Distance: 20 km
Elevation gain: 1525 m View map Download GPS track
Mount Aberdeen is an imposing mountain between Lake Louise and Paradise Valley and one that I had filed under the "completely beyond my abilities" category after gazing upon it from Mount Saint Piran
and Mount Fairview
. Then Matt Hobbs
emailed me to propose an ascent up the south face (Paradise Valley side) via a 1200 m high scree chute accessed using a combination of trail, decommissioned trail, and bushwhacking. This is exactly the opposite of what climbers do, who normally ascend its north face (Lake Louise side) on glacier and then descend via the scree chute Matt proposed we ascend. In fact the only group we knew of that had ascended this face consisted of Steven Song
, Vern Dewit
, and Ben Nearingburg
, and they did it in winter on skis and snowshoes under obviously different conditions than we would face. The difficulty and lack of information on this route made me a bit hesitant about undertaking this adventure, but I eventually convinced myself that it would be possible and agreed to come along.
Matt and I carpooled from Calgary and met Mike Mitchell
at the Paradise Valley trailhead at 8:30 am. We followed the Paradise Valley trail, crossing bridged Paradise Creek twice, before reaching the intersection with the decommissioned trail at the 5 km mark. This was immediately before the active trail crossed Paradise Creek a third time to ascend to Lake Annette. We turned onto the decommissioned trail here and were thankful to find it was in very good shape, meaning we were able to cover the next 1.5 km quite quickly. Our time on this trail ended where it crossed Paradise Creek (unbridged) and we took to the forest for a miserable kilometer of bushwhacking to the ascent gully. I haven't done much genuine bushwhacking, but this section was absolutely terrible! On return we followed the ascent avalanche path down to a tributary of Paradise Creek, then followed its shore and that of Paradise Creek back to the trail. This seemed to work better, but it was still pretty bad.
We reached the base of the ascent gully, 7.5 km from the car, after about 2 hours of hiking. After a food break in the shade of a huge cliff we started the scree and rubble slog to the top of Mount Aberdeen. Initially the terrain was steep and the gully narrow, but about a third of the way up this widened into a huge bowl and the ascent angle eased. As it steepened again we encountered a large snow patch and were able to ascend on it for about 200 vertical meters; just a few weeks earlier the ascent likely would have been much easier with a larger snowpatch. A light breeze helped with the heat, but I soaked my hat and shirt in a stream lower down and filled the hat and my pockets with snow higher up to stay cool.
Exhausted and a bit dehydrated, we finally arrived at the top of the scree chute on the southwest ridge after 2.5 hours of slogging up scree and were met with absolutely spectacular views of Mount Lefroy and Victoria and their glaciers. Better still, it was obvious that the remaining 125 m of the ascent would be easy over rubble, and just 20 minutes later we were standing on the summit of Mount Aberdeen. The entire ascent via this route was nothing more than an easy scramble, so kudos to Matt for proposing it! The views from the top were, of course, spectacular too! The glaciers of Lefroy and Victoria, the Ten Peaks and those encompassing Paradise Valley, as well as Mount Temple were particularly impressive. Views in any eastern direction were unfortunately heavily obscured by smoke, but during a lengthy summit stay small changes in the smoke granted us views of most nearby peaks.
After a rest and lunch Matt and Mike decided to head over to the lower Haddo Peak, a short traverse that involves a moderate to difficult downclimb and glacier travel. This was significantly beyond my abilities (and gear; you need crampons to cross the glacier), but with beautiful weather on the summit of Aberdeen I was perfectly content to wait while they bagged their second summit of the day. This ended up taking nearly 2.5 hours and by the time we were ready to descend from Aberdeen it was 5:45 and time to GTFD! This late descent did have the advantage that with the exception of the upper slopes the entire route was now in shade, but we were all a bit tired and we didn't make it back to the cars until 9:30. For the first time ever I actually finished off the 3.5 L of water and huge amount of food I was carrying, but just to be sure we didn't starve on the way home we topped the day off with a stop at the Lake Louise hostel restaurant. A great finish to a great day!