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Mount Royal

180 Panoramic from Mount Royal Basecamp
The weather improved but the tops were still shrouded in cloud. So we moved on downstream and established camp to the North-East of Mount Royal. This was an idyllic spot. A small stand of spruce trees, our own eddy pool, copious deadwood for the fire and stunning mountain scenery all around. This would be our basecamp for the Mount Royal summit push! 

Mount Royal Basecamp
We were used to the mountaineering tradition of getting up early to get your climbing done and back down without risking benightment. It took a bit of getting used to that it never got dark this far North so it didn't really matter but we started out early none-the-less. The peak was hidden by cloud but we were fueled on blind optimism and the knowledge that we had no more spare days. We would climb the mountain today or we never would. The day started with a challenge. As almost perfect as our campsite was, there was one major draw back. We were effectively camped on an island as another braid of the river cut through between us and the mountain. Fortunately we had a canoe for just such occasions! So we dragged the boat across tundra like Polar explorers paddled about 25 metres and changed back into dry boots. This was our only safe route back to camp so we made sure to get the canoe high up on the bank and get a GPS fix before leaving it!

Mount Royal
Climbing a steep loose rock bank brought us to our next hurdle. A dense band of spruce forest. Ground that wanted to be bog but was dry at this time of year covered in low bushes making it hard going to find a good footing without falling over. A fair recompense though were the plentiful supply of bilberries that we near enough gorged ourselves on before reaching the Alpine zone. 

Bilberries
Entering the Alpine Zone

Beyond the trees the sun was strong and the limestone crenelations above us shone in contrast to the azure skies behind. Moss gave way to a jumble of rock. Hard walking but easier than fighting through the woods. We followed the stream bed in the hope that it would lead to a gentle basin at the heart of the mountain. Finally we could go no further. The stream had cut deep into the Rock and we were starting to get tangled in a small canyon waterfall. After some lunch we decided to give the summit one last go linking steep racks together using patches of spruce as a sign that the rock at least probably wasn't completely vertical. We came close. 

Limestone Crenelations

The High Col We Climbed To

Tantalisingly so. If we had been doing it in the UK if I'm honest there is a good chance we would have risked it. Reaching up for the next handhold and glancing down to see that without me really noticing I was now only attached to 80 degree rock by a few millimetres of rubber on my hiking boots. Beyond this miracle of vulcanization my dad looked on, a little concerned perhaps but mainly focusing on just staying in place on the loose scree he was occupying. Beneath us the scree fell away into the valley a thousand feet below hitting trees and rock buttresses on the way. Summit fever is a real thing and it was hard to turn away having come so far. The slightest accident that remote would have been disastrous. We crawled back down into the valley, disappointed to have not reached the top but happy with our decision and thankful to still be in one piece. 

Finding Ourselves on Seriously Steep Ground
On the way down we had a magical treat when a herd of Caribou wandered past. We hid behind the bank to watch and photograph them. The wind changed for a moment and we were rumbled, the herd took flight. 

Large Caribou Bull

Back at camp we had a big old fire and celebrated a great day in the hills. Nature must have been in an equally jubilant mood as the sky lit up in shades of pink. As the subtle light show came to an end I feel really quite emotional. This would be our last night in the proper mountains. In the morning we would start to leave the alpine behind and have tundra hills instead. We were sad to say goodbye.

Pinky Sunset