Wiwaxy Peaks – East Tower

Summit Elevation (m): 2703
Elevation Gain (m): 1200
Trip Date: October 1 2010
Round Trip Time (hr): 6-8
Total Trip Distance (km): 16
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something
Difficulty Notes: Loose, steep and some exposed scrambling to reach the east summit of Wiwaxy Peaks. I wouldn’t do this route with snow or ice.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps

After scrambling up Mount Schaffer on Thursday, I decided that a long hike followed by a scramble up Wiwaxy Peaks would be in order for Friday, October 1 2010. I was hiking by around 07:30 on Friday. The air was crisp and cool but the sky was clear and I felt great after a pretty good sleep in the hut. Huts can be extremely noisy and cramped but stuffing my ears with TP combined with being pretty tired after a long day and a wake up time of 04:00 helped me sleep despite the snoring of Bob the artist beside me!

Wiwaxy / Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit Route Map

My route for the day was to wander into the upper Opabin Plateau area, taking advantage of early morning light and the pools / lakes for photography. After wandering around and visiting Hungabee and Opabin Lakes I would traverse the Yukness Highline trail to Lake Oesa. After exploring that area for a while I would take the Wiwaxy high-line trail to the Wiwaxy / Huber col and from there I would attempt Wiwaxy Peaks (the east side) as a scramble. After that it would be a quick hike back to Lake O’Hara and then to the Elizabeth Parker ACC hut. You can read about the first part of my day here.

Wiwaxy and the col are now clearly visible with and obvious route towards them. Wiwaxy doesn’t look too easy from this angle!

I started up the lower part of Wiwaxy, following a faint trail from the col. As I worked my way higher things unfolded just as I thought they would. An obvious trail led me upwards. After a moderate traverse on a narrow ledge I found myself on the face below the east tower, with cairns and a faint trail leading me further west, traversing under the east towers and towards the col between the two main Wiwaxy summit blocks. The traverse went around several ridges and under several promising looking gullies / chimneys. I went part way up one of the more solid looking chimneys but backed down after realizing I didn’t really know where it ended up. I think that one would have gone but I kept going on my traverse, following the odd cairn and a faint trail.

It’s hard to believe but there’s a scramble route through the Huber Ledges on the right, leading to the Huber Glacier

Eventually the trail and cairns stopped. I wasn’t at the col between summit blocks yet, but was pretty close. I decided to ascend here. I was between the 2nd and 3rd of the east towers (from the col between summit blocks). Since I wasn’t sure which tower was the highest I first tried the 2nd one. It was not cairned on the top and was definitely not scrambling so I abandoned that thought. Next I decided to try the 3rd tower. It looked difficult from the base of the 2nd but as I explored closer I realized I could scramble up moderate ledges to the top. After some short (fun) scrambling I was on top of the 3rd tower and looking at the highest eastern-most tower of Wiwaxy with a large cairn on it. I carefully traversed into the col between the 3rd and 4th towers and scrambled up some more moderate terrain before finally standing on top of the highest tower of the east summit block. The west summit block looked to be exactly the same height as the east one (usually another summit around the same height looks taller but in this case it looked exactly the same height so it’s either the same or lower). There was no register.

A panorama near the east summit (on far right) showing the entire Huber Ledge traverse with Victoria – North Summit and Huber looming above.
Huber, Lefroy, Glacier, Ringrose, Hungabee, Yukness, Biddle, Park, Schaffer, Owen, Little Odaray, Odaray, West Wiwaxy and Mount Stephen

I couldn’t believe how steep and intimidating the Huber Ledge route looked from the summit of Wiwaxy! I am still proud of the way I led through that difficult route as darkness settled in after my Victoria / Huber climb with Kevin Barton in 2007. After taking in the views for 30 minutes or so I decided not to keep Anthony waiting too long and headed back down my ascent route. Again, there are other routes to this summit but all of them appeared looser and less fun than mine.

Oesa, Lefroy and Yukness all dumping into O’Hara at lower right with Yukness dwarfed by Ringrose, Hungabee and Biddle.

There was opportunity to shortcut to the descent trail from near the first cliff traverse but I decided I’d better go back to the Wiwaxy / Huber col to meet up with Anthony so he wouldn’t worry about my safety. He was still waiting so I’m glad I did that. We returned to Lake O’Hara via the steep trail that I so fondly remembered from my Victoria / Huber  trip! (OK – not so fondly after 12 hours in crampons!!)

An incredible sunset panorama from the shoreline of Lake O’Hara.

I highly recommend this scramble if you’re in the region. The summit of Wiwaxy is the same height as Yukness and Schaffer and the scrambling is just as fun (maybe a touch more fun). It’s not ascended nearly as often as those other two either. When I was talking with Caroline on Schaefer, she mentioned that there was no obvious scramble route up the east tower (the west is an alpine climb) – she had attempted and failed it only the week before. She was obviously wrong. If you don’t mind some route-finding adventure go for it and enjoy the views.

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