I have made up a "Topo/Image Map", along with the GPS track route that was recorded while hiking up the North West Ridge on Mt Elkhorn in the last days of June 2004. Hiking at a steady pace it took 5 hrs to reach the climb on Elkhorn. I'm planning on returning to the area in August to finish off what I had left off.
Click - 'Small Black/Yellow dot' to view photo taken from approx. location.
Date: June 27th 2004
Weather: Clear morning turning to low clouds/light rain by afternoon.
Trail/Snow conditions: Good, crampons needed in the morning hrs.
Hiking Return Time: 10hrs up down and all around.
Hearing the front door open I knew it was time to get up. Mel was just arriving home from a friend's birthday party. I had asked her nicely to stay out until at least midnight so I would hopefully get a solid 4hrs snooze time, I think I got at least 3hrs. Having an hour to get ready I was able to chugged down an instant breakfast have a couple cups of coffee and go through my pack one more time before heading out the door. Driving up was a dream for the most part, the skies were crystal clear which boosted my sprits as the last few days had been partially overcast. Finding the trail head in the wee hours of the morning proved simple and I was pounding the trail by 5:15am.
The first section of the trail is a highway which made it good for stretching the legs. At roughly 2.5kms up the Elk River closely parallels the trail again. Here's were I headed to the river looking for a log crossing. I quickly noticed a 3ft log spanning the Elk River only 20m downstream. Once on the other side I had to look for a minute before noticing some flagging tape to my left. It was at the end of a log which leaned up against the rivers bank, this looked like the way on. The trail from here on in is mostly just a flagged route I could see spots were the trail was worn but it was hard to see some times so I found it better to just keep my eyes peeled for flagging. There is a small campsite on the other side of the river as I found out by almost walking into it. Past there the trail gently wines up for 5 minutes then the first grunt up the gully starts. This section is short and after 10 minutes the trail lays back until it starts to turn right. Now the trail steepened and having to wiggle through some blow-down on a 45 degree slope made things just "Ducky" This section of the gully stays at a steady grade until reaching the crest of the treed Col. From the Col the trail is well flagged and heads West then North before reaching the main ridge back leading up to Elkhorn. Finally out of the trees there was allot less snow than I had expected so I decided not to put on the crampons. The snow was rock hard so I had to gingerly cross over several patches trying my best not to slip. A little ways up the ridge I came across a cliff face which I could avoid by hiking to the right side and ramping my way up. Not to far up I had to do a few short down climbs then the rest of the ridge was fairly straight forward all the way up to the base of the NW ridge. From here I could see the route which I wanted to climb up, the guide book was right it was an easy grade 5 scramble up steep chutes with lots of loose shit. I then veered right to the lower of the upper two snow fields, once on the snow the weather had started to change the clouds were now circling the summit and swirling around in the upper Cirque. I started to get a little leery about the weather and my surroundings which were the exposé passing belay stations and the rock hard snow. Seeing as I was soloing today I felt it a little precarious in crossing the snowfields. I was not roped up and one slip and a screw up on the self arrest would mean a definite ticket to H??*. Making an executive decision I then looked up towards the peak rubbed my nose on the rock and quietly said "I'll be back". The descent was easier then expected as I found a narrow gully to down climb. Kinda made me feel right at home in a cave because I was able to bridge both sides of the gully and crab my way down. Once on the main ridge the clouds had now engulfed the whole summit, this made me feel a little better as I was not missing any sights. Looking at my watch it was still before noon and having loads of time I choose to take a cruise across the West Bowl and check out the other routes up Elkhorn. I came across a couple of steep gullies one with a large chockstone which I think is the descent route off the mountain and also the easiest way up to it's summit. I then hiked over to the South ridge before turning back and heading back down to the Parking lot. The hike down was some what painful due to my stupidity of passing by my ski poles which I had left on the top of one the many knolls. Over the years I have taken ski poles up and over many many peaks and how they have saved my knees big big time, so much so that I have a hard time hiking without them. I find it quite awkward using one long ice as a walking stick when going down steep trail/bush Whaaaaaaaaaa….. The hike down still took 2hrs from the treed Col to the vehicle. Stay tune-in as
Hope you enjoyed reading this the route description