On Thursday August 9 2012 I decided that the day would be best spent by trying something I've wanted to do for quite some time already - the traverse from Kent Ridge to Mount Inflexible.
There's been some discussion around the traverse from Inflexible to Kent Ridge with the overall conclusion sounding like it was easier than expected so I wasn't too concerned about making the attempt solo.
Right off the bat I realized that the color coded trails that Nugara mentions don't exist anymore. Other than some bright orange snowshoeing signs on trees, the entire network of logging trails between Sawmill and Chester Lake parking lots is not color coded in the summer anyway! It makes it rather confusing when you're trying to follow a guidebook and it's telling you to go on the "blue/yellow" trail and you have no idea where that is! :-) (See my Headwall Lakes trip report for more details...)
Here's an easier approach description that will get you onto the James Walker approach trail without using confusing color codes;
- find the faint trail running past the biffy, north. Take this trail and you'll soon run into a gate on an old logging road, take this road a short ways until it branches
- take the left branch. This left branch heads west before going uphill to the north / west. Eventually you'll come to another logging road running east/west.
- Follow this road west (climber's left). At the next junction the trail either keeps going straight or you can take a branch left, slightly descending.
- Take the climber's right fork (cairned when I was there) - now you're on the trail to James Walker.
The easiest ascent line for Kent Ridge would actually be to go back a bit to the east at the 3rd step above, instead of heading west. Basically you're trying to make the bushwhack as short as possible to gain the grassy / dirt / scree slopes of the North Outlier of Kent Ridge.
I managed (somehow!) to get to these slopes and was soon grunting my way quickly up them, my face still full of spider webs since Sonny wasn't along to go first through the trees... Unfortunately I was in a bit of a rush - I had dinner plans with my wife for 6pm and I knew better than to be late for that. ;-) I only had about 8 hours to do the two peaks and the traverse and I knew I was pushing it but life is short so I pushed on relentlessly. I was a MACHINE.
[The slopes to gain the ridge of the north outlier are a strange mix of scree, plates of rock and wild flowers. At least the mosquitos weren't out yet...]
The west slopes of the ridge were a bit loose and scrambly but once I finally hit the ridge, things improved a bit. The view behind me was certainly opening up nicely!
At the summit of the outlier I had a rather depressing moment of looking down at the outlier / Kent Ridge col and the elevation loss involved. I'm still not sure if I can claim the "north outlier" as a separate peak or not. I think not, but if Nugara lists it in his book I'll have to.
[Looking ahead to Kent Ridge from near the summit of the north outlier.]
[Mount Birdwood across the valley]
[Summit cairn on the north outlier looking down at the ridge.]
I purposely measured the elevation difference to the col and came at about 75 meters - just short of the requisite 100. It was at the col that the mosquitos decided they had me exactly where they wanted me and the bloodletting began!!! The little buggers were horrible and I tried to outpace them up the scree slope to Kent Ridge. Eventually they gave up trying to bite through the deet, but even then there was so many that I was breathing them in, which got annoying after a few minutes. By the time I arrived at the summit of Kent Ridge the mosquitos were all but gone again.
[Looking back at the north outlier from the col.]
The views were great in all directions. I took some photos, signed the register and scoped out the route to Inflexible. It looked very reasonable from this vantage and I became pretty confident in making my goal of 8 hours and not exceeding moderate scrambling.
5 minutes later I wasn't so sure anymore...
[Looking across the Spray Lakes road to Mount French and Smith Dorrien.]
[Mount Sarrail and Joffre across the Kananaskis Lakes region.]
[Smuts and Birdwood]
[Summit view from Kent Ridge to Mount Inflexible.]