Interesting coincidence, here is my account then. Maude sounds like a fun climb too, Kevin, we do that next year with Andrew :-)(just dreaming).
2009/07/25 - Mt. Lyautey (3045 m)
Friday evening Andrew Nugara returned my call and suggested a mountain for next day that was hard to resist, Mount Lyautey. I�ve seen and admired some of its many faces before, most notably its SE face on my Mt. Joffre trip just over a year ago and then its less attractive but same intimidating huge east face above Upper Kananaskis Lake. It definitely didn�t look like a walk in the park.
Andrew got the idea from a trip report a week before where a photo from Lyautey�s northern neighbour Mount Putnik revealed something that looked like a viable route. However, he could not find any mention of any routes on this mountain through his numerous book and internet resources. So he thought of Mount Putnik as a backup objective in case anything went wrong. But the route he favoured � the west ridge � looked good on the map too, so he was optimistic regarding our chances.
I have also come to know a few good sources of routes in recent years and I was under the impression that there was practically no mountain without at least a mention of a route. Especially named peaks above 3000 m. So I thought that if there were no known routes than there is no way we would make it to the summit. However, I did like the challenge, trusted Andrew�s vast exploratory experience, and most importantly packed all sort of technical gear just in case�
We left the car at 7:10 on mountain bikes for the first 4.5 km on the Three Isle Lake trail. We hoped to save some time and we indeed did, but also lost it at the same time by taking lots of photographs of the gorgeous morning. First we took photos of the early morning fog in the valleys than the blue skies and snowy summits reflecting from the lake.
We had to leave our bikes just where the trail settled down to easy rolling. Unfortunately, bikes were banned from here. We hiked another 3.5 km and then left the trail for a possibly dreadful bushwhacking. Whoever did the Hidden Lake bushwhack just the other side of Lyautey probably won�t forget it and doesn�t want to go back to do it again. To our pleasant surprise there was almost no bushwhacking on our approach! We could very efficiently get to the alpine part of the route for another surprise: a huge headwall with 2 major, at least 100 m high waterfalls on it. With no mention whatsoever on the map�
The right side looked unlikely to go but as we got closer to the main, larger waterfall, the left didn�t look any better so we gave it a try. It worked out OK, with some sustained moderate scrambling in partially snowy gullies.
Finally, over the headwall a whole new world of high mountains opened up. A massive lateral moraine crossed our route and once we scrambled up we could admire the once-been giant glacier that melted down to a mere 1 km long 300 m wide glacier, the Lyautey Glacier. On the other side of this complex cirque another unnamed glacier showed its blue hues at its toe. The plan was to sneak in between the 2 glaciers and around Lyautey Glacier to gain the west ridge.
However, the ridge looked completely hopeless as we got closer. Several overhanging sections seemed to block efficient travel on the ridge. We did pack everything to do some rock climbing but I would have much preferred the snow couloirs on the face. If it�s snow, you can climb it � that�s my rule of thumb that seemed to be true so far in the Rockies. Andrew didn�t really like the idea and after double checking the map we realized the ridge we see is the NW ridge, and the true W (or rather WSW) ridge was hiding behind so Andrew went around the NW ridge and checked out the W ridge too. But he did not like that one either so he finally agreed to give a try to the snow route, reserving his right to bail if it gets too risky�
As we got closer, storm clouds started to build up very quickly on the east and, unfortunately, while the sun was still out I could also see some glittering from the couloirs. That meant ice and we didn�t have protection for that... I told Andrew if it gets icy we might have to bail and also asked him about mixed climbing. I don�t have much experience with mixed terrain and has been turned around before by icy and melting, snowy steep rock sections before.
The close-up views of the mountain were very confusing. The summit, as marked on the map, did not look like the summit at all. There were 3 more summits to the east, apparently further from us and all of them looked higher despite of the distance. We agreed that very likely the fourth, easternmost summit was the true one and that the map was wrong. I have seen it before, maps can have mistakes on them. We considered to traverse all the way to the east ridge and climb that one but it would have involved some glacier travel so we stayed with the easternmost couloir on the face. That couloir seemed to be filled with snow almost all the way up to the ridge. We still had to cross a small icefield to get there.
