Summit Elevation (m): 3138
Elevation Gain (m): 1200
Trip Time (hr): 12
Total Trip Distance (km): 10
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or worse
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux of Mist Mountain would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions. Note: Mount Lipsett is an easy add-on which we did on this trip.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps
On Saturday, August 30 2008 Keith and I set out to scramble Mount Lipsett and Mist Mountain. I originally wanted to scramble something difficult (like Mount Fox) but the weather was acting up again and it didn’t seem prudent to be on too much difficult terrain with unpredictable weather hovering around. The idea for a two peak day on Mist and Lipsett came from Dow William’s trip report on Mist Mountain where he details a traverse of the mountain starting up Kane’s difficult route on the southwest ridge and ending on the moderate route down the north ridge. Since Kane’s difficult route starts at the col between Mist’s south ridge and Mount Lipsett and since Lipsett is only marginally higher than the col, it only made perfect sense to bag it while we were there anyway.
There are two bridges right in a row on the highway near the trail head. At first we parked by the second one but soon realized our mistake since there was no ribbon marking the trail head anywhere near that stream! You should park on the east side of the road, just north of the first bridge. You will quickly find the trail on the north side of the stream. This trail is pretty good. I think it’s a game trail that has been trampled by hikers – it’s obvious but does run a bit thin in spots. We followed this trail until it suddenly wanted us to start climbing up a steep bank. If you are going up the north ridge you should continue on the trail. If you’re doing the loop that we did you should cross the stream here and head up a dirt bank on faint goat trails towards Mount Lipsett. We encountered very light bushwhacking on the south side of the stream as we contoured around Mount Lipsett towards the Lipsett / Mist col on a faint trail in the trees.
When the trees really thinned out we realized that we could either side-hill-bash all the way to the col or head up for an obvious break in the low angled cliffs on Lipsett. If we came up this break we would be between Lipsett’s two summits. Since the south summit on Lipsett is the highest one, we opted to try the break in an effort to traverse over this peak and then continue down to the Mist / Lipsett col before ascending Mist.
Our plan worked brilliantly. The break was easily negotiated and soon we were on the summit of Lipsett. After some photos and a quick break (we only took just over an hour from the car to reach the summit) we started down to the col on scree / mud towards the intimidating southwest ridge of Mist Mountain.
Dow seemed to think that Kane’s route wasn’t too difficult but it looked pretty bad from our angle. Like every scramble, it was hard to predict how difficult it actually is from a distance so we started trudging down to the col before tackling the route up Mist.
Once on the West Ridge of Mist Mountain, the scrambling was involved and fun. There were many route possibilities and the rock was solid(ish). We each chose a different rib to ascend to avoid kicking rocks down – not a good place to ascend with a large group of people. The scenery and the fun scrambling kept us occupied till we popped out on the south ridge.
I would agree with Dow that the scrambling never feels that difficult on this section, although if you’re using it as a descent route it would be a lot tougher (simply because it would not be obvious where to avoid the more difficult stuff). As far as I remember, the most difficult move was immediately after leaving the scree and getting onto solid rock.
The south ridge posed no problems and we were soon on the summit of Mist Mountain. Gorgeous views in all directions. The best view was to the east, where low laying clouds were creeping up the valleys making for dramatic photo opportunities. The wind was cool and after 30 minutes enjoying the summit we were ready to push on down the north ridge.
The north ridge was interesting. I never really found it too difficult but there were some ‘no slip’ zones on it in places. Looking back at the summit as we descended made the ridge look much tougher than it felt! The most exposed sections were right after the summit. Dow mentions crossing over ‘numerous’ sucker descent gullies and he means numerous! We passed over quite a few (5 or 6) and came to a section of ridge that looked nasty. An obvious trail led into the gully so we followed it. Bad move.
The next 1.5 hours was spent side-hilling through one gully after another on the west face of Mist Mountain. If we were goats this would have been a lot of fun. We’re not goats. It wasn’t that much fun. If you do the same route, do yourself a huge favor and stick to the ridge all the way off the mountain (as per Kane’s moderate ascent description) on descent!
Once we finally exited the west face we looked back and couldn’t believe some of the terrain we had come down. It wasn’t awfully difficult but sections of it were a bit dicey and picking a route across the gullies was tedious because we never knew if we’d get away with it or be suckered somewhere uncool. Our mountain sense must have been wired up on this occasion because we got pretty lucky a few times!
After finally exiting the west face we tromped down the grassy slopes towards the creek / trail keeping a keen eye out for grizzlies. On the way down the grassy lower ridge we discovered pink ribbon and plastic knives with numbering on them all over the ridge! It seemed a bit chaotic and trashy for an official scientific study but presumably that’s what it was for. The hike back along the creek was short and uneventful and we both agreed that this was a great outing and well worth more attention by the scrambling community.