Most people bound for Burstall Pass have no idea that a narrow valley exists between Mt. Burstall and the long north ridge of Piggy Plus. And that at the end of it is a high col with a superb view of the French Glacier. The route was first documented in Andrew’s “More Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies” under “Piggy Plus” on page 229. Last Thursday we had no intention of climbing Piggy Plus, which is a difficult, loose scramble. We just walked to the col and made a variation on the return to take in some karst meadows, larches and a second fantastic viewpoint, this time of the Robertson Glacier.
We walked the Burstall Pass trail for 3.3 km to a former sawmill site where we used to park the car pre K Country (walking and biking up this logging road STILL rankles), and turned left up a grassy avenue. This is shortly before you come to the bike rack. A trail soon developed and in a few minutes led to a Y-junction of obvious logging roads at a cairn. More cairns and some flagging indicated a left turn up the steeper road. After the gradient eased off, the road narrowed to a trail that cut across to our valley creek, crossed it, then followed the right bank into the narrows beyond the trees. From here it was a simple walk to the stony basin below the col, in part made even easier by a snow-choked creek bed. From the basin, we plodded up snow (scree later in the season) to the col and messed round on the lower ridge of Burstall, gawking at the view.
Coming down, we headed straight through the karst to the sink shown on the topo map which turned out to be a meadow with frost humps. Next, we gained the north ridge of Piggy Plus and headed north to grassy bluffs poking up above the larches. What a beautiful viewpoint looking south to the Robertson Glacier and north to Snow Peak, Birdwood Pass and Mt. Birdwood! We could have lingered there for hours.
Don’t do what we did next, which was an attempt to descend the ridge to the north. There’s high cliffs on the left, tiered cliffs on the right—the topo map gives no clue about these—and successively dicier steps down the ridge itself. After descending a couple of “thank goodness we don’t have to climb back up that” steps, we came to what MIGHT have been the final step: steep mossy slabs and no trees to hang on to. I guess we’ll never know, because back up we toiled to the bluffs. By this time the thunderstorms has passed by and the sun had came out for the first time all day.
So after hanging around the bluffs and the larch forest, I recommend returning to the sink. In the high ground around the sink on the northeast side there’s a bit of a gap and here we found a game trail that led easily down the east slope to the creek at the one place that was obstacle free.
To sum up, a beautiful hike and relatively short if you bike the Burstall Pass trail. We’ll be back in the fall when the larches turn. Distance 13.1 km to col and back. Add on a kilometre if visiting the bluffs. Height gain 610 m + (2000 ft.+) High point c.2515 m (c. 8250 ft.) Incidentally, the map shows recommended routes and not our considerable ramblings down and up the north ridge of Piggy Plus.