The Monarch

elevation: 2,895 m.
height gain: 1,700 m.
area: Banff/Bow Valley,AB map 82 O/4

Ref: Alan Kane's Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies 3rd edition 
simpson pass

Boundary marker at Simpson Pass.
Scramble: RT 16.0; 8.0 up. Last weekend I ventured over Healy Pass to catch the sunrise and ascend Pharaoh Peak, the yellow larch trees were so beautiful that I was compelled to come back. Several scramblers had recently posted trip reports on The Monarch. This objective was appealing, I worked at Sunshine Village for many years a long time ago and wondered if there was a way up this peak. Little did I know, this scramble is listed in Alan Kane's 3rd edition scrambling book... I read the trip reports and sent an invite to my good friend Jay, I was thrilled that he wanted to come along for this long haul. I left home on saturday night and slept in my truck at the gondola base for the second weekend in a row. Jay joined me early in the morning and we got on the way in the dark. We hiked to Eohippus Lake under overcast sky. From there we aimed for Monarch's north shoulder and went down the west side, we skirted treeline for easier travel and reached the access gully in good time. There was a fresh layer of snow in the gully; honestly, I think that worked in our favour. The rocks appeared to be frozen in place and the snow provided cushy footsteps. Higher up, where the terrain opens up, the snow cover increased; some sections would have been worrisome with deeper pockets. We proceeded to the summit block on variable ground. The rest of the route looked daunting, it required scrambling on steep frozen scree covered by a thin layer of snow. We aimed to stick close to the ridge but a couple of steep steps proved committing. We decided to backtrack and look for another way; at that time, we noticed a lone scrambler coming up the bowl. We worked our way below the summit and onto the west face. We started climbing a gully but once again, we ran into sketchy conditions that prevented us from continuing safely. We backtracked again and returned to our initial ascent. By now, the lone scrambler was ahead of us and had blazed a trail through the tough part. He stood at the summit and yelled down that it wasn't as bad as it looked. To proceed safely, we donned crampons. The last short bit was exhilarating even with crampons, it very much felt like an alpine climb; I was relieved to reach the summit. The person at the top greeted us, he introduced himself and told me he recognized me from my website. Pawel Glownia is yet another Polish person I've met in the mountains! After a short stay at the top, we retraced our way down. I was a bit worried about a section in particular but it proved more manageable than expected and provided some good photo opportunity. We carried on down to the gully which wasn't too tedious. At the bottom of the gully, we separated from Pawel; he had to blaze back home to Calgary at a fast pace. Jay and I hung back and casually climbed to Monarch's saddle where we stopped for a good break. The rest of the long hike on trail was mindlessly spent in auto-pilot. I was really glad to have ascended The Monarch in these conditions, it really made the climb special!

monarch's reflexion

The Monarch's reflexion in a large pond along the trail to Eohippus Lake.

eohippus lake

 We've reached Eohippus Lake at the foot of The Monarch.

striking north-east face

The striking north-east face of The Monarch.

random hiking

Random hiking towards The Monarch's north shoulder.

leftover snow

There's leftover snow from last week and a thin layer of ice on the water, winter is creeping in...

north shoulder

On the shoulder.

looking back

Looking back at Eohippus Lake and Simpson Peak.

going to the access gully

Skirting treeline for easier travel on our way down to the access gully.

larch trees

Happy to be hiking through yellow larch trees, The Monarch is looming above.

the shoulder we came down

Looking towards the shoulder we descended.

access gully

The access gully.

higher up

Higher up the gully, snow deepens and ice drapes the rockwall.

upper mountain

The upper mountain with the summit block in sight.

traversing to the ridge

Traversing to the north ridge.

saddle on the north ridge

On the north ridge's saddle with the scramble up the summit block ahead.

view north

View north over Sunshine Meadows towards several familiar peaks.

sunshine village

Sunshine Village ski area north-east of us.

exploring our options

Exploring our options.

trying a route up the face

After backing down from the ridge crest, we try a route up the face with no avail.

back on the initial route

We returned on our initial route and followed a lone scrambler's uptrack after putting crampons on.

at the top

At the top with the western view over Hawk Ridge.

south-east view

South-easten view towards Mount Assiniboine.

pawel and jay

Pawel and Jay with Mount Shank in the background.

heading down

Heading down.

pawel waits for us

Pawel waits for us.

sketchy bit

Jay comes down a sketchy bit.

steep downclimb

Pawel downclimbs steep terrain.

traverse to the saddle

Traversing to the saddle on the north ridge.

retracing our steps

Retracing our steps down the upper mountain.

down the gully

The access gully wasn't as tedious as I expected.

climbing to the shoulder

Climbing back up to the shoulder.

back to eohippus lake

Hiking back to Eohippus Lake.

nice ponds

Walking along nice ponds.

last glimpse

Last glimpse, The Monarch is now engulfed in low cloud.

delightful scenery

Even if the sky was overcast, the scenery with the yellow larch trees was delightful.


Spent the night at SSV and caught this beautiful sunrise.
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