After bagging Roche a Perdrix,Morro Peak and Hawk Mountain over the past two days, Wietse and I decided to try our luck on Roche Miette in Jasper National Park. We weren't assured of success with the sound of rain on our tent the morning of June 22nd but we got up anyway. The rain soon died down as we drove out to the trail head and by the time we put on our hiking gear it was cloudy but mostly dry.
Like on Hawk Mountain, the trail has changed a bit since Alan Kane put out his scrambles book. There are two significant changes on the first 15 minutes of the trail that could make or break your day! Thanks to Bob Spirko's misadventures, one of these was already pointed out to us and we were prepared for it. The first problem, however, was not mentioned by any trip reports that we read.
Kane mentions a gravel dike about 2 meters high that you cross before going left on a track. There is no 2m gravel dike anymore! Instead go right till you see a big green box 'thing' and then turn left on a road. The second thing is to make sure you walk down this road for at least 10 minutes or until you come to the top of a small rise where you will be directed by cairns (and trees laid across the road when we were there!) to the trail on your right. The first cairn is now marked with an 'x' of tree branches and a big stone arrow on the tracks points you to keep going - but there's no guarantee that those markings will be there when you do it so just walk until you come to the rise and look to your right for flagging and a very obvious trail through the forest.
[Can't miss this turn-off!]
[Wietse on the steep approach trail. Miette looms in the background.]
[Still a ways to the saddle but Miette is getting bigger!]
For the rest of this trip you should not get lost unless you have no visibility at all - the trail is a beaten highway to the summit. This is a very steep trail but the scenery helps to distract from the grunt. The wildflowers are simply amazing - carpets of them are everywhere, even on the scree as you get up to the high saddle just before the final summit block. The final scree section before the saddle is very steep but the good news is that it's pretty easy scree to walk up and pretty good, loose scree exists off to the side of the trail for coming back down.
Once at the saddle we gazed up at the steep, loose slope ahead with a wee bit of apprehension. It didn't look terribly difficult but we both quickly put our helmets on! Don't do this trip with a big group - you will end up knocking rocks on each other, no doubt about it!
The weather wasn't getting any better and I was feeling a lot of energy so I kind of took off on Wietse, trying not to knock anything down on him. I met up with a couple of mountain sheep about half way up the first part of the slope and they started kicking rocks down on Wietse, which I found kind of humorous. Wietse did not share my sense of humor at this point. I think the sheep did though.
[Grinding up very steep scree to the high saddle.]
[The ascent route to the summit block of Miette goes through the rock bands running from upper right to lower center of picture.]
[Wietse follows me up the loose terrain. This is where the sheep knocked rocks down on him!]
The top part of the scramble is definitely 'moderate'. There are lots of cairns and flagging but the terrain is steep and loose so you have to watch out. I topped out on the very broad summit plateau and began looking for the summit cairn. I couldn't really see anything so I followed the line of cairns like a bread crumb trail. It didn't take long to spot a large cairn on a high point off in the near distance. The rain clouds were moving in fast so I determined to move even quicker. As I bounded towards the cairn I noticed that there's other highpoints on the plateau, way off to climber's left. I really hope none of these are the true summit. My altimeter agreed with Bob Spirko's GPS that the total elevation gain to the summit is 1300 meters, not 1400+ like Kane states. I wonder if he bagged a different summit? The register was in the cairn so that's a summit to me! I quickly signed and then waited for Wietse who was nowhere to be seen. As the storm clouds raced towards me I thought that I would descend a little bit and wait for Wietse. As I was descending off the summit plateau, Wietse showed up. I yelled that I would wait and he nodded and kept going for the summit.
[Looking ahead to the summit bump from above the steep, loose slopes of the summit block.]
[Rain is coming!]
[Vern on the summit of Roche Miette.]
[Wietse heads for the summit.]
I found a nice little shelter under a rock over-hang right near the top of top of the steep section of rocks. I watched the marmots with mild amusement as they scampered around and took shy peeks at me from behind their rocky homes. There was even a tiny ground squirrel all the way up there! The rain storm came through and was quickly over with hardly any rain actually hitting the mountain - more of a rush of thick cloud. Wietse joined up with me after about 25-30 minutes and we descended quite quickly. As we descended, we met up with a few people coming up. They had to duck behind shelter as we came down because of the rock fall but no-one got hurt. It was surprising to see someone with a very small dog trying to summit Miette. I hope they had boots for that dog!
[I have some curious company as I wait for Wietse.]
[This picture clearly demonstrates how steep the final bit before the summit plateau is.]
The rest of the descent was quick and painless (except for Wietse's blistered feet of course!). A recommended trip - short, steep with good views provided you're not in a cloud!
[White Mountain Avens. (Stabilizes slopes and helps build up soil.)]
[Double Bladder Pod. (Long, tenacious roots - usually found where other plants can't survive.)]
[Prickly Wild Rose. (Alberta's flower.)]
[Blue-eyed Grass. (Iris family - only lasts one day!)]
[Wild Blue Flax. (Only lasts one day!)]
[The long walk back.]
[Yellow Mountain Avens. (Nitrogen-fixing organisms on root nodules help this plant to live in very marginal conditions.)]
[A view of where to start. Turn left down road when you see this 'green thing'. Roche Miette in the background.]