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Henry MacLeod, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 3288
Trip Date: August 01 2015
Elevation Gain (m): 230
Trip Time (hr): 2.5
Trip Distance (km): 3.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Travel on a very crevassed glacier – much easier with a good snow base. Note: Stats indicated are from a glacier bivy near Mount Brazeau. 
Technical Rating: MN6; YDS (I)
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I don’t think either Ben or I really cared if we summitted another peak on the Brazeau Icefield or not, after two grueling days spent ascending Brazeau and Warren in marginal conditions. We already had the two 11,000ers and obviously the best views, but did we have ALL the best views? We suspected that there were still a few more good views we didn’t have yet. Most people traverse from Brazeau to Valad and Henry MacLeod on their way back to the high bivy. We had already noticed that there were a number of crevasses on Valad and we didn’t feel like traversing back over them, but Henry MacLeod looked dead easy from our camp. Since we were already at 3,000 meters, MacLeod should only be around a 300 meter height gain and my GPS put it at only around 2km distance. After a leisure breakfast (still in that infernal cold west wind), we set off for one last peak before getting off this melting icefield for good.

Henry MacLeod is above us already near camp.

Immediately on leaving camp we were reminded where we were when I found “Charlie Two” – another crevasse on the opposite side of camp from our first crevasse – “Charlie One”! We shrugged that one off and continued on heightened alert up the glacier. I kept glancing back at camp as we climbed because I’d spotted a large black raven that morning, flying past camp. I needed my food and we didn’t have enough snow to bury it. Ravens are infamous for stealing climber’s food while they’re gone and I didn’t trust this one…

Great views north down the Coronet Creek valley include Coronet, Mary Vaux, Unwin, Charlton, Maligne Lake, Warren and Brazeau

The climb was easy and soon we were on the final bit of snow before the scree to the summit cairn. Wouldn’t you know it, we found some more crevasses just before the scree but eventually we worked around them and started up the scree. The summit views didn’t disappoint. We got great views of Coronet Mountain and Brazeau. We weren’t tempted at all by Valad as it was lower than MacLeod and we needed to get off the glacier before the snow bridges weakened further.

Henry MacLeod is quite a tall mountain – even towering over Coronet to the west. The snowy summit in the distance here is Catacombs Mountain which I was the 2nd ascent party to climb.
Incredible views down a very calm Maligne Lake with Unwin / Charlton on the L and Warren on the R.
A telephoto of South, North and Twins Tower, Diadem and of course, the north face of Mount Alberta on the right.

After snapping a ton of photos in the clear morning air, we descended the mountain to camp. Thankfully the raven hadn’t visited and we packed up camp quickly before heading off the glacier trying to follow our melted out footprints from a few days previous. Overall the descent went well. We took our time avoiding weak snow bridges and even belayed each other over one problematic crevasse, using ice screws as anchors and swimming over the bridge on our stomachs! Finally we were descending the last bit of ice on the upper glacier towards the rock traverse to the lower icefield. We crossed the melted out lower icefield and were finally completely off glaciated terrain. It felt great! We could finally just relax and take the crampons off.

Descending the Brazeau Glacier with the stunning form of Sunwapta’s north face in the distance.
Setting up an ice screw belay for the sloppy bridge in front of me.
Our home for an evening at the high bivy / rock corals at Swan Pass.

In a funny twist, we walked into our excellent rock bivy site about 3 minutes before I noticed someone else walking down towards us from the col and realized it was Rob Maiman who we’d run into on our Twins trip earlier in the spring. He was apparently going to follow our footsteps again!! 🙂 We had a good laugh about the odds of meeting Rob again and we updated him on conditions. Vickie and a friend were with him, so at least they’d have 3 on the rope. They set up their bivy right at the col, just above us. There were three more excellent bivy corals at the lip of the moraine above us, but they didn’t have water access and were even windier than our location.

