Summit Elevation (m): 2622
Trip Date: August 30 2015
Elevation Gain (m): 1100
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 12
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: Moderate to difficult scrambling depending on the line you take. Avoid the false summit or end up on 5th class terrain.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps
We debated long and hard about what we should do for Steven’s last trip before he moves to the lower mainland in BC. It would have been fantastic to do something huge like Robson or another 11,000er but alas, the weather, energy levels and time all conspired against us. On hindsight it was entirely fitting that we ended up doing a fairly obscure front range Nugara scramble with Ben, Steven and I getting lucky once again with the weather! Originally we were planning on heading up Gibraltar Mountain, but after realizing in the parking lot that none of us really had the energy to deal with the long approach (10+km) combined with flood damage, Steven suggested the much quicker and nearby East end of Mount Burns (EEOB). I didn’t even know this was a scramble in the area, but Steven has a great memory and remembered reading about it in Nugara’s book.
We started from the upper parking lot and soon cut off climber’s right into light bush towards the lower south east ridge. We followed the ridge up to tree line where the route is obvious – keep going up! The wind was fierce in sections but the views were surprisingly good, considering the smoke we’d been having in southern Alberta for the past week from forest fires in the USA. There are two false summit on EEOB and both can (and should) be bypassed on climber’s right. The traverses look like they might be tricky at first, but they’re simple and marked with cairns and even flagging on the second one. If you are on difficult terrain, you are off route, which did happen to us several times because we were looking for a challenge. Rick Collier looked for a challenge on the second false summit, and got a lot more than he bargained for!
So far this scramble was looking pretty darn popular with all the trails worn in scree and cairns / trees with flagging but this all stopped once we hit the upper ridge traverse to the true summit of EEOB. At this point most of the trails stopped and there were no more cairns. The ridge is as hard as you want it to be in sections, but overall it’s a moderate scramble if you know how to route-find in the Rockies. I got myself into one ‘situation’ when I dropped a bloody pole – I need to get new poles with wrist straps again! The ridge was fun, and the views were great. The only fly in the ointment was the strong wind gusts which threatened to blow us off a few times.
Once we arrived at the true summit block there were two choices as indicated by Nugara in his book. Straight up the ridge is difficult scrambling, while traversing on climber’s right is more moderate. Ben and Steven tackled the ridge head-on while I continued to avoid the wind on climber’s right.
The apex of EEOB wasn’t even as windy as the ridge and we took the requisite summit photos before signing the amazingly sparse (and huge) summit register that Kris Thorstenstein had left in 2013. We were only the 4th to sign and the 1st party of 2015. This summit certainly deserves more traffic than that! I’m wondering if the ridge traverse turns a lot of folks back? It’s not as bad as it looks… Kris wrote that he was hit by lightening on his first attempt – he was unhurt but his SPOT device was fried! Two weeks later he made the summit with his giant register. (Honestly – it’s the largest I’ve ever seen and is heavy enough to do arm curls at the summit with.)
After nearly blowing off the summit a few times, we decided it would be wise to head down. Descent was pretty straight forward, sometimes we down climbed, other times we traversed on ledges. My sunglasses blew off at one point – it was extremely windy! Once we got off the ridge and into the forest the quiet of being out of the hurricane was palpable. Overall this was a nice representative scramble for Steven before he heads off to new adventures. I’m not sure how many summits we’ve done together but I do know that they were some of the nicest and most memorable ones I’ve done!
I highly recommend EEOB for a day when you might be craving a peak but don’t want to spend 10 hours along a flood ravaged creek or only bagging a grassy knoll somewhere. Just make sure you have your “route finding nose” on you for this trip, or you may end up like Rick and get a lot more than you bargained for.