're off the icefield now. Cirrus in the background.]
[Ben and Steven make their way to the summit of MSJ. Totally Awesome View to the left.]
[A mind blowing pano as we make our way along the ridge to the summit of MSJ. ++]
[More stunning scenery as we traverse. The valley north of Mount Saskatchewan is a really special place where few humans go - especially in winter. ++]
[Mount Totally Awesome View lives up to it's reputation!]
[Mount Columbia is so massive that it looks close. It's not!]
[Castleguard is a nice looking peak that also happens to be among the smallest on the Columbia Icefield.]
[The mighty Mount Bryce.]
[The North Towers look so close but they're probably further than they look from here.]
[Bryce, Castleguard and Mount Columbia in a wider view from the summit.]
[Nigel Peak on the far left and Unnamed peaks on the right. Parker Ridge must be down there somewhere too.]
[Looking at Cirrus Mountain - I really want to climb it now (which I did, with the same guys in May of 2014). Spine Peak just to the right of it. BBP on the left.]
[Vern on the summit of Mount Saskatchewan Junior.]
[Andromeda on the left and Athabasca on the right.]
[The North Towers look awesome from this angle.]
[The summit cairn with Mount Saskatchewan and the North Towers in the background.]
[The incredible view from the summit of MSJ includes Cirrus, Big Bend Peak, Spine, Cleopatra's Needle, Mount Saskatchewan, North Towers, Alexandra and Totally Awesome View! ++]
The descent was excellent. We chose a nice line that took us down a gully feather between BBP and MSJ and then contoured around BBP until meeting with our ascent tracks from earlier in the day. The views of the Mt. Saskatchewan bowl kept us from thinking of the big day waiting for our legs on Wilson after a pretty big day already. Eventually we worked our way down very solid snow (still cool in the shade) to the ascent road and back to the parking area.
[The team leaves the summit.]
[Mount Alexandra shows up between the North Towers and Mount Totally Awesome View.]
[Going back over a small rise in the descent ridge.]
[One of the most scenic areas in the Rockies is not very well known. ++]
[Eric descends past the false summit. Cirrus Mountain looms way off in the distance.]
[Descending the icefield with Big Bend Peak looming above and our tracks coming down it's west flank. We will turn skier's right once we're off the icefield and then contour around the south slopes of BBP until we hit our ascent track.]
[Cool scenery in the tight gully between BBP and MSJ.]
[A beautiful afternoon! Ascent slopes for Spine Peak are rising above the team across the valley - very avy prone but north facing at least.]
[I can't get enough of this view! ++]
[Contouring around the south side of BBP to it's east side.]
[Traversing steep slopes - good thing it wasn't too warm and the snow was very stable here.]
[Last look at the huge Mount Saskatchewan.]
[Re-crossing the Saskatchewan River.]
Our round trip time of 9.5 hours was pretty good considering we did both peaks. I only wished I had skis for a small part of the descent - both BBP and MSJ are great snowshoe ascents if you're confident on tricky avy terrain and glacier travel for MSJ. We enjoyed a nice evening back at the Rampart Creek hostel preparing for Mount Wilson.