Thanks to Dave Stephens we knew there was an easier route than the Kane bash up the face - we could ascend southwest slopes to the summit. We had an idea that instead of coming all the way back above the headwall to our bivy site before going back down Haffner Creek, we could descend off Stanley's south slopes and cut off a good part of the bushwhack. This would be a bit dicey because of cliff bands guarding the south side of Stanley but we felt good about finding a route off, so we set out with our full packs.
We traversed a bit too high around Beatrice before dropping into the bowl between Beatrice and Stanley, but it worked. Once in this bowl we realized that it was a good thing we didn't bivy here the night before - there was no running water above ground that we could find. We decided to lug the heavy packs a good ways up the ridge, in case there was a way down to Haffner Creek from up there. It turns out that we carried them too high - but we wanted the exercise anyway... ;-)
After dumping the packs near the top of a promising-looking exit gully we continued up the ridge to a nasty looking south face of Stanley - well to climber's right of the Kane route. As we got higher we realized that there are actually two ridges that are southeast and we were on the more westerly one. Looking at Dave's pictures I now realize this was exactly where he traversed to from the gully but at the time we thought we should get onto the east ridge and scramble directly up the ridge instead of going up the face in front of us. So wanted to tackle the steep looking face but we decided to stick to the ridge first. This was a mistake. We should have stayed on our original ridge but over-thinking the route got us in a bit of trouble.
We ended up on difficult terrain before cooler heads prevailed and we soon realized there was no way this was 'moderate' terrain! We traversed back to climber's left and realized immediately that So's original line was correct. The route right up the face was easy compared to the ridge section we were on and we made good time going up fairly solid rock steps and boulders. Generally sticking to climber's right is best on the way up, saving the looser terrain in the middle for the descent.
As the route leveled off I noticed some orange flagging here and there and decided to follow it on descent.
The summit view from Stanley is sublime! Just like on Ball and Beatrice the day before, we spent a long time on the windless and warm summit. There's something really nice about a summit nap - they are very energizing! After 1.5 hours at the peak we reluctantly agreed that it was time to face the trail back to the parking lot. We descended the middle of the face, following orange flagging all the way back to our original ridge. This is definitely 'moderate' terrain - not difficult despite appearances. It's loose, but not scary.
Once we arrived at our packs we had a decision to make. We started down the promising gully but So took a peak ahead and commented that it looked "pretty slabby" up ahead. Sure enough. When we gave the gully a closer look we all agreed that we should try another route down. I suggested we descend straight off our ridge, contouring to skier's right and hopefully finding a route through the cliff band protecting Stanley's south side. The others agreed and we heading down. We were still high above Haffner Creek at this point.
We soon realized that the cliffs of Stanley were not going to just let us through easily. Instead of giving up though, we stubbornly kept traversing just above the cliff line, each time we came to a gully it proved too steep to scramble down. After 3 or 4 gullies we arrived at a promising looking slope. It was very steep but mostly dirt and small rocks and we managed to get down and into a major avalanche gully coming down the south side of Stanley. I think we were one gully further than Kane's ascent gully at this point. Although you could use our descent route for ascent, I wouldn't recommend it. It's much easier and more obvious to go up the headwall and traverse into the Stanley / Beatrice bowl before heading up Stanley.
Once in the major gully we picked our way down to Haffner Creek where we dunked our heads in the cold water and drank liters of much-needed fluid. The descent slopes on Stanley are all south facing and we could feel the heat sapping our energy.
The trek back down Haffner was brutal at first, for about the first 40 minutes. I kept losing the 'trail' - the fire weed wasn't quite as trampled as on the way in! Once we hit the creek again the travelling became much easier and it didn't seem too long before we were back at the parking lot. The key once again was to stay in the creek bed (skier's right) as much as humanly possible, only leaving it when cairns / flagging guided us away.
We all agreed that this was a great trip - it was really nice meeting Andrea and any trip with So and Eric is usually worth doing! I highly recommend the bivy option and good weather for these large peaks and this remote area. Just be prepared to share the meadows with others if you pick the first good weekend of the summer...
A beautiful morning!
Descending into the basin between Stanley (looming over us) and Beatrice (behind and to our right):
Trudging up more scree!
Shadows as we get higher:
We should not be here. We should be on the ridge to our left but we thought the face above us looked too difficult so we are traversing to the wrong ridge in this photo (to our right)! :-)
See? This is why you should just stay on the left ridge!
Back on easier terrain.
This is more like 'moderate' scrambling!
So and Andrea nearing the summit of Stanley Peak:
So goes exploring on the summit with Mount Ball looming above him:
Eric approaches the summit:
Looking towards the Lake Louise group including Deltaform, Hungabee, Victoria, Lefroy, Fay and Temple:
Panorama looking toward Mount Storm (click to view full size) - this is the side most people ascend Stanley from:
Mount Storm - ski ascent route clearly visible here:
Is this a snow/ice route on Stanley? This is just below the summit.
Even the Bugaboos are visible!
The Goodsir Towers always look impressive:
Summit shot L-R, Andrea, Vern, Eric and So:
Descending to a beautiful panorama of peaks.
The alternate descent off Stanley requires some careful route finding and some bushwhacking too.