Summit Elevation (m): 2970
Trip Date: Saturday, May 28, 2005
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5
Elevation Gain (m): 1200
Total Trip Distance (km): 8
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or worse
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions. Route finding can also be an issue, especially on descent.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)
Map: Google Maps
There are two reasons why Kane rated Mount Engadine as a difficult scramble. One is the nature of the ridge itself. Long sections of ‘no-fall’ zones coupled with loose rock and tricky down climbs make this a much more difficult climb than even other difficult scrambles such as Lady McDonald. The other reason Engadine earns its difficult rating is the nasty bushwhack required to attain the lower ridge – it’s a difficult undertaking! There really is no trail and even the game trails are misleading because they are not generally trying to bag the peak. This may have changed in the years since I scrambled it – but I remember wondering where I was going more than a few times while approaching the lower ridge.
Engadine was a real pleasure. Other than briefly getting lost on some really loose and nasty terrain in the way back down, I thoroughly enjoyed the exposure on the ridge. The fact that the weather was calm and warm and I had the entire mountain to myself only helped me enjoy it even more! As a matter of fact I had so much fun on the way up the ridge, I decided rather than get lost in the bush on the way down, I’d come back down the ridge too. There were several times on the way up that I seriously wondered if there was too much snow or the ridge looked too narrow but each time I’d press on and things would be exciting all over again.
If you decide to do this mountain make sure you’ve already done other difficult ones. This is a bad place to learn that you really don’t like ridges and loose rock after all! Kane almost makes it sound like you can ‘easily’ bypass all the difficult areas by sticking to right-hand scree slopes but these slopes are nasty scree – kind of like Sparrowhawk only much steeper.
Don’t look for a trail off of the Buller Creek hiking trail – you won’t find one. Simply make a decision to branch to the right and go for it. There’s no nice way to put this. Gaining the ridge sucks big-time. The sooner you can get yourself up onto the ridge the better off you’ll be. I got lucky and after a short scramble up a ramp to my left I turned right up the ridge and never looked back. (But I should have so I’d recognize the terrain on my way back down…) Right away you’ll be tested on whether or not you wish to continue. The ridge only gets narrower and more exposed so if at any point before the final 200 meters of scree you get nervous, be prepared for more of the same or worse. The views off the ridge are spectacular in every direction, so that might motivate you to keep going.
After finally getting past the overhang (lose about 150 feet of height) I came to the last scree slope before the top. Due to unstable snow I was ‘forced’ to take the slabs to the right. They were much better than the scree but the loose rocks on top of the slabs resulted in sore hands from constantly having to get my balance.
I topped out on the summit to a wind-free and glorious view in all directions. Mount Assiniboine and the lofty peaks around the Haig Glacier stole the show but many, many other summits were also visible.
The only thing harder than going up the ridge is coming back down it. So naturally that’s what I decided to do! I needed practice on my down climbs and I got it. When I got near the bottom of the ridge I forgot where I had gained the ramp and went too low. This resulted in me making some dumb decisions and ultimately I found myself going back up terrain that I couldn’t believe I had just come down. The worst moment had me clinging desperately onto a patch of moss with both hands while my feet slipped out from under me and I dangled briefly over 100 feet of thin air. After that excitement I managed to find out where I had missed the ramp and quickly headed back to the car.
Good thing I was making lots of noise through the bush (lots of bear scat) because there was a really big black bear not 100 meters from the trailhead. I watched him for a long time and it capped a wonderful day. On my drive home I spotted another black bear in the ditch, munching on Dandelion flowers and I spent another 30 minutes just watching him chow down. Beautiful creatures in their natural habitat – not the monsters so many folks seem to fear.