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Ascent of Mount Cronin on 2017-09-05

Climber: John Stolk

Date:Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Cronin
    Location:Canada-British Columbia
    Elevation:7861 ft / 2396 m

Ascent Trip Report

Mount Cronin
Elevation : 7861 feet
Prominence: 5154 feet
Location : 54:55.8 N –126:51.8 W
Backroads Mapbook: Northern BC (2nd edition*), Map 36:D4 <3rd edition also>
Climb Length: Possible in one very long day but preferably done as an overnight.
Elevation gain: ~5000 feet.
Difficulty: Class 3, crampons and ice ax advised
Others in Party: Grant Myers. Climbed September 5, 2017.

Additional resources:
Grant Myers beautiful photographs can be found on Shutterfly:
https://peakpics.shutterfly.com/12057

Park Information including maps and brochures
http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/babine_mtn/

Overview:
Mount Cronin is located northeast of the town of Smithers, British Columbia. Smithers is the best place in the region to stock up on gas and supplies and includes several outdoor stores and for good coffee check out Bugwood Bean on Main Street. Hudson Bay Mountain, another Ultra-prominence peak dominates the skyline to the west.

Mount Cronin lies within Babine Mountains Provincial Park which includes spruce, fir, lodge pole pine and aspen as well as areas of alpine tundra and rugged glaciated peaks. Prior to its status as a provincial park in 1984 these mountains saw considerable mining activity primarily for silver, but also for gold and lead, and mine artifacts can still be seen in Silver King Basin.

In 1999 a beautiful recreational cabin was built replacing an old mining cabin within the Silver King basin which was being threatened by renewed mining interest. The park and cabin are popular with locals for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing. As a result of all the activity we were told that although grizzly bears are present in the region they are generally absent from the trail and basin. Also while staying at the cabin Grant and I met the grandson and great grandson of one of the original settlers who is pictured in an old photograph hanging on the wall. Although the Messner family now live in New York they still return every few years to vacation in the area.

The climb of Mount Cronin can be done in one long day from the parking lot but the beauty of the basin and the convenience of the cabin make this a great overnight outing.

Directions:
Upon entering Smithers on Highway 16 from the south, turn right on Old Babine Road. The turn is just before the bridge crossing the Bulkley River and signed “Driftwood Canyon 11km”. Follow the signs to Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park. Along the way make a left onto the Telkwa High Road and then a right onto the Driftwood Creek Road. Continue beyond the picnic area at the Fossil Beds day use site at the small Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park and drive a few kilometers further to the trailhead at the gated parking area near the boundary of the Babine Mountains Provincial Park. Just about any passenger vehicle is suitable for the approach which is paved most of the way to the Fossil Beds.

Route Information:
From the gate at the end of the road it is about 5.5 miles (3+ hours) hike to the Joe L’Orsa cabin on an old road bed with a gain of around 1600 feet. The cabin sleeps about 20 on a first come, first served basis in 4 separate bunk rooms. Cost is 10 dollars/night/person. Consider carrying a tent just in case the cabin is full.

From the cabin continue up the trail into the basin to near some old mining relics where a bridge crosses Driftwood Creek. The easy to follow trail heads up in steep switchbacks toward Hyland Pass to the east. From a short distance beyond the top of the switchbacks ascend the slope above to the very broad obvious ridge/plateau that heads north toward Cronin. We left the trail west of the pass heading up grass and talus slopes occasionally following traces of a very faint old mining trail. Once on the gently climbing plateau we headed north to the broad false summit at just over 2300 meters. Up to this point the terrain is Class 1+ and from here you can finally see the true summit of Cronin which looks rather intimidating.

At this point the idea is to get past the sharp southern sub-summit (2340+meters) ahead of you to an area just west and downhill of the col between this sub-summit and the main summit. We descended loose talus to the glacier left (west) and avoided the steep ridge. Ice ax and crampons were used as it was very icy despite the moderate angle. No significant crevasses were present on the upper part of the glacier where we crossed. It has been reported that the ridge over the sub-summit also goes (probably Class 2-3) if you are looking to avoid the glacier.

Once across the glacier we were confronted with a steep rock wall that looked much more difficult than it actually turned out to be (do not be discouraged). From 100-200 meters west and downhill from the col, survey the base of the wall and look for a somewhat inconspicuous ramp/gully heading up and to the east. There was a cairn marking the spot and we added another to make it a bit easier to find.

Follow the ramp up and to the right where a ledge continues to the right (east). At the end of this ledge the route turns back west in an ascending traverse (a very large cairn higher up helped show the way in this area). It is possible that an easier way proceeds leftward and lower around a corner of a rock tower at this point although we did not explore this fully. In general the route we took never exceeded hard Class 3 and was cairned much of the way. The final 100 feet easily ascends talus and dirt to the summit. Total elevation gain from the cabin to the summit is about 3400 feet which includes the descent onto the glacier.



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