After ascending Mount Ball and Beatrice Peak the previous day, we awoke to clear skies on Sunday morning, August 15 2010 ready to tackle Stanley Peak.
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... ;-)
[Gorgeous early morning lighting from the bivy site.]
[Traversing around to the SE ridge of Stanley.]
[More traversing - Haffner at left.]
[Stanley's SE side comes into view.]
[The further left you go, the easier the scrambling is on Stanley.]
[Some tricky down climbing into the bowl between Beatrice and Stanley.]
[Looking back where we traversed from.]
[Looking across the Haffner / Vermillion col.]
[The ridge starts out easy enough.]
[Rubble lower down.]
[Looking ahead the terrain doesn't look that easy...]
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.
[Looking over Vermillion at the Rockwall.]
[Heading up after dropping the big packs. We should be further left here but we thought the upper face looked too difficult so we started trending climber's right.]
[Moving between ridges proved to be a mistake.]
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.
[Things are getting too difficult for a 'moderate' scramble...]
[At the top of the difficult gully we scrambled up.]
[Looking for easier terrain.]
[Back on 'moderate' terrain.]
[Nearing the summit, looking over at Beatrice and Ball, both of which we climbed the day before.]
[A few more small cliff bands before the large summit plateau.]
[Gorgeous summit views towards Ball.]
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.
[Eric works his way up the large summit plateau on Stanley - a gorgeous summit panorama opening up behind him. ++]
[Mount Ball and Beatrice at far left - our approach valley and bivy at center. ++]
[Looking over Whymper - it looks tiny, towards Lake Louise peaks including (R to L) Deltaform, Hungabee, Huber, Victoria and Temple]
[The Bugaboos show up in the far distance - but very clear.]
[Panorama Ridge at right with Hector in the distance and Bident and Quadra in front of Mount Temple at left.]
[Looking back up the summit of Stanley from just off the shoulder.]
[The Goodsir Towers are always intimidating from every angle.]
[The Rockwall is impressive from this angle. ++]
[Deltaform and Hungabee are impressive 11,000ers.]
[Laussedat shows up.]
[Leaving the summit.]
Once we arrived at our packs we had a decision to make. We started down the promising gully but So took a peek 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.
[It's a long and convoluted way down to Haffner Creek.]
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.
[Finally we escaped the cliff bands and descended loose scree avalanche gullies to the creek.]
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 traveling 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.