I don't think either Ben or I really cared if we summitted another peak on the Brazeau Icefield or not, after two grueling days spent ascending Brazeau and Warren in marginal conditions. We already had the two 11,000ers and obviously the best views, but did we have ALL the best views? We suspected that there were still a few more good views we didn't have yet. Most people traverse from Brazeau to Valad and Henry MacLeod on their way back to the high bivy. We had already noticed that there were a number of crevasses on Valad and we didn't feel like traversing back over them, but Henry MacLeod looked dead easy from our camp. Since we were already at 3,000 meters, MacLeod should only be around a 300 meter height gain and my GPS put it at only around 2km distance. After a leisure breakfast (still in that infernal cold west wind), we set off for one last peak before getting off this melting icefield for good.
Immediately on leaving camp we were reminded where we were when I found "Charlie Two" - another crevasse on the opposite side of camp from our first crevasse - "Charlie One"! We shrugged that one off and continued on heightened alert up the glacier. I kept glancing back at camp as we climbed because I'd spotted a large black raven that morning, flying past camp. I needed my food and we didn't have enough snow to bury it. Ravens are infamous for stealing climber's food while they're gone and I didn't trust this one...
The climb was easy and soon we were on the final bit of snow before the scree to the summit cairn. Wouldn't you know it, we found some more crevasses just before the scree but eventually we worked around them and started up the scree. The summit views didn't disappoint. We got great views of Coronet Mountain and Brazeau. We weren't tempted at all by Valad as it was lower than MacLeod and we needed to get off the glacier before the snow bridges weakened further.
[Henry MacLeod is above us already near camp.]
[Nearing the scree ridge]
[Summit views from Henry MacLeod with Poboktan in the center bg and our route off the glacier at lower left. ++]
[Great views north and west include Mary Vaux, Unwin, Charlton, Maligne Lake, Warren and Brazeau. ++]
[Henry MacLeod is quite a tall mountain - even towering over Coronet to the west. The snowy summit in the distance here is Catacombs Mountain which I was the 2nd ascent party to climb. ++]
[Looking west over at the Columbia Icefield. ++]
[The impressive west face of Mount Warren]
[The easy south face of Mount Brazeau which we climbed with much more snow two days previous.]
[Mounts Unwin and Charlton are on my list for some day...]
[Incredible views down a very calm Maligne Lake with Unwin / Charlton on the L and Warren on the R. ++]
[Tele pano of distant giants including from L to R, Stutfields, Cromwell, North Twin, Twins Tower, Woolley, Diadem, Alberta, Clemenceau and many more. ++]
[A tele of South, North and Twins Tower, Diadem and of course, the north face of Mount Alberta on the right.]
[A tele pano of the Columbia Icefields peaks along with Diadem and Alberta. ++]
[Looking down our escape route off the melting glacier.]
After snapping a ton of photos in the clear morning air, we descended the mountain to camp. Thankfully the raven hadn't visited and we packed up camp quickly before heading off the glacier trying to follow our melted out footprints from a few days previous. Overall the descent went well. We took our time avoiding weak snow bridges and even belayed each other over one problematic crevasse, using ice screws as anchors and swimming over the bridge on our stomachs! Finally we were descending the last bit of ice on the upper glacier towards the rock traverse to the lower icefield. We crossed the melted out lower icefield and were finally completely off glaciered terrain. It felt great! We could finally just relax and take the crampons off. In a funny twist, we walked into our excellent rock bivy site about 3 minutes before I noticed someone else walking down towards us from the col and realized it was Rob Maiman who we'd run into on our Twins trip earlier in the spring. He was apparently going to follow our footsteps again!! :) We had a good laugh about the odds of meeting Rob again and we updated him on conditions. Vickie and a friend were with him, so at least they'd have 3 on the rope. They set up their bivy right at the col, just above us. There were three more excellent bivy corals at the lip of the moraine above us, but they didn't have water access and were even windier than our location.
[Descending the Brazeau Glacier with the stunning form of Sunwapta's north face in the bg.]
[Setting up an ice screw belay for the sloppy bridge in front of me.]
[Ready to get off the glacier, careful probing ahead!]
[Another deep crevasse.]
[Near the rock traverse to the lower glacier with the tarns over Swan Pass visible on the lower left. ++]
[Descending the main glacier to the rock traverse -the lower glacier visible at top.]
[Heading down the rock to the lower glacier.]
[Ready to cross the lower glacier to the far moraine. The icefall to the right is the reason you must go up this rock. ++]
[A raging river on the ice! We had to go upstream to find a way around this.]
[Finally off the glacier, climbing up a snow patch to the moraine above the rocky bivy coral.]
[Looking back at the glacier with the obvious rock traverse around the ice fall.]
[Ben is visible at lower right near the rock bivy coral in this view from the top of the moraine. There were 3 rock corals just to the left here. ++]
[Our lovely home for an evening at the high bivy / rock corals.]
After sitting around for a while, we decided that we were getting cold (that darn west wind again!) and so we would take a jaunt up a ridge just south of our camp which we dubbed "Bivy Ridge".
[Just before I crawl into the mid, a last bit of color in the sky overhead.]
After a much warmer night on the rock rather than ice of the glacier, we awoke to light rain and clouds on Sunday morning. The rain stopped as we packed up camp and started the trek back to Poboktan Creek. The return trip was quick and uneventful under a sky that grew sunnier with each passing minute until it was a warm summer day in the valley bottom. Four hours after leaving our high bivy we were back at the parking lot where I met Alan and Jen and gave them a lift to Banff. They kept me awake with entertaining stories of their last 40 days on the Great Divide Trail and I kept them awake with stories of the many peaks along the way that I'd climbed. As I drove back to Calgary alone, I contemplated the last four days and how lucky I was to experience the Rockies the way I have this year, with many remote peaks and gorgeous, wild terrain.
[The morning view from camp looking over Swan Pass]
[Nice morning lighting over camp]
[Vern enjoys a cup of Starbucks before packing up camp.]
[Ben descends steep scree under Swan Pass]
[Finally out of that cold west wind and back in shorts! Looking back along the cliff band - the col out of sight at upper right.]
[The perfect bivy site that's below the cliff band on approach, and too low to use.]
[Tons of River Beauties along Poboktan Creek]
[Descend the North Fork of Poboktan Creek]
[A quick break at the Poboktan Creek CG]
[A beautiful, warm Sunday morning stroll along Poboktan Creek!]