North-South Summits

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 51.42230°N / 116.5°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Difficult Scramble
Sign the Climber's Log


This is a 6000’+/- ascent day if you are doing both summits. There are two different approach trails to the scramble route up Mount Burgess. That means you should take advantage of the traverse option. Of course that would also require a hitch back to your car or to be dropped off to begin with. You could plant a bike, but that would make for a very long day. The Burgess Pass Trail circumvents Mount Burgess from the southeast to the northwest and this is the direction I chose. From the trailhead on the TransCanada proceed ¾’s of the way up to Burgess Pass itself. To the pass is 8.2kms, so approximately 6kms+/-. Follow the trail from 4300' to 6000' to a broad avalanche area on your left. The Mount Burgess east face looms above you.

Route Description

There was one cairn marking this turnoff in 2004, but basically just aim for a scree gully right of an island of trees that stand out on the massive scree slope. Once you reach this gully, hug the right vertical wall as the gully narrows for another 1500' to a point on the north ridge at 8100' (now you are out of the gully). Once on the ridge, traverse left to the lower flank of the north peak and ramp up to its summit. This section is an easy scramble and fairly straight forward.

The true summit is the south summit. This is a difficult traverse. Navigate lower left on the ridge and continue to descend until you reach a substantial exposed notch at about 8000'. I chose to “high wire” the right side of a pinnacle that landmarks this section (the crux). The other alternative is to traverse left. Both involve seriously exposed moves. Once I reached the other side of the pinnacle, I proceeded at a 45 degree angle keeping left until I topped out on the final summit ridge. This ridge is hands on scrambling and again presents a difficult scrambling section.

Once on the summit, you have great views of Mount Vaux and the Hanbury Glacier to the south, the President, Vice President and the Emerald Glacier to the north and Carnarvon and Emerald Lake to the northwest. There was a register in 2004 at the south summit that was installed by Alan Kane in 1990. I was the only entry in 2004 and there were but a handful since 1990. Most parties settle for the north summit.

On descent, once you get through the tough ridge and the crux, set out for some cairns that mark where you topped out of the gully. This saves having to climb up the ridge between the south and north summits. This will involve some hands on down climbing. Once back in the gully, make sure no one is above you and that you are not wreaking havoc on anyone below. In its narrow sections, this is a danger zone for rock fall. Once through the constricted sections, stay skiers right this time to find some great glissading scree.

I did made the mistake of descending all the way back to the trail at 6000' even though I was doing a hike through to Emerald Lake via Burgess Pass. I advise one to attempt to contour around Burgess to the left staying above tree line until you reach the northern ridge which will lead directly to Burgess Pass and/or the trail itself. The pass is at 7500'. The Burgess Pass Trail then descends west to Emerald Lake. The entire trail is a 15km trip not including the scramble portion. Then close the day out having a beer and dinner on the patio at the bridge and enjoy super scenery including your objective for the day.

Essential Gear

Helmet, some potential rock fall on this one. Gaiters for the scree and/or snow. Alpine Ax and/or hiking poles. A short rope for parties of two or more wanting extra security getting to the south summit. Bear Spray. Map. Compass. Possible bike depending on how you handle the traverse option.



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