Stats include Tszil, Slalok and Taylor
Elevation Gain: 1,813m
Total Time: 13 hours 34 minutes
Date: September 16th, 2021
Slalok Mountain is the third highest peak in the Joffre Lakes group, rising over 1000m above the upper most lake. In the summer time it offers a challenging and exposed scramble route that is fairly popular due to its addition in Matt Gunn’s scrambles book. The scramble route starts from the Tszil-Taylor col and continues up the southern aspect of Tszil, followed by a sub-summit crux and then an exposed ridge traverse to the final summit block. Good route finding skills are a must to avoid 5th class terrain. There are a few mandatory class 4 sections where falling would be fatal. Despite that, many people attempt it each year. The rock quality is great and the views are outstanding, making for a super fun scramble if you’re comfortable with exposure.
Holly, Val and myself had just finished reaching the summit of Tszil Mountain and were now moving on to the main objective of the day: Slalok. To reach Slalok from Tszil was fairly straightforward with a bit of down scrambling over a talus slope before reaching the col.
From the col we scrambled up a prolonged slope of 2nd class terrain sticking close the ridge at climber’s left. This eventually converged into a steep shoulder with some 2nd and 3rd class steps to overcome. At the top of the shoulder was another talus slope which lead to a large head wall. We stayed climber’s left here and then as we reached the head wall, started going towards the ridge at climber’s right, taking a ramp up to reach it. By taking this ramp we avoided the vertical section at climber’s left and made it the half way point of the head wall. This is where the route finding really came into play.
From the halfway point, we ended up getting a bit stuck trying multiple routes that all went 5th class. First I tried going climber’s right onto a ledge on the east side, but that ran out into a long drop to the valley floor. Then I tried further climber’s left and ended up quite high on the wall before realizing it would be difficult to down climb on the way back. I had to descend 5th class terrain again to get to where Holly was waiting. Val in the mean time was trying another route that also went 5th class. Finally, we found a key ledge that took us all the way to the corner at climber’s right of the head wall. From this ledge was a 4th class pitch that eased off about 7m up. We ascended this section and successfully topped out on the sub summit.
Ahead of the sub-summit was the exposed ridge traverse to a gendarme where a final crux section was waiting for us. We crossed over the sub-summit and hit a slippery section of rocks on the north side where the snow had not melted at all. Extra care was required here, but we were soon scrambling across the ridge to the gendarme. There were a few narrow sections of ridge with precariously hanging rocks, but it was easy in comparison to the crux below the sub-summit.
At the end of the ridge came the final 4th class section. Val lead the way, taking us up an exposed corner with snow covered foot holds. Despite the iffy foot placement options, the hand holds were bomber and we all made it up without too much difficulty. Now on the false summit, there was bit more ridge line scrambling to the summit block. Just before the summit block was a neat knife edge slab section that one could au cheval or campus across given the moderate angle.
Val took us climber’s left around the summit block where one last tricky section awaited us. This part of the route hadn’t seen any sun yet and so we had to traverse across a short, but exposed gully that was a no fall zone. The foot placements were extremely slippery, so we had to rely almost entirely on hand placements with the wet rock above. A bit more scrambling up snow covered rock after and then we gained the summit!
We spent around an hour on the summit, before starting our descent to beat sundown. There were some concerns from Holly and I about having to down climb the crux sections in the snow, but actually the reverse ended up being much easier than anticipated. Descending the corner crux on the false summit was a bit tricky with finding foot placements, but we all made it down without much issue. Then we traversed back across the ridge to the sub summit. Here took a slightly different descent line to avoid a slippery ledge traverse. Val lead the down climb first on the corner and then Holly and I followed after. The holds were positive and anyone with a bit of climbing experience should have no issue going up or down.
With all of the crux sections out of the way, we started boulder hopping down to the Slalok-Tszil col. Val then lead us on a route that wrapped around the summit of Tszil to avoid unnecessary elevation gain and then we were rejoined with the ramp down to the Tszil-Taylor col.
Once at the col, Val and I still had lots of energy and so we opted to grab one last peak of the day, while Holly stayed behind to hang out and relax. We ditched our gears except poles and off to Mount Taylor we went.