AB Nor = Alberta Rockies North (Jasper & Willmore) Maligne Pass - Sep 28-30, 2020 - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 10-04-2020, 09:26 PM Thread Starter
Scaling New Heights
 
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Default Maligne Pass - Sep 28-30, 2020

I've been on trails that I didn't want to leave, like this year in incredible Castleguard Meadows and the along the expansive Alexandra River valley. It felt sad to arrive at the terminal trailhead. I could have spent several more days easily.

Then there are trails that you can't wait to see the end. The Chrome Lake trail leading to the Wates-Gibson hut for example. Dark and wet, a forced march, high-stepping all the way like a marching band to avoid tripping on the rooty trail that mercifully ends at the hut.

There's a little of both on the Maligne Pass trail. The route up to the pass from the Poboktan trailhead is pretty typical national parks kinda trail. Reasonably maintained and pleasant enough to walk on if unexceptional in terms of scenery or landmarks. There isn't much to see on the way to the pass, but I was excited at the prospect of hiking the Six Passes route to Maligne Lake, although apprehensive about the possibility of late season weather. The forecast for Jasper townsite was excellent, so off I went.

Maligne Pass is lovely if not very distinctive. As the trees thinned out near the head of the pass, I saw that the back side of the Endless Chain had already seen some pretty significant snow. I said out loud to the ground squirrels "if that's First Pass, I'm not going!"

Entering Maligne Pass with Ellusive Pass in distance
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I had brought some photos of the six passes (kindly provided by Steve Howes), so I stopped at the summit of Maligne Pass to take a look. Sure enough, I was looking at at snowy Ellusive Pass (first of the six passes) with a big cornice right at the low point of the pass.

Digital closeup of Ellusive Pass
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I contemplated a climb to get a closer look, but it seemed like a lot of snow. I have neither equipment nor experience to scramble through deep snow, so I decided to bail on the Six Passes route and return to Maligne Lake via the valley bottom. Plus it was late in the day and attempting the ascent fresh from a good night's sleep would have meant a camp in the windy, chilly pass. So down I went to spend night 1 in Mary Vaux campsite.

Cooking Area at Mary Vaux Camp
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Stump Chair at Mary Vaux Camp
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Althought the valley trail has been decommissioned by Parks, the campsites are still in good shape. Mary Vaux was excellent with good tent pads, sturdy tables, a bear hang with new-looking cables and a green throne privy. The other campsites on the trail were similar, although the crossbar of the bear hang at Mary Schaeffer is cracked and the one at Trapper Creek is completely broken. (Maybe the bear won that one.)

Downslope from Mary Vaux, I entered that part of the trail where my mind began to wander away from the wonder of my valley trek toward the pizza and beer that were awaiting me in Jasper. Yes, the delight of backcountry hiking was overwhelmed by the desire to finish a trail whose only views of open sky were accompanied by tall willows to be bashed. I came to appreciate the dark dense forest because it provided a respite from the willows and bog birch that barred the trail whenever it passed into a sunny area.

Willow Bashing
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I am exaggerating, of course; there were a few places where you could see the sun without scraping through willows. Nearing Trapper Creek campsite closer to Maligne Lake, there was a stretch of beautiful meadow with autumn gold tall grass.

Pretty Autumn Meadows
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Although I never saw them, there was evidence of moose, wolves and bears on the trails by their tracks and scat.

Wolf Tracks
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The bridge across the Maligne River has been washed out, with reports of a difficult ford in early season. My ford was easy. It was about 2 feet deep where I crossed.

The Washed-out Bridge of the Maligne River
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I Forded Here
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I camped on night 2 at Mary Schaeffer campsite, and exited to Maligne Lake on Day 3. Had a great greasy burger and IPA at the Jasper Legion that night and went home the next day.

So, not the hike that I wanted. I will try again next year for the Six Passes route.

Although it always good to get outside and to have good weather 'til Sep 30, I hafta say I would not do this route again. The willow bashing is really tiresome. Don't go.

