Tonquin Valley – Mount Clitheroe Scramble

September 14, 2021

This is Day Two of a five day hiking trip to the Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park. To read about Day One and the hike in, click here.

Good morning Ramparts! This is the view from my little cabin. The sun was just rising, and setting the face of this mountain aglow. Magical.

Today was a “Choose Your Own Adventure” day. As this was an Alpine Club of Canada trip, our leader Ivan was effectively responsible for us all. As such, we were to stay together. However, as we ate breakfast and drooled over the the tantalizing sight of Mount Clitheroe that we could see from the dinning room window of the main lodge, Ivan had an idea.

After talking to Gilbert about the route, which he assured us ‘was a highway’ and was also ‘worth every step of the way’, Ivan appointed me Trip Leader for the side trip up Mount Clitheroe. Together with Janek and Agnieszka Krolikowska, who are very accomplished climbers, we also had Pamela. While this was her first scramble, she did great. Ivan would take the main group and go up Clitheroe ridge, just to the west of the summit.

Alisen on her way down from Mt. Clitheroe. Amazing photo ops like this one were found all the way up and down this scramble. Photo credit: Jacek Krolikowski.

Gear

Hiking boots, hiking poles, gators (because it’s always pretty wet in the Tonquin Valley), and your regular day pack kit.

Overview

From the Tonquin Valley Adventures Lodge, take the main trail back towards the Astoria River Trail. After about 1 km, turn left onto a faint side trail, heading straight towards the base of Mt. Clitheroe. Hike up through the meadows. At the boulder field, pick you way up, keeping an eye on the ascent route up the face of the mountain. Once at the base of the scramble, make your way straight up to the summit. Return the way you came.

Trail Head

After a lovely sleep in the warm cabins at Tonquin Valley Adventures, we had a leisurely breakfast in the main lodge. Owner and Adventurer Gilbert was still there, so we took the opportunity to ask him questions and get advice on going up Clitheroe. Gilbert is quite the mountaineer, and had no doubt been up Clitheroe many times. After some photos, we set off as a group.

Alisen and Gilbert, owner of Tonquin Valley Adventures. I was SO happy to see Gilbert wearing orange because my big orange tabby cat is named Gilbert. These two guys share some of the same qualities. Both are alpha males who defend their territory vigorously (don’t even THINK about touching stuff once it has been put down for horse packing!). However, they are both big softies who love attention.
Photo credit: Jacek Krolikowski.

We retraced our steps from the day before when we hiked in, heading back towards the main Astoria River Trail. We crossed the meadow, and began our ascent on the muddy trail. After about 1 km, we took a very faint side trail. Honestly, if it weren’t for our Leader Ivan’s guidance, I probably would not have seen this side trail.

The main trail is on the right. I guess you just have to know that this side trail is there. Ivan has been hiking and skiing (no longer an option) in Tonquin Valley for probably over thirty years. I’m sure there’s nothing he doesn’t know about the area.

Main Trail

We stayed on the faint side trail for a little ways, before it opened up into an expansive meadow.

In the meadow directly below Mount Clitheroe, looking down on the edge of Amethyst Lakes. Ivan is pointing out tomorrow’s route to the ACC Wates-Gibson Hut, found directly below Outpost Peak (centre). Photo credit: Jacek Krolikowski.

After a leisurely stroll through the meadow, with Ivan pointing out various features and telling stories to keep us entertained, the group split. Ivan took his group to climbers left to ascend the ridge, and my merry band of four continued straight up to find the start of the scramble. The ascent route is the first gully on the left. We were generally aiming for the very small snow patch.

The ascent route is the first gully on the left. The little patch of snow connects up with the descent scree route on lookers left. We ascended on lookers right to stay out of the churning scree, and to take advantage of the numerous rock steps on the right.

From the meadow, we aimed for a break in the lower rock garden, trying to stay on solid ground for as long as possible. This turned out to be the home of a marmot, who greeted us on both the way up and when we returned.

This photo was taken on the way back down, but it shows the break in the rock garden, our little marmot, and the expanse of meadow above the main hiking trail. Tonquin Valley Adventure lodge is on the shores of the lake, on the far right.

Once we entered the rock garden, there really was no ‘right’ way to go. I thought I spied several faint trails, but they all petered out. Eventually I gave up, and just beelined it for the base of the scramble. I will admit to not loving rock hopping at the best of times, and this expanse of large rock rubble seemed never-ending.

On the lower rock garden. This photo is also on the way back down. Pamela is pointing out a possible trail. We needn’t have bothered. There is none. The weather was quickly deteriorating on us on the way home, and we wanted off the rocks before they got too wet.

Once we got to the base of the scramble, which is the first gully on the left, we had a decision to make. We could stay left and take the obvious scree trail, but instead elected to stay climbers right. On this side, we were up against a rock wall, and had lots of steps to scramble up. I have to admit, this was fun and easy hands on rock.

Working our way up Mt. Clitheroe. Looking back towards Oldhorn Mountain. Our trail into the valley is on the other side of the ridge on the right, but further down and well into the trees.
Looking up at the scramble. Once we got started on the actual scramble, we stayed climber’s right, and took advantage of the numerous rock steps. No – that is not the summit ridge. This mountain was up, and then more up. I thought it might lay back a bit and give us a bit of a ridge walk, but nope! Just up, up and then more up. To keep everyone’s spirits up, I kept repeating Gilbert’s assertion that the views were “worth every step of the way” πŸ™‚
A closer view of the rock and steps to be found. This was seriously good fun. Good hand holds, and solid rock. What’s not to like? There were always several options on this mountain too. Smaller steps to the left, and bigger, climbier steps on the right.

