Summit Elevation (m): 2760
Trip Date: August 13, 2011
Elevation Gain (m): 1330
Round Trip Time (hr): 12-14
Total Trip Distance (km): 30
Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 2 – You fall you sprain something.
Difficulty Notes: Mostly a hike with some off trail, easy scrambling to the peak. Some years it may be tough to avoid the Des Poilus Glacier.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps
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 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 in our group had done a ton of research on the route and given a web site failure on Nugara’s site 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 keep impacts to flora at a minimum.
After taking some photographs and a pleasant journey down memory lane with Alan at the top of Twin Falls (he remembers when there was free, random camping up there) we struck out up 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, after which 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 head lamps.
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 – route finding 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.