Scott Meadows
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Last edited by esmeadows; 10-10-2020 at 02:34 PM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 10-05-2020, 12:30 AM
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Great stuff Scott. This crossing is of huge historic importance so still worth doing despite willow bashing, etc. I dayhiked Maligne Pass several years ago & was truly wowed by glorious alpine
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I made a wow then to return and overnight to explore Endless Chain ridge, scramble Replica etc -- hasn't happened yet. Six Pass route is another one on the list. Thank you for posting this, was always curious about first hand recount of terrain north of Maligne Pass
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 10-05-2020, 12:55 AM Thread Starter
Scaling New Heights
 
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Ellusive Pass looks pretty clear in your pic although there still seems to be a cornice at the summit of the pass. I've been told that the summit holds a cornice through most of the year. I'll have to try again next year a little earlier.

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post #4 of (permalink) Old 10-18-2020, 09:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by esmeadows View Post
Ellusive Pass looks pretty clear in your pic although there still seems to be a cornice at the summit of the pass. I've been told that the summit holds a cornice through most of the year. I'll have to try again next year a little earlier.

Scott, not sure if you saw JHector post, it was in Recent Conditions not Trip Report (as it probably should have been) & I just saw it now too. There is really good shot of that cornice, dated Aug 21 2020:




and great close up:



Judging height by hiking poles, simple jump on descent would probably be ok; climbing up maybe cutting some steps would work. I am not sure where JHector scaled it.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 10-19-2020, 11:34 PM
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The cornice photo above was taken near the top of the slightly higher pass to the west of Elusive, but it was easy enough to walk to the far end and gain the dry ridge between the two passes. Same route on descent - no cornice jumping! The ascent/descent of the detour is not more difficult than the normal route that's feasible most years.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 10-20-2020, 01:40 AM
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Same route on descent - no cornice jumping!
Damn! That wall looked so inviting to jump off


Thanks for posting this. Scott will surely appreciate when he sees it. Must come here next summer; have been postponing Maligne Pass / Replica / Endless chain for way too long. Avalanche CG is still reservable, although to my understanding not maintained anymore. These tarns at shelf above the Pass would be excellent bivi too

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post #7 of (permalink) Old 10-20-2020, 03:56 PM
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First photo is camp on south side of Elusive, second on north side shows Endless Chain.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 10-23-2020, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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I looks a lot less intimidating from up close than looking up from Maligne Pass. I probably could have found my way, but I was already worried about getting caught in a snowstorm at the end of September, and so I was already primed to bail under less-than-ideal conditions.

Avalanche is in pretty good shape, except that the tent pads are becoming eroded and domed. When I passed through, someone had very recently tented in the grass rather than using the pads. The bear hang is intact and the green throne is up the hill from the campground.

The are multiple avalanche chutes in the vicinity that give the campground its name. Interestingly, a couple of them have broken trees that lean uphill, indicating that they had been affected by an avalanche whose path acrossed the valley floor and up the other side.

Trail to Avalanche Campground
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Cooking Area at Avalanche
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Typical Tent Pad at Avalanche
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Scott Meadows
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Last edited by esmeadows; 10-23-2020 at 05:48 PM.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 10-23-2020, 06:59 PM
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Typical Tent Pad at Avalanche


haha, I also took pic of Tent Pad 3. This was August '12, so 8 yrs ago, but doesn't look that different
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This was one of Poligne Creek crossings, I understand these log bridges are now gone (just like that pack I loved to death &used over 10 yrs, but bottom finally gave away last yr)

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post #10 of (permalink) Old 10-23-2020, 11:10 PM Thread Starter
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Here is the same bridge on Sep 28, 2020.

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I usually take pictures of bridges to document their condition.

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Last edited by esmeadows; 10-24-2020 at 04:37 PM.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 10-24-2020, 02:47 PM
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Here is the same bridge on Sep 28, 2020

One plank now on near side, but still looks usable

Last edited by zeljkok; 10-24-2020 at 05:07 PM.
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