Mount Des Poilus has been on my radar for quite some time. Originally it was always a ski objective but lately I'd also been looking at it as a possible summer peak.
After reading Andrew Nugara's one day ascent of Yoho Peak and a separate (impressive!!) one day climb of Mount Des Poilus I had the brilliant idea to combine the two with a bivy to eliminate two REALLY long day trips and a repeat of the somewhat tedious approach.
When Raf indicated that he was also interested in Des Poilus as a summer trip, I told him of my plan to spend 1.5 days near the Des Poilus glacier and combining Yoho and Des Poilus into one trip. He loved the idea. On August 13 & 14 2011 we were joined by Alan Fortune for this little adventure.
We didn't start too early on Saturday, thinking that Yoho Peak is a pretty tame objective. I was surprised to learn (in the parking lot) that nobody had done a ton of research on the route and given a web site failure on Nugara's side we were left with a bit of guesswork regarding the best place to bivy and even the best approach for Waterfall Valley and Yoho Peak! Ah well, what's life without some guesswork right? ;-) We decided that we would approach Waterfall valley via the Twin Falls / Whaleback Ridge route. This worked well. The only issue with this approach is the height and distance loss from the top of the Twin Falls approach trail to Twin Falls. Basically you end up doubling back and losing height when in theory you could bushwhack straight into waterfall valley from the top of the hike - this isn't recommended though - the trail is much easier and more environmentally friendly travel.
After taking some photographs and a pleasant journey down memory lane with Alan at the top of Twin Falls we struck out for waterfall valley. The trail into the valley runs up beside the stream running over Twin Falls on climber's right. Soon we were passing another impressive falls, afterwhich the stream we were beside calmed down a bit (the main torrent being further west, out of sight from the trail).
Eventually the trail topped out on a small rise and we descended through thinning trees to a tarn sitting underneath the south ridge of Yoho Peak. On ascent we decided to 'shortcut' to the des Poilus glacier and left the trail to climber's right. I think you should try to stick to the trail - it's easier and more level. The trail continues from the tarn on climber's left - going up yellow karst pavement and sticking to the gully system trending slowly to climber's right and into the des Poilus region. Soon we could see our main objective, which appeared glorious in the afternoon sunshine!
A nice surprise was the rather large glacial lake at the toe of the des Poilus glacier that is not marked on any map that I've seen. We were very tempted to set up our bivy on a nice bench above this lake, but logic dictated that we should try to camp closer to the glacier and to our objectives. Logic won over our desire to drop the packs and we continued past the lake on a well-defined trail. The trail quickly became quite rough as we cut across a cliff band and dropped down to the glacier. We managed to find an excellent bivy, literally about as far up and as close to the glacier as you could possibly be without being on it! This meant we could crampon and rope up right from camp the following morning and wouldn't have to negotiate loose, rocky terrain at 03:00 with headlamps.
After setting up camp (and after Raf demonstrated his love for glaciers - don't ask...) and having a bite to eat we set off for Yoho Peak. Loose, blocky terrain led to the Collie / Yoho col. From there we ascended easy slopes to a great summit panorama of the Yoho and Wapta area including our main objective - Mont Des Poilus. We were delighted to see tracks on the upper slopes - routefinding would not be a problem anymore. We also spotted two figures far below on the glacier, slowly making their way down. We were surprised how late they were on the mountain considering the very warm temperatures but quite happy that we would most likely have a 'staircase' to the summit the following day.
After a delicious cup of coffee and supper, Raf and Alan got into Raf's bivy-sized tent (!!) and I snuggled into my bivy sack under a clear sky. I slept wonderfully with a cool breeze coming off the glacier and the sound of a nearby stream. I slept so soundly that I didn't hear my 03:10 alarm! (see Mount Des Poilus for the second part of this trip).
A beautiful sunny morning to start our trip.
Lots of wildflowers still out.
The waterfalls in Yoho are amazing.
The trail to the top of Twin Falls had some recent blow down.
Trolltinder Mountain is not ascended often.
The top of Twin Falls is very interesting terrain.
Raf looks like he's posing...
... and that's because he is!
Alan gets close to the torrent. One slip and it's all over.
After walking along the waterfall valley trail you will come to this small tarn. Yoho Peak is on the center-right, Des Poilus just left of center. You should go more to the left (see next photo) and follow cairns here.
This is looking left of the photo above. Follow the yellow karst pavement and stay low. Eventually follow terrain / cairns trending to climber's right.
Des Poilus comes into prominance!
There is a cool trail around the lake - built on a foundation of old ice I wonder how long it will last? Getting to Des poilus glacier would be much harder then!
Scoping out a bivy location. We ended up somewhere directly underneath Raf's pole tip!
Yeah baby! GLACIER! (Don't ask... ;-))
Alan on the summit bump of Yoho Peak.
Raf comes up Yoho Peak with Des Poilus in the background.
Hungabee and other Lake Louise peaks.
Des Poilus on the left and Mount Collie on the right.
This is the ski slope that is part of the Bow - Yoho traverse, coming off a shoulder of Collie onto the Des Poilus glacier.
The toe of the Des Poilus glacier with Isolated Peak and Mount McArthur.
Sunset over the tarn.