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Topic "Mt. Wilson (1 of 15)" started by Ferenc Jacso on Apr-17-2009

Topic: Mt. Wilson (1 of 15)
Author: Ferenc Jacso
Date: Friday, April 17, 2009 04:13 PM

April 15, 2009

I have always been planning to take a day off for climbing should conditions be perfect on a weekday. After many years it finally happened. A week of warm weather stabilized the snowpack then a cold snap brought some fresh snow and after that, for just one day, sunny but still chilly weather. So we had day-long good snow stability, beautiful fresh snow covered mountains and a sunny day. What else do I need? A partner.

I lured Andrew into the trip. He was on spring break but had no plans or partners for a bigger trip. So he had nothing to lose and just casually replied yes to my e-mail inquiry about attempting Mt. Wilson. The normal route would have been multi-day and hence was out of question for me but the more direct route has reportedly been done in a day - though usually from a nearby campground.

Why Mt. Wilson? I climbed its namesake fourteener in Colorado as one of my most memorable trips there and was curious about its brother. More importantly, I really liked Chic Scott�s route description with lots of potential snow climbing and a brutal 2000 m gain for a full day.

We left the car about 700 metres northeast of Saskatchewan Crossing at a meadow at 6:30. We crossed the meadow and started the not much anticipated bushwhacking. Luckily, the elevation of Saskatchewan Crossing is so low that there was almost no snow during this bushwhacking as opposed to the expected dreadful �Snowshoe Slush Cup�. Additionally, we soon picked up a well broken game trail in the otherwise not too dense forest, so it really became a breeze � well, except the last 15 minutes when we had to leave the trail and head toward the ascent avalanche gully.

Finally on hard snow, we made good progress in the gully, and finished out the first 950 m elevation gain to the saddle in 3:15 in spite of numerous photo breaks for the beautiful sunrise and weird avalanche debris in the scenic gully. Conditions, as expected, were excellent�

Unfortunately, the most challenging and frustrating part of the trip was just in front of us. We had to descend a north facing 40� slope for a 150-metre loss. The only bad news in the avalanche forecast was that some wind-loaded north slopes showed local instabilities, all the rest was great. I told Andrew to be prepared with his probe and shovel just in case, and started to cut through the slope trying to connect a couple of rock outcrops. I did sink in hip deep once but didn�t set off anything... whew. I made it through the most scary part and yelled Andrew he can follow me. We made it down to the large Wilson Icefield which was a completely different world then the south slopes on the other side. Everything was snow covered in this perfectly silent world, and even a Mt. Victoria-style hanging blue glacier contributed to the scenery.

Soon we donned our snowshoes but after about a half an hour they started to ball in the baking sun so we cached them and continued on foot. I knew I would regret leaving my snowshoes at lower elevation higher up but I was running out of energy and just couldn�t commit to carry my snowshoes any further. It was indeed more efficient on foot for quite while in about 20 cm of powder on top of a hard layer. We tried to keep a consistent pace and picked a snaking line to avoid steep ups and flat areas. I was so thrilled by the good conditions, blue skies and views that I didn�t even realize how long it took us to cut through the icefield. Then some clouds moved in and the final ridge came into view and all of a sudden my motivation went way down...

If we make the summit and won�t have any views of the Columbia Icefield the purpose of the whole trip would be lost. The final ridge also looked fairly threatening. Just below the multi-storey building size cornice a huge avalanche fracture crown was visible. We estimated it to be at least 10 m tall� Now we have travel somewhere above all this. I would have taken a different line if this was not the clearly described route.

As we got to the first steep part of the final ridge it became icy (once again just as in the route description) and we had to don crampons again. Cornice hanging in the air to the left or big steep snowslope on the right -- which one shall we choose? Well, we just tried to sneak in and out between the two threats. In 10 minutes it was all over and we felt safe again for the very last section of the ridge.

The helicopter pad and repetition station were somewhat spoiling the pristine environment and the clouds almost took the views but we didn�t complain. We still had fairly good views in all directions and seeing a half socked-in Columbia Icefield was already a special treat. We did pick an almost perfect day.

The cloud cover actually made our descent easier as further down the snow that was already melting on our way up refroze. It didn�t mean we could walk on top but at least we didn�t have to posthole in slush. Andrew took the lead on the way down and I fell way behind. Then we reached our snowshoes and loaded our backpacks again. Climbing back up the saddle was painful as it brought up our total elevation gain to 2130 m, a bit more than expected...

On the south side of the ridge I glissaded as much as I could but the ride quality wasn�t that great. Andrew didn�t bring his crazy carpet and he is not a great believer in abusing pants either so he just walked down. At least I could pause and soak in the panorama a few more minutes before returning to bushwhacking. Once again, after a 15-minute Class 3 bushwhacking we found the game trail and strolled back to car long before sunset (12:40 total). That was just perfect because we could enjoy some amazing sunset views along the Icefields Parkway on our way home.

As I put it during our trip somewhere high on the icefield while trailbreaking steadily, "Good workout". And as Andrew replied, "That�s the understatement of the year."

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.ca/fjacso/MtWilson3261MBanffNPCanada#

Andrew's trip report: http://www.freewebtown.com/anugara/wilson.html

Topic: Mt. Wilson (2 of 15)
Author: Bill Kerr
Date: Friday, April 17, 2009 06:33 PM

Great pictures and unbelievable determination to make that happen. You guys need to learn how to ski!


Topic: Mt. Wilson (3 of 15)
Author: Scott Berry
Date: Friday, April 17, 2009 11:54 PM

I concur with Bill, great pictures, good job
for one day and definitely....think about
picking up some planks.

