Distance: 11 km
Elevation gain: 1700 m Route map
Last year Matt Hobbs
mentioned to me that he was interested in scrambling up Mount Alcantara, located south of Mount Assiniboine, but I'd never heard of it and quickly forgot about it. Then while researching another trip earlier this year I noticed that right next door to the mountain I was interested in was Matt's Mount Alcantara, and it was higher than the one I'd been interested in! I fired off an email to Matt and we started planning an ascent for when the weather lined up
The only beta we had to go on was a bivouac report by Rick Collier
from 1992 and reports from Andrew Nugara
(Rafal Kazmierczak) from 2011. Both parties had ascended the drainage between Alcantara and Brussilof, and each reported the ascent was mostly an easy scramble involving a “moderately nasty bushwhack”.
To give ourselves plenty of time we left Calgary at the terribly unpleasant hour of 4:00 am, eventually turning off Highway 93S onto the Settlers Creek Road and following signs for the Baymag Mine
. The road was in excellent condition and while we had taken my truck a car would’ve been perfectly adequate. Just before the mine we turned right onto a much less travelled road and followed it for a bit over 3 km to a bridge over the creek flowing down from between Alcantara and Brussilof. We parked here, then started ascending through clearcut regrowth above the north bank of the creek.
The brush was tolerable in the old clearcut, but when the clearcut ended about 100 m up the slope the bush and deadfall thickened considerably and our progress slowed to a crawl (and falls and stumbles too). It was downright miserable! An hour and 15 minutes later the ascent grade eased and the bush thinned as we reached a small shallow lake. Our speed had been 1 km/h up to this point and wouldn’t improve over the remainder of the trip (in fact, it got worse!). It was a tough trip!
Beyond the lake the grade steepened again, but the bush never got quite as bad as it had been earlier. Matt led the way through several small cliff bands, but with good routefinding there was no exposure, the holds were solid, and all were very easy. After scrambling up next to a small waterfall we turned to the left and started steeply ascending through open(!!) forest before intersecting a wide gully coming down off the southwest face of Alcantara. While any route up the mountain looked good at this point we trended to the right and eventually started ascending a rib separating the two most eastern gullies.
The rubble increased in size as we ascended and became quite unstable higher up. Even furniture-sized pieces couldn’t be trusted. Routefinding remained easy, however, with the only obstacles being very minor broken cliff bands. Near the top of the ridge we contoured to the right towards a minor col, caught an inspiring glimpse of Assiniboine to the north, then continued up loose shale to the summit and its spectacular panorama.
The summit ridge was somewhat narrow and the north side was a sheer drop, but there were many spots to sit and rest away from the drop. The summit cairn and its register was located at the end of a narrow 10 m long ridge perhaps 50 cm higher than the main ridge, but with the loose rock, a severe case of vertigo, and a desire to preserve both my underwear and/or bodily structural integrity I decided to hang back on the main ridge. I could see over the cairn so it wasn’t like I missed out on the panorama either. Matt did head to the cairn and confirmed that we were the fourth party to sign it since it was placed in 1999 (the register placed by Rick Collier in 1992 was missing), and with only two known ascents before that (Rick Collier and the original 1929 ascent party) it is possible we were just the sixth party to reach the summit!
After refueling we started back down the loose terrain before intersecting the gully east of our ascent rib. We descended several hundred meters on acceptable scree in this gully until we reached moss/grass, then headed right (west) to intersect our ascent route and followed it back to the truck. The entire trip had taken us 11.5 hours, and while we’d taken a few breaks and I was limited by an asthma episode, the bush and terrain certainly slowed us down the most. It’s not necessarily a trip I’d like to repeat, but it is most definitely one I’m happy to have done!