Since I had scrambled Mounts Pilot, Brett, Burstall and Storm over the previous 2 days I figured it was time for a short and easy mountain. I chose Mount Fox. Short? No. Easy? No. Ooops. Oh well. Fun? Yes!
I was joined by Harvey, an active scrambler and hiker from Calgary who I was introduced to by Marta. Harvey met me at the Elk Pass trailhead at 0800 on Wednesday September 02 2009 and we were soon pushing (!) our bikes up the hill towards Elk Pass. I was looking forward to Mount Fox for a long time. Some people swore it was the hardest scramble in Alan Kane's books while other dismissed it as 'easy'. I knew it wasn't going to be 'easy' but didn't know what to expect, especially given my mental and physical state after a week of pretty intense peak bagging. (I'd also done TV, Fairview and Cascade the week before.)
Harvey and I chatted and biked our way into Elk Lakes Provincial Park. It turns out that we have a lot in common and the bike ride flew by quickly. Harvey has done a lot of skiing in the area and that helped us stay on the right trails. After ditching the bikes we began the 3.5km hike into Frozen Lake. The hike was boring but the lake was gorgeous! It's worth an outing simply to see this lake and it's pristine surroundings. Once at the lake we could see our objective and it looked great! We accessed the ridge via steep grassy slopes and took a moment to don our helmets before heading up the 600 vertical meters of intense scrambling.
[Our objective comes into view - the ascent ridge is above Harvey and slightly right of him.]
[Mount Fox looms over Frozen Lake. The ascent ridge runs from the right side up to the left. ++]
I thought that Mount Fox was on the same level of difficulty as Mounts Smuts and Northover but some people have found it to be easier. Maybe I was just tired? I'm not sure. The 600 vertical meters of ridge to the summit of Mount Fox felt more difficult than most other scrambles I'd done beforehand. The reason? There is absolutely no room for error on certain sections of the ridge. Other people have mentioned that the rock was solid but that makes me wonder if I was even on the same mountain as them! The reason there's no room for error is that most hand / foot holds are NOT solid at all - even if they seem that way. There are some reasonably solid sections on the ridge and they are a lot of fun but the higher you go, the more loose and exposed the terrain becomes. if you don't like the first 100 vertical meters you should turn around because that's the easy stuff.
I'm not trying to exaggerate or scare anyone off this mountain but you should know that this is not a mountain to take lightly either. The scrambling is fun and the views are amazing but if you slip even once, it's "game over". Harvey led the way up the ridge quickly. A few times he went up terrain that I wasn't sure we could down climb so I would check out alternate 'side routes' - and usually found them. We both mentioned more than once how much fun the scrambling was - especially at first when the rock was fairly solid.
[Harvey on the steeply grassed slopes beneath the start of the scrambling ridge.]
[Harvey is just visible starting up the ridge proper.]
[Still pretty easy at this point]
[Already gorgeous views over the Kananaskis Lakes.]
[The terrain gets more serious. You can not afford to slip here.]
[Some detours are required to climber's left to avoid over hanging sections of ridge.]
After coming to a slightly overhanging cliff band (only 3-4 feet high) the scrambling became even more exposed and difficult. I led the way through the infamous pinnacle and only briefly considered squeezing through the hole in it before descending the other side and traversing on a scarily loose and exposed ledge before regaining the ridge. Harvey followed my lead over the ledge - this should have been backed up with a rope and some pro because that ledge will not last for much longer and you don't want to be the one on it when it fails!
[Harvey tops out to a level section on the ridge with the Elk Pass region spread out beneath him. ++]
[Harvey comes through the infamous pinnacles.]
[Harvey completes an exposed move traversing out of the crux pinnacle.]
No other trip reports really mention the terrain after the pinnacle to the summit ridge and Kane simply calls it a 'scree bash' but I disliked this part - especially on the way down. Again, there is no room for error and the loose scree and slabby terrain conspire to throw you down the mountain with every step. The summit ridge is fantastic with great views - especially after the previous night's rain storms cleared the air of smoke.
[Frozen and Fox lakes from the loose scree slope before the summit.]
[Looking over The Turret towards the Kananaskis Lakes. Sarrail on the extreme left. ++]
[Summit panorama from Elk Pass on the left to Kananaskis Lakes on the right. ++]
[Looking over Mist Mountain on the left towards Cornwall and the front ranges.]
[Looking east over Frozen and Fox Lakes towards Tyrwhitt and Pocaterra beyond the Elk Range. Mount Rae is one of the taller peaks in the background.]
[The Abruzzi Group to the south.]
[Looking over the Petain upper meadow towards Joffre with Abruzzi peaks to the left.]
[Mount Joffre is impressive from this side.]
[Mount Foch on the right.]
[Mount Foch with Sarrail on the right.]
[Looking over the Turret and Upper Kananaskis Lake to Mount Indefatigable, Invincible, Warspite, Nomad, Hermione Peak, and even some of the Haig Icefield peaks like Maude and French in the far distance at left.]
[Telephoto over Putnik (L) and Nomad (R) towards the Haig Icefield with Sir Douglas in cloud.]
[Harvey comes up to the summit of Mount Fox.]
[Vern and Harvey]
[Kane and Thorsteinsson in the register.]
After a short summit stay we headed back down. It seemed to take a long time but we had great weather and slowly picked our way back down the ridge. The loose scree at the top of the ridge was some of the worst terrain and once over the pinnacle we enjoyed ourselves until finally off the rock again. We both agreed that Fox was a great scramble and I put it on my top 10 - Harvey wasn't ready for that kind of commitment yet! :-)
[Heading down loose terrain on the ridge.]
[I thought the upper part to the summit was very loose but others find it easy so I think I was just tired at this point - looking back on descent.]
[Descending the notch.]
[Some tricky moves.]
[And some exposure!]
[Gorgeous day to be in the hills.]
[You have to stay sharp on this terrain - one slip and it's "game over".]
[Frozen Lake - Elk Pass in the background]
[Harvey's mean face after getting down the hard stuff.]
[A nice vantage point to take a breather - Lower Kananaskis Lake in the distance.]
[A calf moose on the way out.]
The hike out to the bikes was hot and the bike ride out was fast and fun - I love bike approaches! Our round trip time was around 8 hours. Fox is a highly recommended outing for people who are comfortable on steep, exposed and sometimes very loose terrain and LOTS of it!