Summit Elevation (m): 2758
Trip Date: July 24 2017
Elevation Gain (m): 600
Round Trip Time (hr): 5
Total Trip Distance (km): 7.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 : you fall, you sprain your pinkie finger
Difficulty Notes: No difficulties from Carnarvon Lake. The headwall to the lake is far harder than anything on this easy scramble.
Technical Rating: OT5; YDS (Hiking)
After a nice, relaxing day spent ascending Mount Strachan before chilling at Carnarvon Lake, Kaycie and I woke up early on Monday morning to tackle Mount Muir and our highline traverse to Weary Creek Gap. The idea for this traverse came from a thread that Matt Clay started on ClubTread and from some further research into a longer backpack in the area known as the “Elk Highline“. The basic idea was to take full backpacks up and over Mount Muir and down towards Weary Creek Gap which would be our home for another night and possibly a base camp for an ascent of nearby Mount McPhail. We’d seen the lower scree slopes of Muir on our return from Shankland a couple of days earlier and weren’t sure what to expect.
After breakfast we packed up camp and made our way up the headwall behind our camp for the last time. The bushes were damp from the overnight thunderstorms, but the ground was already drying out as we started traversing the lower west slopes of Mount Strachan. We tried to maintain elevation and avoid thick bush on our traverse and succeeded for the most part.
Soon we were navigating through a pretty impressive boulder field – thankfully much more stable than Shankland’s mess was. The alpine meadow between Muir and Strachan was a magical place and we took our time wander through it. There was lots of old Grizzly diggings here but nothing recent.
From the alpine meadow the route up to the false summit of Mount Muir was pretty straightforward. We started on loose scree and eventually managed to find some solid(ish) sections higher up the slope. Both of us commented that it wasn’t nearly as much work as we were expecting (remember – we have full packs here) to make the false summit. The route down to Weary Creek Gap looked pretty easy from the false summit but we still had to tag the true one which was obvious to the NE. We left the heavy packs at the false summit and made our way easily along the NE ridge to the true one. Views were again, awesome. I don’t know how we avoided forest fire smoke on our trip, but so far we had clear skies and beautifully warm temperatures.
Views from the summit of Muir were impressive, if not a bit familiar by now (after bagging three peaks in the area in the past few days already), and we enjoyed them while refueling for the upcoming descent to Weary Creek Gap.
The descent of the west ridge of Mount Muir was sublime. The weather was perfect. The combination of scree, green grass and wildflowers combined for a dreamy alpine experience. To top it all off, we came across a Buck and Doe who didn’t bolt upon seeing us, but rather choose to hang out. We shared the gorgeous morning with them for a few minutes before continuing down towards the gap. There were many different route options to get into the Weary Creek Gap between Mounts Muir and McPhail. We followed our noses into it before finding a small, but obvious trail on the NW side of the gap.
I had some beta from Matt about a good camp site near a fresh spring but we couldn’t find it so we kept going down towards the small pond at the top of the headwall guarding the gap from the east. We found evidence of camps on gravel flats just off the lake to the west but these were very exposed to wind and we were sick of camping in the strong gusts that come over the divide. We crossed the inflow to the lake on boggy ground and found a perfect site for the mid just under the lake near its outflow stream, giving us easy access to clean, flowing water.
After setting up camp I started getting antsy. I’d spent hours the day before at Carnarvon Lake reading and relaxing, but apparently my mind wasn’t prepared to do this two days in a row. Despite the morning’s efforts I was ready for more! As it was only around 14:00, I figured I had plenty of time left to nab Mount McPhail, which was looming over us to the north. Kaycie had no issues with me going off on my own for a few hours – she would happily continue reading her eBook while I exhausted myself. Once again – smart girl! I don’t know too many 18 year old city kids who could blissfully sit in the middle of nowhere all by themselves for hours on end, just reading a book. After arranging an emergency protocol (hit the ‘911’ on the Spot if I wasn’t back by 21:30), I took off, back up the trail towards Weary Creek Gap and the lower south scree slopes of Mount McPhail.