When the ridge finally came into view, we turned right.

We came to the top of the ridge, and then turned right. Janek and Agnieszka were great scrambling companions, and always kept an eye on the route.
Aga, Pamela and Alisen enjoying a very quick snack at the top. Photo credit: Jacek Krolikowski.

Full disclosure – the true summit is just behind me. With the weather changing quickly, the temperature dropping, and a partner on her very first scramble, we decided this flat rock was a good place to stop. Ivan was trusting me to be a responsible trip leader, and I didn’t want to let him down.

As Gilbert promised, the views from the top of Mt. Clitheroe really were worth every step of the way. The three photos below span the valley from east to west.

Photo credit: Jacek Krolikowski
Photo credit: Jacek Krolikowski
Photo credit: Jacek Krolikowski

Distance to the summit of Mt. Clitheroe is about 4 km. Elevation gain was 738 m. Time to summit was approximately 3 hours at a very leisurely pace up and through the meadow, and we definitely didn’t rush the trip up the mountain.

Mount Clitheroe Return

We were quickly losing our sun and warm weather as a system was moving in fast. We didn’t want to be caught out, so after a very short bite to eat, we started back down.

Instead of retracing our steps, we went further along the ridge to the west. We descended on the obvious scree trail, which was easier on the knees and a faster route down than downclimbing on our ascent route.

We went past our ascent route to skiers right, and descended on the obvious scree trail (light brown). This was a faster route down. Photo credit: Jacek Krolikowski.
The line through the scree, while not the highway as advertised by Gilbert, was still easy to find.

Our scree trail lead directly to the patch of snow we had spied from the dining room window of the lodge below. I love it when stuff like this works out.

Our patch of snow was directly in line with our scree descent route.

Once the scree route ended, we were back into the never-ending rock garden above the meadow. I was hoping there was a route out from the scree line, but nope! Random rock hopping it was!

Once back in the meadow, we picked around to find the trail Ivan had taken us in on. After stomping around in wet bushes for a bit, we eventually found it, and made quick work back to the lodge.

For the full trip report, click for Day One – Hiking In, Day Three – Wates-Gibson Hut, and Day Four – Majestic Ridge.

If you found this post useful, please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, or join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers.

Alisen

Totals – Tracked on Gaia, displayed on Strava

Date: September 14, 2021
Group:  Four (Alisen, Pamela, Jacek and Agnieszka)
Distance:  8 km
Elevation:  738 m (2,435β€²)
Time:  6 hours 15 minutes (includes lunch & breaks)

From the Tonquin Adventure Lodge, the route is more or less straight up.
The elevation profile matches the route perfectly. Straight up and down. The walk through the meadow is a lovely warm up though.
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Posted in Adventures, Backpacking, Scrambling
34 comments on “Tonquin Valley – Mount Clitheroe Scramble
  1. Diana says:

    Wow wow wow! That view from the summit does indeed look to be worth every step. So beautiful!

    • alisendopf says:

      LOL! Yup, so we were told πŸ™‚ Seriously, The Ramparts are truly stunning. It’s serious climbing on those rocks, so looking at them is probably as close as I’ll get.

  2. I love this area, such a beautiful view from the summit. Maggie

  3. Wow Alisen! Looks wonderful and views from the top of Mt. Clitheroe are simply stunning!

    I would love to hike one day in that location!

  4. Josh Sanders says:

    Very cool backdrop! Awesome pictureπŸ‘Œ

  5. These images make me want to get out into nature!

    • alisendopf says:

      Yes!!! Awesome!!! I hope you DO go out into nature. You don’t have to climb a mountain, just get out and enjoy your own backyard, whatever that is for you. I’d love to hear what adventures you can get into within an hours drive of your home. Do tell!!!
      Alisen

  6. Your pictures are beautiful. I continue to be amazed at your navigational skills. That rock garden/scramble looks like a slow slog and would have never guessed that that was even a side trail!

    • alisendopf says:

      You’re good for the ego Linda πŸ™‚ Navigation was more or less straight up πŸ™‚

      Funny story – near the top I was getting a bit frustrated with the ‘trail’ and was wondering if I was indeed on the right path. Just then, I looked down and found a small candy wrapper. Yup! Just the sign I needed to give me confidence that I was indeed at the right spot πŸ™‚

  7. Those views are stunning. What a fabulous hike!

  8. Such an incredible site to see and hike .great views.

  9. Widdershins says:

    Another glorious adventure! πŸ˜€ … Mt Clitheroe is just a snow-covered blob on my google map, but I got the gist of it. πŸ˜€

    • alisendopf says:

      Right! Google maps must be showing the winter version right now. That’s too bad. It’s quite pretty. However, the next day we got snow so Clitheroe was a big white blob!

  10. 6qsite says:

    Incredible landscapes. Magnificent photos.πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

  11. That’s a tough climb up that rubble, Alisen, but what a view!! I’ll be in Jasper this summer after Lake Louise. I’ll have to browse your sight for some other trips in both areas. πŸ™‚

  12. Beautiful hike! Amazing photos!

  13. Agnieszka says:

    This was great day in the mountains Alisen. Thanks for coming up with idea to scramble there and for leading the group!

    • alisendopf says:

      My pleasure Agnieszka. Thank YOU for coming with me. I wouldn’t have done it by myself, so having you come made it possible.

      Here’s to more adventures! We will have to plan some summer trips together.
      Alisen

  14. O my! Extraordinary Landscape. And as exquisite images and feelings. Lovely Alisen. Never knew this existed.

    Narayan x

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