During a mid-week peak bagging expedition with my wife near Jasper, trying to round out all the scramble objectives in Kane’s Canadian Rockies Scrambles book, we stumbled on Cinquefoil Mountain. Despite being one of the easier objectives
in Kane’s book, Cinquefoil is not without merit. Named after the alpine flowering plant of the same name, Cinquefoil’s lower west flank is blessed with one of the richest (from a big horns perspective) open alpine meadows
in all of Jasper. This approach slope is so unique that it reminds you more of Ireland than Canada. Lichen covered rock croppings dot the landscape where big horn sheep and even mountain goats frequent the area. There are few objectives in the Canadian Rockies where you can avoid trees on the ascent as easily as you can Cinquefoil. Its western grassy slopes connect along its ridge line half way up the mountain without ever having to enter the trees.
Once you reach its true summit (a short scree ascent beyond a vegetated false summit), you will notice that Cinquefoil Mountain is nothing more than the start of a long extended ridge line in the Jacques Range. This is no doubt one of the earlier objectives local residents can access in the spring.
Park at the Merlin Pass trailhead which was not marked in 2012. It is a small trailhead just east of a double pullout trailhead area used for Hawk Mountain
. It is located right before you see a small lake on your right. The trail itself is hard to spot unless you actually get out of your car and walk around a bit. This marshy area has the appearance of a miniature rain forest. Follow the trail into the brush southward. Follow the trail left around the north end of a small lake. A bridge crossing along this trail at the lake outlet was out in 2012
due to an unusually wet spring and summer. We negotiated logs, bushwhacked, etc. to reach the other side of the outlet. As you circumvent the lake, the brush opens up and you continue east for the lower grassy slopes of Cinquefoil. Fairly quickly you make a nice sheep/scramblers trail up the slope to the ridge proper.
You might ask yourself why not park another km east along the road, but we descended this way to investigate that option and it is so marshy, you are better off sticking to the above approach, for your vehicle’s safety and to keep your feet dry.
Continue up the beautiful grassy ridge, staying right of the trees on a well-traveled sheep/scrambler trail. When it gets rockier, the trail is harder to follow, but still very straight forward as to where you are heading (due south) and well cairned (2012). You meet one depression by staying low and right to avoid any unwarranted elevation loss and continue up the right side of the ridge. Eventually you trend left through a forest fire cut line. Follow this cut line up to some scree covered slopes to the false summit. From here, an avid scrambler is only 20 minutes away from the true summit. The final peak ahead looks steeper than it is. Just stay to the ridge and pole up steep scree at the end to a flat grassy summit. There was no summit register in place in 2012.
Return the same. I don’t recommend descending straight to the road, we did that and it was not worth it.
My wife and I completed this scramble at 4 hours, the low end of Kane’s 4-7 hour estimate and she is not an avid scrambler. Plan water and food accordingly. You will have no water en route once pass the lake. Poles are of course helpful, light approach shoes and/or runners. Most of this scramble will be exposed to the sun. Because it is mostly along the ridge, I don’t see helmets being necessary whatsoever.
External LinksMost inclusive first-hand knowledge and accounts of Canadian Rockies Scrambles on the Internet
Jasper National Park, Parks Canada
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