Once we descended from Christian Peak and looped back to our traverse tracks from the day before, we decided to give Arctomys Peak a try. I think we all underestimated the amount of effort required to get all the way over to the eastern edge of the Lyell Icefield from the south ridge of Christian Peak, never mind the effort to then descend 400 vertical meters, cross another small icefield and then re-ascend to the summit of Arctomys. Now reverse it all the way back to the Lyell Hut!! Sometimes we are just suckers for punishment.
[It's a long bloody way from Christian to Arctomys - and a ton of height loss / gains along the way. ++]
As we labored across the Lyell Icefield, further and further from our cozy hut, under a blazing and relentless fireball overhead, we engaged in vigorous debates about if we should continue or not. It was a bit comical and a bit depressing. At different times, different people were motivated to keep going. Steven initially suggested we try for Arctomys. Then, while he and Ben started leaning away from the effort, I encouraged them to continue the effort. Then I started backing off once I saw the incredible amount of height loss we had to do and Steven was back encouraging us to continue. Ben was right in the middle - sort of wishing he wasn't there and sort of wishing we'd get to the summit already! Eventually we arrived on the eastern edge of the main Lyell Icefield and found ourselves negotiating some sagging bridges to a small icefield leading to the lower west ridge of Arctomys. It was funny, standing at the same height as the peak, looking across all that elevation loss / gain and wondering why the hell we were doing this again?! Peakbaggers can be such idiots sometimes.
[After descending to the main Lyell Glacier, we can't even see Arctomys anymore! It's far beyond the distant rise at center left somewhere.]
[It's a gorgeous day as I glance north towards the Lyells. It's almost too gorgeous though - the sun and the glare off the snow is becoming an issue for my eyes.]
[Cresting the rise on the eastern edge of the Lyell Glacier, Arctomys is finally visible again (right of center), and below us at this point. Don't think Ben is wearing his jacket because it's cold - he's trying to shelter his skin from the relentless fireball above us. At this point we were all feeling fried already - with many hours still ahead of us.]
[An incredible view starts appearing in front of us. The lush green valley at center is known as "The Valley of a Thousand Lakes". Erasmus rises over Arctomys at center right with Sullivan Peak further right.]
[Ben and I really wanted to turn around at this point. We figured we already got a great view so why not? Steven thankfully pushed us onwards.. There's at least 400 vertical meters of loss and regain at this point. Note that we are still higher than Arctomys at this point and we've already descended a bit off the main icefield. ++]
[Looking back at our tracks curving off the main Lyell Glacier in our attempt to avoid crevasses on the eastern edge of the icefield where the slope rolls downhill.]
[Like any icefield, the distances and elevation changes are drastically under represented from our vantage. The lower icefield along the rock rib right of center is at least 350-400 vertical meters below us at this point.]
[Losing hundreds of meters of height into the baking hot bowl just west of Arctomys ascent ridge. The sun was focused here and there was no wind - it was relentless and we were all sick of the heat and sun already at this point.]
[Finally approaching the bottom icefield leading towards the south shoulder of Arctomys that we'll ascend another 400m.]
It felt good to take the snowshoes off for the south shoulder / west ridge ascent of Arctomys, but it also felt bad. It felt good because 'shoes are heavy and somewhat unbalanced, but it felt bad because we were so far from the hut and truly committed to this diminutive peak and I was wondering WHY? Well - I soon found out. There is a very good reason to scramble Arctomys Peak, if you have the opportunity. The view from it's summit ridge is probably among the top 10 I've had on any mountain, anywhere in the Rockies. It was that good! As we slowly gained height on the ridge, we glimpsed views into the Arctomys Creek valley far below on the north side of the peak. As I overheated my camera I was again reminded that the best views are often from the smaller peaks surrounding by huge ones. Mountains look a bit dull from too high - they lose a bit of their grandeur when everything is lower than you.
[Working our way up the rubbly west ridge of Arctomys, looking back at Ben and the Lyell Glacier with the lovely green Lyell Meadows and Mount Forbes at center. Accessing the Lyells from Glacier Lake is via the Lyell Meadows, working through the cliff bands somewhere just below us here and then upwards.]
[The views are improving, but guess what? Even more height gain / loss once we're on the west ridge! That was a theme for our weekend. You could never count on simply climbing and descending. Everything involved long traverses and many hundreds of meters of height gain / loss in each direction.]
[Looking down the west ridge and south shoulder (L) of Arctomys back at the Lyells and their icefield. Note the large rock hump t center that we descended past on lookers right.]
[Finally we've gained enough height to start feeling a nice cool breeze. It felt hella-good to be off the icefield for a bit! The summit of Arctomys still eluding us here.]
The views improved until we could see the incredible plunge of the Lyell Glacier hundreds of meters down to Arctomys Lake with a crashing waterfall and a thin ribbon of water wandering off down the green valley far below, accumulating in many distant, sparkling lakes along the way. Honestly, I've seen some good views in my hundreds of summits, but Arctomys was extra impressive. We spent almost an hour at the windless summit, enjoying the sublime views in all directions and catching a few moments of shuteye in the very hot sun. Even the westerly winds were warm on the summit.
[Now we're talking! Check out those incredible views. Still not at the summit but Arctomys Creek and the Valley of Lake is a lovely paradise far below. ++]
[Finally on the last bit of ridge to the summit.]
[Ben is now glad we push on to this diminutive peak with its grand views. ++]
[The Lyell Glacier plunges hundreds of meters to Arctomys Lake in a series of impressive waterfalls.]
[A zoomed out view of the Lyell Icefall to Arctomys Lake and the headwaters of Arctomys Creek and the Valley of Lakes.]
[I can't think of a lovelier, more hidden lake than Arctomys. I doubt too many folks have dipped their toes in her waters.]
[Probably my favorite view from the entire weekend is this one, looking north off the summit of Arctomys at the Lyell Glacier draining into Arctomys Lake and Creek before running off down a lush valley (Valley of Lakes) towards countless distant sparkling lakes nestled beneath the brooding hulks of Erasmus and Amery. Not many people are even aware this valley exists and it's very rarely visited as there are no official trails through it. ++]
[Ben sits at the summit with the lush Valley of Lakes and Arctomys Creek running towards hwy #93 behind him.]
[Arctomys might be diminutive but it doesn't feel that way when you've finally attained her summit!]
[The Valley of Lakes is among the most lush alpine valley I've ever had the privilege of gazing down. Erasmus and Sullivan at right and Monchy / Hooge / Amery at left.]
[The views of the Lyell Icefield are also very impressive, leading towards Mount Forbes on the left. Lyell Meadows are obvious beneath Arctomys. ++]
[A shot over the Lyell Meadows and the impressive ice fall from the Lyell Glacier towards Mount Forbes. The original access route for the Lyell Glacier was right up this ice fall when it was much less broken! The long route from Glacier Lake is now up broken moraines in the foreground and through chossy cliffs to the right.]
[A gorgeous head-on view of the mighty 11,851 ft Mount Forbes - which I would climb in 2016, in perfect conditions.]
[An incredible view of the 5 Lyells. From L to R, Christian, Walter, Ernest, Edward and Rudolph. ++]
[The incredible amount of vertical relief between the summit of Edward Peak and Arctomys Lake is around 1800 meters or 6,000 feet!]
After our break on the summit we all agreed that doing Arctomys was a great idea. The experience was much better than we expected it to be and this gem of a peak probably doesn't see very many visitors either - it's way out there and doesn't look impressive from below. The views that its summit offers, are not obvious when looking down on it from the Lyell Glacier. Of course, now we had a long, hot slog across the icefield to the Lyell Hut ahead of us. And it was a long slog! My eyes were so irritated by the sun's reflective glare that I wore my gaiters under my cap as huge peripheral blockers - it worked surprisingly well. Finally, after ascending the icefield, ascending up and then down the south ridge of Christian Peak and then reascending to the Lyell Hut we were finished another long day with incredible views. We could spot smoke from a new forest fire just west of our area from the hut and knew that the next day would be another scorcher with no over night freeze. Our chances of summitting Walter Peak were extremely thin and we started thinking about other options for our last day.
[Steven tackles "the crux" on Arctomys' west ridge - a moderate low cliff band.]
[Starting the long snowshoe trek, back up the Lyell Glacier. We're not messing around with the rope either - snow bridges are weakening in the hot sun.]
[A familiar view of the five Lyell peaks as we re-cross the main glacier.]
[Hours later we are now descending the south ridge of Christian Peak to the bowl under the Lyell Hut which is on the rock shoulder above Steven's head. From this bowl we have to ascend back up to the hut.]
[Clear signs of a forest fire burning somewhere beyond Cockscomb Mountain to the west.]
[Another nice sunset - this one 'helped' by forest fires starting to the west. ++]
[The fire seems to have calmed down as the sun sets over Cockscomb Mountain to the west of the Lyell Hut.]
Arctomys Peak is another example of a minor summit having unexpectedly fantastic views. Being surrounded by giants such as the Lyells, Forbes, Amery and Erasmus contributes to its stunning setting. I'm not sure it's worth a trip all the way up the Glacier Lake trail but for the intrepid peakbagger who appreciates something out of the way and off the beaten path, Arctomys certainly fits that description perfectly.