I spent a week back in the Fryatt Valley in 2004 and could not convince my comrades sharing the Sydney Vallance Hut
at that time to lose elevation back down the valley to attempt either of the most technical climbs in the Valley, Mount Christie or Brussels Peak. The hut is not a good starting point for either of these climbs, therefore in 2004 I did manage to climb four other peaks at the end of the valley that had more conducive starts from the hut, Mount Fryatt
, one of our 11,000+, Mount Lowell
, Mount Olympus
and the Three Blind Mice
. In 2006 I was contacted by the grandson of Ray Garner, who put up the first ascent on Brussels Peak in 1948, inquiring whether I would be interested in climbing this obscure objective. I jumped at the opportunity to get back into the Fryatt Valley.
Brussels Peak is located in Jasper National Park
, one of four Canadian National Parks adjoined in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Brussels was named after a British merchant ship in 1920. The first ascent was made by Ray Garner and J. Lewis in 1948 just days after a failed attempt by Fred Beckey and two years after a failed attempt by local legends Frank Smythe and Bruno Engler. Bruno Engler later wrote about Brussels (A Mountain Life); “Most mountains have their weaknesses, but not so Brussels. Most mountains have cracks or chimneys leading though otherwise impassable cliffs or pitches; but the cracks and chimneys on Brussels peter out into overhangs or are merely incidental, beginning and ending nowhere. Most mountains have ledges whereby difficulties can be circumvented, but there are few ledges in the cliffs of Brussels."
Some controversy followed Garner and Lewis’s success regarding their use of aid. Smythe particularly made an issue of it.
There are two routes; the Northeast Ridge goes at Alpine III, 5.7
. The gain from the Brussels Campground itself is over 5000’ not including the 18k and 1500’+/- you must gain into the campground from the trailhead. The approach from Fryatt Creek up to the scramble sections of the headwall below the Christie-Brussels col is pure bushwhack, no trail. The Fryatt Creek crossing is also more of a river crossing versus a creek crossing.
The North Face goes at Alpine IV, 5.10
and has plenty of run out. It was put up in 1979 by Randall and Waterman and has not been repeated much, if at all.
Follow the Columbia Icefields Parkway 31 km south of Jasper to the Athabasca Falls turnoff on your right. Follow the Athabasca Parkway 1.1 km to the Geraldine Lakes Road on your left. Drive along this dirt road for 2.1 km to a sign posted trail leading left (east) toward the Athabasca River. This is where you park and either hike or bike in to the Lower Fryatt campground some 11.4 km. Pick your poison. Biking with a 65lb pack on single track is no joy, but it is faster than hiking (if you have a competent biker on hand, try a BOB trailer). Another option is to portage the river saving about 6 or 7 km off of this trial.
I biked in the trail in 2004 and 2006 although I still believe paddling might be the best option. You will find a tremendous amount of bear scat along this trail.
Leave your bikes at the Lower Fryatt campground and proceed on the trail as it gains elevation and follows Fryatt Creek west for another 7 km to the Brussels campground. This campground is quiet and rarely inhabited except for the occasional bear. You can easily scope out your river crossing for the next day as well as Brussels Peak itself (photo) from this location.
You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter the park. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Jasper National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry. Even if you use a hut, you will need this permit. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the camping section below. Park headquarters are located in Banff and Jasper and you will drive through the manned kiosks as you enter the park.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. We witnessed a significant sized black bear approaching our campsite in 2006. I advise checking with Parks Canada
for any area and/or trail closures.
When to Climb
As with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I did Brussels Peak in July and found the route relatively free of snow except for the glacier travel on the east side of the mountain. There are no published backcountry ski routes that have anything to do with Brussels regarding winter ascents.
The Brussels campground is the formal campground to use for an ascent of Brussels. That being said, I advise ascending farther and camping at a tarn area above the drainage, but below the Mount Christie-Brussels Peak col. This gives you a much better start and chance to get off the climb prior to the infamous afternoon thunderstorms that roar through the Fryatt Valley.
The mosquitoes are in full force at these tarns, so take necessary precautions against these bastards. The Brussels campground is equipped with bear poles, flowing water and a dug out toilet. We witnessed a black bear in the area in July, 2006.
The Sydney Vallance Hut
is another 3.3 km further west. It received a major facelift and interior makeover in the summer of 1999 and is now a much improved version of the former cabin. It is open summer and winter with a limited capacity of 12 humans or 1 large bear. It has a propane system for cooking and lighting and a wood stove for heating. Campground reservations can be made through Jasper National Park
The Jasper National Park website
has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association
is also useful, particularly for winter travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports
are also extremely useful.