This is a 4000’+/- ascent day and I recorded 4300’ to the summit via accumulated elevation. As on occasion, I consider Mr. Kane’s notes in the Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies guide book on this particular scramble to be seriously omitting.
From the Burstall Day Use area, hike or bike across the dam to where the Burstall Pass Trail takes a hard right. Continue straight on an old logging road. This is the same route used by backcountry skiers in the winter months. Using a bike is a 50-50 proposition here as there are many downed trees on this old logging road and it is not maintained as a summer trail. I suggest the bike to save a few net minutes. Once down at the French Creek, park the bike. You have several options, depending on the volume of the creek. You can wade across the creek or fight through some bush immediately upstream to several logs that were in place in 2005. A third option is to continue upstream on a faint trail to gain the creek above a steep waterfall and cross a log-bush jam at that level. I suggest the option immediately upstream once you reach French Creek.
Once on the other side of French Creek, continue along the logging road and eventually it turns into a single track trail that is also not maintained. You are looking to gain a significant gravel drainage to the east that leads up to a ridge on an unnamed peak directly north of Mount Murray. I turned east too early via Kane’s description and landed on the north ridge (8000’) of this unnamed peak and had to make a difficult traverse to its west summit ridge. This route was not bad in any particular way, as much as the correct route is more scenic and straight forward. The correct drainage does not bleed gravel all the way down to French Creek. It is approximately 30 minutes after you cross French Creek on your left side (now flagged).
If you leave the French Creek Trail at the appropriate mark and head east, the gravel wash is immediately and readily apparent. Once you discover this drainage, it starts to open up and breaks through a cliff and onto open slopes of scree and grass that ascend up to the west ridge of the unnamed peak directly north of Mount Murray which is also in full view to the southeast as you proceed through the cliff break. In July, 2005 there was a significant snow slope you can ascend immediately to the right after you enter the break in the cliff. At the top of this snow slope are beautiful high alpine meadows that lead left up to scree and good ground that bypasses steep cliffs directly below the col of the unnamed peak and Mount Murray to the south.
You have the option of achieving the summit of the unnamed peak and then descending to the col or, once above the steep cliff line, you can traverse large and medium sized scree to the col further south. Once at the col at approximately 8800’, you will traverse below Mount Murray’s summit block to the right and completely circle around the western flank of the mountain, gaining altitude along the way until you are at the southeast ridge. Mount Murray’s summit walls will look impenetrable, without gear, until you see this southeastern ridge on the backside which is much less intimidating.
There are many ways to finish the route, but not without enduring some additional larger sized talus. I ascended to the base of the summit walls so I could contour around the summit block on firmer ground. Eventually I found a chimney full of ice and snow and ascended this chimney and cut back left onto firm rock and scrambled my way to the final summit. There is a multitude of ways to ascend this final portion, they get easier as you continue to circumvent to the southeast.
The more interesting moves are the earlier routes you find.
Despite the infrequency in which this mountain gets climbed, Kane did add a register and it was still in place in 2005. The views of Mount Joffre, Mount Sir Douglas
and Mount Assiniboine are extremely clear on a good day. The Robertson Glacier, Mt.Birdwood (gives you many looks on the ascent) and Mt. Burstall are in the immediate vicinity. Mount Engadine
, Mount Chester
and other Kananaskis peaks show up across the Smith Dorrien Valley to the north.
Return the same. Beware of the steep cliffs below the col of Mount Murray and the unnamed peak to the north.
From below the summit block of Mount Murray peering down, you might be tempted to give them a test, however, when viewed from below it is obvious they do not offer relief. You must contour back to the western ridge of the unnamed peak to descend. The mountain sheep give you a line across the medium sized talus. If they can’t find a break in the cliffs, then you can’t either.
Once below the western ridge of the unnamed peak, you need to aim for that break in the lower cliffs below tree line that you ascended and it will lead back to the gravel drainage which peters out into the forest, and you will immediately find the east side trail of French Creek which takes you back to the old logging road. I am rating this route two stars due to the plentiful scree.
Alpine Ax for snow patches up to and including July, Bear Spray, Helmet, Gaiters (plenty of water opportunities on route)