Distance: 9.5 km
Elevation gain: 630 mView mapDownload GPS track
I've been wanting to ascend the north end of Kent Ridge for several years now, but the published winter route involves a too-technical-for-me downclimb of the north outlier
and I haven't yet found the time in the summer for it. Then a few weeks ago Steven Song
reported a relatively easy route up that avoids the downclimb by approaching the col between the outlier and the ridge via the James Walker Creek trail. The only reported difficulty was a moderate bushwhack, but with the trail broken I figured it wouldn't be too bad.
We'd tried to do this twice in the past week, but each time had been turned back by a wall of ground-level cloud and flurries before even reaching the trailhead; there's not much point in slaving up 1000 m+ just to see nothing but white. Today, however, the skies were sunny and we started snowshoeing just after sunrise (which is at about 8:45 this time of year!). We were a bit slow, but I reached treeline via Steven's route after about 3 hours of snowshoeing and just 10 minutes after Sandra had called it a day.
Unfortunately the trip ended for me just above treeline. The temperature was a bit on the cold side (-20 C) and plumes of snow were billowing from the top of both the north outlier and the ridge. While I travel prepared to deal with that degree of cold the wind would've made life exceedingly miserable, Sandra had already turned around, and the open slopes I'd emerged onto were a bit unnerving given my inexperience with avalanche terrain. A foot of fluffy snow over a semi-supportive crust also made trail-breaking exceedingly difficult and contributed to my avalanche concerns.
On the avalanche terrain: The currently-broken trail deposits you onto a sparsely treed slope that is probably dangerous in times of high avalanche risk. I'm 99% sure it was ok today, but with other concerns and a brain too frozen to fully analyze it all I figured it best to call it a day, despite the frustration of missing the summit and any real views. I did note, however, that simply heading to the left would've taken me onto rocky slopes and out of the danger zone, and now that I'm home I see that Steven also made this observation. The windblown rocky slope looked quite steep, but they always do when viewed head on so I suspect it wouldn't present any difficulties.