Summit Elevation (m): 3311
Elevation Gain (m): 1850
Round Trip Time (hr): 12
Total Trip Distance (km): 15
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something
Difficulty Notes: A long approach through heavy burn involves route finding. Snow and ice on route will complicate the upper mountain – ice ax and crampons highly recommended. Note: This trip report is for both Mount Ball (moderate) and Beatrice Peak (easy).
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
I woke up at 03:15 on Saturday morning, August 14 2010 eager to drive to the Marble Canyon camp ground and a bushwhack up Haffner Creek. OK, I wasn’t exactly eager, but I did wake up! I arrived at the parking lot around 06:00 and by 06:30 our party of four was starting up Haffner Creek. I was joined by So, Andrea and Eric for this adventure. Ironically for such a remote peak and difficult access, we met quite a few other people on this trip. It started right at the parking lot. Two guys with light day packs and runners followed up behind us as we set off up the creek. About 5 minutes into the hike, just at the end of the road where the route goes above the canyon I spotted a rather large grizzly bear!
At first I thought it was a small black bear. Then it moved much closer to us and I realized quickly that this was no small black bear. This was a good sized grizzly and it wasn’t scared of us. We weren’t scared either since we had So with us and he knows karate. The two guys following us didn’t realize the bear was approaching and unintentionally they started to box it in by going up a side slope behind us! The bear was getting a bit confused and agitated. We yelled loudly and the two guys suddenly noticed the grizzly coming right at them and quickly gave it more room to get past. That was a close call. There’s nothing like some trailhead adventure to wake you up in the morning.
We were a little bit apprehensive about the Haffner Creek bushwhack. Existing trip reports use words like, “hell“, “worse than hell“, “hellish“, “wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy” – you get the idea. Only one friend (Raf) had commented on the bushwhack being better than he expected. Raf does a lot of BC climbing so he had some perspective on the matter. I also remembered Inglismaldie, which was much better than I was expecting based on existing reports.
After leaving the creek bed and climbing above the canyon on climber’s left for a while we started to notice bright orange flags marking a faint trail through the forest. This was encouraging. After a short stint high above the canyon the orange flagging guided us back to the stream. We followed the stream for quite a while, traveling much quicker than time spent side-hilling the burnt forest would have been. There was a very faint trail on the left side that disappeared and appeared somewhat randomly. As long as it was possible to stay in the stream we did. It was only when the bush got thick that we would look for other routes above the stream on climber’s left. After about 1-1.5 hours we still hadn’t done any real bushwhacking and wondered when it was going to start. Naturally, the bushwhacking started soon after this point…
Again, orange flagging saved the day for us. I led the way through the bush and across boulder fields, always looking intently for the next piece of flagging and following a very faint track through the waist-to-shoulder high fire weed. Sections of the upper route were quite tough but after ‘only’ 3 hours we were through the worst of the bush and feeling very good about our progress. The two guys behind us were nowhere to be seen as we started up the right-hand side of the headwall.
The terrain immediately above the headwall was very cool. Thin stands of trees with glacier-worn rock and soft beds of moss had us thinking maybe we should bivy here already! A lack of running water kept us from making this decision – the water is mostly underground at this point. We ditched our bivy gear at one of the last stands of pine trees before breaking into the upper valley with the intent of choosing a site later. After a quick break we continued up to Mount Ball.
The karst pavement area was very neat. Marmots and Pika abound in this area due to little human traffic and almost complete lack of natural predators and a huge variety of cracks and caves in the pavement to call home. We hiked through a series of marmot whistles before the ascent route for Ball became visible. It’s a very foreshortened view!
We eyed an obvious gully coming off of Beatrice and stored it away as a possible alternate descent route at the end of the day before proceeding up the regular Kane route. The waterfall was quite subdued as we crossed it.
The slope above the waterfall to the Beatrice / Ball col was more work than it looked from below but eventually we were at the col looking over at Mount Ball which seemed to be a fair distance away yet! Thankfully the route looked clear and we started over to it. We could still see the two guys following us and So even remarked that now there was 3 of them. We scoffed at him since there was only 2 guys the whole trek in but he insisted he saw a 3rd. We just assumed he was crazy.
