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Mount Stephen (3199 m)

Mount Stephen is an imposing mountain which is the most noticeable around Field. From Field, where you start, this mountain rises almost 2 vertical kilometers! With a brief check through the Scramble book, I found that in fact this mountain does present the biggest elevation gain in the book at 1920 meters. Definitely only attempt this mountain when you are in the best shape, and it is late in a dry year. I did it with my Dad, who once again for the second time got stopped just feet short of the top. The mountain never came into season this year. It was mid-september. The trip should take you 8-12 hours, but were around 7 hours.

You start at Field, B.C. Make sure to register at the visitor center, as nobody is allowed into this area without a permit. It is a UNESCO site because of the extraordinary fossil beds on the northern part of the trail. The area the trail is passes through is limited to those with permits, but there is a certain area which is restricted to anyone. It is marked, but there is an electronic boundary which surrounds it. Pass through this boundary, and a message will be sent to authorities down below. So don't do it! Also, don't take a souvenir from the side of the mountain. I'm sure that if someone does, the privilege will be revoked for anyone to use this trail.

Here is an example of the fossils you might encounter. They literally are EVERYWHERE. This one was right smack dab in the middle of the trail. You can see the multiple prints in the rock. They are referred to as the Burgess fossil beds, but Burgess is the mountain across the highway, and believe me that no fossils over there even compare to the things you will find here. Spotting out the fossils takes your mind off the relentless grunt up to the shoulder over an inhumane trail which seldom uses switchbacks.

You will reach the shoulder breathless, and not be enlightened to know that you've probably only gained half of the elevation. My Dad and I were at this shoulder in 2 hrs, and from there scouted the route , which looked just fine. It was in fact out of condition, and there was much ice still left there from last year. It was the middle of September! After the shoulder, continue up through scree through one of the large gullies halfway up from the shoulder. After that, it may look like scree, but it is actually a bunch of boulders which you had to hop. This might give you some depth perception on the picture.

From this perspective, you can see over the Kicking Horse Valley towards the Wapta area. You can see that the weather is now starting to sock in, but it was not carrying thunderstorms or anything like that. This is about halfway up the rockband from near the highpoint we reached. We couldn't pass a gully which was just ice in our hikers. We had not predicted this ice to be left here after an entire summer, but should we have brought crampons, we would have reached the summit. After this climb of about 1900 meters, we were rejected just a hundred feet or so from the summit. And this was the kind of scramble that after all that elevation gain you're not too too eager to repeat!

This is the picture looking down from near our highpoint. You can see the steepness of the mountain near the top. Way way down below at the upper right portion of the picture is the shoulder halfway up. As we hurried back to make it out in time to call the warden's office to sign back in (the visitor's center had closed), it really took the toll on the knees. Such a steep grade does not do the legs any favors, and I highly recommend poles on this one. We made it down in just under 3 hours, for a round trip time of 7 hours. Just make sure it's a dry year for this one! back to scrambles page