Mount Henry MacLeod
Henry MacLeod is above us already near camp.
Henry MacLeod is above us already near camp.
Henry MacLeod is above us already near camp.
Henry MacLeod is above us already near camp.
Nearing the scree ridge.
Nearing the scree ridge.
Summit views from Henry MacLeod with Poboktan in the center bg and our route off the glacier at lower left.
Summit views from Henry MacLeod with Poboktan in the center bg and our route off the glacier at lower left.
Views down Coronet Creek to Maligne Lake.
Views down Coronet Creek to Maligne Lake.
Views down Coronet Creek to Maligne Lake.
Views down Coronet Creek to Maligne Lake.
Great views north and west include Mary Vaux, Unwin, Charlton, Maligne Lake, Warren and Brazeau.
Great views north and west include Mary Vaux, Unwin, Charlton, Maligne Lake, Warren and Brazeau.
The snowy summit in the distance here is Catacombs Mountain which I was the 2nd ascent party to climb.
The snowy summit in the distance here is Catacombs Mountain which I was the 2nd ascent party to climb.
The impressive west face of Mount Warren.
The impressive west face of Mount Warren.
The easy south face of Mount Brazeau which we climbed with much more snow two days previous.
The easy south face of Mount Brazeau which we climbed with much more snow two days previous.
Mounts Unwin and Charlton are on my list for some day.
Mounts Unwin and Charlton are on my list for some day.
Mounts Unwin and Charlton are on my list for some day.
Mounts Unwin and Charlton are on my list for some day.
Incredible views down a very calm Maligne Lake with Unwin / Charlton on the L and Warren on the R.
Incredible views down a very calm Maligne Lake with Unwin / Charlton on the L and Warren on the R.
Edith Cavell in the distance right of center.
Edith Cavell in the distance right of center.
Mount Fryatt.
Mount Fryatt.
Catacombs at distant left.
Catacombs at distant left.
Clemenceau right of center distance.
Clemenceau right of center distance.
Stutfields, Cromwell, North Twin, Twins Tower, Woolley, Diadem, Alberta, Clemenceau and many more.
Stutfields, Cromwell, North Twin, Twins Tower, Woolley, Diadem, Alberta, Clemenceau and many more.
A tele of South, North and Twins Tower, Diadem and of course, the north face of Mount Alberta on the right.
A tele of South, North and Twins Tower, Diadem and of course, the north face of Mount Alberta on the right.
A tele pano of the Columbia Icefields peaks along with Diadem and Alberta.
A tele pano of the Columbia Icefields peaks along with Diadem and Alberta.
Looking down our escape route off the melting glacier.
Looking down our escape route off the melting glacier.
Descending the Brazeau Glacier.
Descending the Brazeau Glacier.
Descending the Brazeau Glacier.
Descending the Brazeau Glacier.
Descending the Brazeau Glacier.
Descending the Brazeau Glacier.
Descending the Brazeau Glacier.
Descending the Brazeau Glacier.
Setting up an ice screw belay for the sloppy bridge in front of me.
Setting up an ice screw belay for the sloppy bridge in front of me.
Ready to get off the glacier, careful probing ahead!
Ready to get off the glacier, careful probing ahead!
Another deep crevasse.
Another deep crevasse.
Near the rock traverse to the lower glacier with the tarns over Swan Pass visible on the lower left.
Near the rock traverse to the lower glacier with the tarns over Swan Pass visible on the lower left.
Descending the main glacier to the rock traverse -the lower glacier visible at top.
Descending the main glacier to the rock traverse -the lower glacier visible at top.
Heading down the rock to the lower glacier.
Heading down the rock to the lower glacier.
Ready to cross the lower glacier to the far moraine. The icefall to the right is the reason you must go up this rock.
Ready to cross the lower glacier to the far moraine. The icefall to the right is the reason you must go up this rock.
A raging river on the ice! We had to go upstream to find a way around this.
A raging river on the ice! We had to go upstream to find a way around this.
Finally off the glacier, climbing up a snow patch to the moraine above the rocky bivy coral.
Finally off the glacier, climbing up a snow patch to the moraine above the rocky bivy coral.
Looking back at the glacier with the obvious rock traverse around the ice fall.
Looking back at the glacier with the obvious rock traverse around the ice fall.
Ben is visible at lower right near the rock bivy coral in this view from the top of the moraine. There were 3 rock corals just to the left here.
Ben is visible at lower right near the rock bivy coral in this view from the top of the moraine. There were 3 rock corals just to the left here.
The bivy at Swan Pass.
The bivy at Swan Pass.

Bivy Ridge

After sitting around for a while, we decided that we were getting cold (that darn west wind again!) and so we would take a jaunt up a ridge just south of our camp which we dubbed “Bivy Ridge“. We ascended so fast that we decided to keep traversing for a while and enjoyed the views over Swan Pass and back along our approach route. We also spotted yet another party of 3 coming to the bivy and after speaking with Rob again he confirmed that they were also going for Brazeau.

