Located just east of Saskatchewan Crossing
in Alberta's David Thompson Country, Mount Cline is one of the fabled
Canadian Rockies mountains whose elevation exceeds 11,000 feet (3352
metres). The most popular ascent route via the southwest ridge is
described in Bill Corbett's The 11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies.
When Aga Sokolowska phoned me on a Thursday evening to ask if I would be
interested in joining her and Daniel Dufresne for an ascent of Mount
Cline over the weekend, I was at once both excited and hesitant.
The prospect of climbing such a big mountain was obviously thrilling, but
having to tackle the infamous crux--two exposed notches along the
southwest ridge--gave me pause. I did not have much experience with
technical climbing and rope work, and I was uncertain if Aga and Daniel
had picked the right person to accompany them. Regardless, Aga
convinced me that I would suffice for them, and Daniel would even lend me
a spare harness with belay device and locking carabiner. In the
afternoon on 7 July 2017, we drove out to Thompson Creek campground to
camp for the evening. Aga paid $27.00 for one night of camping, but
the campground host was gracious enough to allow us to leave my car in
the day use area for the rest of the weekend.
Early on the morning of 8 July 2017, Daniel, Aga and I left the
campground and crossed the highway to the start of a good trail running
along the east side of Thompson Creek. I also had So Nakagawa's
GPS tracks to follow in case we went astray. We hiked up this
trail for about 900 metres before crossing to the west side of Thompson
Creek. Despite some washouts along the way, the trail is generally
easy to follow, and we made good progress up the creek. About 2.7
kilometres after the first creek crossing, the trail climbs steeply away
from the creek and up alongside a gully. We eventually crossed the
gully and climbed up onto a high bench where the angle finally relents a
bit. We settled into some pleasant hiking across open slopes here,
but the trail eventually peters out near the top of a small grove of
trees where there are nice views of twin waterfalls further up the
valley. Continuing beyond the end of the trail, we traversed across
a loose rubble slope aiming for another grove of trees above and to the
left of the aforementioned waterfalls. Beyond this second grove of
trees, we enjoyed some more pleasant hiking until we reached a short
headwall. A lingering snow patch here complicated matters somewhat,
but we still managed to climb up the headwall without too much trouble.
Shortly after, we reached the lower of the two lakes which would be our
When we arrived at the bivy site, we had a lot of daylight left, and we
briefly considered pushing on to the summit that same day. A group
from Edmonton that was in front of us was doing just that while a group
from Calgary just behind us decided to stay put. Unbeknownst to us,
there was yet another group from Calgary that had started even earlier
than the Edmonton group and would be doing the whole climb as a very long
day trip. We would chat with them later that afternoon on their way
out, and they provided some helpful information regarding the condition
of the route. In the end, we decided to stick with our original
plan of starting early the following day in order to reach the summit
before descending and hiking out. As such, we spent a relaxing
afternoon eating, snoozing and wandering around the bivy site. We
also spent some time practicing belaying and rappelling off a big
boulder. While I retired to my tent early in the evening, I had a
difficult time falling asleep especially since it was still bright out.
As such, I had a rather restless night.
When I got up at about 3:00 AM on 8 July 2017, I was ironically
just starting to feel sleepy. I joined Daniel and Aga for a quick
breakfast in the dark before we set off for the snow ramp beyond the
upper lake. Taking advantage of the footprints of the climbers from
the previous day, we climbed up the snow ramp fairly quickly, and after a
short level stretch, we grinded our way up a long but easy slope to a
broad col below the southwest outlier of Mount Cline (some references
call this outlier, "Mount Owen"--not to be confused with another peak
with the same name in Yoho National Park). The other group from
Calgary--a foursome--caught up to us at this point, and they eventually
passed us while we traversed across the snowfields below the outlier.
||Daniel and Aga set up camp beside the
||Sonny has a small garden of flowers
beside his bivy tent.
||Daniel supervises Aga as she practices
rappelling off a big boulder.
||Daniel takes a turn at rappelling off
||Daniel teaches Sonny how to belay.
||Aga and Daniel wander to the upper
lake for a closer look at the snow ramp (centre) which is the normal point
of access to the next valley above.
||The upper lake is larger and deeper
than the lower lake.
||Aga follows Daniel up the snow ramp in
||This slope is easy to climb, but it is
longer than it looks.
||Aga and Daniel pause for a break at
the broad col. The top of Mount Cline is just visible at upper
The moon sets behind Mount Wilson as sunlight hits the
tops of the peaks. The high peak at distant left is Mount Forbes.
