Summit Elevation (m): 2962
Elevation Gain (m): 1200 (from Berg Lake Campground)
Round Trip Time (hr): 3
Total Trip Distance (km): 15 (from Berg Lake Campground)
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 4 – you fall, you break something or die
Difficulty Notes: A difficult chimney accesses the first peak and from there it’s an exposed scramble to the true summit. I would have preferred a half-rope length rappel down the chimney – snow and ice greatly increase the difficulty. I’ve been told that there may be a moderate scramble route up from the east side of the summit block but I can’t verify that.
Technical Rating: SC7+; YDS (5.0-5.3)
Map: Google Maps
After hiking up to Mumm Basin my plan was to ascend Mumm Peak via the dragon’s back that I’d noticed the day before while hiking down from Snowbird Pass and Titkana Peak. I spoke with a park Ranger at the Hargreaves shelter on Wednesday evening and he confirmed that this route would work. He also worried me a bit by mentioning a “5.3 chimney and possibly awkward traverse between the west and east summit with the fresh snow and ice”. A 5.3 chimney?! That didn’t sound like scrambling anymore. I decided it was still worth a shot though, as he also mentioned a fixed length of cord in the chimney that could possibly help me out if it was too icy to climb without it.My plan worked brilliantly and soon after leaving the Mumm Basin trail I was struggling up a boulder field and then loose scree slopes to a false summit with a large stick planted in the cairn. This would be a good candidate for “Little Mumm” or “Mumm Junior”. Since apparently every high point in the Rockies needs a name now. 🙂
Seriously though, the views were so great from this false summit that I would highly recommend that fit parties planning on the Mumm Basin trail come at least this high to see for themselves. From Mumm Junior the route was obvious. Go up more loose scree / boulder slopes until hitting the permanent snow field on the south slopes beneath the west ridge leading up to the summit of Mumm. The ranger had assured me that the ice under this snow is non-crevassed and safe for solo travel so I headed straight up. I had lugged my light crampons around for 2 days already and kind of wanted to use them just so it wasn’t a waste but I didn’t even bother with that. Colder temps would have necessitated them but the sun was pretty warm already on the south slope.
As I got higher the issue became the clouds. A curious thing that also happened the day previous, was that the mountains around Robson seemed to get cloud caps around 11am-2pm while Robson itself stayed completely clear. This was the opposite of what I was expecting and the peaks north of Robson seemed to get the cloud caps earlier – and pretty thick ones. As I gained the ridge just under the west summit I was very disappointed to be in thick, swirling clouds with a very chilly wind! I knew from the surrounding skies and from the weather the day before that this was probably a temporary white out but I didn’t know if “temporary” meant 30 seconds, 30 minutes or 3 hours. 🙁 I decided that there was nothing to do at this point but try to keep ascending and hope I got lucky. I kind of did get lucky and I kind of didn’t get lucky.
The proper chimney was pretty obvious. It had a bright red end of a sling sitting embedded in fresh snow above a crux, overhanging chock stone that was surrounded by rime and water ice on the steep rock! GULP. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to get up the section under the chockstone. The move to get over it was awkward and made much more so but the snow and ice. I wasn’t 100% sure that the chock stone was a permanent feature either – if it popped out (and that looked like a good possibility, especially with the cord putting pressure on it each time I pulled) I’d be toast – there was no way to avoid it in the narrow and steep chimney. The fact that a cold wind was whipping around me and I was in a whiteout didn’t help either. At this point I pretty much gave up and backed out of the chimney, feeling rather deflated and defeated.
But then I started to think of how much effort I’d put into getting to this spot and I decided to give it one more serious attempt. It was time to ditch any extra gear and just “go for it”. I took my camera from around my neck, dumped the pack and started back up without poles or any other encumbrances. Anyone who’s ever climbed with me knows that if I put my poles away or leave them behind I must be fully committed! 🙂 Without any crap hanging and banging around my body, I was able to be much more acrobatic about the moves beneath the chock stone and quickly worked my way over it. I descended and ascended a few times because the moves were tricky and especially awkward in huge mountaineering boots and there were a few interesting ones that I didn’t want to forget on descent – this was far beyond ‘scrambling’ now, obviously. Water ice on the tiny holds didn’t help. The terrain above the chock stone and sling wasn’t easy either. I’d want a 30m rope for this section if I ever went back, including a rappel on the way back down it.
As I crested the first summit I realized two things. I was still in a whiteout – although it seemed to be thinning, and I didn’t have my camera! CRAP. In my consternation and hurry to get up the crux I had put down my camera and my pack and forgot to jam the camera back in my pocket! The ironic thing is that I carry TWO cameras and I’d forgotten to take EITHER of them. 🙁 At this point I was cold, hungry and just wanted to get back down the crux as quickly as possible so there was no way I was descending and re-ascending. I decided this peak would not have photographic evidence of a summit, and continued on to the real (east) summit.This traverse was not easy either, with tremendous exposure down the north face to the Mural Glacier valley and snow and ice making each step precarious. The clouds hid some of the exposure but somehow made the whole thing seem much more serious too. I was very keenly aware of how alone I was up there! I arrived at the summit cairn still in a white out and with no camera and frozen hands / face I quickly scanned for the register. The cairn was plastered in snow and after digging around for a few moments I gave up and turned back – this was also disappointing for me as I’m sure there aren’t many recorded ascents of this peak! So that was the unlucky part. Forgetting my camera, ascending Mumm Peak in a whiteout and not getting to see the register. But now for the lucky part…
I made it back down without dying. OK – there’s a bit more lucky stuff than just not dying. As I descended the chimney from the west peak, the clouds started to lift and some of the most glorious mountain scenery of my life started to appear! When I stepped out of the chimney I was treated to a warm sun and complete lack of wind. The views from the upper ridge were absolutely mind blowing, including the Robson area, Whitehorn Mountain and the Mural Glacier to the north. I was so happy to be back in warm sunshine with views and safely back down the crux that I almost forgot the bitter taste of a whiteout summit with no camera. I took a leisurely lunch break on top of a small pinnacle near the base of the crux chimney and warmed up my hands and feet in the sun, while taking way too many photos.
After enjoying the incredible scenery and warm sunshine for about an hour, I decided that I’d better continue down the summit slope and back to the Mumm Basin trail and camp. I took a slightly different descent route after the snow slopes, utilizing a break to the west from the dragon back on a fortuitous scree ramp that dumped me into delightful meadows above the trail. I found the trail no problem from there, and continued on my way to The Cave.