After a nice, relaxing day spent ascending Mount Strachan before chilling at Carnarvon Lake, Kaycie and I woke up early on Monday morning to tackle Mount Muir and our highline traverse to Weary Creek Gap. The idea for this traverse came from a thread that Matt Clay started on ClubTread and from some further research into a longer backpack in the area known as the "Elk Highline". The basic idea was to take full backpacks up and over Mount Muir and down towards Weary Creek Gap which would be our home for another night and possibly a base camp for an ascent of nearby Mount McPhail. We'd seen the lower scree slopes of Muir on our return from Shankland a couple of days earlier and weren't sure what to expect.
After breakfast we packed up camp and made our way up the headwall behind our camp for the last time. The bushes were damp from the overnight thunderstorms, but the ground was already drying out as we started traversing the lower west slopes of Mount Strachan. We tried to maintain elevation and avoid thick bush on our traverse and succeeded for the most part. Soon we were navigating through a pretty impressive boulder field - thankfully much more stable than Shankland's mess was. The alpine meadow between Muir and Strachan was a magical place and we took our time wander through it. There was lots of old Grizzly diggings here but nothing recent.
[KC comes up the headwall behind our camp.]
[Clouds fill the valley beneath Carnarvon Lake but we're in brilliant sunshine after a night of tstorms.]
[A gorgeous, clear and cool morning as we traverse around the lower slopes of Strachan towards Muir.]
[An unexpected - but very cool - rock garden on our traverse.]
[Find Kaycie for scale.]
[Looking towards Muir SW2 as we cross the rock garden.]
[Looking back at the ridge running from a false summit of Shankland from across the rock garden. ++]
[Wildflowers form a natural carpet as we work our way towards Muir. We'll ascend easy scree slopes from lower left to upper center before dropping the big packs and wandering up the summit just right of center. ++]
[The sun rises over Mount Strachan (L) as we start up the south slopes of Muir.]
From the alpine meadow the route up to the false summit of Mount Muir was pretty straightforward. We started on loose scree and eventually managed to find some solid(ish) sections higher up the slope. Both of us commented that it wasn't nearly as much work as we were expecting (remember - we have full packs here) to make the false summit. The route down to Weary Creek Gap looked pretty easy from the false summit but we still had to tag the true one which was obvious to the NE. We left the heavy packs at the false summit and made our way easily along the NE ridge to the true one. Views were again, awesome. I don't know how we avoided forest fire smoke on our trip, but so far we had clear skies and beautifully warm temperatures.
[Looking ahead to the never ending scree grind up Muir from the alpine meadow.]
[Looking up at our scree ramp access to the false summit of Muir which is just out of sight at upper left here.]
[The bottom part of the scree slope was certainly a grind - but we took our time and enjoyed the fresh morning air and views so it didn't bother us much.]
[The scree became more blocky and firm higher up the slope. Muir SW2 in the background here.]
[Higher up now, looking back over Muir SW2.]
[On the south ridge to the false summit, looking to the true summit at upper left and across to Mount Strachan which we scrambled the day before in perfect conditions. Muir SW2 at far right. ++]
[KC on the south ridge to the false summit of Muir. Strachan at left, Shankland at distant right in front of Courcelette.]
[A great view to the true summit of Muir as we ascend the south ridge. ++]
[Views west and north (R) from the false summit of Muir over Muir SW2 (L) and McPhail (R) with Weary Gap in between. ++]
[The summit of Mount Muir from the false summit.]
[A view along the easy west ridge (L) leading to Weary Creek Gap. This view also shows the alternate descent slope at lower left that Sonny used and our eventual bivy spot under McPhail's south face. Click for an approximate line of ascent on McPhail and the headwall descent and traverse over to the Lake of the Horns.]
[Views as we approach the summit - Strachan at right with the small tarn at lower right and MacLaren now showing up in the distance beyond Strachan. ++]
Views from the summit of Muir were impressive, if not a bit familiar by now (after bagging three peaks in the area in the past few days already), and we enjoyed them while refueling for the upcoming descent to Weary Creek Gap.
[Views off the summit looking NW to Mount McPhail and over Weary Creek Gap at left. Hill of the Flowers at center and Mount Head and Holy Cross at distant right. ++]
[Looking south along the sharp relief of the east aspects of Muir, Strachan and MacLaren. ++]
[Mount Rae, Storm and Mist from L to R.]
[I believe this is Highwood Peak (R) and possibly Shunga-la-she at left.]
[Lineham with Patterson's Peak in the background.]
[From R to L is Abruzzi, Connor and Lancaster.]
[Impressive peaks to the NW include Mount Cadorna, Swiderski, Battisti and Stilleto Peak (L to R).]
[Looking over the Highwood Pass and Grizzly / Highwood Ridges.]
[A surprisingly old and empty register considering how easy and prominent this peak is.]
The descent of the west ridge of Mount Muir was sublime. The weather was perfect. The combination of scree, green grass and wildflowers combined for a dreamy alpine experience. To top it all off, we came across a Buck and Doe who didn't bolt upon seeing us, but rather choose to hang out. We shared the gorgeous morning with them for a few minutes before continuing down towards the gap. There were many different route options to get into the Weary Creek Gap between Mounts Muir and McPhail. We followed our noses into it before finding a small, but obvious trail on the NW side of the gap. I had some beta from Matt about a good camp site near a fresh spring but we couldn't find it so we kept going down towards the small pond at the top of the headwall guarding the gap from the east. We found evidence of camps on gravel flats just off the lake to the west but these were very exposed to wind and we were sick of camping in the strong gusts that come over the divide. We crossed the inflow to the lake on boggy ground and found a perfect site for the mid just under the lake near its outflow stream, giving us easy access to clean, flowing water.
[Easy descent from the false summit along the west ridge, looking back up. Sonny's alternate descent line starts at the slope running down to the bottom left from the false summit. ++]
[Enjoying the easy descent on a beautiful day.]
[The heavenly Weary Creek Gap at left and the summit of Muir at upper right. McPhail looming at center left with Hill of the Flowers just right of center. ++]
[We enter the magical Weary Creek Gap meadows between Mounts Muir and McPhail. ++]
[A handsome couple indeed. Click to view closer.]
[We get lower towards Weary Creek Gap (L) and Mount McPhail.]
[Kaycie gazes over the alpine meadows through the gap to the east as we near the trail which is to the left here. Mount Muir rises in the distance. ++]
[Strolling through the alpine meadows.]
[We encounter the trail through Weary Creek Gap (L) and start descending to the lake and our bivy. Mount Muir in the distance here with the alternate descent slope clearly visible left of the west ridge. ++]
[Looking over the meadows to Mount Muir with the alternate descent slope at left and the west ridge at center and right. We could easily have taken the alternate descent, which would have been shorter, but we would have missed some of the best hiking terrain of the entire trip if we did that. So I'm glad we didn't.]
After setting up camp I started getting antsy. I'd spent hours the day before at Carnarvon Lake reading and relaxing, but apparently my mind wasn't prepared to do this two days in a row. Despite the morning's efforts I was ready for more! As it was only around 14:00, I figured I had plenty of time left to nab Mount McPhail, which was looming over us to the north. Kaycie had no issues with me going off on my own for a few hours - she would happily continue reading her ebook while I exhausted myself. Once again - smart girl! I don't know too many 18 year old city kids who could blissfully sit in the middle of nowhere all by themselves for hours on end, just reading a book. After arranging an emergency protocol (hit the '911' on the Spot if I wasn't back by 21:30), I took off, back up the trail towards Weary Creek Gap and the lower south scree slopes of Mount McPhail.