Stutfield Peak (NE2)
In spite of a tough approach the day before and just ascending Stutfield Peak in very windy conditions, TJ, JW, Ferenc and I decided we might as well take advantage of the clear conditions and bag Stutfield NE Peak while we were in the vicinity anyway. ;-)
The Stutfields or "Stuts" are not technical summits by any stretch of the imagination. What makes them difficult is the fact that they are in the middle of nowhere with a very lengthy approach, are often very icy or windblown and are known for their generous number of crevasses where people least expect them. In our case, we got kind of lucky. Sure, our weather wasn't optimal but we had no ice, only some very hard wind-pack and very good snow coverage, i.e. very few open crevasses. We picked the perfect conditions for these peaks.
As we headed to the col between the two Stuts I was reminded of the other reason the Stuts are a bit of work to attain. You basically have to climb 3 11000er's to get the two summits;
- Descend from camp to the North Twin / Stutfield col.
- Ascend Stutfield.
- Descend to the Stuts col.
- Ascend Stutfield NE Peak.
- Descend to the Stuts col.
- Ascend Stutfield.
- Descend to the North Twin / Stutfield col.
- Ascend back to camp.
Arg. It's as tiring as it sounds, especially in high winds with little food in your stomach! My lesson on this particular day was that if I was to be successful for the rest of the weekend I had to somehow figure a way to eat more food when we got back to camp.
[You can barely see JW skiing ahead of me towards the Stuts col with Stutfield NE in the background (right). In the centre of the photo is Mount Cromwell.]
[A tele shot looking past the hanging glacier under Stutfield Peak and towards Mount Alberta in the distance behind]
[TJ and JW ski up Stutfield NE with Stutfield Peak, North Twin and Twins Tower poking up behind them]
The ascent of Stutfield NE went easily, but again Ferenc seemed to be lagging a bit as we neared the summit. A huge cornice prevented us from peering over the edge but the views were goreous nonetheless. We stayed unroped for the remainder of the trip back to camp which allowed us a couple of nice ski runs down each peak. Obviously we stayed in our approach tracks for safety reasons.
[On the summit of Stutfield NE]
[TJ skis down the west face of Stutfield NE Peak]
[More skiing down the west face of Stutfield NE Peak. Mount Columbia in the background and Stutfield Peak on the right]
On the way back I stuck behind Ferenc because I thought he may be unwell and I wanted to take lots of photos anyway. Sometimes I like to take my time on the way back from a climb because there's no pressure and in this case it was early afternoon and we had a ton of time to whittle away until evening.
[Up and down, Up and down! All at over 11000 feet - good times! Re-ascending Stutfield Peak after skiing Stutfield Peak NE]
[Gorgeous views of Mount Kitchener from the re-ascent of Stutfield Peak. As you can see there is nothing technical about the ski ascent of the west slopes other than not falling in a crevasse of course!]
[TJ looks ready to rock 'n roll North and Twins Tower!! This image shows that despite appearances it was cold in the wind - note he's wearing his down jacket and full Gore-Tex.]
[GULP. That's for tomorrow boyz!! Yeah!! Psyched.]
[JW skis down Stutfield Peak]
[Scoping out the route for tomorrow on North Twin and Twins Tower]
[Great views of North Twin and Twins Tower from the west slopes of Stutfield Peak]
Back at camp JW, TJ and I started to worry out loud about Ferenc as we all felt he wasn't eating enough. The three of us set about keeping ourselves occupied for the hours of daylight remaining. TJ and I spend a lot of time building up the walls around our tents. JW and I dug out a nice biffy and the three of us sat around swapping stories, eating as much as possible and trying to stay reasonably warm in the strong wind that just wouldn't give up on us.
[Back at camp. Note the wall - it kepting getting larger and larger as we got more and more bored at camp ;-). The wind was relentless and the tent flapped like crazy even behind the 6 foot high wall!]
[A view from my sleeping matt. We are drying out our ski boot liners and boiling water. Down hut booties are a key peice of equipment out here - it gives your feet a break from sweaty liners and tight ski boots.]
[Another view out of our front door]
[TJ poses in camp - note that the wall is higher already then on the last pic! :-)]
TJ was the water champion of the trip. He faithfully kept the stove going for hours each day, melting snow and boiling water for us to stay hydrated and eat our meals. Because we cooked in a tent we used FAR less fuel than expected and we ended up carrying over half of it out again!
[JW eating supper. You never really get a break from the cold up there - but thankfully we had big down jackets!!]
[Panorama from camp looking east towards hwy #93, Stuts on the left and Kitchener on the right. It was wierd to be up there in gale force winds and cold, knowing that down in the valley people were walking around in t-shirts and shorts! So close, yet so far away!]
As evening drew in around us we noticed another group slowly approaching. When they finally got close we recognized Raf - the crazy Pol (!) as one of them. Raff came over for a quick chat and mentioned that he was going for Twins Tower on Saturday - his last peak on the Columbia ice fields. We told him we'd be joining him and as he ski'd off to set up camp with his rope team we set about eating supper and preparing for the next day.
[Raff, Adam and Jay set up their camp about 200m away from us]
The whole time we were bustling around camp, Ferenc was in the other tent - he only came out very briefly to eat a little supper and urinate (high altitude is a diuretic and prevents you from holding in too much liquid). When I asked him how he was doing I only got a "not good" and an unhappy look - this was certainly not the Ferenc I had ski'd Columbia and Castleguard with earlier in the year! I also noticed was that I would ask him a question and then JW would ask the exact same question and get a different answer only a minute later (i.e. "How much are you eating?").
After supper we agreed that if Ferenc wasn't moving a bit better on Saturday we would not be taking him up Twins Tower and possibly not even North Twin. To move effectively on a rope a team needs to be roughly on the same page. More importantly, in order to be a help during a crevasse rescue every member of the rope team has to have enough gas in the tank to actually be a help and to self-extract if they are the ones who fall in. It may sound harsh but I would expect no less if I was the one in trouble and it turns out that Ferenc agreed with us when we talked about it the next day.