Bell, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 2910
Trip Date: Saturday, October 14, 2006
Elevation Gain (m): 1200
Round Trip Time (hrs): 5.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: No major difficulties if scrambling the Kane route in dry conditions. This is a longish day trip.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps
Photos: View Album

On Saturday, October 14 2006, I scrambled Mount Bell with Sonny, Calvin and Jeff. The weather was very acceptable for mid-October with some high cloud and temperatures anywhere from around 10 degrees at the base of the mountain to around 0 at the summit. 

Mount Bell Route Map

There are no real route-finding issues on this scramble. We chose to do the ‘alternate’ approach, going up the scrubby, steep slope above Boom Lake rather than all the way to Taylor Lake and then to the col. There are two things that may color my perception of this scramble a bit more negative than it would otherwise be.

The first is that I was sick already before the trip (I was sick on Yukness already the week before) and it only got worse as the day wore on. By the time I was done I had a good fever going. This made the whole outing quite unpleasant for me, physically. The second is that I really, really, really HATE rock-hard scree slopes. Even worse is that I forgot my trekking poles for the first time in over 2 years – bad timing. So with those two disclaimer statements up front let me continue my report.

The highlight of the day was a gorgeous Boom Lake vista with early morning fog and complete silence.

After getting up to Boom Lake, we took some pictures in the morning mist. After enjoying the stillness of the morning, we headed around the lake on the North side, following a trail right by the shoreline. We followed this till we came to a large pile of rocks, settled between a small pond and Boom Lake.

We started up the avy slope coming down to the pond. If we wanted to avoid losing elevation later we should have started traversing climber’s left after getting to tree line to gain the col directly. We didn’t know this though, so we went straight up to the ridge above us before realizing our route error. But Jeff made a much worse choice.

The lower slope above the lake was nasty, hard dirt / scree but the views opening up to the south towards Boom Mountain and west to Chickadee and Chimney Peaks made up for it (almost). Jeff out-paced us quite quickly and was soon headed up to the wrong summit! He didn’t realize that we had to go left at the ridge. I wish he had it right because our day would’ve been a lot easier! Once he was half way up the wrong slope we yelled at him but Jeff decided to bag the nub anyway – a decision that probably cost him the summit in the end but Linda Breton would be proud of his accomplishment.

On the summit ridge looking back at our ascent route from Boom Lake at lower right and Jeff’s false summit to the east.

Once reaching the ridge we realized we were high above the col and reluctantly set off down the ridge about 100m vertical to reach the col. I was feeling quite dizzy by this time but the weather was great, the views were only getting better and the ridge started getting exciting so there was really no good reason to turn back. My favorite part of the day was scrambling up this ridge. Too bad I was so dizzy or I would have stuck to the ridge even more than I did. If you don’t like ridges there’s lots of nasty, big, loose scree to keep you company on climber’s left.

Fantastic views off the blocky ridge towards Chickadee Peak and Chimney Peak and the glaciers lining it’s east face. The Chick-a-boom ski traverse descends the glacier at right of center and exits back into the Chickadee Valley via the rocky col at left.
The always-impressive Castle Mountain massif across the Bow Valley.

Speaking of loose rock, don’t climb Bell with lots of other people because you’ll probably kill one of them with large rock fall. I found the rock disturbingly loose in places, even on the cliff bands where rocks the size of a small car would shift with your weight sometimes. Good thing I left my helmet in the car to save weight eh?!

After an eternity of false summits we were finally on top. I couldn’t believe that I was actually stubborn enough to make it to the top in my condition and even Sonny professed to feeling lethargic on this particular outing. Jeff was feeling exhausted too and turned back well before the summit. (We never did see him again till the parking lot at the end of the day.) Calvin seemed unaffected so I guess the rest of us just need to exercise more or something.

The views were incredible but the wind was biting. Soon we were headed back down. Here’s where the negative feelings towards Bell start for me. The loose, hard, shifting, solid, big, small rocky terrain was not that much fun. Since the views were basically done the only thing to look forward to was a 5km march on steep, unstable terrain to get back to the lake and then another 5km plod on a concrete-hard trail in the trees that seems to go up more than down. Don’t say I didn’t warn you either! Pick a nice clear day to do this one or you may be disappointed.

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