After an approach to the des Poilus glacier and an ascent of Yoho Peak, I found myself oversleeping my alarm on Sunday, August 14 - our planned ascent day for Mount Des Poilus. The moon was so bright as I emerged from my bivy sack, that I was casting a shadow! The full moon would only make our ascent of the glacier easier.
Raf and Alan were getting up too, and soon the water was boiling for breakfast. It was very warm, around 8 degrees at camp as we roped up and set off up the glacier by 04:30.
Raf set an excellent pace on the approach and we stuck generally to the center of the glacier until we arrived at the base of the main climb (snow). Raf again set a nice pace up the steepening snow slope - sticking mostly to right (climber's) of center. We weren't seeing any big holes and still hadn't come across the trail we spotted the day before from Yoho Peak.
At the first bit of complex terrain we spotted the tracks and moved slightly left to gain them. The snow was quite firm and the crampons were biting beautifully. (Any warmer and we would have been dealing with slushy conditions though.) As we ascended higher, daylight began breaking over the Wapta and Mount Hector to the east. We stopped often for photos during the next 30 minutes.
We crossed the 'schrund no problem (very filled in - could hardly tell it was a 'schrund!) and beat our way up steepish slopes on a staircase of kicked steps to the final summit ridge on relatively firm snow. We could see how soft the snow had been for the two climbers we spotted the day before, they didn't even bother with crampons near the top of the route - probably due to balling issues.
We took the crampons and rope off for the final 100 vertical meters since it looked to be nothing more than scrambling on blocky, rocky terrain. This was indeed the case and at 07:30, exactly 3 hours from camp we were on the summit of des Poilus with a great panorama in all directions.
After posing for Alan (never go out with a professional photog!! :-)) and snapping our own shots for 30 minutes, we got tired of the cool breeze and began the descent while the snow pack was still stable. Our exit went without incident and soon we were trudging across the ice and rivers of meltwater on the main glacier again. We were back at camp at 10:30 for a round trip time of 6 hours - including 30 minutes on the summit and taking our time on the way up and down.
Raf and I both commented repeatedly that this ascent reminded us of our tramp up the President and Vice Presidentin 2008. As a matter of fact, we found des Poilus an easier ascent than the Presidents - probably due to a heavy snowpack and great conditions, not to mention a good track on the upper mountain. There are some huge crevasses on the des Poilus glacier and this trip should not be taken lightly if you don't know where they are (generally more to climber's left) but if you have great conditions this is a highly recommended peak which will give stunning views both at the summit and on the approach.
The trudge out to the parking lot was a bit mind-numbing but still beautiful and wrapped up a great weekend with fun company and lots of laughs.
The moon was so bright it was hard to get photos of the stars! This is at 03:50 and I was casting a shadow! (Of course it was darker than this photo implies - I used a shutter speed of 13 seconds here.)
Alan comes up the glacier - Yoho Peak is the small bump just left and above his head. We've already been going for almost 2 hours at this point. Our camp is across the glacier just right of Alan's head.
The slope steepens considerably near the top.
A gorgeous sunrise behind us (click for full size).
Approaching the 'schrund area.
Alan comes up with the main glacier far below us now.
It's a gorgeous morning. Arete Peak is in the near background.
Raf tackles the final steep snow slope.
Alan comes up the steep slope.
The last 100 vertical meters is a boulder / scree slog.
Raf on the summit of Des Poilus.
Mount Laussedat is a favorite of mine. I want to ascend it some day.
Many peaks visible from Des Poilus.
Vern on the summit of Des Poilus.
The Mummery icefield is right behind Des Poilus.
Raf and Alan on the summit (click for full size);
Looking west from the summit (click for full size);
Amiskwi Lodge with Mummery in the background.
Raf poses for Alan (a common theme with these two... ;-))
Downclimbing the steep snow slope - it was still pretty hard on descent.
Raf checks out the scenery on descent (click for full size):
The Goodsirs peak through the Vice President (left) and President (right) col.
Following the highway of tracks through the 'schrund area.
Very colorful glacial ice.
Alan tramps towards our camp.
Exploring an ice cave inside the glacier near our camp.
There was water inside the ice - very cool.
Looking back out of the cave entrance. We camped just outside of this cavern.
More posing with the cave...
Following the pavement back to the parking lot.
It's not called waterfall valley for nothing!
The Twin Falls trail is steep and very scenic.