I climbed Mount Chester on what was forecast to be a very hot day, so I started quite early in the morning to beat the heat and the crowds. The mountain’s location next to one of the most popular hikes in K-country ensures that it sees plenty of visitors. I managed to get there early enough to have the summit to myself.
Access is from the Chester Lake trailhead on the Smith Dorien Trail (Hwy 742). I’d been there twice before to do hikes to Chester Lake as well as the Headwall Lakes. After following the trails up to to Chester Lake I found the little plank bridge across the outlet stream on the west side of the lake. After crossing over that, I followed the trail counterclockwise along the lake shore until encountering an obvious trail heading to the right. It was marked by a tree with a couple of Christmas ornaments on it. The trail skirted around a fan of rockfall then continued south to pass through some trees before arriving at the base of a long gully heading up to a col on Mount Chester’s southwest side.
There was still snow in the gully, but there was more than enough bare ground to allow for a safe ascent. After a 400 m climb on dirt and gravel I gained the col and took a quick break to enjoy the views and put on my helmet. Above the col is where the scramble begins. To your left as you arrive at the col is the scrambling terrain up Chester’s southwest face. There are cairns here and there that were helpful in reassuring me that I was on track, but there isn’t really too much route finding. The farther left you are, the more of a scramble you’re in for. The farther right you are, the more of a scree slog you’re in for. I think the usual approach is to stay left on the ascent then take the scree down, which is what I did. If you’re feeling like you’re dealing with too much exposure it’s likely because you’re too far left. The scrambling is moderate – handholds are required but there’s no major exposure or tricky moves. I managed to reach the summit 2h 40m after setting out.
Since I had the place to myself I took a nice long break up there. The views were excellent, particularly to the south and west where Mount Sir Douglas and Mount Assiniboine caught the eye. Closer by to the north were Mount Galatea, Gusty Peak, and The Fortress. Down in the valleys I could see Chester Lake and the Headwall Lakes. As I started to descend I saw another party had made it to the col. I stayed well to skier’s’ left. The terrain wasn’t difficult but the rockfall was alarming – despite making every effort not to knock rocks down I sent a few larger ones tumbling. There was nobody below me but it was still pretty distressing. Once down to the col I had no difficulties descending the gully and making it back to the lakeside trail.
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