Summit Elevation (m): 3000
Elevation Gain (m): 1400
Round Trip Time (hr): 7.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 14
Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 3/4 – You fall you are severely injured
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux (traverse from Kent Ridge to Inflexible) would severely injure so take necessary precautions. Kent Ridge on its own is an easy scramble.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
On Thursday August 9 2012 I decided that the day would be best spent by trying something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time already – the traverse from Kent Ridge to Mount Inflexible. There’s been some discussion around the traverse from Inflexible to Kent Ridge with the overall conclusion sounding like it was easier than expected so I wasn’t too concerned about making the attempt solo. Right off the bat I realized that the color coded trails that Nugara mentions don’t exist anymore. Other than some bright orange snowshoeing signs on trees, the entire network of logging trails between Sawmill and Chester Lake parking lots is not color coded in the summer anyway! It makes it rather confusing when you’re trying to follow a guidebook and it’s telling you to go on the “blue/yellow” trail and you have no idea where that is!
Here’s an easier approach description that will get you onto the James Walker approach trail without using confusing color codes;
- Find the faint trail running past the outhouse, north. Take this trail and you’ll soon run into a gate on an old logging road, take this road a short ways until it branches.
- Take the left branch. This left branch heads west before going uphill to the north / west. Eventually you’ll come to another logging road running east/west.
- Follow this road west (climber’s left). At the next junction the trail either keeps going straight or you can take a branch left, slightly descending.
- Take the climber’s right fork (cairn when I was there) – now you’re on the trail to James Walker pond and peak.
The easiest ascent line for Kent Ridge would actually be to go back a bit to the east at the 3rd step above, instead of heading west. Basically you’re trying to make the bushwhack as short as possible to gain the grassy / dirt / scree slopes of the Southwest (I have no idea why this is called the “North” outlier on some other sites) outlier of Kent Ridge. I managed (somehow!) to get to these slopes and was soon grunting my way quickly up them, my face still full of spider webs since Sonny wasn’t along to go first through the trees. Unfortunately I was in a bit of a rush – I had dinner plans with my wife for 6 pm and I knew better than to be late for that. I only had about 8 hours to do the two peaks and the traverse and I knew I was pushing it but life is short so I pushed on relentlessly. I was a MACHINE. Not.
The west slopes of the ridge were a bit loose and scrambly but once I finally hit the ridge, things improved a bit. The view behind me was certainly opening up nicely. At the summit of the outlier I had a rather depressing moment of looking down at the outlier / Kent Ridge col and the elevation loss involved. I’m still not sure if I can claim the “SW outlier” as a separate peak or not. I think not, but if Nugara lists it in his book I’ll have no other choice.
I purposely measured the elevation difference to the col and came at about 75 meters – just short of the requisite 100 to validate claiming a third peak for the day. Bummer. It was at the col that the mosquitoes decided they had me exactly where they wanted me and the bloodletting began!!! The little buggers were horrible and I tried to outpace them up the scree slope to Kent Ridge. Eventually they gave up trying to bite through the deet, but even then there was so many that I was breathing them in, which got annoying after a few minutes. By the time I arrived at the summit of Kent Ridge the mosquitoes were all but gone again.
The views were great in all directions. I took some photos, signed the register and scoped out the route to Inflexible. It looked very reasonable from this vantage and I became pretty confident in making my goal of 8 hours and not exceeding moderate scrambling. Only 5 minutes later I wasn’t so sure anymore.
Shortly after leaving Kent Ridge in high spirits I was doubting my route choice to Inflexible. It was looking rather inflexible from my vantage. I believe that the discrepancy in trip reports regarding the difficulty of the traverse is simple. The traverse from Inflexible towards Kent Ridge is quite a bit easier than the traverse in the opposite direction. This is due to two things, the easiest route from Kent Ridge to the Inflexible col is hard to spot from above, and the terrain is very loose and exposed when you get off route, therefore the ridge is much easier to ascend than descend.
Generally I managed to find easier lines on the left (west) side of the ridge, but every once in a while I got suckered onto the right side. There were a few spots where I was on down sloping slabs with very loose ‘holds’ and nothing but air beneath me which did not make me too happy. But the day was beautiful and I still had plenty of time so I decided to slow down and choose my line carefully. Soon I found myself avoiding all the drop offs on the ridge proper by dropping down onto a wide scree ledge on the west (skier’s left) side. I followed this ledge down a long ways (about 50 feet under the ridge crest) until I suspected I was lower than the col. At this point I scrambled up loose scree to the col – about 1 hour after leaving the summit of Kent Ridge. From the col the scrambling was easy to the summit of Inflexible.
The views at the summit were awesome – as expected. I was surprised at the height of Inflexible compared to Lawson. Lawson looked a lot lower than I remembered it feeling! The ridge from Lawson looked like it’s probably comparable to the ridge underneath Kent Ridge to the col – some down sloping slabs, loose holds and exposure. The summit ridge to the slightly higher north summit wasn’t a problem either. Reading the register was quite funny. Climber’s didn’t find the traverse from Lawson very hard, while scramblers and hikers didn’t appreciate Kane’s suggestion to try it at all!
After snapping pictures and hydrating it was time to head back. I really struggled with my route choice back to the parking lot. I knew that Raf had managed to negotiate the slopes to the James Walker valley / approach trail but I also knew it was a route-finding challenge and very steep and loose. I also knew (from the summit register) that some guy had recently scrambled up from that approach. On the other hand I also knew that I could quite easily ascend the route back up to Kent Ridge – the issue there being the extra height gain as opposed to exiting on a nice trail via James Walker Creek. I decided to try descending the west face of the ridge from the Kent Ridge / Inflexible col.
The descent to the low point on the ridge was easy enough. From there I bashed my way down scree ledges, always searching back and forth for an easy break through low cliffs to the next scree or grassy ledge. This worked well up high, but as I worked my way lower on the face I began to worry. I was taking a long time to find reasonable scramble routes through the cliff bands and time was ticking! I really started to think I was going to get completely cliffed out but I trusted my gut and eventually managed to step off the face and start down the scree piles towards the small tarn and hopefully a well established trail.
I should have gone straight west to the trail but I angled down the valley and ended up doing some moderate bush whacking around the tarn before finally settling onto an excellent trail which I followed to the parking lot. I made it to my truck 7.5 hours after leaving it – a pretty decent time I thought, considering the route-finding issues and total height gain for the day.
I highly recommend this trip. I don’t particularly recommend the ‘shortcut’ down the west slope from the col to the James Walker trail unless you’re really determined to try it. It goes, but not easily and there are countless loose holds ready to throw you off the mountain. Also, with more than one person you’re going to run into rock fall issues while descending the west slope route.