This thread is discussion about Mt. Harris, elusive giant in eastern part of Banff NP. It stands at 3299m & was first time climbed by survey party early last century, utilizing Martin lakes valley for approach. My interest comes from Siffleur wilderness backpack
few years ago. On that occasion I hiked down Clearwater river valley from Devon Lakes bivi to lower Martin lake. Martin valley & plateau above upper Martin lake is one of true wilderness areas of BNP & it's been climbing on my explore list ever since. Aerial view of the area:
Mt. Harris climb is logical extension of such visit, but the hard part is breaking up into alpine plateau between Willingdon and Harris - center of map above. Once there it is presumably relatively simple talus ascent as seen on this shot:
Years pass without anyone climbing Harris. Recently (Sep '19) there has been unsuccessful attempt by fairly experienced and capable group. They approached via Clearwater valley trail, then climbed up hanging valley SW of the peak hoping to break cliffs into Willingdon/Harris plateau above. Despite (uncertain) beta this was just a scramble, they failed to find route that did not require ropes & had to turn back. This further rekindled my interest & now I am fairly determined to break into this area next summer. Following is discussion about 4 possible routes one could use to do so:
Route 1: Martin Lakes Valley
Arguably the simplest and also first ascent original approach. Downside is very long trudge from the Highway - at least 2 days will be required to reach upper Martin Lake (Day 1: Icefields to Devon Lakes via Quartzite or Mosquito, Day 2: Devon Lakes down Clearwater River valley and up Martin Lakes valley). In addition travel in Martin valley would be off trail with likely bushwhack and braided channel fords:
[Lower Martin lake bottom left, upper Martin lake top right]
My own image from lower Martin lake; Harris is center right:
[Upper Martin lake close-up and likely bivi spot / base camp]
From upper Martin lake bivi only feasible option appears to be breaking into upper plateau on south side (upper center on map below):
There is only this much one can tell from these google maps / google earth shots, but I've seen posts on bivouac "once at upper Martin lake route becomes obvious" & this slope is nothing more than steep talus. On descent back to Martin bivi one could also spend time exploring that awesome plateau dotted with tarns -- including awesome waterfall draining into upper Martin lake(photo lifted from Paul Zizka
Route 2: Glaciated Valley between Mt. Willingdon and Clearwater Mtn
Much shorter than Route 1, but in mountaineering domain because of lengthy glacier travel:
One could easily reach the Icefield from upper Devon lake, by either following first portion of Mt. Willingdon approach or even simpler by scrambling talus on left side on this photo taken on my Devon bivi site:
[Low point on skyline is likely the easiest spot to reach the Icefield]
Once on Icefield it would probably be easiest to stay on west side below Clearwater Mtn; once again there is only this much one can tell from looking at Google maps, but it appears simpler to exit glacier tongue if one do so (right side on map below):
Icefield shot lifted from Sonny Bou
during his Willingdon ascent:
Once off glacier remainder of the route would coincide with Route 1 above upper Martin lake.
Route 3: Zizka / Collier
This route follows Clearwater River valley ~6km east from lower Devon Lake, then ascends drainage to hanging valley SW of Mt. Harris:
Cliffs separate this valley from upper plateau. Paul Zizka broke on the left side by ascending next to set of waterfalls and labeled whole thing as "scramble". Problem is - Zizka is (besides awesome photographer) also a climber, and what is scramble to him is likely technical climb for most of others! These images are lifted from Cornelius Report
(one of party of 3 that failed in Sep '19 attempt):
[Waterfall center left appears to be logical weakness & labeled as scramble only by Zizka. Cornelius party searched but gave up; I repeat these are very capable people & this tells me it was not a scramble]
[Closer look at waterfall base; wet, vertical with skimpy holds and a no go]
Other option, utilized by Rick Collier ascended cliffs at far end of the valley. Bivouac
reported ropes were required because of icy conditions. Cornelius group tried this one too but, despite dry conditions, could not break through either although they came within 200m vertical to Harris summit (!)]
All this probably means that Route 3 is in technical climber domain and not feasible as scramble.
Route 4: Clearwater - Kentigern col
This route appears to be most direct. On a hike in, instead of turning east to Clearwater Pass / Devon Lakes, one would continue on Siffleur trail for couple of kms past Mt. Clearwater, then attempt to ascend via talus slope south of Mt. Kentigern:
From maps it appears not more than steep talus with no cliffs:
On the other side one would descend to lip of Icefield (Route 2) then intercept Route 1 above upper Martin Lake. There are many tarns in this plateau that would also provide awesome bivi site.
I have not found any online reports of Route 4 or heard about someone attempting it.
To conclude: Despite ClubTread not being anymore in domain of seasoned back-country explorers that have sadly migrated towards social media, I still hope someone will find this discussion useful. Optimal trip in my view would be to link Routes 1 and Route 4 for a loop that would provide most satisfying experience in the area; it would be 4-5 days affair and something I am likely to attempt next summer.