Summit Elevation (m): 2670
Trip Date: Thursday, August 30, 2018
Elevation Gain (m): 1900
Round Trip Time (hr): 11.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 30
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 4 – you fall, you are almost dead
Difficulty Notes: A very long creek approach with minor bushwhacking, some routefinding and some sheep trails. The traverse is moderate to difficult depending on whether Mythic Tower is included.
GPS Track Download: Download GPX File
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)
After the easy to moderate ascents of both Mount Townsend and Epic Tower, I turned my attention towards the much more involved traverse and ascent of Mystic Tower – located further south along the ridge running over impressive east-facing cliffs from Mount Townsend to Mount Fable high over Exshaw Creek below. As I indicated already in my Townsend preamble, I was not about to take Mythic Tower lightly after hearing from Cornelius that it was one of his most difficult ascents. But first I had to get there from Epic Tower and this didn’t look like a very straightforward traverse to me!
The only reason I even attempted the traverse was that Cornelius mentioned a game trail between the towers that was supposed to be easy to moderate scrambling with stunning views. He’s not wrong. Once I found the trail I managed to follow it for the most part across scree, exposed slabs and some pretty fun terrain. I have to caution strongly that you attempt to stay on this track as much as possible. If you lose it on slabby ground, spend the time to find it back afterward. The route reminded me a lot of the terrain on Abraham Mountain. Very fast and efficient if one is on route but very slow and scary as soon as one deviates off it! The local ungulates have done a marvelous job carving a track over slabs and scree over decades of attempts and it behooves the scrambler to take full advantage of all this effort. I have to say that the part of my day traversing from Townsend to Little Mythic was extremely pleasant, with great views, great weather and fun, involved routefinding, scrambling and hiking. Despite being pretty close to both Exshaw and Canmore, this place has a very remote and wild feel to it and experiencing it all solo was very special.
As I finished the traverse from Epic Tower, I realized that I had to leave the trail and take loose scree and slabs up to the base of the crack in Mythic Tower’s summit block. I was tiring a bit at this point, but also feeling pretty darn good about my day’s efforts so far. I was ‘only’ around 6 hours into my day and already tackling my 3rd peak – far quicker than I’d originally estimated this would take. Already from Cougar Creek, I’d spotted the wonderful landmark / route that Cornelius found to crack Mythic Tower’s summit;
The keys to the tower, so to speak, are to be found in the main crack that runs horizontally across the middle of the flat east wall.Cornelius Rott
As I finished the short, tiring scramble to the start of the crack, I decided that in the interests of keeping things as easy and pleasant as possible I should drop my pack and only continue along the crack with my camera, my Spot X, my hiking poles and some granola bars in my pocket. This would allow freer movements up the difficult terrain and still allow a break on the summit and a rescue device if things went sideways. The “crack” is actually a scree sidewalk from up close. I easily followed it before arriving at the crux of my day – a very steep crack with two chockstones blocking any easy exit about 10 feet above me.
I’ve dealt with chock stonesmore than once in difficult terrain. You might think that the challenge is climbing over top of them, but it’s not really. I find the main challenge is putting enough trust into their position to fully weight them from below. I always think that they’re probably ready to come loose and crash down on my head as I heave on them so I try to avoid doing that at all costs which of course means more difficult moves to get around them without weighting them fully. In this particular case, I practiced a series of moves that involved stemming off my back before doing a turn, pull and heave up and around the boulders chocking the chimney from above. I felt pretty comfortable with everything except the last few moves which I suspected might be more difficult in reverse when downclimbing. The terrain was less exposed than I expected, which helped boost my confidence and kept me going up and over the first crux.
The second difficult section was also interesting and quite different from the first. It was a slab wall with an overhanging rocky cliff up the opposite side, allowing for some interesting stemming and leaning across before tiptoeing off the wall and onto scree. I wondered if this might be the harder terrain on return, but it wasn’t. I must warn the reader that being 6ft tall or taller (Cornelius is 6′ 4″) definitely helps immensely on both ! If you want absolute confidence that you’ll make the summit of Mystic Tower you should bring a 30m rope with requisite climbing gear (minimal). I agree 100% with Cornelius when he states that this is not scrambling terrain when icy or snowy or likely even when wet.
From the top of the slab wall the terrain remained loose, slabby, somewhat exposed and a solid ‘moderate’ on the scrambling scale. I first went to the north summit but then realized the south one was slightly higher and traversed over there. Views from the top were incredible! I felt really lucky to be enjoying such a great day in the hills after all the previous smoky views earlier in August.
The sky was clouding up to the west with some rain looking to be falling, so I didn’t linger long before climbing back down to the top of the slab wall and descending it. It was easier than expected, I simply leaned all the way over to the opposite side and did a whole body stem move before stepping down and out of the crack! Being tall is awesome on most difficult scrambles. The crux chimney was also easier than expected to downclimb, but again – being tall certainly helped here! It also helped that I’d rehearsed several key moves on the ascent so I knew where to put my feet and when to turn around and stem my body. It felt great to be done my crux of the day as I walked back along the exposed scree sidewalk to my pack! The only things remaining were an easy hike up “Little Mythic Tower” and then what was looking like another easy hike down to the creek below on scree.