So what does a 3am wake-up time, 14km biking, 22km walking, 4 litres of Gatorade, 5 granola bars, a dozen gummy bears and some peanut M+M's give you? Well, under the right circumstances that'll get you 9,600 feet of height gain / loss and three distinct mountain summits all in the span of 13 hours!
Dave Stephens sent me an email inquiring how long I took to do Nestor Mountain near the Spray Lakes. He qualified his question with a comment about trying to bag The Fortress, Gusty Peak and Mount Nestor in one large push to get his total height gain for the year over 100,000 feet. I replied that I would love to join him on his quest since I recently was turned back from a fortress / gusty attempt and wanted revenge! Since I'd already done Nestor we changed the third objective to Mount Shark.
After getting lost on my terrible directions, Dave showed up at around 3:45am and we headed off for the Chester Lake parking lot. By 5:45 am we were biking up the trail by head lamp. It was a beautiful morning with an almost-full moon and no wind. Lactic acid was our best friend very early in the day as we sweated up the trail on our bikes. It didn't take long before it was time to ditch the wheels and start hoofing it.
[A view of The Fortress from the upper scree bowl above Chester Lake. Ascent is the right hand sky line ridge and then around climber's left on the summit block.]
[Nice morning lighting on Gusty - our second peak of the morning - as we grunt up to the Gusty / Fortress col.]
The brightening morning sky found us laboring up frozen scree towards the Chester / Fortress col. We reached the col and gazed up at the summit block, knowing that it was another 350 vertical meters to go. We both felt great and were soon scrambling up the summit block (aiming for the left hand side) through some hardened snow. We popped onto the summit around 8:15 to a cool breeze and clear skies. After a quick bite to eat we started our descent. We could see that we would be losing at least 500 meters of height gain before we could start up Gusty and it looked like a real slog on scree to attain Gusty's summit.
[From the summit looking east over the Fortress Ski hill and the Wedge below.]
[View to the east includes South Kidd in the fg at left and McDougall and Wasootch at right.]
[Excellent views towards the Haig Icefield.]
[Looking over Mount Burstall towards Sir Douglas.]
[Dave on the summit in early morning sun.]
[Looking over some lovely larches at South and Main Kidd (R) and Bogart and Sparrowhawk at left.]
[Looking over the Fist at Smuts with Shark (our third peak of today) at far right.]
The way down from Fortress was not as quick as the way up. The frozen scree that assisted us on the ascent, hindered us on the descent and was very hard to negotiate. Dave's butt came off the worst but we made it to the small tarn and began the ascent of Gusty.
[Dave descends The Fortress with Gusty rising above us.]
Unfortunately we right about the slog...