August 5 had an absolutely great day on the obscure, but grand, Mount Jerram. Mt. Jerram is located in the Opal Range, between Elpoca Mountain and Mount Burney. This summit is the ninth highest in the Opal Range and one of the more significant mountains in this part of Kananaskis. There were only two recorded ascents prior to our successful summit on August 5, 2016. First ascent by Don Morrison and Jim Tarrant via West Ridge, then West Face to summit ridge and top in June of 1957. Second ascent by Rick Collier and Jim Holmes on July 19, 1998, with a variation on the upper face to gain the summit ridge more to the north. Andrew Nugara and I followed the Collier/Holmes variation to reach the summit. Both previous parties did bivy in upper King Creek, but Andrew and I day tripped the climb with a long day, about 16 hours car to car.
Parked at Opal Creek turnoff, approach road to Valleyview Trail, along Highway 40, about 5 km south of the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park turnoff/King Creek parking lot. A really great trail winds up northern edge of Opal Creek and leads one to the scree slope north of Opal Falls (White Man Falls). The trail starts just slightly upstream of the recently upgraded bridge (2016?) that crosses Opal Creek on the left side (north side) of creek. The lower section heads north, away from the creek on the top of the short bank, definitely worthwhile locating this trail. After a short distance in the forest, the trail returns to the sharp northern edge of the creek valley and traverses to the open scree slopes, head north to a steep scree slope that heads east, uphill. Ascending this steep scree slope is essential to accessing upper Opal Creek since the gap between Mt. Wintour and “Opoca Peak” (GR368155) is narrow and cliffy with Opal Falls creating a dangerous barrier.
Once above this steep scree, a huge trail leads one into the upper Opal Creek valley, where the trail disappears quickly, but mostly light bushwhacking allows easy access anywhere in this beautiful subalpine valley. Hike to the obvious West Ridge of Mt. Jerram, basically above the Mt. Wintour/Mt. Jerram col, the Opal Creek/King Creek divide. The bottom of the West Ridge is vertical, so we accessed the middle section of the ridge via scree slopes from the basin between the West Ridge and the South-West Ridge. Moderate scrambling up the West Ridge ends a short flat section where ridge ends on the steep West Face. This is the first pitch of fifth class climbing, a nice 30 metre pitch of 5.4 on mostly solid rock, but little protection.
|View to West Face of Mt. Jerram. Scramble in orange line, pitches of 5 class in red. Pitches labeled P. |
(Photo taken last fall, 2015)
|Nearing start of scramble on middle section of West Ridge.|
|Typical terrain on mid section of West Ridge.|
|A few steeper sections on West Ridge.|
|Andrew having too much fun!|
|View to Mt. Burney from West Ridge; been there done that, also with Andrew.|
Once above this section, a scree slope heads up, then angles left, staying on scree, head up to a faint ridge line above, then from this ridge line, still on scree, head up to the base of a dark gully. Two gullies start near the same spot, take the right hand gully (southern) which is taller and wider at the base. The back of the gully was wet on our ascent.
|View to 5.4 pitch.|
|Above 5.4 pitch, follow scree up, then left on scree.|
|OSWB leading 5.5 gully pitch.|
Although technically easier, 5.5 versus 5.6, I would say this gully pitch is the crux, the moves are only 5.5, but you must stem crazy wide and totally commit to some very awkward moves to surmount the first overhang, not too technical, but demanding climbing; at least for me. Thankfully there is great protection from cam or wires along the lower section, right hand side, in the great hand crack, then less protection above the overhang, but the climbing is easier, 5.3 to 5.4 ish.
|View to Andrew on second, finishing gully pitch.|
|OSWB above halfway up to the ridge on super loose 5.6; no pro.|
About 30 metres in the gully leads to a scree gully that leads the top of a notch in the summit ridge. Belayed off a solid rock horn, brought up Andrew and set up for my last rock lead. Rick Collier’s trip report indicated they went up to the notch, then took the ridge line (tower) out of the narrow notch to the summit. There was a small low angled slab face, then a steep face that lead directly to the ridge, I took this line instead of heading up scree to the notch; seemed more direct. Definitely 5.6 climbing and extremely loose rock, but the worst rock quality section was where I gained the ridge, very exposed and the rock just peeled off the mountain. Once on the ridge the climbing became a loose moderate scramble to the summit cairn, about 30 metres from gaining the ridge.
|On descent, OSWB taking a few last summit photos.|
|Summit view to Andrew at our first rappel station.|
About 8 hours after leaving the car Andrew and I reached the seldomly visited summit of Mount Jerram. The sky was a bit threatening with some dark cloud bottoms, but the advantage point and view from the summit was so spectacular we had to linger and take a lot of photos. Filled out the register and slowly began our descent. We used a piton placed by Rick Collier in 1998 as part of our first rappel station (backed up by a sling on a large boulder). Rapped to the top of the 5.5 gully pitch, rapped off the rock belay horn to the base on the gully; two rappels to the scree, good rappel anchors (cord with locking biner) left in place. Rick and Jim were descending with a thunderstorm pending and to save time they avoided rappelling the lowest 5.4 pitch section by descending ribs and scree gullies along the big broad lower west face. We thought this could save time and tried this descent. Not recommended. I would recommend rapping the 5.4 section and descending the west ridge. The descent down the big face was painful with us getting cliffed out on top of many big drops that then required climbing up to attempt the next scree gully. Big waste of time, but we eventually got down.
|OSWB frigging around with the rope on the traverse rappel from the first rap station.|
|Andrew finishing rap of gully pitch.|
|View back up to gully pitch.|
|Upward view to left trending scree ramp that leads to 5.5 gully pitch, on descent.|
|Most of the way down the lower west face.|
|Back on scree fields, finally.|
Once back at the lowest scree field, just a simple plod back to the car. Nearing the cliffs near Opal Falls, we had a very tough time staying on the thin game trail by headlamp and wasted at least one hour traversing up and down trying to find the safe exit to the lower valley scree slopes; exhausting time. Once back in the lower valley we were quite happy to plod to the car, about 16 hours car to car. Great day out with a good friend and I will enjoy these memories for years!