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vern.dewit 06-10-2015 11:03 AM

Mount Astley
I know that this mountain is on a lot of scrambler's lists and probably with good reason. It's a fairly prominent Banff summit with some interesting 'issues' including the fact that it's no longer named and the highest summit is most likely not the previously named one - but nobody seems to know for sure! LOL. At around 2900m there is some interesting views from the top and even some difficult scrambling to the highest point.

You can read the long version as usual on my web site, but here's a shortened TR.

We followed the Stewart Canyon trail to the first main drainage which pretty much destroyed it in 2013. Here we went climber's right and bashed our way up an interesting drainage which comes down from the Astley alpine bowl above. There was no running water in this drainage until just before it split - we took the left branch after filling our water bottles.
[The drainage is narrow in spots and still has evidence of the devastating 2013 floods which flushed most of the creek out - thankfully!]
[There are many bolted routes on climber's left walls up the creek, including two stuck ropes that are dangling from high above.]

We gained almost 1000 meters in the creek bed before finally topping out at a lovely alpine bowl / meadow under three summits - two from Astley on our left and another interesting one to the right which would have great views. (So Nakagawa has done this one.)

We split up at this point - Steven really wanted to check out the "likely" formerly named summit to the west because there's no published reports on this route. The rest of us wanted the better views from the NE summit. At this point the GPS was showing both summits as around 2840m so there was no clear indication which was higher.

We gained the ridge / col between the two summits via a long, loose, slabby gully that was as much fun as it sounds. Actually it wasn't horrible - but I would advise against large groups here.
[Looking back as finally get out of the drainage and above tree line]
[The west summit is out of sight above on the left - the high summit is at the end of the bowl]
[Loose with slabs - but most of the slabs are clean thanks to avalanches]

From the col the summit block looked intimidating, but when we put our noses in it, it wasn't more than moderate scrambling. As we gained height we spotted Steven on the west summit and it was clear that our was going to be quite a bit higher. As soon as I stepped onto the summit block I also noticed that the absolute highest point just to the east was not going to be easy or moderate scrambling. I managed to get over to it but the route was loose, exposed and difficult. The views are slightly better from this vantage point though since it blocks the east view from the slightly lower west point. Our GPS's measured this summit at around 2900 meters - 50 or 60 meters higher than the SW summit that Steven did. Views were sublime in every direction.
[Looking back as Raf climbs the SW ridge. SW summit is the same height and we still have to go higher.]
[Great views of Lake Minnewanka]
[Too many peaks to count]
[Raf on the highest summit of Astley with Aylmer rising dramatically beyond]
[Girouard and Inglismaldie with Peechee in between]

The descent was long and hot but straight forward. I highly recommend this peak for those scramblers who are tired of trails beaten to the summit. Don't forget the "sting in the tail" though - or go up the SW summit for a different experience. Our round trip time was 9.5 hours but I could see this as a 9-12 hour day depending on group size and conditions. A bike could be used to speed up the approach but I'm not sure they're allowed on the Stewart Canyon trail.

zeljkok 06-10-2015 03:15 PM

I read the 'long version'. 1000 vertical in creek bed -- that is a LOT. But I guess it all pays later on!
b&w pic of Raff is interesting --- it makes that final slope to Aylmer look serious and way steeper than it is. And if you look closer you can see scree trail near the top!

zeljkok 06-19-2015 01:24 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Bit of update on nearby area. Past drainage Vern & co took for Astley, trail still continues along Stewart canyon. Right of the bat there is park sign informing that trail ahead is 'poorly defined'. It is still easily followed for awhile, but then in enters area of huge blowdown. It is impossible to stay on the trail and some miserable bushwhack is required to the right to bypass this section. Things then ease up; I followed for about 45 mins past Astley drainage hoping for some open views into upper valley, but none was coming. Trail still continues and despite occasional deadfall it is still fairly good. I'd be curious if someone knows how far and where does this trail go? Are there any ranger cabins further up?

Here's pic of Cascade river bend, perhaps 30 min past Astley drainage:

Big Ian 06-19-2015 11:04 PM

I could be wrong (it's been 15+ years since I was there last), but wouldn't it connect to the Cascade Fire Road shortly thereafter? If so, it would connect to a long series of old trails and ranger cabins through the front ranges.

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