Mount Engadine

 Sept 2007

 

Elevation: 2990m Gain: 1200m Difficulty level: Difficult
Ascent time: 4.5 hours  Total trip time: 8.5 hrs Conditions: Dry

Parking area: Buller Parking Lot (Smith-Dorrien Trail)

 

     

After being denied by a bear in 2005, a foot fracture in 2006, we finally set out to do Mt Engadine. Sadly, due to excessive work and a particularly rainy summer, this was my first Kane scramble of the season. 

Although the views were mediocre, from a purely technical standpoint, Mt Engadine is one of the best scrambles. As many have pointed out, it is the antithesis of a typical scramble. Rather than a several hour approach for a few minutes of scrambling, Mt Engadine offers a 1 hr approach with a 3+ hr ridgewalk. Rather than a long ridge walk with a single crux, Mt Engadine has sustained exposure with difficult scrambling, leaving some hoping for even a few minutes of fear-free, hands-free, ridge walking. 

 

 

ROUTE

Cross the road from Buller parking lot and start hiking along Buller Pass Trail. Before crossing the creek at the bridge, head right and start bushwhacking up towards the tree line. The route uses the leftmost gulley, at the northern (left) end of the ridge, so navigation aids aren't necessary for the ascent. The trees thin sufficiently near the top that visual course correction can be made by heading towards the peak most visible to the left.

The pinnacles form a natural barrier at the northern end of the ridge. Head to the right (south) of the pinnacles to access the ridge. 

View of the pinnacles from the ridge (looking north)

The ridge can be reached in approximately 1 hr. Once on top, it becomes apparent how long the ridge system truly is. (coloured specks are people) 

Suffice it to say, much of the ridge is narrow with sustained exposure. Climbs, down-climbs, traverses, crossing au-cheval... this ridge has it all. It isn't possible to mention all the route variations. Depending on your point of view, there is either joy over scrambling the equivalent of multiple crux on lesser peaks; or a sustained feeling of imminent death for several hours.

 

The true crux is considered to be one of two overhangs at the end of the ridge (just before the scree slope). Both can be bypassed by descending and traversing on the right. On the first overhang, it is feasible to minimize descent by some tricky downclimbing along a weakness in the rock, however, it is hard to see the precise route when looking from above. The second overhang pretty much demands a descent and traverse.

One of the best things about Mount Engadine is that it offers something for everyone. Most technical portions can be bypassed with decent route finding skills by traversing to the right or left. However, for the jaded scrambler (not me!), taking the ridge head on converts the scramble into a full blown climb. 

Once past the overhangs, there is a short (but painful) scree slog up, best described by others as some pebbles on top of steep ledges. There is a second ridge just above the scree slope which probably would be considered a moderate scramble. After the fun/trauma of the initial ridge, this seems more like a pleasant walk. 

The views from the summit are nothing to write home about. What makes Engadine great is the sheer number of difficult scrambling opportunities.

The Book of Scrambles recommends a descent route down the first gulley (closest to the scree slope). However, this leads to a waterfall descent which would be described as less than fun by most people. Returning via the ascent route (gulley 4) or the adjacent gulley (gulley 3) makes for a less traumatic experience.

Bring a compass or GPS for the descent since there are no visual landmarks while bushwhacking on the descent. Having just learned how to take compass bearings, I was amazed that millenia old technology could take us within 100m of our cars.

 

At least for the non-jaded like myself, the line between "great scramble!" and "OMG OMG I'm going to die" is blurred on Engadine. All in all, great fun. 

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