Distance: 8.7 km (10.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1183m to 1820m. Gain: 898m. Loss: 1165m . Gradient: 14 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7) - Streams (2/6) Winter - High avalanche risk, iceaxe/crampons (7/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the small tarn at the head of the western stream flowing into Lake Unknown, climb to the head of the basin and then to the northeast onto the ridge line. Gentle slopes lead up to the 1540m contour over mixed grass and rock slabs, and there's clusters of tarns on the top of the climb with camp sites. Head northwest and descend down slopes to reach the large grassy area at the head of the large tarn west of Pt1544. This is the start of a staircase of tarns which form the northwest stream shown on the topomap dropping into Lake Unknown. There are great looking camp sites here but you are well away from the main attraction of the area; Lake Unknown!

Head around the western shore of the large tarn, and scramble through some large boulders above the tarn's outlet to reach the stream as it drops down towards the long skinny tarn north of Pt1544. Head around the northern shore of this second tarn to reach a point where you can overlook the third and fourth tarns of the staircase. There is more great camping beside the third tarn with nearby vantage points of Lake Unknown.

Northeast of the third tarn, ascend rocky slopes that lead up the southern flank of Mt Chaos. Following the natural curve of the slopes leads you up to the northwest and into the snow slopes shown on the topomap. In December 2020 the slopes were mostly separated by big slabs of rock. Going up the slopes, an ice axe was useful but not overly required. Come down them an axe would be required. Looking at satellite photos of the area, by late Summer the snow is pretty much all gone.

A large slabby ridge runs southwest from Pt1918 and upon reaching the crest of it, the first view of the large basin between Minos and Amphion Peaks (informally known as "Iceland") can be seen. If you drop your pack off here, it's a short 15 minute climb up the ridge to reach Pt1918 for spectacular views of almost the entire length of the Beans Burn.

The descent into "Iceland" begins on the northwestern side of the ridge, on the snow fields shown on the topomap (not present on the aerial photos from later in summer). In December 2020 an ice axe was useful here. Drop off the ridge and begin descending down into an obvious gully at the foot of the snow slopes shown on the topomap, keeping on the southern side. After a short descent, a large slabby ledge should be visible descending to the south. It is a straight forward descent down the ledge to reach more open terrain on the ridge that separates the Lake Unknown basin from the "Iceland" basin. Once off the slabs, pick a descent route down steep slopes into the stream draining the upper gully you just came down. The upper reaches of this gully look like a major avalanche chute, in December 2020 there was a huge slab of snow at the top of the gully waiting to come crashing down it, so early in the season don't hang around here! The stream offers a steep and sometimes unstable rocky descent down into "Iceland", more open slopes to the north provide easier travel, lower down.

The basin of "Iceland", about 4 hours from the third tarn of the lake staircase, is an amazing place, especially early Summer. Snowfields and waterfalls tumble off sheer cliffs that ring the walls of the basins head. Streams crisscross the valley floor, with low hills, presumably old glacier moraines but now filled in and covered with grass, dotted around. In December 2020 the head of the basin was mostly stony with the grassy areas boggy, but there were drier spots for camping further south.

The route out off "Iceland" climbs the slopes south of a stream flowing into the basin from the west. Grassy slopes lead up to the west initially but then curve south up a terrace under a line of large bluffs. The main ridge climbs from near Pt1545 up to the lower slopes of Amphion Peak via a series of ridges running southeast to northwest, separated by bluffs. Keep climbing to the southwest, always looking for a route up to the next ridge on its southeastern side. Once on the main ridge, its a straight forward climb up to the northwest, bypassing any obstacles on the "Iceland" side of the main ridge.

A large scree filled saddle exists at the top of the ridge, beneath the soaring bluffs of Amphion Peak. Begin heading west and then southwest to skirt around a boulder field, and begin descending scree slopes above an obvious gully dropping southwest underneath Amphion. Its a steep but straightforward descent of about 150m, looking to cross the gully where the large bluffy slabs end on the true right side. Smaller slabs provide an easy crossing point of the gully. Once across, climb steeply to the north. A slope of scree leads up to where a very steep snow slope in December 2020 hid more slabs. Unstable scree on the western side of the snow/slabs provide an alternative route up to the top of the ridge dropping southwest off Amphion.

From here, you should be to see the Park Glacier and melt lake if its not in the cloud. Sidle north across scree slopes. The area west of Amphion, above the lake outlet is extremely bluffy, but thankfully there's a good route leading almost straight down to the outlet underneath the bluffs, keeping above the bluffy terrain dropping into the lower outlet stream. The outlet exits the lake via a small glacial polished gully. Early in the season its a simple task to jump across the stream, keeping your boots dry, but later in the season when its full of ice melt you might need to wade across the outlet stream!

Bluffs ring the northwestern approach to the outlet, but there's a viable route up gullies and ledges on the northeastern side of the ridge. Climb up to the northwest and cross rolling terrain. A huge freestanding boulder on the southern side of one of the hills marks the ridge you need to descend to the west-southwest towards Park Pass. This is a tricky descent in cloud so a GPS is highly recommended. In general, you want to keep to the northern side of the ridge, but not too far north as you don't want to descend into that stream north of the ridge shown on the topomap. You also don't want to be on the southern side of the ridge, which lower down, was highly scoured out from the February 2020 storm. Steep, wet and slippery slopes in the middle of the ridge make descent tricky if you wander into them. At about the 1300m contour follow the natural curve of the ridge around to the south. Keep an eye out for a gully off the eastern side of the ridge. You actually need to get off the ridge into that gully as the ridge bluffs out lower down. There is a break in the bluffs at roughly 1240m, marked with a small cairn, that provides an easy descent into the gully. Once in the gully follow it down onto the rolling terrain of Park Pass. The large tarn on the pass provides an obvious land mark. A light trail heads down the hill from near the tarn to the Rock Burn bivvy rock, about 15 minutes from the tarn.

Head of western inlet to staircase third tarn: 1-2 hours.
Staircase third tarn to "Iceland": 3-4 hours.
"Iceland" to Park Glacier outlet: 2-3 hours.
Park Glacier to Park Pass: 1 hour.

Last updated by: Yarmoss at 2021-01-07 15:37:32. Experienced: 2020-12-16
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