Cirrus Mountain

elevation: 3,270 m. height gain: 1,700 m.
area: Icefields Parkway,AB map 83 C/2

Ref: The Raffinator
We loosely followed Raff's trip report instead of the traditional route described in Chic Scott's Summits and Icefields 1994 edition.

After travelling above the north shore of Coleman Lake, head north-east to the pass leading into White Goat Wilderness Area, 043759. From the pass, drop down to the meadows while traversing towards Huntington Glacier. We chose to bivi next to Huntington Creek, 038777. Gain the rib that leads to a spine situated at the north-east edge of the glacier, 025787. Skirt the spine climber's left and traverse to the south slopes of Cirrus Mountain.

at the start

The steep ascent gully in the background.
Scramble: RT: 6.0; 3.5 up (from the bivi). This gorgeous mountain is very special to us, it was a tribute to our beloved Winston. Back in march 2006 we did a reconnaissance trip following Chic Scott's route. Having just gotten our first dog, Winston, we decided to bring him along for the ski tour. We underestimated the difficulty of the outing; the terrain is avalanche prone and steep. After a tough plod, we reached Coleman Lake. Our hound looked out of place... The wind picked up and it was clear that Winston was no longer enjoying himself. We dug up a shelter, laid down our packs for him to cuddle on and covered him up. We had a quick lunch while he took a nap and retreated shortly thereafter. We learnt a lesson that day; ski touring is not a favorable activity for man's best friend.

Fab was convinced that Cirrus Mountain would be a better ascent in the summer, eliminating avalanche hazard on the approach. After scrutinizing Google Earth and Raff's trip report, he figured we could avoid the glacier. Travelling light was definitely appealing for this arduous outing. We planned a two-day trip mainly to get an early start and take advantage of firm snow on our climb.

Approach: 6 hours to bivi. We met Charles at the pull off early to beat the forecasted intense heat. The climb to the first lake is steep but trees don't choke the terrain and there's lots of game trails. Nearing the first lake, we travelled at the trees' edge high on the mountainside, climber's left. Upon reaching the lake, we dropped down to it's shore. Coleman Lake is a short distance away and most of the height has been gained; the scenery is spectacular, Mount Coleman steals the show! Reaching Coleman Lake stirred a lot of emotion in both Fab and I, we thought of Winston a lot... The beautifully colored lake seemed less hostile this time. We replenished our bottles at an inflow and started a high traverse above the lake to gain an obvious ramp. We were able to find an easy way up through the rockband from the ramp; at that point, we got our first glimpse at the objective (Chic Scott's route). We continued traversing towards the pass, excitement was building. From the pass, we aimed for the last grassy spot closest to Cirrus. After more sidehilling on talus slopes, we settled in next to the creek. We spent the afternoon rehydrating and gawking at Mount Coleman since we could only see the top of Cirrus. It was so hot that we took shelter under a tarp to avoid heatstroke. The minute the sun set, we put on layers and retired for the evening.

At 4:20 AM I suddenly woke up and asked Fab what time it was. The alarm was not set at the proper time and we slept in a little. In no time, the stove was boiling water and the shelter was dismantled. Shortly past 5 AM, we set off towards the mountain following a rib north of the drainage. We quickly reached the spine and were thrilled to see a straightforward traverse to the ascent slope. The snow was firm and travelling was pleasant. Cirrus Mountain's southern outlier is dramatically stunning, it demands attention. We climbed on rock until we got to the snow pitch below the ridge crest. We traded poles for axe and crampons and continued to gain the ridge. Once on the ridge proper, majestic scenery towards the Columbia Icefield is revealed; the surrounding landscape is equally awe inspiring. We carefully proceeded on the snowy ridge, encountering a couple of very short hands-on sections. As we ascended the last snow slope before the top, I was in disbelief; we would finally stand on the summit of this impressive mountain. We reached the top before 9 AM, I was elated! The views are outstanding, the north-east connecting ridge called Mare's Tail is heavily corniced and quite the sight. We didn't stay too long, wanting to avoid the softening snow. We looked for a register but couldn't find one, good thing Fab came prepared; he left a nalgene bottle with a notepad and a couple of pencils. In the bottle we left a couple of prints of Winston and his rubber dog bone. Returning was fast; after picking up our poles, we glissaded the whole snow slope. I walked on a cloud all the way back to camp! We took a fine break as we packed our things. It was already hot with no clouds in sight. We left the meadow reluctantly and slowly made our way back up to the pass. We backtracked along the lakes, stopping to drink water often. Once in the trees, we continued carefully to avoid getting cliffed out. We surprised a black bear; I guess we weren't as loud as we should have been... We made it to our vehicles feeling very content and tired. This was truly a memorable outing in the beautiful Rockies!

steep hiking

Very steep hiking.

typical terrain

Typical terrain along the drainage.

along the trees

Travelling along the trees' edge.

first lake

There's some bushwhacking to reach the east end of the first lake.

approaching the headwall

Approaching the headwall.

top of the headwall

Nearing the top of the headwall.

above treeline

Leaving trees and shrubs behind.

coleman lake

Beautiful Coleman Lake.

coleman's outlier

Mount Coleman's western outlier is reflected in the lake.

high traverse

High traverse towards the ramp.

mount coleman

Mount Coleman rising above the lake.

above the north shore

High above the north shore.

weakness in the rockband

Finding a weakness in the rockband.

heading for the pass

Continuing towards the pass.

at the pass
  Mount Coleman from the pass.

first good look

Our first good look at the objective.

heading to the meadows

Heading to the meadows and Huntington Creek.

white goat wilderness area

Entering White Goat Wilderness Area... Beware...

bivi site

Last spot with vegetation along the creek.

shelter from the sun

The temperature reaches 30 degree Celsius, the tarp provides shade.

gawking at coleman

Gawking at Mount Coleman all afternoon...

still gawking at coleman

... and well into the evening.

following morning

The following morning, 5 degree Celsius.

straightforward traverse

A straightforward traverse to Cirrus Mountain's ascent slope.

snow pitch

Ahead, we trade poles for axe and crampons.

stellar day

Another stellar day.

gaining the ridge

Ascending a short pitch of moderately steep snow.

spine below

Gaining the ridge proper with the spine below.

start of the summit ridge

Start of the summit ridge.

amazing scenery

Amazing scenery, taking lots of pictures!

summit close by

The summit isn't far.

last stretch

Last stretch, we went climber's right at the summit block.

at the top

Standing next to the summit cairn, whoot! whoot!

mare's tail

Mare's Tail is the name given to the north-eastern connecting ridge.

stewart peak

View north towards Stewart Peak.

writing an entry

Writing an entry in the register Fab brought up.

leaving the top

Leaving the top with the Columbia Icefield in the background.



scrambly bit

A scrambly bit.

stunning outlier

The stunning outlier demands attention!

circumventing a bluff

Circumventing a bluff.

snow crest

Travelling on a snow crest.

initial scrambly bit

Carefully descending the initial scrambly bit.

last glimpse

Last glimpse at the summit ridge.

nearing the ascent slope

Nearing the ascent slope.

superb glissade

This snow slope offers a superb glissade.

back at the spine

Back at the spine.

leaving the snow

Leaving the snow behind.

huntington drainage

Lovely Huntington Drainage.
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