Slalok Mountain

GPS recording available here:

Stats include Tszil, Slalok and Taylor
Elevation Gain: 1,813m
Distance: 20.97km
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.

A look at Slalok from the northern slopes of Tszil
Heading towards the Slalok-Tszil col
Looking up from the col now. Sticking closer the ridge until you’re past this first shoulder is key

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.

Starting up the shoulder now
Holly leading the way up
Now into a bit of 2nd and 3rd class scrambling
Here I am reaching the first set of 2nd/3rd class steps below the shoulder. Duffey Peak visible behind me.
Here I am making my way up a slippery 3rd class step
Holly following up. Tszil Mountain in the background
Mount Taylor visible as I scramble up past one of the many steps
Now above the shoulder looking at the talus slopes up to the head wall
Here’s a look at the route we took up
Aiming for ramp just above that brown coloured rock in the centre
Continuing towards the ridge at climber’s right

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.

Nearing the half way point of the head wall
We made it up to this ledge near the eastern side of the head wall. In front of Holly was the route we would descend. Behind her was the corner that ran out into empty air. Behind me (the photographer) were the set of routes we tried and backed off of. Eventually we found a ledge above where Holly stands that avoided a stiff 4th class section.
Val checking out one of the options. We ended up traversing climber’s right from Val’s spot where a ledge lead us to 4th class terrain.
Here I am traversing climber’s left across the head wall to scope out more options.
Holly doing some route finding as well
Val found a nice 4th class section up near the right corner of the headwall
Here I am coming up the crux below the sub summit
Holly making her way up

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.

A better view of thee gendarme and summit beyond from the sub summit
Holly getting on to the ridge from the sub summit to the gendarme. Note all the snow which made the rocks quite slippery here
Val and myself traversing the ridge
Looking back towards the sub summit
Nearing the crux section of the gendarme
Here’s the route we took up. It went 4th class with big exposure, but the holds were bomber
Holly coming up the crux section. It was made a bit more treacherous by snow on the foot holds
Holly topping out above the crux
On the final ridge to the summit now

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!

A panorama looking the final ridge section to the summit block. The route goes climber’s left and then wraps around to the north side to gain the summit.
Val leading the way
Holly with the cool knife edge behind. This section was a bit dangerous with the snow on the only good foot placements above an exposed gully
On the summit! Joffre, Matier, Spetch, Hartzell and Howard all visible
Looking down towards Joffre Lakes
Group shot on the summit
Looking down the Slaloks steep western slopes from 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.

Val and I descending the summit block now
Myself and Val traversing the knife edge slab secxtion
Holly and Val approaching the crux above the gendarme
Holly starting the down climb
Now I’m beginning the down climb
Continuing the last moves of the crux section
Almost done
Continuing along the ridge back to the sub summit
Now starting down the crux section below the sub summit
Here I am downclimbing now
Scrambling down the last of the head wall

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.

Looking towards Tszil now
Traversing around Tszil
Back down the ramp to the Tszil-Taylor col
Looking up towards Mount Taylor from the 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.

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