Before we got to the couloir I noted a crack across this small icefield we were walking on by now � which was not marked as a glacier on the map � and also a baby bergschrund higher, just below the couloir, so we roped up. We left the rope on for quite a while from here.
The couloir was fun and it probably wasn�t any steeper than 40-45 degrees. I wished we got there a couple hours earlier for firmer snow but it was still good at around 12:30 when we got on it. We made good progress. About halfway up, however, the snow became much shallower and the couloir turned rapidly into ice. Not much fun with alpine axes and crampons� We managed to escape to climber�s right to a rock rib and continued on with scrambling. There were a few difficult moves but we didn�t break out any pros, just kept the rope out and relied on natural protection. Altogether, the scrambling was very enjoyable, the rock was surprisingly good on the narrow rib and the exposure wasn�t too bad with rubble filled gullies on both sides. Just before the ridge the rib looked harder and we switched to the gully for the last 60 m or so.
Once we reached the much dreaded ridge, it didn�t look that dramatic any more. We continued on scrambling on the ridge to the east. As I got closer and closer my heart rushed: would that be the real summit or are there two higher summits behind as it looked from below? Closer: no bigger peaks coming into view yet � even closer: still nothing � very close: God, tell me there is nothing after this � almost there: can�t be a false summit � there: yeeeahh! This is it! We made it!!!
I turned around to share my excitement with Andrew but suddenly got muted� There was a higher summit to the west. Damn it, the map was right, we just got completely confused by the close-up views from below!
We scrambled back down and then up on somewhat more challenging terrain (a couple Class 4 moves), still not sure if the apparent summit would be the true one or just a false. Although a cairn-like object suggested this would be the true summit. And that it was! We reached it after 7 hours of trial and error by 2:10 p.m�
Our summit celebration (the first in almost 2 years) was just somewhat ruined by the neighbouring thunderstorm in the Highwood area. I didn�t think it would come our way and it was far enough to have no effect on us. But it all changed 15 minutes later when my ice axe started to buzz on my backpack. I panicked immediately. Years ago, I met a climber on her way scrambling up a mountain� she was killed by a lightning strike 6 hours later. I packed my ice axe inside my backpack so that it got insulated and almost jumped off the face in my panic...
Although we considered descending the NW ridge � which still didn�t look too inviting even if Alan Kane noted it as their ascent route in the summit register �, I wanted to be off the ridge and preferably on snow as soon as possible. Snow is a good insulator. So we tried to descend toward the central snow couloir of the face. It was again face climbing on a rib, this time down, on worse rock then on the way up. I climbed out to the nearby ridge a couple of times but I could feel the electricity flowing in my arm so I escaped back to the face. I didn�t want to be knocked off by a ground current either, had a lightning struck higher up�
The downclimbing was treacherous and hence very slow. It took at least half an hour for us to reach the couloir � where it wasn�t icy, anyway � and by that time the imminent danger of a thunder strike was gone. Thank God. I donned my crampons and started to descend the couloir while Andrew stayed on rock for a bit longer. The snow could have been harder but wasn�t too bad for downclimbing especially considering the time of the day. It was, however, steeper than the one we ascended.
I got down with a nice glissade at the end and could take good photos of Andrew still descending the couloir. Then we continued down on less challenging terrain looking back from time to time and still not believing that the actual summit looked so much lower than the other three.
Getting down around the waterfall was a challenge we didn�t crave by this time but we managed it. The waterfall was noticeably thicker than in the morning. It was a warm day even high up with lots of melting going on. Lower down we bushwhacked a bit in swampy areas and then reached the trail. We got to our bikes, rode out, and reached our car by 8:10, 13 hours after the start.
Just as we were to leave the parking lot a couple asked us to give them a lift. They locked in their car key after doing the Northover Ridge loop in a day. We ended up taking them down to Highway 1. As we slowly realized, the male passenger was a high-end climber with such amazing ascents behind him as the Andromeda Strain and the Supercouloir� Quite sobering after such a good a day of exploring but my smile didn�t go away: we had an excellent time ascending Mount Lyautey!
Andrew�s trip report: http://www.freewebtown.com/anugara/lyautey.html