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Cardinal Pass to Southesk Pass
Timestamp Free: 2019.10.20 - 04:38:08
Ranges: North America Ranges / Rocky Mountains / Canadian Rockies / Continental Ranges / Front Ranges / Nikanassin Range
  (5 days)     Elevation Gain: 1100m
Participants: David Wasserman (Leader), Bonnie Bucher, Eric Coulthard, John Hennoch, Jeff Lloyd, Brad Smith, Jessica Smith
Difficulty: 2: Intermediate backpacking and scrambling
A club backpack to a remote area of Jasper National Park and the ascent of an uncairned and unnamed peak on the park boundary
(Rocky Pass (Cardinal Pass) to Southesk Pass: Bear with Us on this One) From one side of the mountain lake, five members of the group from the Grant MacEwan Mountain Club watched helplessly as a grizzly sow charged another member of the group on the other side of the lake. How did it come to this?

This trip started as an attempt to summit "the easy way" two obscure peaks in the Nikanassin Range: Ruby Mountain and Thistle Mountain. I saw the steep faces of these peaks from Redcap Mountain (see trip report) on an earlier trip. The topo maps showed an alpine valley, the headwaters of Ruby Creek, gave access to the apparently gentler other side of the mountains. There is a trail partway up Ruby Creek, as far as a headwall graced by Ruby Falls, but that trail is 19 km long, heavily used by ATVs, and crosses Ruby Creek uncounted times. The idea of slogging wet-footed up a creek under a heavy pack while being buzzed by ATVs has no attraction, so I looked for another way.

Maps showed me that Jasper's South Boundary Trail passed up the Medicine Tent Valley to Southesk Pass just one valley west of the Ruby Creek valley. On the map it looked as though a relatively gently sloped meadow at Southesk Pass led to a col on the park boundary that could give access to the ridgeline of Thistle, which in turn is connected by a ridge to Ruby. What I didn't notice was that the contour interval doubled above 2000 meters, just about the height of the pass.

The area has an interesting history, in that it was visited by one of the first tourists to come to the Canadian Rockies, James Carnegie, who was the Earl of Southesk. Carnegie came to the Canadian West to recover from ill health after the death of his wife. In 1859, he travelled to Fort Garry, Manitoba, in the company of...

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