After bagging both Pyramid and Cinquefoil mountains the previous day, So and I were ready to help me close out my "Kane" Jasper scrambles with an ascent of Utopia Mountain. It turns out that I left the best for last.
After packing up our campsite at 05:00 we started to feel rain drops. Uh oh. Was I going to have to drive a round trip of 10 hours from Calgary just to get my last Kane scramble in Jasper? It turns out we got very lucky (again) with the weather. By the time we started our hike the sky was clearing and there was no more rain for the remainder of our scramble.
[This old hotel / pool complex was decommissioned in 1988. It looks a lot older than that!]
As others have pointed out, this scramble unfolds exactly how the guidebook says it will. The only thing different is that the trail on climbers left of the creek is more than just a "smattering" but is rather, a continuous ribbon of trail complete with cairns and (green) flagging where appropriate. Also, if you stick to the trail you will end up going up the correct drainage because that's exactly where it takes a very steep but unmistakable turn left, up the mountain!
[A nice paved path to start with. Utopia looming in the background.]
[A bit of a bushwhack to after leaving the stream.]
[A ribbon shows the way as we break tree line! ]
We negotiated the obvious break onto the first ridge and then proceeded towards the second. We didn't like the looks of the endless scree slog around the second ridge (crux) so we went straight up it instead - as Kane describes. This proved to be a very good choice! The second ridge is fun hands-on scrambling. Neither So nor I found it very difficult, more on the "moderate" side of difficult if anything. The one tricky move wasn't that bad and the exposure wasn't any worse (we felt) than the little bit you'll experience near the summit.
[So starts up the break to the first ridge. There are some cairns here and different route possibilities from moderate to difficult depending on your choice.]
[So ascends the first ridge.]
[Looking ahead to the crux on the second ridge. You can see the crux bypass to climbers right, in the scree at the center of the photograph. Not worth it IMO, unless the ridge is wet or icy or something.]
The little bit of snow on our route had prompted us to take our alpine axes but we didn't need them. The stretch between the false and true summit was almost as tricky as the second ridge - not bad but don't trip or slip here! We were the first party to sign the register for 2010, someone else was up there though - we could see tracks in the snow, and not many parties seem to make this summit considering how close it is to a national park monument (Miette Hot Springs).
[So starts up the crux.]
[Fun, hands-on scrambling!]
[Another fantastic day in Jasper.]
[More fun on the ridge.]
[Off the fun part, now back to scree bashing up to the third and final ridge.]
[We find some snow to make our ascent a bit less tedious up the rubble slopes.]
[Ahhhh. A gorgeous morning! The crux ascent ridge is highlighted by sunlight in the lower part of this photo.]
[So, with the false summit on the right and the true summit in the center background.]
[The final section of ridge to the true summit looks harder than it is.]
The views from the summit did not disappoint. They were incredible, even with some cloud cover lurking. The prairies to the east and the giants of Jasper to the west contrasted with the deep blue sky, white puffy clouds and green valleys with sparkling lakes to remind me what I love so much about Jasper. Just because I don't have any more Kane scrambles to do, doesn't mean I won't be back. There's tons of great hikes, backpacking trips and mountaineering adventures to keep a person busy in Jasper for the rest of their life.
[Summit view northwest to Mount O'Hagan, including the false summit.]
[More views to the south west towards Colin and Hawk Mountain.]
[Vern on the summit of Utopia Mountain.]
[Very distinctive peaks to the west.]
[Charlton and Unwin with Warren at far left.]
[So descends the summit ridge crux.]
For our descent we backtracked to the col between the second ridge and the scree slog to the third ridge. From there we tried our best to scree surf on the thick scree, following the obvious trail down. It kind of worked. We lost height very quickly and traversed out skier's left on green slopes to a rushing stream. We followed this back to the ascent valley and found the ascent trail. Some gorgeous waterfalls kept us distracted before hooking up with the trail at the steep gully, which we followed back to the Utopia Pass trail.
[Descending the scree gully, the crux second ridge is on the right.]
[In the feeder canyon to the main ascent creek.]
[Lots of unexpected beauty in this alternate descent route. And no. I'm not talking about So!! :-)]
[Waterfalls and blue skies. It doesn't get much better than this.]
[Utopia Mountain rises above the creek on the way out.]
Did I mention how much I love Jasper? Oh yeah. I'll be back.