Summit Elevation (m): 3185
Trip Date: Friday, July 6, 2007
Elevation Gain (m): 1280
Round Trip Time (hr): 8
Total Trip Distance (km): 18
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: Complexity rises with snow on route. This is a difficult scramble and should be treated as such.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps
On Friday, July 06 2007, JW, Wietse and I decided to escape the madness that is Calgary on Stampede Parade day and bag another peak instead. We chose Galatea because we thought we could still get lucky with a good glissade and I’ve wanted to scramble that mountain for 3 years already. We left Calgary nice and early and started up the trail to Chester Lake at around 0730. None of us was feeling very motivated and it was hard to get going for some reason this day. There was one other party ahead of us on the trail but we quickly caught and passed by them. They had tons of heavy looking video and sound equipment and the sound guy actually dashed off into the trees as we approached. We weren’t sure what they were up to but continued on past them with a quick “hello”.
Once at Chester Lake I led the other guys to a cool waterfall before regaining the main trail around the elephant rocks. The alpine meadows were beautiful and peaceful in the morning sun and the wind was actually very warm already in the morning! We were sure that the heat and lack of motivation would likely kill us on this scramble! The route looked very steep from the valley but as we approached closer we could see the route shaping up. We could also see that crampons would not be required so we ditched the extra weight and headed up a snow slope to the plunging waterfall at the base of the mountain.
From this point on I basically tried to find as much solid rock as I possibly could. I thought for sure that JW and Wietse would catch up to me and pass me but I guess they must have had about as little energy as I did because they never did! Every ten steps was a breather while I tried to find more solid rock. Finally I made the summit ridge and began the traverse over to the summit cairn. The traverse had some exposure but really nothing too bad – certainly not difficult compared to Arethusa 2 days ago! Galatea was probably the easiest, difficult mountain I’ve done so far. Only the descent would prove to be a bit tricky.
JW and Wietse joined me on the summit and we enjoyed about half an hour taking in the awesome views and enjoying the cool wind. Yes – the wind at the top was actually strong enough to be fairly chilly which was a life-saver after the heat of the lower slopes.
Eventually it was time to head down. We took out the axes and traversed back along the ridge to a steep snow slope. This was the most difficult part of the scramble. The slope was quite steep and the snow was surprisingly firm considering the very warm temperature. Only the first 4-6 inches were soft, the rest was hard. This meant that you would pick up speed a bit too quickly and slowing back down was a bit of a problem. It was good self-arrest practice but the run out wasn’t very pleasant so there was a few panicky moments in there! JW and Wietse both cut up their hands pretty good – I was glad for the thick winter gloves I still had in my back pack.
Once done the steep bit, the rest of the descent back to the Galatea Valley was uneventful on easy-angled snow slopes that we could just boot-ski and plunge step down. Once in the valley the heat came back with a vengeance and thoughts of swimming in the lake came up. On the way down the valley we came on the film crew videotaping something – still not sure what! We passed them again and came down to one of the small ponds below the head-wall. There was snow coming right down to the pond but that didn’t stop us from stripping to our underwear and going in!! That was COOOOLLLLLD!!! You wouldn’t survive long in that! We dried off in the hot sun and kept going to Chester Lake. Once at Chester Lake there were quite a few more people (10-15) but again, that didn’t stop JW and I from stripping down and jumping back in! Chester Lake was balmy compared to the last lake and we could actually swim a bit. JW is cold blooded or something because he lasted a lot longer than me.
After all the swimming fun it was time to head back to the truck. The walk back was very hot but after the refreshing lakes it wasn’t too bad. A very good view after a slog to the summit – I recommend this mountain very highly as it has one of the best views in K Country. Just be careful if you’re glissading the upper snow slopes – they are deceptively steep and should be treated with respect and caution.