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Princess Mary, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 3084
Elevation Gain (m): 1800
Round Trip Time (hr): 24
Total Trip Distance (km): 28
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or worse
Difficulty Notes: Steep, loose southwest gully to a loose, low 5th scramble up the summit block. Ice or snow would complicate things greatly.
GPS Track Download – Approach to South BivyDownload GPX File
GPS Track Download – Princess Mary from South Bivy: Download GPX File
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)
MapGoogle Maps


After descending the glacier and loose scree of King George’s upper mountain, we realized that with a whole afternoon still ahead of us and perfect weather, we should attempt a scramble of Mount Princess Mary. After all, there was no way we were slogging all the way back here again – no matter how beautiful it was. I had printed out a trip report from Rick Collier’s successful scramble of Princess Mary, but in my early morning fog of sleepiness I hadn’t packed it along. Oh well. We’d be adventurous and see if we could guess a good route from below. The spirit of adventure lives on! We only had a limited choice from our current vantage point on King George. There was an upper scree bench on Princess Mary’s west side and a lower one. The upper one looked hard to reach, so we opted for the lower one, hoping to traverse around it and find a reasonable ascent line somewhere.

King George and Royal Group Video
Mount Princess Mary from Bivy Route Map.

We were all feeling a bit bagged so we put one condition on the ascent. It would have to be fair means – i.e. a scramble, not a climb. We didn’t have the energy or will to pitch it out. Steven led the way along the rubble slope and before long we rounded a corner and found ourselves staring up at a huge staircase bowl leading all the way up to the summit block. Of course we had no idea at the time, but this is likely the same gully Rick used in 1990 to ascend the peak.

Steep scrambling lower down – this was the easier stuff near the bottom.
Ascending above the steeper lower terrain to the even steeper upper terrain.

We dropped most of our gear at the bottom of the gully before slowly starting up – each person picking their own line (this avoided rock fall issues as the terrain was horribly loose). We picked our way up the bowl, eventually working to climber’s right on a fairly easy ridge to the upper summit block where things got interesting. We managed to get up a loose, steep gully (4th class) before topping out near the col between the true summit on our left and a false summit on our right. The terrain from here to the summit was much more serious and probably breached low 5th class a few times for short sections.

We all made it to the summit – Steven took the ridge direct, Ben took most of the ridge and Eric and I found a third way! Whatever works! The views of King George were fabulous, it was hard to believe we were just up there.

King George at far right and views to the west and then east to Joffre at far left.
Pano includes (L to R) Northover Lyautey, Sarrail, Foch, Warrior, Cordonnier, Petain Joffre, Abruzzi and many more.
Prince Albert and King George at left in this view over the “normal” bivy site. Joffre at distant right.

After signing another old register (1970) we started the slow and careful descent. I was initially a bit worried about it, but taking our time and sticking close together made it pleasant enough. Soon we were at the gear drop and done all the hard stuff.

Careful downclimbing off the summit block.
Traversing off Princess Mary with King George rising above at right.

We ambled towards the gorgeous south glacier bivy site and packed up camp before heading off for the Prince Albert / “normal” King George bivy site in anticipation of Sunday’s planned objectives, Prince Albert and Prince George.

Looking forward to the world’s nicest bivy! Located at the stand of trees – a very nice spot.
At the bivy site.

The traverse to the main bivy site near the east glacier and south ridge approach was more involved than I was expecting. We initially had a trail (the same one we’d followed up the night before in pitch darkness) but eventually we wanted to traverse around the south end of Princess Mary and back towards the east glacier valley. We managed to find a route through and walked into a very spacious and deluxe bivy site with plenty of daylight to spare.

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