When I started moving again, I climbed up the Jackson Glacier trail and started to encounter more and more snow. The trees eventually thinned out, and I turned up the big slope below the northeast ridge of Mount Jackson. As innocuous as it looks, this slope is actually deceptively steep. I strapped on my crampons and climbed up some of the lower snow patches, but higher up, I removed my crampons to ascend a rather miserable section of treadmill rubble. My upward progress was painfully slow here, and getting up to the crest of the ridge was proving to be wearisome and time-consuming. By now, the sun had risen high enough to illuminate the entire mountain, and I was more than a little troubled by how hot the sun felt even at this early hour. At one point, I heard a clatter off to my right, and I turned to see a rock about the size of a television dislodge from a snow patch and go hurtling down the slope. The rock tumbled for a very long distance, and it was sobering to realize that I had climbed up through its fall line less than an hour earlier. I pressed on and finally gained the ridge crest after what seemed like an eternity.
From where I gained the ridge crest, I got my first good look at the remainder of the route, and what I saw was disheartening. I still had an enormous amount of elevation gain (probably about 600 metres) to reach the summit, and the ridge, at least from a distance, looked more complex than expected. The actual scrambling on the ridge turned out to be not too difficult, but in my tired state, I found little enjoyment in the endeavour. My biggest enemy though was the hot sun. With virtually no wind, the heat from the sun was becoming oppressive, and I was going through my supply of water and liquid refreshments at an alarming rate. Whenever I found shade on the ridge, I would linger there for an extended pause; I may have even dozed off once or twice. A real godsend were the lingering snow patches that were more frequently found higher up on the ridge. What a great relief it was to rub cold snow all over my head, neck and arms. On a couple of occasions, I even plugged both my ears with snow! Another cool trick was to tuck a big snowball under my baseball cap and let it melt on top of my head as I continued climbing.
After yet another eternity, I finally staggered onto the summit ridge and eventually the true summit. I was numbed by exhaustion, and the first thing I did on the summit was sit down and polish off a delicious soda pop (Fanta orange). It had taken me over 12.5 hours to ascend Mount Jackson, and as wonderful as the summit panorama was, it was hard to ignore the enormity of the return journey that was still ahead of me. Despite feeling some urgency to start descending, I spent an hour on the summit anyway doing my requisite chores and somewhat recharging myself both physically and mentally. Taking my boots and socks off, even temporarily, seemed to do wonders.
After leaving the summit, I retraced my steps down the northeast ridge without any problems. I briefly considered following the alternate descent taken by Andrew and Raff, but because I was unsure of where exactly they went, I ended up just going back down the big slope I originally ascended. Going down this slope was far easier given that the loose rubble and snow patches could all be glissaded fairly quickly (beware of big fissures in the snow patches). With some luck, I regained the snow-covered Jackson Glacier trail and hiked back to Gunsight Lake campground. Upon re-entering forest, I was immediately accosted by a swarm of mosquitoes. Up until this trip, I had seen relatively few mosquitoes during my previous outings for this year, and consequently, I had forgotten to bring bug repellent. I would pay dearly for this oversight during the remaining 10-kilometre hike back to my car. The last six kilometres or so were especially brutal as the mosquitoes here were absolutely relentless. I was eventually forced to don my hooded waterproof jacket to keep the mosquitoes at bay, but this felt like I was hiking in my own portable sauna. Adding to the misery was the 200-metre ascent from Reynolds Creek back up to the trailhead. What a cruel way to end an already long and exhausting day!
Epilogue: When I stopped
in Fort MacLeod, Alberta to get gas on my drive home, I was attacked by a
second swarm of mosquitoes as soon as I stepped out of my car at the fuel
pump. I must have looked really comical doing something akin to the
Chicken Dance, swatting at waves of mosquitoes while simultaneously
trying to pump gas. The upper part of the northeast ridge presents some
interesting challenges. An enormous section of snow and ice appears to have
slid down the lower slopes of Mount Jackson.
*generally accepted elevation (my GPS was
not working) Here is a closer look at Mount Siyeh, Cracker,
Matahpi Peak, and Going-to-the-Sun Mountain. The remainder of the eastern view is dominated by
Mount Logan (left), Blackfoot Glacier, and Blackfoot Mountain (right).
A break in the trees along the
approach trail grants a moonlit view of Mount Jackson.
The sky begins to brighten over the
slopes below the northeast ridge.
The first rays of sunshine illuminate
an outlying ridge of Blackfoot Mountain. Note the part of the
snowfield/glacier that has slid off revealing the rock underneath.
The morning sun also shines on
Fusillade Mountain to the north.
Despite appearances to the contrary,
the rubble is horribly loose on this slope.
Gunsight Mountain looks wonderfully
complex. Also visible at far left is diminutive
This is the view of the upper part of
Mount Jackson from where Sonny gained the northeast ridge.
The north face of Mount Jackson still
harbours a fairly large glacier.
Here is a closer look at a crevasse in
the glacier on the north face of Mount Jackson.
Mount Stimson (right of centre) is
barely visible in the distance behind Blackfoot Mountain. Note
another large chunk of snow/ice sliding off the upper slopes of Mount
The real scrambling begins up ahead.
Difficult sections along the ridge can
usually be circumvented to climber's right.
The summit is finally in sight!
Sonny finally stands on the
3064-metre* summit of Mount Jackson.
A memorial cherub can be found in the
Mount Stimson reigns above all other
peaks to the south.
Walton Mountain and Harrison Glacier
are to the southwest.
A sea of peaks stretch out to the
northwest behind Gunsight Mountain. Barely visible at bottom
left is Lake Ellen Wilson.
Despite being further away, Mount
Gould easily overshadows Reynolds Mountain in the foreground.
Fusillade Mountain and Gunsight Lake
draw the most attention to the north, but peaks such as Mount Gould,
Mount Siyeh, and Going-to-the-Sun Mountain are all readily
identifiable on the horizon.
Some of the more prominent peaks to
the east include Citadel Mountain (left of centre), Little Chief
Mountain (centre), and Mount Logan (far right).
Gunsight Mountain is a stunning
backdrop for Gunsight Lake.
Here is a last look at Mount Jackson
from the trail on the hike out.
Distance: ~27 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 19 hours 40 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: ~1450 metres
The upper part of the northeast ridge presents some interesting challenges.
An enormous section of snow and ice appears to have slid down the lower slopes of Mount Jackson.
*generally accepted elevation (my GPS was not working)
Here is a closer look at Mount Siyeh, Cracker, Matahpi Peak, and Going-to-the-Sun Mountain.
The remainder of the eastern view is dominated by Mount Logan (left), Blackfoot Glacier, and Blackfoot Mountain (right).