I am happy that I found a quicker route and delighted with the amazing summit views from Mount Foch but I am conflicted about how many coins I used from my luck jar. There’s only so many of those and I like to keep it as full as possible.
Despite the odds that seemed to be stacked against us, and lingering doubts, Ben and I finally completed our Sisyphean Odyssey to the summit of Mount King Edward on a beautifully clear and pleasant summer day on August 28, 2017. After three attempts, driving a total of approximately 36 hours, hiking 105km and climbing over 6,500m of elevation in pursuit of this peak, it was supremely rewarding to finally stand on the top. Ferenc Jasco joined us in our quest and was a valuable contributor to our eventual success. As any follower of this blog will know by now, Mount King Edward has been a thorn in my side for a few years now.
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.
If I’m completely honest about it, I didn’t really feel like climbing Warren after a long day of approaching and climbing Mount Brazeau the day before, not to mention a very restless night spent sleeping in a very noisy and cold mid, thanks to a strong west wind blasting our exposed bivy site on the glacier. Somehow, I’d miscalculated how chilly it was going to be at around 10,000 feet on a large icefield at the beginning of August! I was really wishing for my down jacket during the night and it took all we had to force ourselves out of bed at 06:30 to put on soaking wet boots and get the stoves fired up, all while feeling the bite of a cold morning wind no matter where we sat or how small we tried to make ourselves.
Mount Brazeau has been on my radar for many years already. I wasn’t in a huge rush to do it however, because I knew it was a relatively easy 11,000er and could be done in almost any conditions and in any season, from full-on winter conditions to mid-summer ones. Or could it? Ben and I set out on July 30th 2015 from the Poboktan Creek trailhead to find out how Mount Brazeau and its neighboring peaks would behave in an extremely dry year in the Canadian Rockies. Considering other trip reports from around the same time, we wondered how different our conditions would be. I left Calgary at 04:00 and we found ourselves leaving the cars at a very non-alpine start time of 09:00 (!!) under a very warm and pleasant sun.
After climbing Mount Sir Douglas on the weekend, I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular for the following week. To be honest, as much fun as Sir Douglas was, I was feeling a bit burnt out and thought I needed a week off. Then the weather got nice. Then Ben and I started emailing. Then I found myself planning to leave Thursday evening for a shot at Mount Victoria – North Peak! Darn it. Nobody said being a peakbagger was going to be easy.
Raf told me I should climb Mount Sir Douglas this year (2015) since it was my 40th birthday and Sir Douglas is the 40th 11,000er in Corbett’s book. Who am I to argue with the crazy Pol? I tentatively made plans to attempt this peak at some point this year, and that point came to fruition with the usual crazy planning that Ben, Steven and I usually end up doing. Our plans changed at least 3 times over 2 days, including a phone call and last minute weather checks from Red Deer as they drove out to my house!
After two long, exhausting days spent scrambling to the Lyell hut, climbing 4/5 of the Lyells and even Arctomys Peak, we were feeling a bit burned out on Sunday morning, June 28th. The night before, we’d come to the conclusion that getting up early enough to attempt Lyell IV (Walter Peak) was simply not going to happen – and it wouldn’t have mattered on hindsight because the snow was a giant slurpee over night anyway, with no freeze whatsoever.
Friday, June 26 was a lot longer and involved than we originally planned it – a one day record amount of height gain for me at around 11,000 feet in total. It involved the entire approach to the Lyell Hut from the Valenciennes forestry service road and the subsequent ascents of Ernest, Edward and Rudolph peaks – three 11,000ers. We agreed to “sleep in” on Saturday and therefore didn’t get up until 06:00. You know you’re an alpinist when 06:00 is considered sleeping in.
Edward Peak was easy after the ‘schrund on Ernest, but what would Rudolph be like? Well – it was smack in the middle of the previous two. We had no technical issues up it’s south ridge, it was a moderate scramble at most. The only difference between it and the other Lyell peaks, is that Rudolph is a rock scramble rather than a snow climb. There was some exposure down the east face, but it was avoidable, if desired.
Next to Ernest Peak, Edward (Lyell II) was pretty darn tame. Other than the fact that the height gains and distances were starting to add up and the day was getting long, there were absolutely no difficulties getting to the summit of the purported, but debatable of the highest of the Lyells. The views were not much less spectacular than from Ernest Peak but we didn’t linger too long at the top. We still had Rudolph (Lyell I) to do, not to forget the long trudge back to the Lyell Hut and the shadows were definitely lengthening.
After a gorgeous 8 hour approach via Icefall Brook / Canyon, we found ourselves at the small, tidy Lyell Hut around noon with many hours of beautiful sunny weather staring back at us. I think it was Ben who initially started musing that perhaps we should “go for Lyell 1, 2 and 3 (Rudolph, Edward and Ernest) today yet”. Wait, what?! When I first overheard his murmured suggestion I thought I must be dreaming. I’d never heard of anyone doing the entire Lyell Hut approach on foot and then 3 of the 5 Lyells on the same day. As we thought about it though, it started to make a bit of sense. The snow was still holding up quite well and this was the coolest day in the forecast. Why not take advantage and go for a few summits already? Why not indeed.
Finally, on May 9, 2015 I managed to summit South Twin Peak on my third attempt of this beautiful mountain. I have some history with the north end of the Columbia Icefield, and with South Twin in particular.
