After completing the easy scramble up Walcott Peak Bill Kerr and I started on the traverse to Mount Burgess.
There are a few trip reports 'out there' on the scramble to the summit of Mount Burgess from Walcott Peak. They all indicate that this is a difficult and exposed scramble. There are two routes, one route goes around two pinnacles on the south ridge (the second pinnacle is only bypassed with a very exposed ledge maneuver) and the other goes up a steep, narrow, loose gully which avoids the two pinnacles. After the 2nd pinnacle the routes join up and continue on an exposed ridge to the summit. Sounds like fun!
Bill and I decided on the gully option since north aspects were holding snow and we couldn't see the ledge from our angle. The gully option also sounded a bit safer although Bill had left his helmet at home so the steep and loose stuff wasn't the safest for him either. According to Bill's logic at least falling off the ledge would not require a helmet - you'd be toast with or without it!
We angled down to two snow patches sitting below a number of obvious cracks on the north end of the south trending ridge (Kane's words, not mine). Once at the base of the gullies we had to choose one. All had signs of passage but one of them seemed more traveled than the others. It also had an obvious pinnacle at the top and we remembered that Sonny mentioned this in his description as the proper gully. (There were no cairns marking any of the gullies so we built some here on our return.) The correct gully is the third from climber's left (the cliffs) or the second that you'll come across on your descent and traverse from the north peak. You should clearly see a large and pointy pinnacle towering over this gully when you start up it.
The gully on Burgess reminded me a lot of the gully on The Fist. Steep, loose and tight in places it is not for the beginner scrambler. I'm not sure if it'll get easier or tougher with more traffic but as it is now you do not want more than two people at a time in this gully - and don't leave your helmet at home either! After exiting the gully right at the 2nd pinnacle we examined the exposed ledge traverse that we had just avoided. At first Bill dismissed it as "not a huge deal" but after a few moments of poking around we both realized how exposed it actually is! ;-) Put it this way, I recommend the gully option for non-climbers...
After the pinnacles / gully there is still difficult scrambling left to the summit. The ridge to the south summit of Burgess is not as difficult as some of Kane's other scrambles but it's pretty close to being another "climber's scramble". Bill commented that the two peaks (Burgess and Walcott) are completely different scrambles. I agree. I'm glad that I can list them as separate peaks, since they deserve separate route descriptions with a common approach. They are completely different. The easy Walcott Peak has better views while the main (Burgess) peak has much better but more difficult scrambling. Both are great for different reasons.
We couldn't believe our luck with the weather as we sat on another windless summit to the same great views we had an hour earlier. It felt wonderful to "steal a day" given the weather forecast and our initial feelings towards our chances of success!
After 30 minutes on the summit we started our descent. The ridge was solid enough not to cause problems but the gully presented us with a few small showers of rock before exiting. After building some cairns to mark the proper access gully we descended into the bowl between Walcott and Burgess and trended to the toe of the ridge on skier's left. We easily ascended this ridge a short ways and came to our original easy/moderate access gully. After getting suckered down the wrong gully (still not sure how that happened!) we regained the right one (that would be the one with all the ribbons / cairns!! :-)) and easily descended out to the Burgess Pass hiking trail via an obvious shortcut.
The long walk back was uneventful and went quickly with a good philosophical discussion. Walcott / Burgess was a great day out and is highly recommended for either or both peaks. Just make sure you're the first one up so nobody kicks a ton of loose rock on you!
On our way up Walcott Bill and I scoped out the two routes to Burgess:
Bill negotiates the steep / loose gully. The fact that it's so narrow really helps, especially on descent and if you're 6 feet tall! ;-)
Parts of the upper ridge are narrow and exposed. Test all holds carefully before putting any weight on them!
I watch Bill negotiate the ridge. The pinnacles are visible behind him.
Bill comes up to the summit with a gorgeous panorama of Yoho and Wapta peaks behind:
The summit register is falling apart but at least it's on the right peak!
Mount Stephen with Cathedral behind.
My last "Kane peak" awaits! Carnarvon looks very nice...
A tele-shot looking west down hwy 1:
A tele-shot looking east up hwy 1 towards Banff and Lake Louise. The weather looks a lot worse that direction!
Vern and Bill on the summit of Burgess:
I can't get enough of this view today!
Bill descends the upper ridge:
The ridge is exposed in places. Walcott Peak on the upper right and the pinnacles below Bill:
One of Scott Berry's mascots keeps us company.
Bill and The President:
The down climbing can be tricky on the ridge due to very loose holds and some exposure:
More down climbing to reach the pinnacles:
Just above the pinnacles:
The descent gully goes down to the right:
Bill starts down the gully:
The infamous "ledge" alternative to the gully - nothing is solid here!
I'm not sure how long this boulder will stay like this but if you encounter it you know you're in the right gully!
Looking up the gully - note the pinnacle:
Looking back from our descent:
There are a few tricky spots in the 'easy' gully too:
Bill descends easier terrain with the town of Field, BC below him: