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Princess Mary, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 3084
Elevation Gain (m): 1800
Round Trip Time (hr): 24
Total Trip Distance (km): 28
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or worse
Difficulty Notes: Steep, loose southwest gully to a loose, low 5th scramble up the summit block. Ice or snow would complicate things greatly.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)
MapGoogle Maps


After descending the glacier and loose scree of King George’s upper mountain, we realized that with a whole afternoon still ahead of us and perfect weather, we should attempt a scramble of Mount Princess Mary. After all, there was no way we were slogging all the way back here again – no matter how beautiful it was. I had printed out a trip report from Rick Collier’s successful scramble of Princess Mary, but in my early morning fog of sleepiness I hadn’t packed it along. Oh well. We’d be adventurous and see if we could guess a good route from below. The spirit of adventure lives on! We only had a limited choice from our current vantage point on King George. There was an upper scree bench on Princess Mary’s west side and a lower one. The upper one looked hard to reach, so we opted for the lower one, hoping to traverse around it and find a reasonable ascent line somewhere.

https://youtu.be/a1p0kkxL8kw
King George and Royal Group Video
Mount Princess Mary from Bivy Route Map.

We were all feeling a bit bagged so we put one condition on the ascent. It would have to be fair means – i.e. a scramble, not a climb. We didn’t have the energy or will to pitch it out. Steven led the way along the rubble slope and before long we rounded a corner and found ourselves staring up at a huge staircase bowl leading all the way up to the summit block. Of course we had no idea at the time, but this is likely the same gully Rick used in 1990 to ascend the peak.

Steven leads the side-hill traverse around to the SW face of Princess Mary.

We dropped most of our gear at the bottom of the gully before slowly starting up – each person picking their own line (this avoided rock fall issues as the terrain was horribly loose). We picked our way up the bowl, eventually working to climber’s right on a fairly easy ridge to the upper summit block where things got interesting. We managed to get up a loose, steep gully (4th class) before topping out near the col between the true summit on our left and a false summit on our right. The terrain from here to the summit was much more serious and probably breached low 5th class a few times for short sections.

Ascending above the steeper lower terrain to the even steeper upper terrain.

We all made it to the summit – Steven took the ridge direct, Ben took most of the ridge and Eric and I found a third way! Whatever works! The views of King George were fabulous, it was hard to believe we were just up there.

King George at far right and views to the west and then east to Joffre at far left.
Pano includes (L to R) Northover Lyautey, Sarrail, Foch, Warrior, Cordonnier, Petain Joffre, Abruzzi and many more.
Prince Albert and King George at left in this view over the “normal” bivy site. Joffre at distant right.

After signing another old register (1970) we started the slow and careful descent. I was initially a bit worried about it, but taking our time and sticking close together made it pleasant enough. Soon we were at the gear drop and done all the hard stuff.

Careful downclimbing off the summit block.
Traversing off Princess Mary with King George rising above at right.

We ambled towards the gorgeous south glacier bivy site and packed up camp before heading off for the Prince Albert / “normal” King George bivy site in anticipation of Sunday’s planned objectives, Prince Albert and Prince George.

Looking forward to the world’s nicest bivy! Located at the stand of trees – a very nice spot.
At the bivy site.
Alpine meadows as we continue our traverse to the normal bivy site.
Finding our way to the large bivy site under the east glacier.
The desolate moonscape that is the glacial moraines from a receding east glacier.

The traverse to the main bivy site near the east glacier and south ridge approach was more involved than I was expecting. We initially had a trail (the same one we’d followed up the night before in pitch darkness) but eventually we wanted to traverse around the south end of Princess Mary and back towards the east glacier valley. We managed to find a route through and walked into a very spacious and deluxe bivy site with plenty of daylight to spare.

Mount Princess Mary
Steven leads the side-hill traverse around to the SW face of Princess Mary.
Steven leads the side-hill traverse around to the SW face of Princess Mary.
King George rises impressively above Ben and Eric as they traverse the west slopes of Princess Mary en route to finding a route up to her summit.
King George rises impressively above Ben and Eric as they traverse the west slopes of Princess Mary en route to finding a route up to her summit.
Steep scrambling lower down - this was the easier stuff near the bottom.
Steep scrambling lower down - this was the easier stuff near the bottom.
Nice staircase terrain - kind of like Murchison's amphitheater but smaller.
Nice staircase terrain - kind of like Murchison's amphitheater but smaller.
Ascending above the steeper lower terrain to the even steeper upper terrain.
Ascending above the steeper lower terrain to the even steeper upper terrain.
Looking back along the scree traverse from where we started the SW face ascent. King George visible in the distance.
Looking back along the scree traverse from where we started the SW face ascent. King George visible in the distance.
The terrain is also very loose.
The terrain is also very loose.
With careful routefinding there were non-technical ascent paths.
With careful routefinding there were non-technical ascent paths.
Eric negotiates a steep chimney just before the summit block.
Eric negotiates a steep chimney just before the summit block.
Looking ahead to the final challenge - getting up to the summit!
Looking ahead to the final challenge - getting up to the summit!
Another old register.
Another old register.
Looking towards Joffre and Kananaskis - the smoke has cleared up and now our summit views are stunning!
Looking towards Joffre and Kananaskis - the smoke has cleared up and now our summit views are stunning!
King George at far right and views to the west and then east to Joffre at far left.
King George at far right and views to the west and then east to Joffre at far left.
Mount King George.
Mount King George.
Mount Sir Douglas.
Mount Sir Douglas.
Mounts Sarrail and Foch are the two with snow.
Mounts Sarrail and Foch are the two with snow.
Joffre at left and Abruzzi just right of center with snow.
Joffre at left and Abruzzi just right of center with snow.
Pano includes (L to R) Northover Lyautey, Sarrail, Foch, Warrior, Cordonnier, Petain Joffre, Abruzzi and many more.
Pano includes (L to R) Northover Lyautey, Sarrail, Foch, Warrior, Cordonnier, Petain Joffre, Abruzzi and many more.
The valley towards Joffre and Abruzzi is deep, lush and gorgeous.
The valley towards Joffre and Abruzzi is deep, lush and gorgeous.
Looking over Prince Albert and George at left and the normal bivy valley towards Onslow, Defender.
Looking over Prince Albert and George at left and the normal bivy valley towards Onslow, Defender.
Careful downclimbing off the summit block.
Careful downclimbing off the summit block.
We stuck close together and took our time so it didn't seem that bad.
We stuck close together and took our time so it didn't seem that bad.
It's still 4th class terrain - you certainly don't want to slip here.
It's still 4th class terrain - you certainly don't want to slip here.
A forest fire in the distance.
A forest fire in the distance.
It's best to stick close on terrain this exposed and loose.
It's best to stick close on terrain this exposed and loose.
Big terrain - rocks would pick up a LOT of speed as we kicked them down... Eric went first! :)
Big terrain - rocks would pick up a LOT of speed as we kicked them down... Eric went first! 🙂
Steve looks back up at our day so far - King George and Princess Mary - not a bad day out!
Steve looks back up at our day so far - King George and Princess Mary - not a bad day out!
King George looms over us again.
King George looms over us again.
We traversed back to the nasty scree slope we started up King George on rather than try to find a shortcut down. This was a good decision on hind sight.
We traversed back to the nasty scree slope we started up King George on rather than try to find a shortcut down. This was a good decision on hind sight.
Heading back to our bivy.
Heading back to our bivy.
Big terrain.
Big terrain.
The cliffs soar above the entrance to the south valley access and bivy.
The cliffs soar above the entrance to the south valley access and bivy.
Looking forward to the world's nicest bivy! Located at the stand of trees - a very nice spot.
Looking forward to the world's nicest bivy! Located at the stand of trees - a very nice spot.
Looking over the bivy site towards Joffre.
Looking over the bivy site towards Joffre.
The bivy site - Ben and Steven just visible walking to it.
The bivy site - Ben and Steven just visible walking to it.
Paradise.
Paradise.
A very special place.
A very special place.
A very special place.
A very special place.

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