Distance: 11 km
Elevation gain: 1290 m View map Download GPS track
Cinquefoil Mountain is a popular Kane scramble and we figured it would be a nice introduction to scrambling in the Jasper region for us. It took a bit of guesswork to find the trailhead – described as the Merlin Pass Trailhead in Kane’s guidebook, but currently unsigned – but with the help of a GPS track we found it with just one u-turn. It was a pullout a few hundred meters west of where the Cinquefoil Mountain ridge intersected the highway, and while it would have been possible to start there this would have entailed parking on the shoulder of the highway, something I try to avoid.
The Merlin Pass trail began in thick seasonal vegetation just to the right of the garbage can in the parking lot. Within 10 m we reached a sign indicating the main hiking trail (completely pointless, really) with a hand-drawn simple map of the route to Cinquefoil Mountain that strongly suggested to me that we were supposed to exit the main trail at that point. A bit of trail heading in that direction seemed to confirm this and so we set off into the brush. This was a mistake, and an absolutely horrid bushwhack, ripped pants, and lots of scratches ensued. While I usually call out to warn bears of my approach when bushwhacking, the swearing was more than adequate in this situation.
Finally we emerged onto the lower grassy slopes of Cinquefoil Mountain and started charging up, intersecting a very good trail about halfway up to the ridgecrest that continued back down into the brush. I’d certainly be following that on the return, but I doubted it would do much good as every report and guidebook I’d read mentioned a bushwhack to get to the base of the mountain.
Once on the ridgecrest the going was relatively straightforward and any minor difficulties were due solely to wet rock and mud. An obvious trail negated any routefinding, although even without it the route was obvious. The most difficult section was just before the summit plateau: A steep ascent on loose scree, mud, and/or bedrock. Bits of trail led several ways through this; we chose our own line and didn’t have any trouble other than the annoyance of loose scree and rock. It certainly looked much more intimidating from afar, but was nothing more than an upper-level easy scramble in the end.
After gaining the summit plateau we wandered the remaining kilometer to the summit, gaining about 200 m along the way and encountering a friendly herd of ewes and lambs. Upon reaching the summit I was surprised to find that it was just a very minor bump on the ridge with the much higher (and not easily scrambled) Roche Jacques rising steeply a short distance further along. The panoramic view was still fantastic, particularly the view of the colorful waterways along the Yellowhead highway, and the perfect weather enabled us to spend a good amount of time taking it all in.
The descent was uneventful, albeit scorching hot, and upon reaching the point at which we’d intersected the trail earlier that morning I continued following it instead of our random ascent route. I expected it to degrade as we entered the forest, but it remained in excellent condition all the way to where it connected up with the Merlin Pass trail a few hundred meters from the highway! With the exception of an easily crossed washed out creek bed near a lake, the only bushwhacking we had to do was against a few blades of grass! It was an old and well-used trail too, so I’m not sure why everyone suggests bushwhacking to get to the base of Cinquefoil Mountain; it’s completely unnecessary.