Topic: Mt. Wilson (4 of 15)
Author: Kerry Vizbar
Date: Saturday, April 18, 2009 06:54 AM

Very impressive effort on that trip. Would have loved to have seen that crown line in the process of breaking off (from a distance, of course!!)

Topic: Mt. Wilson (5 of 15)
Author: Ferenc Jacso
Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 04:13 PM

Thanks, guys, for your replies.

Bill and Scott, I know it's lame we didn't ski. To me being a good back country skier would require several seasons of training. Now if I could commute on skis that would make a big difference. I haven't given it up entirely (yet). One thing is sure, I enjoyed this day much more than any of my ski trips before.

Topic: Mt. Wilson (6 of 15)
Author: Bill Kerr
Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 07:50 PM

No problem Ferenc - there is no right way or only way to do a trip as long as you are enjoying yourself and having fun!


Topic: Mt. Wilson (7 of 15)
Author: Scott Berry
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 12:21 AM


Topic: Mt. Wilson (8 of 15)
Author: Vern Dewit
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 04:24 PM

Wietse trained himself to ski good enough for most ascents in less than one season. The trick is to go out with people that don't mind waiting a bit on the way down and will take you into thick treed terrain right off the bat. :-) Wietse's first time EVER on skis was a Paget Peak attempt with me!

I know another thing that helped a couple people I know, was to do Sunshine area ascents and spend a few days skiing a resort. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to work! :-)

Vern Dewit

Topic: Mt. Wilson (9 of 15)
Author: Wietse Bylsma
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 05:17 PM

Like Vern said...also 80% of the time spent on the mountain when on ski's is up and only 20% is going down so even if it takes a bit longer who cares...

Wietse Bylsma

Topic: Mt. Wilson (10 of 15)
Author: Jp S
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 05:57 PM

I think there are wrong ways to climb mountains - for example, with snowshoes and a short black dress, if you are a guy.

Picking easier ski trips is definitely the way to get into it - and there are more than a few easy trips.

I wonder if any snowshoers are getting tired of attempted conversion by this skiing missionary corps that I appear to be part of?


Topic: Mt. Wilson (11 of 15)
Author: Tamas Fustos
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 10:00 PM

I started my AT life at Chester lake then 3 times at Sunshine Village, Lake Louise. Go up to Bow Hut was painful, Tent Ridge was hard but I was able to manage it - except in the forest and last weekend on the Wapta Icefield with Gordon attempt. The only way is to practice and practice, never give it up and you will be better from trip to trip.
I still fell over many times but I do not care, stand up and try it again

Topic: Mt. Wilson (12 of 15)
Author: Ferenc Jacso
Date: Thursday, April 23, 2009 01:13 PM

Wietse is obviously very talented in skiing so why not stomp on all the rest less blessed... Yes, JP, we are getting tired of it. Why don�t you guys convince Messner that his Everest solo was all wrong he didn�t do it on skis.

OK to put my trips into context. I can get out once a month because I have a family and other life too. I have two options:
1. Paget Peak on skis: miserably suffering up and down, twist or maybe torn my ligaments and get blisters all over the place.
- or �
2. Mt. Wilson on foot with the same effort but no pain.

I picked the latter one. Honestly, to be in good shape for Wilson on skis you have to get out every weekend minimum cross country skiing + downhill skiing a few hours. You have to spend a few grands on ski passes and gear and countless hours practicing. Yes you can do Paget Peak or Bow Hut on your first day on skis. It will be fun to hit a few trees on the way down, or walk with your skis on your backpack unless you are the great talent.

I can�t get out every weekend (although in my next life I will), and can�t afford even a family pass to Nakiska. So I choose to get out on foot. What�s wrong with that? For getting out on foot I�m fine if I just commute by bike and run sometimes. Skiing uses somewhat different muscles that require specific training. OK, Sunshine might go without any workouts.

I still have a plan to pick up XC skiing one winter, be good at it, and then enjoy long days in the mountains. My downhill ski skills are OK. The current problem is if I try anything longer than Paget my legs will be all shaky for the run down. No fun.

I have a feeling skiers can�t stand non-skiers just to justify the time, effort and money they put into skiing for virtually no return other than a few good turns on the way down. At least I hope even if I master skiing at some point in the future I don�t turn into an arrogant who can�t appreciate anyone else but skiers...

Topic: Mt. Wilson (13 of 15)
Author: Vern Dewit
Date: Thursday, April 23, 2009 04:47 PM

I certainly didn't mean to 'stomp' Ferenc!

Any jibbing is meant in good fun. All I meant to suggest is that skiing isn't nearly as tough as some make it out to be. It's kind of like doing Pyramid Mountain without a bike for the approach - why would you want to? Or doing Moose Mountain as a 3 day winter ascent. Not that anyone's ever done that before! :-)

It does cost quite a bit of $$$ to get into though - and I can understand why that's not in everyone's interests.

Vern Dewit

Topic: Mt. Wilson (14 of 15)
Author: Rod Mcalister
Date: Thursday, April 23, 2009 05:14 PM

Hey Fernec,
I love to ski and have made a few jabs at the snowtards over the years but have nothing but admiration for your "do what works" attitude.You know how to soar,the vehicle you chose is irrelevant,as is my and others opinion.When you are on your death bed and drowning in your own saliva what will carry on is the legacy of your spousal and parental skills. Results follow actions.

Topic: Mt. Wilson (15 of 15)
Author: Jp S
Date: Friday, April 24, 2009 05:06 PM


The skiing comments have all been with friendly intention - albeit annoying. I'll try to remember not to harass you further by blurting out "get some planks" on future posts. But I might forget and make that comment (again), so chalk it up to me having nothing interesting to say and have a laugh at my expense.

I loved seeing the pictures and the report. I love seeing people enjoy the mountains, however they do it - unless you're a damn snowboarder ;)

Have fun out there,