Shortly after leaving Kent Ridge in high spirits I was doubting my route choice to Inflexible. It was looking rather inflexible. :-) I believe that the discrepancy in trip reports regarding the difficulty of the traverse is simple. The traverse from Inflexible to Kent Ridge is quite a bit easier than the traverse in the opposite direction. This is due to two things, the (scramble) route is hard to spot from above, and the terrain is very loose and exposed when you get off route - much easier to ascend than descend.
[From the summit of Kent Ridge the traverse over to Inflexible doesn't look that involved.]
[Looking back at a section of ridge just under the summit of Kent Ridge - loose!]
Generally I managed to find easier lines on the left (west) side of the ridge, but every once in a while I got suckered onto the right side. There were a few spots where I was on down sloping slabs with very loose 'holds' and nothing but air beneath me which did not make me too happy. But the day was beautiful and I still had plenty of time so I decided to slow down and choose my line carefully. Soon I found myself avoiding all the drop offs on the ridge proper by dropping down onto a wide scree ledge on the west (skier's left) side. I followed this ledge down a long ways (about 50 feet under the ridge crest) until I suspected I was lower than the col. At this point I scrambled up loose scree to the col - about 1 hour after leaving the summit of Kent Ridge. From the col the scrambling was easy to the summit of Inflexible.
[Initially I thought this track meant clear sailing. It's just a short-lived sheep highway... ;-)]
[More colorful rock - steep scrambling]
[A beautiful big horn sheep on the descent from Kent Ridge towards Inflexible.]
[The ram runs off towards the Kent Creek drainage.]
[The Kent Creek drainage is a special place - too bad it's almost impossible to access.]
[Looking back at the ridge from near the col]
[Looking up some steep scrambling terrain that I just descended.]
[Every once in a while I'd be on the east side of the ridge - but that never lasted long!]
[You can see the steepness and looseness of the terrain here, looking at the twin summits of Inflexible as I near the col, side-slopping on climber's left.]
[Side slopping towards the col - avoiding obvious rotten cliff bands.]
[Looking back at Kent Ridge along the scree bench to the west of the ridge crest that I used to make my life easier (and safer!).]
[Looking down at the tarn and the James Walker valley. The descent lines look good from here, but you can see it gets steeper the further down you go...]
[Finally heading up easier stuff! Looking back at the col and the ridge to Kent Ridge]
[The ascent to Inflexible is as easy as it looks.]
[Great panorama of the pristine Kent Creek Valley nestled in between Mount Lawson (left) and Kent Ridge (right). ++]
The views at the summit were awesome - as expected. I was surprised at the height of Inflexible compared to Lawson. Lawson looked a lot lower than I remembered it feeling! :-) The ridge from Lawson looked like it's probably comparable to the ridge underneath Kent Ridge to the col - some down sloping slabs, loose holds and exposure. The summit ridge to the slightly higher north summit wasn't a problem either. Reading the register was quite funny. Climber's didn't find the traverse from Lawson very hard, while scramblers and hikers didn't appreciate Kane's suggestion to try it at all!
[Another view of the pristine Kent Creek Valley - this time right from the summit and even including James Walker Tarn at lower right. ++]
[Looking at the north summit - with James Walker behind. ++]
[Highway 40 and Mount Lawson look pretty small from here! ++]
[Some familiar names in the summit register.]
[Kane and Gary find the traverse quite easy...]
[Ed apparently doesn't agree.]
[Mount Assiniboine makes a partial appearance with Eon and Aye to its left and Smuts in the foreground at center.]
[Mount Sir Douglas with Mount French in the foreground.]
[Mount Joffre looms over peaks such as Lyautey, Black Prince, Marlborough and Warspite.]
[Mount Lawson and part of the difficult connecting ridge.]
[Lots of small tarns in the Kent Creek Valley which must be heaven for wildlife since humans pretty much can't access it!]
[View off the summit towards Kidd North, Spoon Needle, Limestone, Wedge, Opal Ridge (L to R).]
After snapping pictures and rehydrating it was time to head back. I really struggled with my route choice back to the parking lot. I knew that Raf had managed to negotiate the slopes to the James Walker valley / approach trail but I also knew it was a route-finding challenge and very steep and loose. I also knew (from the summit register) that some guy had recently scrambled up from that approach. On the other hand I also knew that I could quite easily ascend the ridge to Kent Ridge - the issue there being the extra height gain as opposed to a nice trail. I decided to try descending the west face of the ridge from the Kent Ridge / Inflexible col.
The descent to the low point on the ridge was easy enough. From there I bashed my way down scree ledges, always searching back and forth for an easy break through low cliffs to the next scree or grassy ledge. This worked well up high, but as I worked my way lower on the face I began to worry. I was taking a long time to find reasonable scramble routes through the cliff bands and time was ticking! I really started to think I was going to get completely cliffed out but I trusted my gut and eventually managed to step off the face and start down the scree piles towards the small tarn and hopefully a well established trail.
[I traversed ledges and scree ramps back and forth on the west face with gorgeous views of the James Walker Tarn below.]
[Looking back at a particularly large and long scree ledge I followed from just before getting down to the col on descent.]
[Steep, loose and looser!!I]
[Gorgeous James Walker environs. ++]
I should have gone straight west to the trail but I angled down the valley and ended up doing some moderate bush whacking around the tarn before finally settling onto an excellent trail which I followed to the parking lot. I made it to my truck 7.5 hours after leaving it - a pretty decent time I thought, considering the route-finding issues and total height gain for the day.
[Lots of wildflowers on the scree slopes under the west face. Looking towards James Walker.]
[Looking back at the descent route from Inflexible.]
[A nice waterfall along James Walker Creek.]
[The tarn area is worth hiking to on its own.Looking back at James Walker (left) and Inflexible (right) from the tarn.]
[On the return trail - back in the bush!]
Overall I highly recommend this trip. I don't particularly recommend the 'shortcut' down the west slope from the col to the James Walker trail unless you're really determined to try it. It goes, but not easily and there are countless loose holds ready to throw you off the mountain. Also, with more than one person you're going to run into rock fall issues while descending the west slope route.