After scrambling up Roche a Perdrix it was time to try Indian Ridge. We drove all the way back to Jasper and to the Tramway station only to find that it was closed for maintenance! That was a bugger. Time for a new plan. Since we were all psyched up for another peak we thought we'd give Morro a try. Wietse had come across it while perusing onBivouac.com. I remember seeing it on there a while back and wondering if it was worth a shot.
Morro looks tiny compared to it's big brother, Hawk Mountain. I thought it only looked about 400 meters high. We set off with the route description in hand, but quickly decided to do a 'variation'. As you probably know, variations are not always a good thing when you're on a mountain that you've never been up before...
I decided that the Northwest ridge looked like more fun than the west ridge so we headed up on sheep trails. (There are way too many sheep and goats in Jasper - the tourists like them but I think they're not the brightest animals around which is a nice way of saying that I think they're dumb!) Eventually we hauled ourselves up the final bit of ridge before traversing west to the summit block. We had already gained over 500 meters at this point, much to my surprise!
[As you can clearly see, there are a lot of options here! We already well off route at this point, not 10 minutes from the car! We kind of knew that but decided we wanted to explore. Morro Peak on the upper right of photo.]
[Not sure what these are. Not in my flower book... ;-)]
[Shrubby Cinquefoil. (Belongs to the rose family.)]
[The ridge was easy to ascend.]
[Looking back down our route, towards the northwest.]
We weren't done with the surprises just yet. We continued around the southeast side of the summit block, looking for an easy line up. The problem was that the line never looked easy! It was comprised of steep slabs with small, ball-bearing scree, the worst kind of scrambling terrain. Eventually we had a choice. Turn around, drop way down on the south side of the mountain or go up.
We choose the latter option. Half way up the slabs it was obvious that we'd better keep moving or risk sliding right off the backside of Morro! The terrain was steep and unrelenting - the toughest terrain of the entire weekend and it's on a minor Rockies bump! That figures though. The small peaks are the ones that get you because you underestimate them. Or anyway, I do. We hauled ourselves up to the trees on the southeast side of Morro but the battle wasn't over yet. We could see very steep terrain immediately above us and it wasn't trivial to work our way up and to the south side of the peak before finally overcoming the last cliff band and breathing a huge sigh of relief at being done that 'route'!
[From here it still looks possible to ascend the northeast ridge of Morro. It's not as easy as it looks!]
[Hawk Mountain in upper left, goat trail straight ahead, Morro Peak out of sight on the upper right.]
[Steep, slabby terrain. A slip would really hurt here - it was steep enough that you'd slide a ways.]
[We ascended steep cliffs through the trees on the southeast slopes of Morro Peak to reach the summit.]
The views at the top were actually quite good, and the way down (the right way) was pretty straightforward. We figured we'd claim an "FT" of Morro Peak - First Traverse! (There was no sign of human activity on the last part of our ascent...) As long as you take the Overlander's trail to the "Don't Turn Left" sign you should have no trouble on Morro. Just make sure you DO turn left here and follow an obvious trail up and around the west and then southwest side of the mountain. I would rate this scramble as easy/moderate if you don't do our 'variation'.
[A dramatic summit view. Pyramid Mountain is the white one just to the right of the cross.]
[Summit in B&W.]
[Hawk Mountain to the left.]
[Summit panorama. ++]
[Vern on the summit of Morro Peak.]
[Gorgeous colors in the Jasper valley. Highway #1 snaking through the picture along with the Athabasca River. Jasper town site in far right distance. Pyramid Mountain just out of sight to the left, Hawk Mountain just out of sight to the right. Edith Cavell in far distance, center.]
[View to the northwest from the summit of Morro Peak.]
[The climbing cliffs on the way (proper) down.]
[Wietse coming down the trail on the southwest side of Morro Peak.]
[The trail is easy to follow through open forest lower down.]
[A last view of Morro Peak as the skies begin to clear. Scrambling route goes up the climber's right and around to the back of the summit before completing at the top. You can see the climbing cliffs (lighter grey) on the right side of the mountain.]