Altitude: 1043m to 1711m. Gain: 1725m. Loss: 1911m . Gradient: 22 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/6)
From the forks in the head of Death Valley, climb the northern branch of the valley towards the col between pt 1951 and pt1933. For those coming from the tarn in the east branch it is not necessary to descend to the forks - the northern valley side can be sidled from 50m below the tarn into the north branch.
Climb over the large wall of terminal moraine and drop onto the remains of the Death Valley glacier. This was 10m wide & 4m thick when I visited in late Jan - but provides preferable travel to loose unstable moraine beside it. Climb the glacier to the valley head - an ice-axe is advisable.
From the col, descend into the head basin of Double Barrel down steep scree slopes. The creek soon cuts into a gorged series of cascades - but good grassy terraces bypass the falls on the true left, leading to a broad scree ramp giving access down to the main valley. The valley floor is scrubby - but the creek was dry for most of its length when I visited (late Jan) and gave good travel.
To access the Fraser you are best following the creek down to the forks with the side-creek draining the pass into the Fraser, and then returning back up that creek to the pass. The 'short cut' indicated on my route is steep and exposed and not recommended. The last 200m to the pass are on steep unstable scree and are hard going - an ice-axe is recommended or poles.
Note, you are aiming for the southern of the two passes - a potential route does exists to the northern pass but it involves climbing a steep scree chute and a sidle across a narrow ledge and may-or-may-not 'go'.
From the pass with the Fraser, good stable scree leads down into the valley head where two basins separated by lateral moraine lie. I took the true left basin and followed it down to the valley floor, but wither will go ok.
Note: For those headed for the Fraser-Emily Col it is not necessary to descend all the way to the valley floor- sidle the northern faces just below steep bluffs to access the gut leading to the pass 100m above the valley floor.
Kay Saddle - Fraser: 4-8hrs