On August 25/26 I joined Kevin Barton and Eric Coulthard for a trip up Mount Fryatt in Jasper National Park. This mountain has been on my radar for a number of years due to its remoteness and the beautiful bivy site that was rumored to exist under the SW face. When Raf climbed Fryatt back in 2009 I was quite disappointed that I couldn't join him. I waited patiently for three years and made my ascent in perfect conditions. Sometimes I get the sense that I'm rushing to complete peaks - this trip proved once again that it's the journey that counts - not the summit. The hike in along all the Geraldine lakes was also very appealing to me. I've never done the other route up the Fryatt valley but the Geraldine Lakes route is just that - more of a 'route' than a 'trail' in places, but much shorter distance-wise and extremely scenic.
We approached the base of the SW face on Saturday, August 25. After a long drive to the not-so-obvious trailhead we geared up and started up a muddy approach trail to the first Geraldine Lake. The entire route past the five Geraldine Lakes and up to the alpine meadows north of Fryatt was gorgeous, but a bit under-developed (not really a bad thing). The two images that stand out most in my mind from the approach hike is "boulders" and "mud". It's one of the most beautiful areas I've been to in the Rockies. Wild flowers were still blooming but a month ago it must have been stunning with carpets of endless flowers everywhere! Towering peaks reflected their brooding faces in the crystal clear lakes while loons and bubbling streams added a symphony to an image that is truly remarkable and unique. Like anything worthwhile though, you have to work for it. Reaching the fifth and final Geraldine Lake takes determination, some scars (from boulders and trees) and route finding. Not making our lives any easier was the recent snow / rain that continued to fall on the first half of our approach, making the quartzite boulder hopping around the third Geraldine Lake very slick and somewhat disconcerting.
[A wet trail to the first lake.]
[At the first lake the trail follows the lake shore closely.]
[A wild stream at the inlet to the first lake.]
[After the first lake we arrive at a much smaller lake - presumably the "second" lake. This is the view of the waterfall at the end of it, coming down from the third Geraldine Lake.]
[The terrain to the waterfall draining the third lake is already less traveled than around the first lake.]
[Looking back along the 2nd Geraldine Lake. ++]
[Avalanche debris has been cleared up to the second lake. From there you're on your own!]
[Heading up beside the large waterfall draining the 3rd Geraldine Lake.]
[Looking back over the 1st from near the 3rd Geraldine Lake.]
[Looking along the 3rd Geraldine Lake, you can see rain drops on the water surface which made the rock-hopping very treacherous]
[Looking back over the 3rd Geraldine Lake with Geraldine Peak rising on the left. ++]
[This might have been fun for about 5 minutes. I sucked after that though. Note the cairn in the foreground.]
[Heading up wilder terrain to the fourth lake.]
[Thank goodness there's a trail in this stuff!]
[Just don't expect an obvious trail all of the time. ;)]
[Steep grunt to the fourth lake.]
[The gorgeous fourth lake where we crossed the outlet stream. Fryatt in the clouds - we're hoping it's drying off!]
[Hiking along the shoreline of the fourth Geraldine Lake with Fryatt looming in the bg.]
[Looking back at the fourth lake. ++]
We were a little bit disappointed in the weather. Light rain showers made the boulders slick and worse, there was a considerable dusting of fresh snow up high on the local peaks. The sun started to shine more and more throughout the day and our spirits lifted with each ray of its warmth. We hoped that the snow up high was melting fast enough to ensure dry pitches of climbing the next day.
As we made our way up to the fourth Geraldine Lake the wild flowers started coming out in full force. We had a few moments of searching for a route across the outlet stream of the fourth lake, but we all managed to cross without taking our boots off. (Some were drier than others after this effort...) Hiking around the fourth lake with Fryatt looming above us was quite spectacular. With fresh snow, the north face / ridge looked fairly intimidating but it was exciting to know that I'd finally be up there in less than 12 hours after waiting many years for this opportunity.
[Having a trail between the 4th and 5th lakes was nice.]
[The gorgeous environs of the fifth Geraldine Lake]
[The fifth lake is the second largest and beautiful. Wild flowers are everywhere and Mount Fryatt looms in the distance. ++]
[After the fifth lake we went through carpets of wild flowers to reach the alpine meadows beyond.]
[A small waterfall along the way to the alpine meadows above the fifth lake.]
[Looking back to the 5th lake and the small stream feeding into it.]
[Looking back over the fifth Geraldine Lake.]
[Back on an obvious trail now - heading into the alpine meadow section.]
We wanted to reach "Iceberg Lake" directly under the SW face of Fryatt before settling in for the night. After the fifth and final Geraldine Lake we made our way up to the alpine meadows north of Fryatt on a surprisingly clear trail that seemed to come from nowhere (!) and made our way up and around the west ridge of Fryatt. For some reason the bugs were relentless up in the alpine meadows here! We hardly noticed them down by the lakes but at the meadows they swarmed us. Not a lot of biting, but a ton of swarming - we were breathing them in there was so many. Raf's team bivied in these meadows and it wasn't fun due to the bugs - I would suggest going further into the alpine if you can, even though the meadows are a perfect place to camp.
[The alpine meadows above the 5th Geraldine Lake provide great views of the north ridge and east face of Fryatt.]
[Amazing views confronted us as we hit the alpine meadows beyond the fifth lake. Mount Fryatt is most impressive with the right skyline ridge the West Ridge alpine route.]
[Looking back over the fifth, fourth and third Geraldine Lakes. ++]
[The alpine meadows are a magical place. ++]
[Pano of Fryatt with Mount Belanger and Lapensee just peaking (pun intended) out on the right. ++]
[How many bugs do you count? :) Gorgeous alpine meadows and great views of Fryatt - note the north glacier.]
[Geraldine S4 is the prominent peak from the alpine meadows, looking north, just before we traverse above Divergence Lake (to the left). ++]
The west ridge looks like a good route - even if you bypass the 5.8 climbing at the top to join up with the SW face route. It would likely have much less rock fall issues than the face. We contoured around the steep slopes above Divergence Lake (gorgeous but painful on the feet) before using as much snow as possible to hike up underneath the headwall protecting Iceberg Lake and the SW face. We made our way past a scenic waterfall coming down the wall and found a decent route on the south end. I could see this headwall being a pain in the dark - I would suggest bivying above it if you can. Via head lamp you'll probably end up doing more difficult climbing than necessary to get through it - it should only be a scramble. Again, I've heard of folks rapping here and this is completely avoidable if you just go far enough south.
Eric kept talking about skiing up "Fat Bastard" - the bump to the west of Iceberg Lake. I think he just liked the name!
[Looking over at Fryatt (L) and Fryatt SW2 (C) and "Fat Bastard" (R) before we start the traverse above Divergence Lake. ++]
[This is the painful side-hill traverse that brings you under the final headwall to access the SW bowl / face of Fryatt. We traversed all the way to the third snow patch to cut through the headwall. Lots of sheep here, Divergence Lake is out of sight to the right and Fryatt SW2 is the prominent peak visible here - you can ski or walk up from the other side.]
[Upper Divergence Lake with the lower one just visible and Curl Peak rising in the distance at center.]
[Looking back at the meadows as we start the grinding traverse.]
[Gorgeous Upper Divergence Lake.]
[Can't get enough of these views!]
[Looking ahead to the flatter bowl between Fryatt (L) and Fat Bastard (C). This area is understandably heaven for goats!]
[Using snow patches to gain height to the headwall guarding Iceberg Lake.]
[We take a break before heading for the sliver of snow in the background (first one - barely visible) which we'll follow through a break in the lower cliff band.]
[Routefinding through this terrain can be problematic in the dark, so I recommend bivying up at the lake rather than below it.]
[Finally breaking through the headwall, Fryatt towering over Eric here.]
Once through the headwall we were presented with a head-on view of Fryatt's SW face and Iceberg Lake sparkling in front of it - complete with an 'iceberg' - sort of. We didn't like the fresh snow on the upper slopes but the sun was starting to finally warm things up so hopefully some melting could take place over the next 2-3 hours before dark. We contoured around the lake on it's northern shore and found a perfect bivy under the SW face on top of several waterfalls plunging into the lake far below us. This is probably a top 2 bivy spot for me, and I've bivied in some pretty gorgeous places in the Rockies. With plenty of running water, towering peaks, protection from the weather and a nice flat area this lake front property is an extremely excellent bivy! We spent the beautiful late afternoon / evening scouting out the SW face and our nice location, taking many sunset shots of Iceberg Lake.
After some consultation we decided to take an obvious scree slope to the NE of our camp up to the Fryatt / 9900' col before traversing north to the SW face of Fryatt. This would avoid some of the more serious rock fall hazards on the lower SW face and would be an easy exit once the climbing was done. It took us just over 7 hours to reach the bivy. We were in bed by 21:30 with a wakeup time of 04:00.
[Iceberg Lake and the slope we used to access the SW face rising on the left. Fryatt SW2 on the right. ++]
[Eric eats supper at our delightful bivy. Iceberg Lake is about 40 feet below us here.]
[Looking at our bivy with Fryatt SW2 on the right and peak 9900' rising on the left. ++]
[It doesn't get any better than this. Waterfalls run down all along our bivy above the lake, providing us with an endless supply of fresh, cold water.]
[Water pours over the steep cliffs dropping into Iceberg Lake near our bivy site]
[Looking at our bivy from above. I put rocks around mine (left) because of the 40 foot drop to the lake right by it!]
[Setting sun on Iceberg Lake. ++]
[More sunset - looking west over Divergent Lake at Elephas and Mastodon Mountains in the far distance with the Elaphas Glacier.]
I slept great (I love my Exped with its down warmth and goodness... ;)) and woke up 10 minutes before my alarm, psyched to start the climb. The Milky Way was in full display above us and I took a few photos as the other guys got ready. I saw 3 shooting stars which made me optimistic for the long day ahead of us. I was excited rather than nervous, I get this way more often on bigger objectives. I can be nervous the day or week before the climb, but on the morning of the action, I get really psyched and can't wait to get moving.
[Waking up early to a nice night sky reflected in the lake.]
We had made the decision the evening before, to traverse the SW face from the col with peak 9900' before ascending obvious gullies to the west ridge and then to the summit block. We made good time up the endless scree slope to the col, under head lamp, and popped out at the col at 06:30 - just as the sun was starting to rise. This was perfect timing as we needed daylight for the SW face. The morning views, especially to the west, were absolutely mind blowing already. It was shaping up to be one of the most special days I've had in the Rockies. The SW face looked reasonably dry as the sun rose, which was a relief after seeing the fresh snow the day before. There was some snow, but we were hoping it would help instead of hurt our chances of success.
[The SW face of Fryatt looms ominously in the pre-dawn dark as we gain height to the 9900' col. There's still fresh snow, but hopefully not enough to be an issue.]
[It's still very dark as we make our way up the first scree slope.]
[A gorgeous sunrise to the east as we pop onto the 9900' col.]
[Incredible lighting to the southwest including Belanger (L) and Lapensee (R). The north face of Serenity Peak at center.]
[Morning panorama from the 9900' col includes from L to R, Belanger, Serenity, Lapensee, "Fat Bastard", Scott, Alnus, Divergence, Evans, Oventop Ridge, Beacon and of course many, many others in the far distance. ++]
From the col we followed cairns and the odd bits of trail up the SW face. It's impossible to describe the route perfectly - basically go up and traverse towards the west ridge (climber's left). We used solid snow in the gullies to gain quick elevation but this did involve some steep snow climbing with sections of pretty hard ice for good measure. Aluminum crampons felt a bit under-tooled for the icy sections. We didn't protect any of the snow climbing, but we all feel comfortable on steep snow. I think some of the moves we made on the ice / snow were the trickiest part of our day. There was one section in particular where both Eric and I were clinging to the tiniest little holds on our front points and the tip of our axes thinking, "why didn't I bring ice tools?!". Of course Barton made it look pretty easy. ;-)
The rock was pretty loose lower down on the face too. A large climbing party could be an issue here. Route finding is key to keeping the lower face within the realm of 'scrambling'. If you stick to the ridge from the 9900' col you will be on 5th class terrain pretty quickly.
[Traversing easy scree from the col before heading up the SW face.]
[The sun finally rises on the surrounding peaks - notably peak 9900' on the left, with Belanger and Lapensee catching alpine glow over Fat Bastard. ++]
[The mighty Mount Clemenceau rises in the morning sun with Mount Shackleton to the left.]
[Gorgeous sunrise on 9900' peak, Mounts Belanger and Lapensee with Fat Bastard in front. ++]
[Some of the scrambling on the rising traverse was exposed and steep. And LOOSE.]
[The odd cairn was a nice touch but we certainly didn't follow a line of them to the summit - it was more that we accidentally stumbled on them as we climbed.]
[The SW face wasn't terribly difficult but it was loose and exposed enough that care was needed, especially considering my climbing partners coming up beneath me - another benefit of a rising traverse...]
[We took the most obvious 'easy' route and usually found cairns approving our choices.]
[Kev front points across an icy gully. Thankfully there was a few inches of fresh snow on top or my aluminum crampons and single mountaineering ax may not have been enough to cross some of these sections.]
[This little tiptoe over a short section of ice was far trickier than it looked!]
[Eric enjoys the confidence-inspiring snow climb up a gully on the face.]
[You know you're becoming a mountaineer when you start looking for snow lines up faces instead of scree lines.]
[Looking down at Eric as we ascend another steep snow gully on the face.]
We were just nearing the top of our final snow slope before the roped climbing started, when I thought I heard yelling from slopes to the east! Sure enough - there was Ferenc traversing towards us on crampons from the south ridge!! I had a feeling he might join us after he sounded bitterly disappointed earlier when it didn't seem like he would be able to make it. He was extremely lucky that he caught up with us where he did - namely just before the roped climbing sections where he could benefit from our rope. After greeting him (this was his first time meeting Kev) we continued upward, soon arriving at a crux, with a party of four now, instead of three. It was nice to have Ferenc since both he and Kev are more experienced with roped climbing.
[Ferenc crosses a steep snow gully (we climbed it from below-right) to join up with our ascent party. He came up the southeast ridge on rock straight above the col before traversing over to us and claimed this was 5th class terrain.]
[Getting much higher now, looking over peak 9900' towards Clemenceau and Bras Croche (R)]
Most trip reports that I could find (including the linked ones up above) mention or show pictures of a notch in the west ridge with a chock stone plugging the top of it. We didn't traverse over this chock stone on the ridge (like Rick Collier did) and we didn't ascend to the left or to climber's right of it either (like Dow Williams group did). I think, based on photos from Raff's trip report, that we ascended just to climber's right of this gully / notch along the rappel route. Ferenc actually tried ascending the notch route but it was plugged with ice near the top and he didn't want to risk the one move that he had to make - probably the same 5.7 move that Dow's group made. I noticed a possible route to climber's right of this chock stone gully from below and suggested we try it. Some difficult scrambling led us up a short section to a ledge / crack running under a bulge to climber's right, away from the notch route. Just past this bulge was a nice platform to belay a climb up some 5.4 terrain. At the time I didn't know it was the rappel route, but after Kev led it he stopped at a large rap station so it became rather obvious that it was.
[Looking over the difficult looking north ridge. The 5.7 chockstone route visible in a steep crack.]
Once again, my "scrambling nose" saved us from climbing terrain above our comfort level. I have found on numerous 11,000ers that having a scrambling background and mentality is really nice for finding the easier routes that others can miss because they're too focused on using the rope they've lugged all the way up. Of course there's nothing wrong with climbing harder terrain, but on a big mountain I believe that speed and efficiency are the key to being safe and with one rope for the four of us, we were going to be slow enough on the unavoidable terrain and on the descent rappels. We didn't need to make things harder.
From this section on the face, we passed several well-used rap stations and did some short pitches of 5.2 to 5.4 climbing. The rock was surprisingly stable on the climbing pitches - it was horribly loose everywhere else! We topped out on the West ridge just before the scree traverse under the summit block. We had no difficulties on the ridge from our ascent line. The summit was easily gained via a narrow scree gully on the east end of the summit block.
[Eric comes up the first pitch (5.4) which is also the rap route. Iceberg Lake and our bivy spot far below him now.]
[Looking north towards the Ramparts (Tonquin Valley) and even Mount Robson in the distance!]
[Ferenc gets ready to lead the second pitch (5.2). ++]
[Might be 'easy' but it's still 5th class...]
[What a belay perch for Kev!]
[Looking up as Kev nears the end of the last climbing pitch before the summit block.]
[Kev follows me up the west ridge.]
[The scree traverse around the summit block, east of the topping out point from the face. You can see Ferenc standing on the final summit ridge.]
[A final, easy, scree chimney to the summit ridge.]
[Eric is pretty darn pleased with himself as he strides to the apex of another 11,000er with views for miles in every direction.]
We spent half an hour enjoying spectacular views in every direction including some very impressive summits - even Robson was visible. We didn't linger too long due to concerns about melting and rock fall on the face. It took us 6.5 hours to the summit from our bivy site which included two pitches of climbing. The second pitch could probably be free soloed by competent parties - we certainly could have soloed it if we knew how easy it was going to be.
[Incredible summit view over the Geraldine Lakes towards Edith Cavell and Geraldine Peak. Kerkeslin on the right. ++]
[Looking southeast over Kerkeslin (L). Many familiar peaks around the Columbia Icefields to the right, including Alberta, Woolley and Diadem. ++]
[Mount Unwin at left with Brazeau looking quite sharp at right. Warren to the left of Brazeau with Monkhead on the left end of it's long ridge.]
[Incredible summit panorama includes from R to L, Edith Cavell, Ramparts (Geikie, Paragon and more), Parapet, Simon, Scarp and others. Robson is the snowy giant in the far distance, just right of center. ++]
[Looking west towards the Monashees. Hallam Peak at center-left, Mallard and Pancake to the right.]
[One of the highest peaks in the Rockies - Mount Clemenceau with Shackleton and Tsar to the left.]
[Tsar at center left.]
[Looking down on Iceberg Lake with Fat Bastard a tiny bump now! ++]
[The north face of Serenity Peak (left of center) is impressive!]
[Looking south (L) and west. Catacombs is at distant left with the northern Columbia Icefield peaks visible beyond. ++]
[Mount Edith Cavell from the summit. Robson to the left.]
[Mount Geikie is the striking peak on the center left (scene of the tragic Rick Collier incident a week or so ago) and Mount Robson is the massive peak in the distance.]
[A Hans Gmoser register! Becoming rare these days...]
[Remembering Rick Collier. His name is in so many registers on so many obscure peaks through the Rockies. I don't think his accomplishments will ever be repeated.]
[Vern on the summit of Mount Fryatt!]
[Traversing back along the spectacular summit ridge towards our descent route.]
[Reluctantly leaving the sublime views to descend the face before things heat up too much and rock fall becomes an issue.]
We rapped 3 times on the descent and then picked our way back down and across to the col and down scree / snow slopes to the bivy. From there it was a long (long!) trek back to Ferenc's bivy under the Iceberg Lake headwall and then all the way back to the parking lot, past all the Geraldine lakes. The boulder hopping was the most unpleasant part of the hike out - thank goodness we didn't have rain or heavy dew to make things even worse on those blasted lichen-covered, Quartzite rocks. :)
[Eric on rappel.]
[Finishing a rappel.]
[Cleaning up the first rap - note the chock stone gully to the left? We ascended just above Kev (in the green jacket) to climber's right, ducking under that bulge he's standing by.]
[Finishing another rappel on the SW face of Fryatt. ++]
[Ferenc waits for his turn to rap - enjoying the incredible weather and views. ++]
[A 5th class section that we climbed on ascent / rapped on descent.]
[A careful descent down the SW face of Fryatt now that the raps are complete.]
[Pretty good rock steps on the face if you look for them, but still exposed and loose for a group of four.]
[Careful not to kick rocks!]
[Downclimbing the face as we traverse skier's left to the 9900' col.]
[The SW face from near the 9900' col, looking much drier after another warm day in the sunshine. We couldn't have timed our climb better.]
[Off the hard stuff! It's a great feeling as we scree ski back to our bivy.]
[Last look back at our bivy with 9900' rising above.]
[Back to the side-hilling above Divergent Lake! Back to the incessant bugs too!]
[Looking ahead to the long march in front of us. The 5th Geraldine Lake visible here from on top of th alpine meadows.]
[A very satisfied Kevin Barton takes a well-deserved rest break in the alpine meadows above the Geraldine Lakes.]
[Descending the meadows with the dry north ridge of Fryatt rising at left.]
[Shadows grow long as we make our way beneath the north face of Fryatt. We've been on the move for 15 hours at this point.]
[Still a beautiful trail to distract our sore feet and minds. Soon we were too exhausted to enjoy it. ;-)]
[Fryatt is reflected in the 5th lake as the sun gets low in the west.]
We managed to do Fryatt in 36 hours instead of the more standard 3 days, but I wasn't home until 04:30 on Monday - and the drive wasn't so pleasant after being awake for over 24 hours either! A long and tough mountain, Fryatt is never going to be a popular peak but for those willing to do some "quality suffering" in gorgeous surroundings it should be very high on your mountain list. It's setting in the back country of Jasper couldn't be more sublime and the bivy by Iceberg Lake is a top 5 for sure.
Fryatt has to be one of my top 10 peaks up 'til now. Maybe even a top 5 if I think about it long enough. Whatever it is, I miss it already and will almost certainly be back to climb some of the surrounding summits or back pack through some of the amazing terrain nearby.