Summit Elevation (m): 2602
Elevation Gain (m): 1400
Round Trip Time (hr): 5.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 11
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something badly or worse
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)
Map: Google Maps
After bagging both Pyramid and Cinquefoil mountains the previous day, So and I were ready to help me close out my “Kane” Jasper scrambles with an ascent of Utopia Mountain. It turns out that I left the best for last. After packing up our campsite at 05:00 we started to feel rain drops. Uh oh. Was I going to have to drive a round trip of 10 hours from Calgary just to get my last Kane scramble in Jasper? It turns out we got very lucky (again) with the weather. By the time we started our hike the sky was clearing and there was no more rain for the remainder of our scramble.
As others have pointed out, this scramble unfolds exactly how the guidebook says it will. The only thing different is that the trail on climbers left of the creek is more than just a “smattering” but is rather, a continuous ribbon of trail complete with cairns and (green) flagging where appropriate. Also, if you stick to the trail you will end up going up the correct drainage because that’s exactly where it takes a very steep but unmistakable turn left, up the mountain. So that’s handy.
We negotiated the obvious break onto the first ridge and then proceeded towards the second. We didn’t like the looks of the endless scree slog around the second ridge (crux) so we went straight up it instead – as Kane describes. This proved to be a very good choice! The second ridge is fun hands-on scrambling. Neither So nor I found it very difficult, more on the “moderate” side of difficult if anything. The one tricky move wasn’t that bad and the exposure wasn’t any worse (we felt) than the little bit you’ll experience near the summit.
The little bit of snow on our route had prompted us to take our alpine axes but we didn’t need them. The stretch between the false and true summit was almost as tricky as the second ridge – not bad but don’t trip or slip here! We were the first party to sign the register for 2010, someone else was up there though – we could see tracks in the snow, and not many parties seem to make this summit considering how close it is to a national park monument (Miette Hot Springs).
The views from the summit did not disappoint. They were incredible, even with some cloud cover lurking. The prairies to the east and the giants of Jasper to the west contrasted with the deep blue sky, white puffy clouds and green valleys with sparkling lakes to remind me what I love so much about Jasper. Just because I don’t have any more Kane scrambles to do, doesn’t mean I won’t be back. There’s tons of great hikes, backpacking trips and mountaineering adventures to keep a person busy in Jasper for the rest of their life.
For our descent we backtracked to the col between the second ridge and the scree slog to the third ridge. From there we tried our best to scree surf on the thick scree, following the obvious trail down. It kind of worked. We lost height very quickly and traversed out skier’s left on green slopes to a rushing stream. We followed this back to the ascent valley and found the ascent trail. Some gorgeous waterfalls kept us distracted before hooking up with the trail at the steep gully, which we followed back to the Utopia Pass trail.
Did I mention how much I love Jasper? Oh yeah. I’ll be back.