Monday, August 29, 2016

Mt Abbott Hike - Rogers Pass

Mt Abbott via Abbott Ridge Trail
Distance: 14 km round trip
Elevation: 1200m
Trailhead: Illecillewaet Campground

When I started looking up hikes in Roger's Pass, Abbott Ridge was by far the most highly recommended because of its spectacular vistas. I met Patrick and Rebecca in Revelstoke for the weekend and wanted to show them the beauty of the pass, and to convince them that they need to come back and visit me more often! Abbott Ridge was the obvious choice. The hike starts at the day use area of the Illecillewaet Campground, along with a number of other hikes. The trailhead has a great map with trail descriptions that was much more useful than the hiking guide pamphlet I had picked up at the visitor centre the day before. There was a bear warning for the area, but Abbott Ridge was the only hiking trail that didn't require traveling in groups of 4. I had the bear spray close at hand anyway. For people wanting to hike the other trails, a check point was available where you could wait and join up with other groups to ensure everyone was in a big enough group. 

After a few hundred metres of well signed gravel road through the ruins of the old "Glacier House", the Marion Lake/Abbott Ridge Trail veered off to the right and started its upward progress through the forest. The trail was steep but well established and we made short work of the first two kilometres up to Marion Lake, which was a bit of a disappointment so we didn't bother stopping or taking any pictures. Soon after the lake, we came to a Y intersection and a sign that displayed "short way" and "long way". We opted for the short way and were soon out of the trees and into an amazing alpine meadow with our first of many view of the huge mountains in the pass. We could see the "long way" trail out to the left and were happy with our choice as it cut off a lot of distance. 
Looking down the meadow from where we had just been. Abbott Ridge in the top right corner
Alpine meadows looking across to Cheops and beyond
The trail took us up towards Abbott Ridge, then traversed out around to the right to gain the ridge and a whole new set of mountains to look at. From there, we followed the well worn path up the ridge to the sign marking the end of the trail. We had been hiking for less than 2 hours but had gained 1000 m of elevation.
Looking up to Abbott Ridge from the meadow below
Rebecca is happy, just beyond the end of the trail
My research had told me that you could easily traverse the ridge of Mt Abbott to gain the summit with some mellow 3rd class scrambling. The ridge traverse ended up being the best part of the hike. There was lots of exposure down either side of the ridge, but it was wide enough that everyone was pretty comfortable. There were some cool ledges (described elsewhere as "sidewalks in the sky") and some easy scrambling up and over rocks, with amazing viewpoints along the way. We took our time on the ridge and stopped at a snowy spot to plant our beers for a cool beverage on our way down. Did I mention that it was 27 degrees and we were cooking?! 
Excellent views of Sir Donald and Uto from the Abbott Ridge
Patrick on the ridge
Rambling along the sidewalk with the highway below
Mt Afton (NW ridge scrambling descent to the right of the peak) and a glacial tarn
Another picture of Sir Donald and the Illecillewaet Glacier - I imagined I could see Liam on Sir Donald (he summited that day)
 The final approach to the summit was a bit more scrambly, mostly because we had to go out of our way to find a good patch of snow for our drinks. Regardless, it was all very enjoyable and safe and it took us a total of 3 hours at a moderate pace to make it to the top. The last hour along the ridge had been significantly slower due to all the photo ops. At the top, we enjoyed a big lunch and took in the views of peaks and glaciers as far as the eye could see in a perfect 360 degree panorama.
Summit of Mt. Abbott. Looking back down the ridge towards the trail
Looking up the Mt Afton's East Ridge - the scrambling ascent (4th class)
 After lunch, we grabbed our stashed beers and scrambled down to the col between Mt Abbott and Mt Afton. I had thought that if we were feeling bold, we could go and tag Mt Afton as well that day, but the scramble looked steep and loose, and we hadn't brought any helmets or other gear. To keep with the casual atmosphere of the day, we opted to skip the scramble and instead glissade down from the col to the glacier tarn we had spotted earlier and enjoy our cold drinks.
Easy scramble down to the col
Patrick picks up some speed with Mt Abbott summit in the background (left) and E. Ridge of Afton on the right
Sliding down to the lake
Cheers to warm days in the mountains! I came prepared for Rockies weather but was not disappointed by the sunshine
 We spent while at the tarn soaking our feet and soaking up the sun. To get back on the trail we had to ascend a few metres back to the ridge but it was well worth it. On our way down, we stopped at a small cabin that we had passed on the hike up. It was locked so we couldn't check it out inside but it had one of the better views I have seen from a hut! We also stopped at Marion Lake for a snack but were not particularly interested in a swim as it looked shallow and muddy.
Little cabin, big view

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