I woke up at 0315 on Saturday morning, August 14 2010 eager to drive to the Marble Canyon camp ground and a bushwhack up Haffner Creek.
OK, I wasn't exactly eager, but I did wake up!
I arrived at the parking lot around 0600 and by 0630 our party of four was starting up Haffner Creek. I was joined by So, Andrea and Eric for this adventure.
Ironically for such a remote peak and difficult access, we met quite a few other people on this trip. It started right at the parking lot. Two guys with light day packs and runners followed up behind us as we set off up the creek. About 5 minutes into the hike, just at the end of the road where the route goes above the canyon I spotted a rather large grizzly bear!
At first I thought it was a small black bear. Then it moved much closer to us and I realized quickly that this was no small black bear! This was a good sized grizzly and it wasn't too scared of us. We weren't scared either since we had So with us and he knows karate. ;-) The two guys following us didn't realize the bear was approaching and unintentionally they started to box it in by going up a side slope behind us! The bear was getting a bit confused and agitated. We yelled loudly and the two guys suddenly noticed the grizzy coming right at them and quickly gave it more room to get past. That was a close call. There's nothing like some trail head adventure to wake you up in the morning!
We were a little bit apprehensive about the Haffner Creek bushwhack. Existing trip reports use words like, "hell", "worse than hell", "hellish", "wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy" - you get the idea. Only one friend (Raff) had commented on the bushwhack being better than he expected. Raff does a lot of BC climbing so he had some perspective on the matter. I also remembered Inglismaldie, which was much better than I was expecting based on existing reports.
After leaving the creek bed and climbing above the canyon on climber's left for a while we started to notice bright orange flags marking a faint trail through the forest. This was encouraging! After a short stint high above the canyon the orange flagging guided us back to the stream. We followed the stream for quite a while, travelling much quicker than time spent side-hilling the burnt forest would have been. There was a very faint trail on the left side that disappeared and appeared somewhat randomly. As long as it was possible to stay in the stream we did. It was only when the bush got thick that we would look for other routes above the stream on climber's left. After about 1-1.5 hours we still hadn't done any real bushwhacking and wondered when it was going to start.
The bushwhacking started soon after this point!
Again, orange flagging saved the day for us. I led the way through the bush and across boulder fields, always looking intently for the next piece of flagging and following a very faint track through the waist-to-shoulder high fire weed. Sections of the upper route were quite tough but after 'only' 3 hours we were through the worst of the bush and feeling very good about our progress. The two guys behind us were nowhere to be seen as we started up the right-hand side of the headwall.
The terrain immediately above the headwall was very cool. Thin stands of trees with glacier-worn rock and soft beds of moss had us thinking maybe we should bivy here already! A lack of running water kept us from making this decision - the water is mostly underground at this point. We ditched our bivy gear at one of the last stands of pine trees before breaking into the upper valley with the intent of choosing a site later. After a quick break we continued up to Mount Ball.
The karst pavement area was very neat. Marmots and Pika abound in this area due to little human traffic and almost complete lack of natural predators and a huge variety of cracks and caves in the pavement to call home. We hiked through a series of marmot whistles before the ascent route for Ball became visible. It's a very fore-shortened view! We eyed an obvious gully coming off of Beatrice and stored it away as a possible alternate descent route at the end of the day before proceeding up the regular Kane route. The waterfall was quite subdued as we crossed it. The slope above the waterfall to the Beatrice / Ball col was more work than it looked from below but eventually we were at the col looking over at Mount Ball which seemed to be a fair distance away yet! Thankfully the route looked clear and we started over to it. We could still see the two guys following us and So even remarked that now there was 3 of them! We scoffed at him since there was only 2 guys the whole trek in but he insisted he saw a 3rd. We just assumed he was crazy.
The bump on the ridge was no problem, we went up on climber's right and over it. I led us up the snow field, we didn't need crampons with 2-4 inches of snow on the ice and a relatively low angled slope. We finally summited Mount Ball 7 hours after leaving the parking lot (including all breaks).
The views from the top of Mount Ball are mind-blowing! Totally worth the suffering needed to attain them. I really pity people who didn't get any views from this summit. We spent a good 1.5 hours on the warm and windless peak taking photos, sleeping and munching on snacks. The two other guys came up and joined us after about 1 hour and told us there was another party of 3 that were probably not going to make the summit. So got his revenge on us at that point! I guess he's still crazy but not as crazy as I first thought... We all commented on how popular this mountain was considering the approach. I think it was because this was one of the first nice weekends this summer and nobody in their right mind wants to do this mountain unless the weather is good. Right Ferenc? We never did see the party of 3 so they suffered the approach in vain I guess. At least the views are good already above the headwall.
After a good snooze on the summit we were ready to tackle the return to the col and the short trudge up Beatrice Peak. Eric refused to consider such a minor bump his 100th peak, so Beatrice became his 101st summit and Stanley would become his 100th the following day. Confused? Don't think about it too much then.
This is where we started our trip. You can either bushwhack right away (just go straight past this water tower and trend to climber's right until you hit the stream) or go straight south (right) here and walk a short way on a road before being forced by cliffs along the stream to go up to climber's left. We saw the bear at the end of this short road.
Walking along the stream was not too bad at first.
The further you go the more dense the growth. Bring waterproof pants if there's dew or rain! We followed ribbons through this part.
The area is beautiful but punishing at the same time.
Above the headwall. We thought of camping here but you should go past tree line towards Ball (center) to find a really good bivy spot. There's no running water right here anyway.
Looking back from above the headwall. Stanley Peak rises majestically to the right. (Click to view full size)
On the karst pavement after dropping our bivy gear. Mount Ball towers between Andrea (on left) and Eric (center). The crux section on the traverse is just left of Andrea and the scree access cone is out of sight to climber's left.
Now we've turned the corner to our left and are looking up at the scree cone and Beatrice. The alternate descent from Beatrice is the obvious scree run with snow in it in the center of the picture. The waterfall ascent route is further right from there.
Looking back from the karst pavement (click to view full size):
Eric comes around the corner behind me.
Now we're closer to the waterfall ascent route. To our left is the alternate descent. Beatrice is right above us and the waterfall gully is to our right (dark smudge).
So works his way past the waterfall.
The gully above the waterfall is steep and loose - a bit of a grind.
Ok - it's a LOT of a grind! Andrea pauses with the approach basin far below.
Finally up on the ridge, looking at Ball on the left and Beatrice on the right (click to view full size):
Approaching the crux (left) - note the cairn. Beatrice on the right (click to view full size):
What a glorious day! Slogging up the final snow slope to the summit of Mount Ball:
At the summit of Mount Ball looking towards the Goodsirs and Mount Vaux.
So and Andrea pointing out summits:
Looking towards Pilot and Brett (mouseover for names):
Panorama looking west and north (click to view full size):
Panorama looking north and east - note Shadow Lake below - (click to view full size):
Looking into the valley just north of Ball (click to view full size):
Huge summit panorama (click to view full size):
Mount Assiniboine and another lake to the southeast:
The Goodsir Towers:
Deltaform and Hungabee:
The group shot (L to R, Vern, Eric, Andrea and So):