Summit Elevation (m): 3099
Trip Date: Saturday, June 11 2022
Elevation Gain (m): 1200 from camp at Trident Lake
Round Trip Time (hr): 5.5 from camp at Trident Lake
Total Distance (km): 10 from camp at Trident Lake
Reference Trip: Adventures at Trident Lake
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall you sprain something.
Difficulty Notes: A very remote but surprisingly easy hike and scramble.
Technical Rating: SC5; RE5
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
After spending a wonderful morning exploring and rambling across some of Banff National Park’s most remote rivers and valleys on Whimper Peak it was time for Phil and I to tackle the main objective of our Trident Lake trip. Many years ago already, I was perusing one of the myriad trip reports from Rick Collier on bivouac.com when I came across his ascent of Mount Malloch. He indicates a pretty darn easy ascent – not entirely common for such a lofty and remote summit. One thing I didn’t clue into until coming home was that Rick and Ya-he We-ha took a whopping 5 days to approach, ascend and exit just this peak! If you think about how long it took Rick to tag Malloch, it’s a good indicator just how bloody remote the Trident and Martin Lakes are. It’s not like Rick wasn’t a veteran of long, remote trips and rarely ascended mountains! Sure – he was likely still old school as far as pack weight, heavy boots and gear go but he also did his fair share of pioneering long, fast days in the mountains when very few people were doing such things. In this day and age of extreme athletes socializing exploits covering incredible distances in ridiculously short times we have normalized things that aren’t exactly, “normal” for the average weekend warrior who doesn’t have 40 hours a week to dedicate to their sport.
Thanks to a clear view of Malloch from our descent of the west ridge of Whimper, we knew what to expect from the mid to upper mountain and it was all good news. There was a remarkable lack of snow on the south ridge and I thought I could even spot a completely snow-free ascent line right to the top. Considering the ridiculously slow melt this spring, this was unexpected and put us in very high spirits as we once again exited camp and marched past the poor dead rabbit still looking as confused as ever about their predicament. The mouse had either resurrected during our time on Whimper or more likely had become part of the entropic cycle of life. It didn’t take long for us to hike back along the Clearwater Trail to Malloch’s SE ascent drainage. Soon we were doing a very familiar rock and boulder dance up a remote creekbed. I’ve done so many of these over the past few years it’s kind of becoming my bread and butter for access peaks. I think of Lost Guide, Psychic and Solstice as some recent examples.
There isn’t much to say about the lower route on Malloch. Compared to Whimper it was dead easy with no wild river crossings, no sneaky routes and no places to really get off route either. Rick mentions descending the wrong gully but this was purely an exploration move – there was no reason for him to descend here compared to simply descending the ascent route. At the only junction in the creek, we stuck to the left (main) branch until reaching the bottom of a large rubble slope leading up to the broad south ridge above. From here it was a very straightforward grind on semi-firm scree and rock. It wasn’t hard to find reasonably solid terrain on ascent and there was plenty of loose stuff for the way down. Incredible views of soaring cliffs coming off an unnamed peak to the west kept us entertained as we slowly made our way step-by-step up to the south ridge.
I couldn’t believe it when I finally topped out on the ridge proper and saw a continuous snow-free line marching up above me. This afternoon scramble was turning out even better than expected. Unfortunately for us, we still had hundreds of meters to gain at this point. Malloch isn’t the highest peak around this area but at 3100m it’s also not tiny. I’ve said it before but one thing every peakbagger understands is the feeling you get when you look around at soaring peaks knowing that you have to get higher than all of them before you’re done.
Sticking right on top of the ridge provided some interesting, easy scrambling options with easier options available to climber’s left. Soon we were staring up at the summit block and taking in views of some of Banff’s most elusive and rarely seen (nevermind climbed) peaks such as Icefall Mountain and Mount Huestis. With the clouds slowly starting to form again we didn’t slow down too much while wheezing our way up the final summit slopes to some pretty sweet, wild views. This is what we live for.
It was incredible to stand on top of Mount Malloch with front row seats to peaks that I’d only dreamed of for many years such as Mamen, Nordic Ridge, Huestis and Icefall. For some reason it is incredibly difficult to get good looks at these summits from pretty much anywhere other than their immediate neighbors and on peaks like Recondite and Whelk I was unlucky with too many clouds for any good distant views. This time more than made up for any past limitations and we great enjoyed it. We spent a considerable amount of time looking for any signs of a register in the demolished summit cairn but alas, there was nothing we could find. After rebuilding the cairn we reluctantly turned away from the stunning panoramas and slowly started down the south ridge.
The south ridge descent offered full-on views up the Roaring Creek valley over the tiny falls to giants such as Mount Drummond and Cataract Peak. The deep green of the valley with brown and shades of gray in the rocky slopes above to blue skies and white clouds made for vistas that only happen a few times in a year. Watching Phil hike back along the giant scree slopes with Clearwater Lake and Mount Hector and Cataract looming over it all was a highlight moment of the entire trip for me. We are incredibly lucky to enjoy such wild, pristine and accessible places in a world that is very quickly becoming the very opposite of these things.
The descent back into the south drainage was quick and easy on loose scree and we picked our way gingerly down the lively creek before cutting off to shortcut through light forest to the Clearwater Trail. We arrived back in camp less than 5.5 hours after leaving it proving that despite being a few hundred meters higher than Whimper, Malloch is the easier of the two thanks to a much more direct route. This day will go down as a favorite of 2022 – no doubt about that. Despite taking an inordinate amount of energy and pain to attain in a 3 day excursion, Mount Malloch deserves to be on every remote peakbaggers dream list.