Distance: 13.5 km
Elevation gain: 1180 m View map Download GPS track
Mount Chester is the formidable-looking mountain "behind" incredibly popular Chester Lake. Its ascent can be divided into three separate phases: The hike to Chester Lake, the easy scramble to the Chester-Little Chester col, and the moderate scramble to the summit. Each takes about an hour at a good pace. The two stopping points - the lake and the col - before each increase in difficulty are also quite scenic and make excellent resting spots for those uninterested or unable to continue.
Given the excessive popularity of Chester Lake we decided to do this scramble on a weekday and start early, beginning our hike up at 8:15 and arriving alone at the lake an hour later. There is a grizzly bear that frequents this area right after the glacier lilies wilt (he eats the bulbs) and so we made a racket along this section. We didn't see him, but as expected the area around the lake was dug up from earlier visits. We later found an enormous pile of pulpy bear scat on Little Chester, so he apparently ate his fill and then climbed a mountain for perhaps a dessert of sheep.
After crossing the small bridge at the outlet stream we made our way on good trail to the base of the ascent col to the south of Mount Chester, then began the slog up the 300 vertical meters of firm dirt and stable scree. A big bag of Cheetos Puffs I'd consumed the day before seemed to have given me a lot of energy and I reached the col just 40 minutes later, albeit sweating like crazy and oozing orange Cheetos goodness. I waited for "don't eat them all!" Sandra to catch up, then we started heading up the final 450 m of Mount Chester.
We chose to begin our ascent a bit further around Mount Chester to the east than other parties as my pre-trip research suggested this route was slightly easier. It did look less steep, but it was quite loose and necessitated just one of us hiking at any given time to avoid the danger of rockfall. About halfway up from the col Sandra decided she'd had enough and settled into a little nook and took a nap while I continued up. Just beyond her stopping point I encountered what to me was the crux of the trip - huge, but grippy, slabs that could not be avoided. Cairns marked small ledges and footholds through this area and I took considerable care to keep looking back down to ensure I knew exactly where to go on the descent. Above the slabs the ascent grade eased a bit and cairns continued to mark the way, although it was quite obvious by now.
The summit itself takes the shape of a T, with one branch of the top affording a view down to Chester Lake and the other a view down to Headwall Lakes. Views from the summit could have been spectacular, but were obscured by moderate smoke; anything more than perhaps 30 km away was invisible. For a peak that normally grants views well in excess of 100 km this was a bit of a disappointment, but it was still vastly superior to my living room views!
After a short summit stay I quickly descended back to Sandra's perch and had lunch, then we made our way slowly down the mountain. From the col we dashed to the top of the unofficially-named Little Chester so Sandra could claim a summit for the day, then descended to the lake for a short break. Unfortunately our break was ruined by some inconsiderate lululemon bimbos who were letting their dogs run rampant, harassing us and the resident ground squirrels and endangering everyone should a bear be in the area, and we instead retreated back down to the car. On the way down we were passed by a trail runner who had ascended and descended the mountain in the time it took us to descend!
I usually prefer exploration to repetition, but this is one mountain I'd like to repeat some day. The terrain was varied and exciting and the views I had today could certainly be improved upon in the absence of smoke.