The open valley we crossed on the approach with the braided North Fork of Poboktan Creek visible running through it. Coronet on the right.
A great view over Swan Pass towards Fortuna, Tyche, Moriah and Rebakah (L to R).
Just before I crawl into the mid, a last bit of color in the sky overhead.

This was a busy place! In a really frustrating twist, my bear spray that I’d left in ‘our’ bivy coral was missing! Someone had actually been up there in the two nights we spent camping on the glacier and taken my brand new spray and holster!! I wasn’t too happy about that – but I guess I should have left a note. We didn’t think it was that busy at Swan Pass!

Bivy Ridge / Swan Pass
The bivy at Swan Pass.
The bivy at Swan Pass.
Ben takes a kick back on our way to "bivy ridge".
Ben takes a kick back on our way to "bivy ridge".
Gazing back at the Brazeau Icefield at left and Swan Pass at center.
Gazing back at the Brazeau Icefield at left and Swan Pass at center.
Swan Pass is below us here, just spot the mid at lower right and the other group's camp at lower center-right.
Swan Pass is below us here, just spot the mid at lower right and the other group's camp at lower center-right.
Great views of Mount Alberta from bivy ridge.
Great views of Mount Alberta from bivy ridge.
Great views of Mount Alberta from bivy ridge.
Great views of Mount Alberta from bivy ridge.
Mount Kitchener.
Mount Kitchener.
I couldn't get over the view of the north face of Sunwapta Peak.
I couldn't get over the view of the north face of Sunwapta Peak.
Ben keeps walking down bivy ridge, we hoped we could traverse the peak ahead and maybe summit it. This peak is unnamed.
Ben keeps walking down bivy ridge, we hoped we could traverse the peak ahead and maybe summit it. This peak is unnamed.
The open valley we crossed on the approach with the braided North Fork of Poboktan Creek visible running through it.
The open valley we crossed on the approach with the braided North Fork of Poboktan Creek visible running through it.
Lovely hiking terrain.
Lovely hiking terrain.
We turned around shortly after this point when we realized there was no easy or short way up any of the unnamed peaks via this ridge.
We turned around shortly after this point when we realized there was no easy or short way up any of the unnamed peaks via this ridge.
Great views over our approach valley and the Poboktan Creek valley in the far distance. Coronet on the right.
Great views over our approach valley and the Poboktan Creek valley in the far distance. Coronet on the right.
Poboktan Mountain is pretty high and has a glaciated summit.
Poboktan Mountain is pretty high and has a glaciated summit.
Great views over Swan Pass show a number of lovely tarns begging to be explored.
Great views over Swan Pass show a number of lovely tarns begging to be explored.
A great view over Swan Pass towards Fortuna, Tyche, Moriah and Rebakah (L to R).
A great view over Swan Pass towards Fortuna, Tyche, Moriah and Rebakah (L to R).
Our tiny bivy site at lower center-left.
Our tiny bivy site at lower center-left.
Neat spines along bivy ridge.
Neat spines along bivy ridge.
Great views of North Twin, Twins Tower, Woolley, Diadem and Alberta.
Great views of North Twin, Twins Tower, Woolley, Diadem and Alberta.
Ben back near the summit of Bivy Ridge.
Ben back near the summit of Bivy Ridge.
Just before I crawl into the mid, a last bit of color in the sky overhead.
Just before I crawl into the mid, a last bit of color in the sky overhead.
The morning view from camp looking over Swan Pass.
The morning view from camp looking over Swan Pass.
Nice morning lighting over camp.
Nice morning lighting over camp.
Vern enjoys a cup of Starbucks before packing up camp.
Vern enjoys a cup of Starbucks before packing up camp.

Egress from Swan Pass

After a much warmer night on the rock rather than ice of the glacier, we awoke to light rain and clouds on Sunday morning. The rain stopped as we packed up camp and started the trek back to Poboktan Creek. The return trip was quick and uneventful under a sky that grew sunnier with each passing minute until it was a warm summer day in the valley bottom. Four hours after leaving our high bivy we were back at the parking lot where I met Alan and Jen and gave them a lift to Banff.

Vern enjoys a cup of Starbucks before packing up camp.

They kept me awake with entertaining stories of their last 40 days on the Great Divide Trail and I kept them awake with stories of the many peaks along the way that I’d climbed. As I drove back to Calgary alone, I contemplated the last four days and how lucky I was to experience the Rockies the way I have this year, with many remote peaks and gorgeous, wild terrain.

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