Rod, Jon and I scrambled Mount Putnik as part of our Northover Ridge backpacking trip in September 2006. We first ascended Sarrail Mountain before camping at Aster Lake. The following day we ascended Warrior Mountain, Cordonnier and Mount Northover. On the third day we got up early and continued up and across Northover Ridge before descending into the Three Isle Creek valley towards Three Isle Lake. On the way we decided to bag McHarg and Worthington. For some reason, on our fourth and final day, we decided that one more peak was in order...
Jon and I woke up around 0600 on Friday morning and set off for Mount Putnik to the northeast of our camp. I had done a lot of thinking on the route and had come to the conclusion that if we got lucky we should be able to bag the summit from the Three Isle Lake campground without losing too much elevation. As it turns out, we got lucky. The correct way to bag Mount Putnik from Three Isle is to head for the bear poles and keep going straight for tree line on the lower ridge of Three Isle Mountain (unofficial name of mountain right above camp to the north). Once you get above tree line you should simply traverse around to the slopes. Keep traversing without losing or gaining too much height and you will come to a sort of land bridge near the head of the valley separating Three Isle Mountain and Mount Putnik. Go over this land bridge and you will be on the west side of Mount Putnik. It may actually be possible to go straight up through the cliff band at this point but we didn't have the energy to try any unsuccessful summit attempts - we wanted the summit!
We followed the rubble slope all the way around Mount Putnik towards the south and then even further around to the southeast. On the way we ran into a big group of goats and tried our hardest to stay clear of them. The big Billy kept staring us down and I know Jon was getting a bit nervous... ;-)
[The goats we saw on our traverse between Three Isle Peak and Putnik's south slope.]
[Lots and lots and lots of rubble on this mountain!]
[Jon is gasping for breath. The land bridge between the middle and east ridge is apparent above and on climber's right.]
[Now we're on the south slopes of Putnik, the Three Isle Lake headwall at lower left and Worthington just left of center in the distance.]
The key to our route is to not lose or gain too much height while traversing. This will 'save' you over 300 meters of height loss down the Three Isle Lakes trail you would have to lose in order to go up the avalanche slopes. Of course if you're coming from the Kananaskis Lakes you'll want to go up the avalanche slopes on the south side instead.
Once on the south slopes of Putnik we found ourselves struggling up a very steep rubble slope in between the cliff bands on our left and a steep gully lined with cliffs on our right. At the top of this rubble slope we crossed over to climber's right and the summit ridge. The ridge was moderately exposed but nothing too bad and soon we were at the summit - very tired but happy that we made it! Once we read the summit register we were even happier because we were the first to summit this diminutive peak in 4 years! As a matter of fact there were only 8 recorded summits in the past 19 years. It was a pretty cool feeling. I think I'll be ascending more obscure peaks in the future, somehow they're more rewarding. Alan Kane and Kris Thorsteinsson were one of the 8 parties, which was interesting. I wonder why this peak never made it into Kane's scrambling book?
[Jon ascends the summit ridge.]
[Yet another gorgeous morning as Jon traverses the summit ridge.]
[First page of the register.]
[Third page of the register. No ascents for 4 years! Also amusing to see Calgarians avoiding the Calgary Stampede if they can...]
[Mount Worthington in front of the Royal Group. Click the photo for a view of our ascent route. Defender to the left of Worthington and Three Isle Lake far below.]
[Looking over the Haig Icefield at Mount Sir Douglas.]
[Princess Mary, King George with Prince George in front and Prince Albert (L to R) with Worthington and McHarg in the foreground.]
[Jon and Vern on the summit of Mount Putnik.]
We spent a few minutes on the summit just enjoying the morning breezes and munching on our last granola bars. Too soon it was time to go, as we still had to hike down and then 16km back to the cars. The slope was so loose that on the way down we started numerous small rock slides. We managed to navigate back along our approach route and made it back in time for a last breakfast before packing up camp and heading back to the parking lot.
[Jon descends the south ridge of Putnik.]
[Jon descends the upper south slope of Putnik before we'll start contouring to our right. Lyautey at left in the fg, Joffre and Northover Ridge in the distance.]
[Great views of Joffre, Northover and its glacier and outliers of Lyautey (R) from descent.]
[Mount Joffre rises in the background.]
[Jon enjoys more loose rubble. (Ok, he's not really enjoying it.)]
[Jon descends more rubble towards the west side of the south ridge of Putnik.]
[Jon looks at the traverse of Three Isle Mountain that we need to do to get back to the campground - along slopes just over his head and then to the left staying above tree line as long as possible.]
[Looking up at the lower part of our route from near the Three Isle Lake campground. We took the left hand trail here and then up to rubble slopes in the bg.]