After successfully summiting West Twin we were excited to finally nab the final of the four Twin peaks on the far north end of the Columbia Icefields. JW was still pretty tired from kicking steps up the south face of West Twin so our group decided to let the “Dad” group break trail up South Twin. We stayed in the valley bottom for a bit longer while watching the other team inch their way on skis up to a rocky outcrop on South Twin’s northwest ridge, about half the elevation to the summit ridge.
In 2012 I made my first attempts at peaks on the massive playground of rock, snow and ice that’s known as the Columbia Icefield. The first attempt was an ill-fated try for the namesake peak, Mount Columbia itself, in February. It was my first major winter camping trip and I learned a lot about winter camping and traveling on the icefield itself. I made a lot of mistakes on that trip and on hindsight I’m lucky that nothing tragic happened (more on that later). We approached via the Saskatchewan Glacier on this trip.
Mount Wilson has been on my radar for a long time already, ever since one of my first trips up the Icefields Parkway with Sonny back in 2006 when we ascended Sunwapta Peak. On the way home we drove past this massive mountain sitting just north of Saskatchewan Crossing and I remember thinking that it must take some effort to stand on that summit! It turns out that it does take some effort!
I’ve been dreaming of the Matterhorn of the Rockies since I first laid eyes on her while on a hiking trip to the area in 2008. I never actually thought I’d be climbing its NE ridge but it was fun to imagine! Towering over everything in its vicinity and visible from almost every prominent peak in south Banff and Kananaskis , Mount Assiniboine is a big, beautiful mountain that has inspired climbers from all over the world to test its charms.
Wow. That 3 letter word pretty much sums up this trip. Don’t bother reading further unless you’re interested in more detail. Wow. There – I just said it again. This was one of those trips that’ll stick with me for the rest of my life – or at least while I have a reasonably intact memory. Eric Coulthard is one of those people who dreams up trips while looking at his extensive online library of photos and possible routes. While climbing Mount Fryatt a couple of weekends ago with him, he suggested that he might be giving Mount Amery and some other peaks in the area a shot this fall.
On August 25/26 I joined Kevin Barton and Eric Coulthard for a trip up Mount Fryatt in Jasper National Park. This mountain has been on my radar for a number of years due to its remoteness and the beautiful bivy site that was rumored to exist under the SW face. When Raf climbed Fryatt back in 2009 I was quite disappointed that I couldn’t join him. I waited patiently for three years and made my ascent in perfect conditions. Sometimes I get the sense that I’m rushing to complete peaks – this trip proved once again that it’s the journey that counts – not the summit.
After 2 full days of constant wind in the 50-80km/h range we were ready for a calmer day on Saturday, May 12th. Luckily when we woke up around 0600 the wind had indeed calmed down somewhat, probably in the 30km/h range. Due to the constant wind threatening to tear apart our tent all night and my cramped sleeping bag I was more than ready to get out and stretch my legs when the sun started peeking into our front door on Saturday morning.
On March 23/24 I joined Kevin Papke for the first summit attempt on his quest for 50 summits in a “Summits for Seniors” fundraiser in his 50th year. Considering his birthday is on March 22nd Kev wasted no time to start his summit bids! We decided that in order to make a big day trip slightly shorter we would ski into the Bow Hut on Friday evening and summit Habel on Saturday before heading home. We left the parking lot under warm conditions, lots of fresh snow and cloudy skies – but with high hopes that the weather forecast for Saturday would come true with a mix of sun and cloud and little wind.
On Friday, August 26 2011, So Nakagawa and I ascended Cathedral Mountain under a gorgeous early morning sky from our bivy site near the glacier. Cathedral is one of the most picturesque mountains I’ve ever climbed and this makes it into a top summit for me. Given the very cooperative weather over August, I knew that I wanted to climb something with a glacier and a bivy on the weekend of August 26th. Originally I was contemplating Mount Wilson but after thinking about it for a while, I realized that Cathedral Mountain was even higher on my ‘hit list’. Why? For the past 3 years I’ve been trying to find perfect conditions to ski Cathedral but every time those conditions arose (not that often) I had other commitments and couldn’t do it.
After an approach to the des Poilus glacier and an ascent of Yoho Peak, I found myself oversleeping my alarm on Sunday, August 14 – our planned ascent day for Mount Des Poilus. The moon was so bright as I emerged from my bivy sack, that I was casting a shadow! The full moon would only make our ascent of the glacier easier. Raf and Alan were getting up too, and soon the water was boiling for breakfast. It was very warm, around 8 degrees at camp as we roped up and set off up the glacier by 04:30.
TJ’s alarm woke up the hut by going off repeatedly every 2 minutes for half an hour as TJ slept blissfully unaware of the annoyance with his industrial strength ear plugs. By 07:00 Ben had the lights on and the water boiling and we reluctantly left our warm sleeping bags for breakfast. TJ finally decided it was time to wake up and shut down his alarm. I barely managed to choke down some Nutri-grain cereal bars and some instant Starbucks coffee while TJ and Ben stuffed themselves with as much oatmeal as humanly possible.
When JW and TJ invited me on a weekend ski trip either up White Pyramid or Cathedral Mountain I was more than ready to join them. We decided on May 1 2009 for a White Pyramid ascent. I didn’t know a lot about this mountain, but I did know that it was a lot of height gain since it’s next door neighbor, Mount Chephren has been on my “to do” list for while, and it’s almost 2 km vertical gain and not much higher!
I waited 3 years to finally accomplish what TJ, Megan and I did on Saturday, April 18 2009 – summit Mount Hector. Truthfully, on hindsight, it’s for the best that it took me this long. The ski down was much more pleasurable now that I’m more comfortable skiing powder. I’m not nearly as good a skier as TJ or Megs but I can enjoy myself rather than just do the ‘survivor skiing’ thing. Last year we made an attempt at Hector but turned around just before the headwall due to isothermal snow and a burning desire to ski something more supportive. At the time we were bummed out because the next week we found out that if only we would have struggled up the headwall we would have probably had a great ski day on the glacier.
On Friday evening, July 25th 2008, Raf, Keith, Wietse and I hiking into the Little Yoho campground in Yoho National Park with plans to ascent both the President and the Vice President early on Saturday morning.
On Sunday, September 9 2007, Kevin Barton and I managed to bag both Victoria South and Mount Huber in a long 15 hour day. It took us quite a bit longer than we planned because of new snow (2-6″) and ice on the route.
The guide book is obviously out-of-date on these climbs, or at least the access to these climbs but in doing some research on the internet on Thursday night I was a bit more prepared for the actual difficulty. Both Rick Collier (bivouac.com) and Alan Kane indicated quite clearly that they consider these two mountains difficult.
All day Jon and I had been glancing nervously (and somewhat excitedly) at Mount Northover looming ominously to the north and west. We had originally planned on climbing it the next day after backpacking to Northover Pass, via the alternate descent route.
What a fantastic day in the hills! That about sums up my Mount Olive (and St. Nicholas) outing. After spending a fun but bone chilling day out on the Wapta 3 weekends ago in our Mount Gordon trip, this was just a great way to see the other side to ski mountaineering.