After hiking Hailstone Butte in a gale force wind (or 'Mach 2' wind as Gillean Daffern would put it) Wietse and I decided we would try to at least make our way to the bottom slopes of Sentinel Peak if nothing else to get some exercise and figure out the route.
The traverse along the north end of Hailstone Butte was made very difficult by the sheer brunt force of the wind. It conspired with gravity and the slope of the hill to throw us off balance as we tried to walk. Some gusts were so fierce that we could only stand and lean back into the wind, else I think we would have blown clear off the 'butte'! If I go bald in the next few weeks I'll know what caused it! I've been in some really strong winds but this was by far the strongest to date. Any stronger and I would not have felt safe in it.
[Wietse walks towards the north end of Hailstone Butte. Can you see that he's leaning west to stop himself from blowing over?]
[That's some serious leaning! ;-)]
[Looking back at the summit of Hailstone Butte as we exit via the north slopes.]
We really weren't expecting to summit Sentinel Peak under these conditions. The funny thing was that after struggling down the north end of Hailstone in waist deep snow we kind of got used to the warm sunshine on our backs and the wind was much gentler. We started to forget how nasty the gale was and became all optimistic about summiting our second peak for the day.
After a pleasant walk up the approach meadows to Sentinel Peak we started up. The high tree line helped to provide much needed shelter and the wind was almost completely at our backs, pushing us up the mountain! About 10 minutes before the summit we re-entered the hurricane wind but it was way to late to turn back at this point so we basically crawled to the summit. We were in serious danger of blowing down the steep (i.e. sheer cliffs) east flank of the mountain!! After a few quick pictures we headed back down into the fierce teeth of the wind and 15 minutes later sighed with relief as we regained tree line and a bit calmer environs.
[Wietse descends the north slope of Hailstone with part of Plateau Mountain in the background.]
[There was some snow on that north slope...]
[A view ahead. Sentinel Peak is barely visible behind the false summit as seen from the approach valley.]
[Wietse ascending the wind-blasted lower slope of Sentinel.]
[I am not holding my pole outward. I'm simply letting the wind blow it. I'm not kidding! I didn't even dare touch the summit pole for fear that a gust of wind would blow me down the east face of the mountain.]
[Wietse demonstrates the technique for descending against the wind.]
[A large slab avalanche recently came off the east face of Plateau Mountain.]
From this point on we walked back out the approach valley and turned left onto the fire road that also accesses Hailstone Butte. We followed this road as it re-climbed towards the summit and left it for the high col just below the cliffs guarding Hailstone's summit. After regaining all that height we quickly made it back to the car which was thankfully still there and not in Teardrop Pond! A great two peak day, it would be absolutely fantastic with less wind, but that may be wishing for a lot, especially if you chose to tackle it when Calgary is getting a Chinook!
[Mount Burke looks majestic from this angle as we look back from the fire road that curves around the northeast flanks of Hailstone Butte on the way back.]
[Looking back as we regain almost all the height back to the summit of Hailstone on the east side of the mountain. The far one is Sentinel Peak.]
[Our morning tracks are visible beneath the south summit of Hailstone as we head back.]
[Hailstone Butte as seen from the road on the way back (looking back - this is what you see driving in). You can see the col in the upper right of the picture and the avi slopes beneath the cliffs that we negotiated to get there.]