There really wasn't a choice, was there? After a successful, and fun, ascent of Mount Brussilof we almost had to take advantage of good weather and a shared col to ascend Mount Alcantara's south ridge. Previous parties have used easy SW scree slopes to ascend Alcantara, but the south ridge looked absolutely fantastic from Brussilof and was a no-brainer for us to attempt, considering where we found ourselves late in the afternoon of July 20, 2018. My migraine had settled into a dull throb thanks to some Tylenol refreshments at the summit of Brussilof, so I was feeling pretty pumped to keep going. We carefully analyzed the transition from the col to the south ridge of Alcantara from Brussilof and decided it would likely go but might not. If it really didn't work out and we couldn't find options for ascent from the col, we agreed to descend to camp and nab Alcantara the follow morning via the easy SW scree gully. As we approached what would be the crux on the south ridge, it slowly broke down until it looked fairly straightforward. As we ascended the blocky (and extremely loose) terrain, it proved to be no more than moderate scrambling.
[From the shared col / ridge with Brussilof, this is looking up the south ridge of Alcantara. The crux is in dark shadow at mid right - just follow the ridge crest with your eyes from bottom right and you'll find it. ]
[Views off the col into the core Assiniboine area including Wonder Peak at distant left, Marvel at center, Aurora and Byng at right.]
[Phil tackles the south ridge.]
[Looking back at Brussilof - it's sort of hard to believe that there's a scrambling route up this mountain from this side.]
The shadows were growing longer as we heaved and pulled our weary bodies up and over countless huge, shifting boulders and loose ledges along the south ridge towards the lofty summit of Alcantara, about 400 vertical meters above us. In an interesting note, Alcantara's official height listing of around 2840m is dead wrong. From Brussilof, Alcantara looked higher and from Alcantara, Brussilof looking a bit higher, so chances are they're around the same height of 3005m. We were pretty tired as we ascended the easy, but horribly loose, south ridge. The views were awesome and kept us somewhat distracted. As we got near the summit block, the terrain got easier and less blocky.
[Don't underestimate the looseness of the terrain on the larger Assiniboine peaks. IMHO this is more dangerous than any of the really exposed climbing. It's hard to stay focused and alert enough to avoid these terrain traps for hours and hours on end. I had some very close calls where huge boulders shifted underfoot as I scrambled over them.]
[We tried to stay on the ridge proper, which was fun scrambling with severe exposure to climber's right, but it wasn't the most convenient route the whole time.]
[Great views towards Aurora and Byng.]
[Find Phil in this giant's playground of rock and boulders.]
[A very rare, but welcome, solid(ish) section on the south ridge as the sun starts to drop in the west. ++]
[Sticking to the ridge crest provided the best scrambling and views - especially to our right over Aurora and Byng.]
[Soft, evening lighting as we finally get close to the final summit slopes. The south ridge just got easier and easier the higher we went.]
The final few steps to the summit of Alcantara were surprisingly exposed! We were tired but happy as we took in the lengthening shadows over the core Assiniboine area and surrounding peaks. The summit register was an old copper pipe and had about 6 other ascents in it making us possibly only the 7th recorded ascent since 1929 or at the very least one of very few ascents compared to Mount Assiniboine!
[Easy, but gorgeous slopes to the summit.]
[Not many ascents in this register.]
[Crikey! That's a great summit view! Shadows are long but the views don't suffer for it. From L to R summits include Aye, Assiniboine, Eon, Gloria, Terrapin, The Towers, Wonder, Marvel, Aurora, Byng, Currie, Red Man, White Man, Soderholm and Brussilof. ++]
[Looking past Eon at left and over Mount Gloria at center towards Terrapin and The Towers at center. Wonder Pass at mid right.]
[Looking over Marvel Pass towards Owl Lake (mid center) with Marvel Peak to the left of the lake and pass.]
[Aurora Peak at foreground right with Byng rising above. Familiar Spray Lakes peaks in the distance including Cone, Old Goat, Sparrowhawk and Bogart.]
[Hard to believe we made the summit of Brussilof hours earlier. Soderholm at distant left.]
[The Royal Group at distant center with Talon and Soderholm in front.]
[Looking over the Currie Creek valley at the triangular west face of Mount Currie.]
[Mount Sir Douglas with Red Man Mountain at right.]
[Looking back at the exposed (but very short) ridge to the summit. ++]
[The sun relentlessly sinks to the west, but we're not too concerned as we have a pretty quick and easy descent down a SW facing gully straight to our bivy.]
After snapping photos and taking a quick break we turned our attention to the huge, but easy, SW gully leading right to our bivy many hundreds of meters below. The scree wasn't quite as fast as we'd hoped, but the descent was pretty straightforward. As the sun continued to fall towards the horizon, we limped our tired bodies back into camp. This had been a very long and tiring day - especially for me with a migraine to complicate things.
[The long, easy SW gully heading straight down to our bivy site and straight towards the scary looking walls of Mount Brussilof.]
[Phil comes down the SW slopes of Alcantara (R) with the impressive west outlier of Brussilof at left. ++]
[Enjoying sunset and moonrise over Brussilof.]
[A nice way to end an exhausting, exhilarating day.]
We'd ascended over 2300m on the two summits but we felt content and satisfied with our experiences as we slowly and silently made our suppers and enjoyed the quiet evening. Eventually the mosquitoes drove us into the mid where I fell into a deep, uninterrupted and VERY welcome slumber. Mount Brussilof and Alcantara will always be special for me for two reasons. Firstly, I've dreamed about scrambling them for years and years and to finally experience them was very special for me. Secondly, I pushed myself harder than I ever have with a migraine and proved to myself that I can do far more than I thought in that condition - not that I'm going to do that again any time soon!
The next morning we awoke at around 05:00 to tackle the second day of our trip. Originally we'd planned on ascending to the Eon bivy before climbing this beast of a mountain on Sunday and exiting, but as we talked about it we changed our minds. Scrambling Mount Brussilof had alerted us to the difficult nature of the routes in this area and reminded me of the never ending SW face of Assiniboine that I'd downclimbed in 2012 after free soloing the north ridge. Eon's SW face was surely no quicker than that and deserved some healthy respect. We chose to save that peak for another day and approach Marvel Pass instead. If time / energy / weather allowed, we'd either scramble Byng and Aurora or Marvel Peak before exiting on Sunday.
[Sunrise from camp on Saturday morning.]
As we descended the ~900 vertical meters from our bivy to the Aurora Creek FSR on Saturday morning, Phil and I were both very grateful that we'd taken Eon Mountain off the list for this trip! To be frank, even though my migraine was completely gone and I'd had an excellent sleep the night before, I found the descent more tiring than the ascent for some strange reason. It makes no sense, but by the time we finally stumbled out onto the road, I felt like I'd already climbed a freaking mountain! The cold Coke I had waiting for me at the car never tasted so good as we took down the chicken wire and started driving to the Marvel Pass trailhead further down the FSR.
[The wildflowers in the alpine valley were vibrant and thriving.]