After summiting Mount Amery, Eric and I began our long (LONG!) traverse around the entire Monchy Icefield to the summits of Hooge and Monchy. You need a lot of factors to come into play before this traverse is worth the effort:
First of all you need low rivers to access the SE drainage of Amery.
Then you need good conditions to get up Amery - not too much overnight freeze but not too much melting either. You certainly don't want snow or ice in the access gully.
You need the energy to lug an overnight pack high up onto the Amery massif or you'll run out of daylight if attempting from lower down in the valley.
A firm high pressure system has to be centered over the Continental Divide to give you at least 2 days of perfect weather - or why bother? ;-)
The glacier has to be in good condition (firm or melted back).
Water levels have to be low enough that you don't have to bushwhack the WHOLE way up SE Amery Creek.
You need the time off to take advantage of all the above factors!
We got very lucky that all these factors and more lined up for us on our chosen weekend. (We did have backup plans in case things deteriorated.) After Amery I put the rope in my pack for a long ways while we walked on top of the ridge, just above the small icefield. I assume that this scree may not have been exposed back in 1948 - it was probably all glacier back then. Route finding and travel was easy on the traverse, especially compared with our approach the day before. The elevation gain / loss combined with the length of the traverse wore us down through out the day though - there's a reason no one has ever done this traverse although both the original ascent party and Rick Collier considered it. With bad weather or crappy snow conditions it would be almost impossible to complete in one day - even from high up on Amery and camping on that ridge in a whiteout with any winds would be a nightmare - it's very exposed to weather systems coming in over the ice fields in every direction. Thunderstorms would also be most unwelcome since we were a good 4-5 hours from any descent options for most of the day and very exposed to the elements up on that ridge.
Given the conditions we had, it was the best high traverse either of us have done in the mountains. Glorious bluebird conditions, firm snow / scree and a pretty tame glacier led to a glorious walk above 10,400 feet that would be very difficult to top. The closest I've come to this type of high traverse would either be the high-line to Alexandra, which is much lower, or the Columbia ice fields around the twins. We had views to half of the highest peaks in the Rockies and down into "black hole" valleys, thousands of feet below us on every side. Glaciers dumped waterfalls down hundreds of feet to the valley's below our feet and collapsing serac's kept us alert with their thundering demise. It was so impressive and so unexpected that we often just shouted back and forth how "crazy the views" were. Fryatt had stunning views a few weekends ago, but this was another level of eye candy. I can't stress enough how lucky I felt to be enjoying such a grand display of nature! I know there's wilder places with bigger mountains "out there", but at times like these I love Alberta and love our great back country with it's untamed and untouched places.
[Eric makes his way onto the Monchy icefield from the descent ridge of Amery.]
[We have a LONG way to go! The ridge curves left over more 'bumps' than are visible here before curving around to the right (west) and then back up Hooge and Monchy to the North. Monchy and Hooge are visible in the far distance just underneath the Lyells.]
[An icefall carves off the Monchy Icefield to the east]
[We had to make our way over many intermittent high points on the ridge. Eventually we dropped well below our bivy site elevation, which was kind of depressing since we knew we had to come all the way back yet! ;-)]
[Eric makes his way along the ridge Hooge and Monchy on the upper right with Lyells just peaking over the col between them.]
[Looking to the north at Mount Saskatchewan - Sunwapta at the far right]
[Looking back at Amery and our bivy shoulder on the right.]
The scree section from Amery to the south end of the icefield was a delightful walk. Being unroped meant we could walk at our own pace and enjoy photographing our surroundings and peering into the "black hole" on our right (Amery Creek valley). Willerval was showing it's true colors by shedding rocks at regular intervals - we were glad not to be on it's eastern flanks, that's for sure! In an incredible display of instability we watched with our jaws dropping as hundreds of tons of rock came off the east face of Willerval and thundered down to the valley below!! I've never witnessed such a grand feature collapse in the Rockies. It was impressive and somewhat scary. There is no way to predict an event like that and if you were caught in it or under it you would have no chance of escaping. You kind of expect snow and ice to eventually collapse but when part of the face of a mountain falls off in front of your eyes it's unnerving.
[We watched in amazement as a large part of the east face of Willerval collapsed into the Amery Creek valley below! Remember, this is kilometers away and the noise was very loud! Also note the newly scarred area on the cliff above the rock fall. This is a large area of the face that collapsed!]
[Another view of the incredible rock fall event off Willerval]
As we slowly continued towards the south end of the icefield we got off the scree and back onto glaciated terrain - subsequently the rope came out of my pack and we slowed down a bit as Eric probed the glacier carefully. Near the summit of the first glaciated bump we could see many crevasses. Eric actually stepped in one and probed another before we were out of that terrain. We traversed high above an incredible cwm between the Monchy and Lyell icefields (some crazy exposure above a notch) before trudging up to the final high point just before Monchy.
[Mount Columbia with King Edward to it's left and Clemenceau to the left of that.]
[Still a long way to go, but a glorious day to do it on! ++]
[Looking into the "black hole" which is the Amery Creek valley.]
[Hooge and Monchy]
[Looking north up the Amery Creek valley from the south end on the Monchy icefield. Willerval in the center and Hooge / Monchy to the left of it. ++]
[A glorious day! We had to be a bit cautious for crevasses with the fresh snowfall on the glacier but generally we could see where they were (other than the two we stepped in... ;-)]
[Monchy on the left with South Twin and North Twin in the center and Willerval on the right.]
[Looking back at Amery from the south end of the Monchy Icefield.]
[Mount Columbia shows up beside Monchy]
[Starting up to Hooge]
[Castleguard is tiny in front of South and North Twin. Snow Dome on the right.]
[Forbes is an impressive peak, no matter what angle you see it from]
[The impressive cwm funneling into the Lyell approach valley from the south end of the Monchy Icefield. ++]
One of the oddest aspects of our trip was that we didn't know for sure which of the 'bumps' on the way to Monchy was Hooge Peak! Eric took a wild guess between two candidates, but we decided to build cairns (small) on both just in case we were wrong. We also decided to place our register on the way back since we knew where Monchy was and could maybe deduce the correct 'bump' for Hooge in the opposite direction! Good thing we waited to place the register because as it turns out, nobody really knew where Hooge Peak was - other than the original ascent party...
[Eric at the low point before we ascend Hooge Peak]
[Which bump is it?! Oppy on the left, Alexandra at center left.]
As we crested the high point before Monchy we noticed a small rock cairn. This was a bit odd because the previous 5 or 6 highpoints hadn't had any cairns on them (we were probably the first to cross over them) and suddenly this one did? Hmmm. I asked Eric if he was sure where Monchy was since the other high point to the north looked pretty much just as high as the one we were on and he responded that the next high point was definitely Monchy.
As we looked at the cairn we noticed a small, rusted container in it! My hands were trembling as I tried to pry the rusted lid off the container. We knew it had to be very old and we were starting to suspect it was an original register. Finally I managed to pry the lid off and very gingerly took out the faded and worn piece of paper inside. We had pretty much given up trying to find any text on the paper until Eric noticed that it could be unfolded one more time. We gingerly unfolded the paper and I could make out some faded text! "July 20 1948" and "Hooge Pk"! Very cool. There was other text markings including "camped in ... valley" but most of the text was covered with rust from the container or simply weathered off. A very old pencil was also in the container.
[The first people to lay eyes on this register since it was placed in 1948! (By F.D. Ayres, J.C. Oberlin, D.M. Woods)]
[Eric holds out the old summit record which hasn't been touched by humans since 1948]
[Most of the text is faded beyond recognition but the date and name of the summit is still readable.]
[Eric starts the traverse to Monchy from the summit of Hooge Peak]
Well, now we knew which mountain Hooge was! :-) Finding this register and realizing we were almost certainly only the 2nd ascent party on this mountain was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Weird, I know, but I really love going places nobody else bothers with... Especially ones with views like we had from Hooge Peak.
After taking in the summit views which included Forbes and the north face of the Lyells we continued on to Monchy Mountain.