The bump on the ridge was no problem, we went up on climber’s right and over it. I led us up the snow field, we didn’t need crampons with 2-4 inches of snow on the ice and a relatively low angled slope. We finally summitted Mount Ball 7 hours after leaving the parking lot.
The views from the top of Mount Ball are mind-blowing! Totally worth the suffering needed to attain them. I really pity people who didn’t get any views from this summit. We spent a good 1.5 hours on the warm and windless peak taking photos, sleeping and munching on snacks. The two other guys came up and joined us after about 1 hour and told us there was another party of 3 that were probably not going to make the summit. So turned out to be less blind than we thought and we commented on how popular this mountain was, considering the involved and long approach. I think it was because this was one of the first nice weekends this summer and nobody in their right mind wants to do this mountain unless the weather is good. We never did see the party of 3 so they suffered the approach in vain I guess. Bummer.
After a good snooze on the summit we were ready to tackle the return to the col and the short trudge up Beatrice Peak. Eric refused to consider such a minor bump his 100th peak, so Beatrice became his 101st summit and Stanley would become his 100th the following day. Confused? Don’t think about it too much. Beatrice seems very minor compared with the bulk of Ball, but it’s an impressive height on it’s own. It’s only 25 meters lower than Stanley Peak.
From the col it only took us a few minutes and we were on the second windless peak of the day. Our two followers soon joined us but since they were going all the way back to the parking lot they bailed off the summit very quickly. I’m sure they had an interesting descent considering one of them was cramping up already on Mount Ball! We encouraged them to give the alternate descent gully a shot. We figured if it didn’t go we would probably find out this way. Aren’t we nice people? (Based on Dave Stephen’s trip report that Andrea had printed out we were pretty certain it would go).
The views from Beatrice were still very good, but not quite the quality of Mount Ball. After another relaxing summit stay we decided that since the other two guys hadn’t come back they were either stuck in the gully or they made it out already.
We proceeded down the west side of Beatrice to the col above the gully and scoped out the route. It looked fabulous, but rather loose.
We scree-skied down the gully until hitting a snow patch which we glissaded and boot-skied before resuming on large scree. This descent gully is much quicker than retracing your ascent route through the waterfall and probably safer too – assuming you have a brain bucket on. The gully is full of very loose rock and rock fall is a hazard here. The good news is that it’s a short exposure to any hazards.
We leisurely made our way back to our bivy drop before lugging our gear back up to a perfect bivy site about 500 m past the tree line where there was a rock kitchen set up, complete with chair, table and cooking area. A small stream briefly surfaced just under a nearby rock wall before plunging back into the rock – this is possibly the best bivy site you’ll find in the area, but it’s wide open so maybe not so good if it’s windy or raining.
Supper never tasted so good! I found the perfect little depression in the ground to sleep in and couldn’t wait to get into my warm sleeping bag. After supper I spent a couple of hours wandering around the karst pavement above our camp, trying to get some video and pictures of the marmot population. One little guy was not very smart. Every time he poked his head out I would scare him. Each time he would get too curious and come back out. I did this 20 times and he kept coming back for another peek. Small minds are easily amused I guess – I’m not referring to just the marmot either.
Sunset was amazing. The whole world turned pink for about 5 minutes. So and I stayed up late to get some star pictures. I should have done some research on how to do this better. Next time I’ll be better prepared with more batteries. While we were climbing Ball / Beatrice, two other guys came up and set up their bivy next to ours. They were going after Mount Ball on Sunday and had taken over 6.5 hours to get through the approach. Mount Ball was quickly becoming a pretty popular peak – much more so than I expected.
After getting into my warm sleeping bag around 22:30 I was mesmerized by the incredible night sky. A few meteors only added to the incredible view of the Milky Way and stars that seemed so close I could touch them. I have never seen a sky quite like that. Absolutely incredible – it made the trip worth it right there. I fell asleep and slept like a baby until 0600 when my alarm told me it was time to pack camp and head over to ascend Stanley Peak.