Summit Elevation (m): 3342Trip Date: May 8 2015Elevation Gain (m): 2500 (from parking lot)Round Trip Time (hr): 10 (from high camp)Total Trip Distance (km): 48 (from parking lot)Related Trips: Stutfields, South Twin PeakQuick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain somethingDifficulty Notes: Glacier travel in an extremely remote location and some avalanche risk to the Cromwell / Stutfield NE2 col make this a peak to be taken seriously. No technical difficulties to the summit – beware the cornice!Technical Rating: MN6GPS […]
On Sunday, April 19th we awoke in -15 degrees feeling pretty darn good with ourselves. The previous day we’d skied into our camp beneath Mount Columbia and even managed to ascend the peak before collapsing into our sleeping bags after a long and hard 17 hour day. There was a cloud cap covering Columbia as we struggled out of our warm sleeping bags and slowly started breaking camp. The sky soon cleared completely off – we were going to have a bluebird day on the ice fields. Even though our views would have been clearer on Columbia this day, we were still glad to have climbed the face with some clouds rather than a relentless spring sun heating things up. As we packed camp we made decisions on what to attempt.
Summit Elevation (m): 3747Trip Date: April 18 2015Elevation Gain (m): 2000Round Trip Time (hr): 23Total Trip Distance (km): 41Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break somethingDifficulty Notes: Crevasses, avalanches and a remote location in the middle of a large ice field are the main difficulties when climbing Mount Columbia. Don’t underestimate this trip just because it’s not technically that hard!Technical Rating: MN8; YDS (II)GPS Track: DownloadMap: Google Maps I have been waiting many years to climb Alberta’s highest mountain and the […]
As the first peak of my 40’s, I thought it would be nice to tag an 11000er that’s been on my radar for many years. Mount Athabasca looms over the Columbia Icefields center along highway 93 – otherwise known as the Icefields Parkway. I’m sure it has the most tourist photographs of any 11,000er, except maybe Mount Temple in Lake Louise or Robson to the north. Some people might be surprised that I hadn’t done Athabasca earlier in my climbing career, considering that I already completed many of the more difficult Columbia Icefields summits. The truth is, that I’d been saving Athabasca for the perfect time.
It seems that every time someone posts a trip report about climbing Mount Aberdeen (and Haddo), folks inquire about an easy ascent via the south slopes – the alternate descent route. While this probably seems anathema to most climbers, it makes perfect sense for folks who simply want to enjoy stunning views from the top of a very well placed peak in the heart of the Lake Louise group without all the messing around with ice climbing and usually taking 2 or 3 attempts to get up the darn mountain since everyone seems to under estimate the ‘short’ approach the first time around!
Finally the weather, our schedules, and back country avalanche conditions lined up over a weekend, allowing Ben, Steven and I to plan a 2 day excursion to the northern end of the Wapta Icefield. I am rapidly closing in on a long-sought summit list of all the Wapta peaks and only one peak remained for me on the hard-to-access northern end – Peyto Peak. As is usual for us, original plans varied from Youngs Peak to Lilliput (I was willing to repeat it for exercise) and finally we settled last minute on the Peyto Hut area. The plan was to leave Calgary around 04:30 and hopefully arrive at Peyto Hut with enough day light for Ben and Steven to bag Mount Baker on Saturday. Sunday we would ascend Peyto Peak before heading out. For the most part, this plan was executed flawlessly.
Every once in a while I do a mountain trip that feels like it redefines my approach to climbing, skiing or hiking or whatever activity I happen to be doing at the time. This past weekend I experienced such an event on Mount Alexandra, deep in the heart of the Alexandra River Valley near the headwaters of the Saskatchewan and Columbia Rivers. Here’s some words that come to mind from the past few days; bushwhack, lost, confused, rain, sun, clouds, snow, cold, warm, blue sky, crevasses, snow, ice, rock, streams, lakes, boulders, exposure, waterfalls, mountain goat, exhaustion, blisters, bruises, alders, devil’s club, slabs, fall colors, bear, rough roads.
I have to admit that I was not feeling ‘it’ on Mushroom Peak. I was ready for some warm soup and a few hours lounging around our excellent bivy site, maybe even reading my e-book for a bit. But there were a few factors that made it sensible to attempt Mushroom while we were half way up it already;
Once we descended the North Ridge of Mount Woolley to the col, we found ourselves staring up at the easy, snow and scree covered South Ridge of Diadem Peak. There wasn’t much in the way of difficulties or route finding to the summit of Diadem. It was one tired foot in front of the other! As I crested the snowy summit bump, I immediately noticed what looked to be a slightly higher, rocky summit tower to the Northeast of us. I remembered a discussion on the old RMBooks forum about this summit and wondered if we should wander over to it, to give it a look.
Early on Saturday, September 6th 2014 we awoke to a star-filled sky and made preparations for our climb. There was talk of adding Mushroom Peak into the mix if there was enough time but we didn’t fully expect that this would happen. I’d never heard of anyone combining these three peaks in one day.
I was back with the boyz from Edmonton for the September 2014 long weekend. Ben, Eric and Steven made the drive to Okotoks on Friday evening and had an interesting snooze in the McDonald’s parking lot there. Sounds fun! NOT. Our plan was to scramble one of the easiest 11,000ers, Mount Harrison. While we were in the area we planned to also summit Mount Folk and Smith Peak. It’s probably a good thing we were all too busy to do any additional planning or Splendid Peak would probably have been in the cards too. I have to stop hanging out with young guys. It’s killing me! WAY too much energy. They need to get full time jobs, kids and families so they know what they’re putting me through!
The first ascent of King George was in 1919. The second ascent wasn’t until 52 years later in 1970! I’m sure this mostly has to do with the demanding and remote approach rather than the climb itself. There are enough possible routes and interesting lines on this mountain that I’m sure if the approach was easier and more accessible there would be many more ascents than there is today. Pretty much the only people climbing King George are either the type who really like big, remote terrain or are chasing the 11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies.