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Burke, Mount Loop (North Burke)

Summit Elevation (m): 2542
Trip Date: Sunday, May 12, 2019
Elevation Gain (m): 950
Round Trip Time (hr): 5.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 13.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: Some bushwhacking and routefinding to the summit of North Burke. With snow the traverse to the main summit becomes more challenging.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps


As Phil and I drove home from our successful scramble up Mount Berland in Kootenay National Park on Saturday, May 11, my thoughts turned to the following day. Despite being fairly sore from downhill skiing twice in the previous week and now a steep grind on Berland, I was hoping to take advantage of the continuing beautiful Spring weather window we were enjoying. This motivation was exacerbated by the dismal upcoming May long weekend forecast which was calling for 4 days of clouds, cold and rain or even snow. Phil was busy Sunday so I knew I’d be solo and was looking forward to rambling up something at my own pace, lost in my own thoughts. I was also strongly considering sleeping in and relaxing at home.

Mount Burke North Loop Route Map

After a late night bonfire with family on Saturday, I had no grand illusions about an early start (or perhaps any start) on Sunday morning and didn’t even bother setting my alarm. Of course this ensured I was still up at 07:00 and by 07:30 I was pulling out of our cul-de-sac and heading south towards Longview. 🙂 My destination was a familiar one located near the Cataract Creek Campground – Mount Burke. In 2007 I’d scrambled Burke with Wietse in some brutal winds. Since then I’d heard of an interesting loop that could be done, combining it with a summit to the north. Just as on Mount Berland the day previous, I didn’t read the details of this trip report too carefully and assumed there was a beaten trail up this north summit.

Walking towards the Cataract Creek campground with both North Burke (L) and Burke (R) visible.

The morning drive along hwy 541 from Longview and then down hwy 940 to the campground was lovely. I was surprised to be the only vehicle at the closed gate leading to the campground, but this was exactly what I wanted anyway – peace and quiet all to myself! I rambled up the gravel road leading to an empty and very quiet Cataract Creek Campground and proceeded around the loop to site 73 where my route towards North Burke officially began. Here’s where I finally actually read Bob’s report for the first time and realized that the GPS track I was following did NOT follow any sort of trail! Oops. Oh well. I was here now and the warm Spring sunshine was delightful, as were the songbirds letting their calls drift over the intoxicating scent of the awakening forest.

I followed a faint trail (and Bob’s GPS track) up the dry creek bed as he described and eventually over an obvious attempt at preventing folks like me from continuing onward. I’m hoping I didn’t miss an alternate obvious trail at this point, but I foraged onward, turning left up matchstick forest following a smaller drainage until it made more sense to simple bash up to the west ridge above. Once on this ridge I proceeded without an obvious trail in bush that reminded me of the day before. The forest was pretty open as the slope steepened to the SW ridge that I was targeting but this also meant I was starting to hit snow. I noticed some boot prints here and followed them to the lovely, open SW ridge leading up towards North Burke.

The views from the SW ridge were inspiring – as was the lack of snow! Mount Burke looked fairly large and snowy across the alpine bowl. There was enough snow just under the summit block that I wondered if I should have brought ax and crampons to deal with it. First things first, I still had a few hundred vertical meters to the north summit and I was bloody HOT! I was literally dripping sweat the whole ascent through the matchstick forest and now that I was on the open SW ridge, the cool breeze was heavenly.

Prairie Crocus.
On the SW ridge, North Burke at left, Burke at right of center.

The SW ridge was easier than it appeared and even knife-edged sections weren’t as narrow or exposed as they first looked. Eventually I traversed around the false summit cliffs on their south side before plodding up snow and scree to the summit. Summit views were stellar, especially west to the High Rock Range up Cataract Creek towards Farquhar, Holcroft, Scrimger and Etherington mountains. Soon I turned my attention to the main summit of Burke to the south.

Looking up the summit ridge of North Burke, Mount Burke at right.
Final ascent slopes to North Burke (L) with the traverse to Burke running to the right.
Mount Mann at lower left fg in shadow with Gunnery, Holy Cross, Head, Stoney Ridge, Junction Hill, Serendipity and Rae in the distance from R to L.
Raspberry Ridge in the mid fg with Armstrong, Bolton, Baril, Etherington, Scrimger, Holcroft (L) in the distance.
Looking ahead to the traverse between North and main Burke.

As Bob says in his trip report, the traverse from north to south is much easier than it first appears. Every obstacle on the descent from the north summit is no more than easy scrambling if you’re on the easiest line. In one case I thought I had to lose significant elevation to the west to get over a cliff, only to realize that there was a walk-down a few meters to my left (east)! Eventually I started ascending towards the main summit and the snow traverse that had been making me slightly nervous. The traverse was a bit exposed and a slide here would really suck, but as usual it was pretty tame once I got my nose into things. Good thing the temps were warm, as this north facing aspect could get pretty frozen up, requiring crampons / ax to ascend. After the snow traverse it was an easy plod up scree to the summit shack.

It pays to look on both sides of the connecting ridge for routes! At first glance this section was scary, then I traversed two paces to my left and there was this trivial bypass.
This snow patch could be problematic with any more or any harder snow. I didn’t have crampons or ax which would have been an issue with less warm conditions.

A quick lunch break alone with the shack and I was ready to descend the main trail down Burke’s west ridge. As I descended I ran into three other folks coming up – the first people I’d seen all day. The trail was a mix of snow, mud, running water and even some annoying ice in spots until well into the trees. When I intersected with the “direct route” it was impossible to ignore the straight line through the forest so down I went! This route was awesome. The smell of the forest was intoxicating and I really enjoyed ambling down the dry path. Here I ran into two more folks coming up – they weren’t really interested in bagging the peak. Soon I was descending to Salter Creek and rejoining the other route. Two stick arrows pointed the way up the “direct route”, so I’m not sure what condition the other one is in?

Views from the Mount Burke summit shack.
Looking back up the direct route from near the bottom, North Burke just visible at left.

I enjoyed a nice solo outing in the front ranges. It was a simple one compared to the convoluted and never-ending ridge of Berland the day before and it was very relaxing to turn off my mind and just plod up thin forest and open ridges. As I drove home I once again meditated on how lucky we are to enjoy such freedom and natural beauty in our backyard.

Mount Burke North Loop
Walking towards the Cataract Creek campground with both North Burke (L) and Burke (R) visible.
Walking towards the Cataract Creek campground with both North Burke (L) and Burke (R) visible.
Some morning company.
Some morning company.
Views of North Burke (C) and Burke (R) from site 73.
Views of North Burke (C) and Burke (R) from site 73.
Starting up a cut line.
Starting up a cut line.
After I cut back down to the dry creek bed I hit this obvious "don't go here" sign. I kept going.
After I cut back down to the dry creek bed I hit this obvious "don't go here" sign. I kept going.
Following the dry creek bed.
Following the dry creek bed.
Following the dry creek bed - this is where I turned up hill to my left.
Following the dry creek bed - this is where I turned up hill to my left.
Ascending another dry drainage to the west ridge.
Ascending another dry drainage to the west ridge.
Ascending another dry drainage to the west ridge.
Ascending another dry drainage to the west ridge.
Ascending dry matchstick forest to the west ridge.
Ascending dry matchstick forest to the west ridge.
Starting to hit patches of snow just before the SW ridge.
Starting to hit patches of snow just before the SW ridge.
Prairie Crocus.
Prairie Crocus.
On the SW ridge, views towards Mount Burke.
On the SW ridge, views towards Mount Burke.
Ascending the pleasantly dry and warm SW ridge towards North Burke.
Ascending the pleasantly dry and warm SW ridge towards North Burke.
Looking back down the SW ridge.
Looking back down the SW ridge.
On the SW ridge, North Burke at left, Burke at right of center.
On the SW ridge, North Burke at left, Burke at right of center.
Looking off the SW ridge to Mount Burke.
Looking off the SW ridge to Mount Burke.
Looking up the summit ridge of North Burke, Mount Burke at right.
Looking up the summit ridge of North Burke, Mount Burke at right.
Looking up the SW ridge to the summit of North Burke.
Looking up the SW ridge to the summit of North Burke.
Looking up the SW ridge to the summit of North Burke.
Looking up the SW ridge to the summit of North Burke.
Views back over the SW ridge towards the High Rock Range.
Views back over the SW ridge towards the High Rock Range.
Final ascent slopes to North Burke (L) with the traverse to Burke running to the right.
Final ascent slopes to North Burke (L) with the traverse to Burke running to the right.
Summit views east from North Burke.
Summit views east from North Burke.
Mount Mann at lower left fg in shadow with Gunnery, Holy Cross, Head, Stoney Ridge, Junction Hill, Serendipity and Rae in the distance from R to L.
Mount Mann at lower left fg in shadow with Gunnery, Holy Cross, Head, Stoney Ridge, Junction Hill, Serendipity and Rae in the distance from R to L.
Views north include McPhail, Hill of the Flowers, Loomis and of course Mist (R).
Views north include McPhail, Hill of the Flowers, Loomis and of course Mist (R).
Raspberry Ridge in the mid fg with Armstrong, Bolton, Baril, Etherington, Scrimger, Holcroft (L) in the distance.
Raspberry Ridge in the mid fg with Armstrong, Bolton, Baril, Etherington, Scrimger, Holcroft (L) in the distance.
Views west to Scrimger (L) and Etherington (R).
Views west to Scrimger (L) and Etherington (R).
Views over Pasque Mountain towards Gould Dome (L), Tornado, Elevators and Beehive Mountain (R).
Views over Pasque Mountain towards Gould Dome (L), Tornado, Elevators and Beehive Mountain (R).
Mount Burke.
Mount Burke.
The traverse route to Mount Burke.
The traverse route to Mount Burke.
Easy scrambling down from North Burke.
Easy scrambling down from North Burke.
Easy scrambling down from North Burke.
Easy scrambling down from North Burke.
Easy scrambling down from North Burke.
Easy scrambling down from North Burke.
Gorgeous traverse to Burke along the ridge.
Gorgeous traverse to Burke along the ridge.
Looking ahead to Mount Burke. Starting to wonder about the obvious snow traverse.
Looking ahead to Mount Burke. Starting to wonder about the obvious snow traverse.
Great views from the ridge.
Great views from the ridge.
Great views from the ridge.
Great views from the ridge.
Great views from the ridge.
Great views from the ridge.
Ascending to Mount Burke.
Ascending to Mount Burke.
Ascending to Mount Burke.
Ascending to Mount Burke.
The snow traverse could be tricky with colder temps or any more of it.
The snow traverse could be tricky with colder temps or any more of it.
Looking up to the summit.
Looking up to the summit.
Views back along the north ridge.
Views back along the north ridge.
The summit shack on Mount Burke.
The summit shack on Mount Burke.
The summit shack on Mount Burke.
The summit shack on Mount Burke.
Views north to North Burke, Holy Cross and Head.
Views north to North Burke, Holy Cross and Head.
Views west to Bishop, Hill of the Flowers and McPhail.
Views west to Bishop, Hill of the Flowers and McPhail.
Bolton and Armstrong (R).
Bolton and Armstrong (R).
Views up Cataract Creek include Etherington, Scrimger, Holcroft and Farquhar (L).
Views up Cataract Creek include Etherington, Scrimger, Holcroft and Farquhar (L).
Scrimger (R) and Holcroft (L).
Scrimger (R) and Holcroft (L).
Views over Pasque Mountain to Gould Dome, Tornado, Beehive.
Views over Pasque Mountain to Gould Dome, Tornado, Beehive.
View south over Sentinel towards Hailstone Butte.
View south over Sentinel towards Hailstone Butte.
The summit shack on Mount Burke.
The summit shack on Mount Burke.
Descending the west ridge of Mount Burke.
Descending the west ridge of Mount Burke.
Descending the west ridge of Mount Burke.
Descending the west ridge of Mount Burke.
Descending the west ridge of Mount Burke.
Descending the west ridge of Mount Burke.
Descending the west ridge of Mount Burke, nearing treeline.
Descending the west ridge of Mount Burke, nearing treeline.
The mid-mountain trail was still snow covered but thankfully tracked out.
The mid-mountain trail was still snow covered but thankfully tracked out.
The mid-mountain trail was still snow covered but thankfully tracked out.
The mid-mountain trail was still snow covered but thankfully tracked out.
The "direct route" is very pleasant in the Spring sunshine.
The "direct route" is very pleasant in the Spring sunshine.
The "direct route" is very pleasant in the Spring sunshine.
The "direct route" is very pleasant in the Spring sunshine.
Views back up the direct route near the bottom, North Burke at upper left.
Views back up the direct route near the bottom, North Burke at upper left.
The arrows point left up the "direct route".
The arrows point left up the "direct route".
The arrows point left up the "direct route".
The arrows point left up the "direct route".

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