Beyond the last snowfield, we scrambled up and around some pinnacles and
rejoined the other group just as they were about to go across the
infamous notches. Daniel discussed belay strategies at length with
the other group, and we all agreed to work together to get everyone
across safely. A climber from the other group initially crossed the
first notch and was able to set up a second belay from the other side for
the rest of us. One by one, we down-climbed into the first notch
and awkwardly maneuvered around an intervening pinnacle before finishing
with a steep but straightforward climb above a reassuring chockstone.
Being the last to cross, Daniel rappelled into the notch instead of
down-climbing, and he also reeled in and brought over the rope that was
used as our initial belay. For the second notch, we all rappelled
off an overhanging cliff face without too much difficulty. Daniel
made sure that the rope was secured at the second notch before we all
resumed climbing. Getting all seven of us across the two notches
was certainly time-consuming (about 1 hour 15 minutes), but we all made
it without any slips or mishaps which is a fine testament to the
safety-consciousness of Daniel and the experienced climbers from the
||Aga follows Daniel across a snowfield
beyond the broad col.
||Mount Cline's southwest ridge begins
to take shape just beyond the last snowfield. At left in the
distance are the Whitegoat Peaks.
The remainder of the ascent is nothing more than an easy scree slog,
and after all the excitement at the notches, reaching the summit felt
almost anticlimactic. Despite some haze from British Columbia
forest fires, the summit views were still exceptional, and had there not
been a chilly breeze, we may have stayed a bit longer on top.
Although the other group started descending before us, Daniel, Aga and I
caught up to them once more just as their last guy was climbing up the
far side of the second notch. We each followed suit by descending a
bit into the notch and taking a very big step across an exposed gap.
Climbing up above the gap was not too difficult, but the insane exposure
here made me thankful that I was roped up. The hardest part about
getting back across the first notch is the down-climb to the chockstone,
and for some, it may be simpler just to rappel here. Regardless, we
all made it across again without mishap, and Daniel, Aga and I thanked
the other group for their help and patience before they took off for the
rest of their descent. Our return to the bivy site was mostly
uneventful. We made quick work of the snowfields below the
southwest outlier, but the hike down the long slope below the col seemed
to take longer than expected. To descend the steep snow ramp above
the lakes, we took out our ice axes, but fortunately, none of us went for
an inadvertent slide.
||Aga and Daniel scramble up to some
pinnacles on the southwest ridge.
||Daniel belays Aga as she prepares to
cross the first notch. The group from Calgary is already on the
||Aga descends into the first notch.
||Aga awkwardly gets around the pinnacle
to reach the chockstone.
||The climbing is relatively easy above
||The last one to come across, Daniel
rappels into the first notch.
||Daniel climbs out of the first notch.
||Daniel watches Aga rappel over the
||It is Daniel's turn to rappel over the
||Daniel and Aga follow the other group
up a beaten path in the scree slope.
Daniel, Aga and Sonny reach the summit of Mount Cline (3374 metres).
Daniel surveys the tracks in the snowfields below Mount
Cline's southwest outlier ("Mount Owen").
||Daniel and Aga scramble down from the
pinnacles along the southwest ridge.
||Here is a last look at the summit
block of Mount Cline.
||The remnant glacier northwest of the
broad col (left) has a big hole in it.
This is an aerial view of the two lakes at the bivy
Back at our bivy site, we took an extended break to eat, drink and relax
before packing up camp under threatening rain clouds. Although we
felt a few drops of rain as we started hiking again, a full downpour
never materialized. The overcast skies did help to keep the
temperature comfortably cool as we retraced our steps out the upper
valley, but by the time we dropped back down to Thompson Creek, the hot
sun was out again frying our heads. Once we got close enough to the
creek, I took every opportunity to soak my head with cold water during
the long march back to Thompson Creek campground. We missed one
critical creek crossing along the way, but fortunately, we did not have
far to backtrack when we realized our mistake. Back at my
car, we congratulated one another for a safe and successful trip, and the
only real disappointment of the day was driving to Banff town site
afterward and finding out that Barpa Bill's was already closed for the
day. Consequently, we had to
settle for dinner at Wendy's in Canmore instead.
||Aga and Daniel carefully descend to
the upper lake.
||Daniel and Aga leave the bivy site to
begin the long hike out.
Distance: 27.1 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 34 hours 45 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: 1984 metres