Mount Charles Stewart - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 06-22-2015, 09:10 PM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
 
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Default Mount Charles Stewart

This trip involved a tedious trudge up scree to Buffalo Point (aka Princess Anne or Charles Stewart South), followed by moderate-difficult scrambling to circumvent the north side of BP, and ending in a fairly exposed route on a very narrow crumbly ridge with two variants near the summit. We did this last August and credits go to Grant/Granticulus for posting initial comments and pics of his trip here on CT, as well as a 2005 Ramblers route description, which greatly helped in our preparations and choice of route.

We parked at the Stoneworks quarry and headed up to the canyon - an impressive sight and worth a visit on its own. Unfortunately, "Johnny's Trail" that leads up to it has been mostly degraded to a mere rubble field by the 2013 floods. Beyond the canyon the rubble gets even worse and there is no more path at all. By the time we reached the lower slopes of the N-S ridge connecting Mount Lady MacDonald and Buffalo Point, we had gained a good chunk of elevation (600 m). What followed was a lengthy slog up loose scree, but bits of firm rock sticking out of the rubble made progress easier. After a few hours we made it up to the ridge and shortly after stood on top of Buffalo Point. The views were fabulous and the scree slog suddenly seemed worth the effort, as is so often the case when you reach the summit and are overwhelmed by the gorgeous scenery all around you.

To reach the col between BP and CS, we decided to avoid the steep section of ridge that lies immediately north of the summit of BP. Instead, we traversed around the NW of the summit block of BP via a notch along the ridge between Squaw's Tit and BP. This route posed no major problems but wasn't without obstacles. We dropped down toward the west from the summit of BP along loose rubble and reached the notch in about 15 minutes, losing 150 m of elevation along the way. From the notch, the traverse back to the BP-CS ridge involved some unpleasant sidesloping and several tricky rock ribs that had to be overcome (moderate to difficult scrambling). The terrain here is very loose and rubbly, so we proceeded slowly and carefully. Once we reached the ridge between BP and CS, it was an easy and enjoyable ridgewalk through the col and up to within 200 m horizontal distance of the summit of CS. The gentle ridge up to this point really fooled us; there we really thought we had this mountain in the bag already, not realizing what it had in store for us. The last section is basically a knife-edge ridge of near-vertically tilted strata made up of very crumbly, rotten rock. "Flaky" comes to mind, and this flaky rock was now crumbling under our boots as we tiptoed and crawled across this ridge. It got down to about a foot wide and at one point became so steep that we decided to circumvent the narrowest and highest part to climber's left (west), where a crack led up to a steep and exposed friction slab. The friction slab turned out to be the crux (one of many on the ridge) and after another 50 m of narrow crumbly rockbands the ridge widened and it was an easy plod up to the summit. A nice-looking cairn and new register made for a nice surprise.

Under the impending doom of a storm with rain coming in and roaring thunder in the distance, we opted to try out a safer if less challenging route back. Descending from the summit towards the west for about 50 m, it was possible to traverse underneath a steep cliff band back towards the south, thereby avoiding a portion of the ridge which now lay on skier’s left. Not all of the steep ridge can be avoided, though. We eventually retraced our tracks back to the notch along the Squaw's Tit-BP ridge. From here, a short stretch of scree skiing provided some much needed relief on our way back down into Stoneworks Canyon.

Overall this trip cannot really be recommended if you’re looking for a fun and interesting scramble. There is simply too much scree and loose, rubbly rock involved, and the final scrambling section to Mount Charles Stewart on the ridge is seriously exposed on very unstable rock. Perhaps more appealing routes to the summit of Charles Stewart will one day be described, for example by accessing the west slopes through the valley from the SW, or perhaps even from the NW ridge as part of a traverse from Princess Margaret Mountain.



Stats: 11h return, 1900 m elevation gain, summit of CS at 2845 m according to my GPS.


Trudging up scree to Buffalo Point:


View from near the summit of
Buffalo Point towards the north. Mount Charles Stewart is the pointy peak beyond the long brown shale ridge:


Traversing around the NW side of Buffalo Point (access through the large notch just left of centre), with Squaw's Tit on the right:


On the traverse, looking north:


A look back at Buffalo Point and the lovely Alpine meadows to the east:


Photos of the final narrow ridge before the summit:





The summit of Mount Charles Stewart in the darkening clouds of an approaching thunderstorm:


Route map:


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Last edited by Cornelius; 06-22-2015 at 09:28 PM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 06-22-2015, 11:12 PM
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Thanks for the TR. Your description and photos give a really good impression of that ridge. The photo looking down on the person up climbing with the ridge behind is great, you can see the vertical beds just flaking away.

I love the fact that a mountain so close to a centre of population still presents unknowns and hidden possibilities. Don't it just make you want to go out exploring!
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 06-22-2015, 11:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cornelius View Post
Overall this trip cannot really be recommended if you’re looking for a fun and interesting scramble. There is simply too much scree and loose, rubbly rock involved, and the final scrambling section to Mount Charles Stewart on the ridge is seriously exposed on very unstable rock. Perhaps more appealing routes to the summit of Charles Stewart will one day be described, for example by accessing the west slopes through the valley from the SW, or perhaps even from the NW ridge as part of a traverse from Princess Margaret Mountain.
Do you have any photos looking down that valley to the SW?
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 06-23-2015, 05:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you Phil! I completely agree with you - it always amazes me how much exploration one can do so close to Calgary and right at the doorstep of a town like Canmore... That's what makes this area especially appealing to me.

The valley to the SW of the Charles Stewart main summit looks fairly straightforward in the below pictures, but you just never know how many hidden cliffs and canyons may be lurking down there. Only one way to find out!
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 02:32 PM
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Do you have any sense of if it would be less technical to reach the main summit of Charles Stewart from the east? i.e. hike up Cougar Creek and approach from the back side?
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 06-27-2015, 10:42 PM
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Cornelius... Thanks for posting. This is the route I wanted to attempt for years. Now I know exactly what to expect.

Joe... It's easy to gain the col between Buffalo and CH from the east, but you still have to deal with the difficult ridge. There is no easy route to the summit of CH from the east. I took a good look at it. The route Cornelius did is the best option, in my opinion.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 06-29-2015, 08:04 PM Thread Starter
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MtnNinja: You're welcome, glad you find it useful. Let me know how your trip compares when/if you go! I'd be curious to know other people's opinions.

Joe: I'm not sure about the east ridge... Initially I also thought that this might be the easiest approach, but when you look at the steep drop from the summit (photo, looking north) I would say it's doubtful the east ridge will work. If you choose the route I took, you can probably decrease the level of technicality/exposure quite a bit by searching for as many bypasses east and west of the main ridge as possible.
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