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.
Buddha says that most of life’s suffering is caused by an endless cycle of human craving for impermanent things and states of being, which is dukkha – incapable of satisfying and painful. By trapping ourselves in this continuous state of craving things that don’t last, we are caught in an endless cycle of rebirth, dukkha and dying, or samsara. Only by attaining nirvana can we be liberated from this path of suffering.
On Friday, June 3rd 2016, I found myself in the back of Ben’s SUV, turning off the Trans Canada Highway just past Golden at the Donald weigh station, onto the now familiar road leading to Kinbasket Lake and eventually the Bush and Sullivan River forestry service roads. Our destination this time was the very end of the Bush River FSR followed by a trek into the bivy site for Mount King Edward. Of course, our original intent was to also climb King Edward, but […]
I wasn’t sure that I would manage to summit my last 11,000er on the main Columbia Icefield in the spring of 2016. Rumors were flying around that the Athabasca Glacier approach was toast this year thanks to an extremely warm winter / spring combined with low snow and an serac event that covered the route I’ve always used through the headwall with tons of ice and snow earlier in the year. I wasn’t too concerned, as I knew I could approach the south ridge from the Saskatchewan Glacier if I had to, some other year. The South Ridge is the easiest route on Andromeda (there are a lot of routes on this particular 11,000er) and probably one of the technically easiest ascents on the Columbia Icefields – but it does have a lot of objective hazards so I didn’t want to underestimate it. To be honest, I had mixed feelings about doing my last Athabasca Glacier ski mountaineering approach. It’s true that this approach is full of objective hazards and I’ve been extremely lucky not to have had a single bad experience through the icefall, but it’s also a gorgeous area with rock, snow, ice, wind, clouds and sun all competing for attention as skiers skin up steep snow through crevasses and under towering ridges of snow and ice a vertical kilometer above, staring coldly down at them as they thread their way through it’s hard, blue detritus. It’s an area that hundreds and hundreds of visitors to our beautiful province gaze towards every day and wonder who the heck goes up to that forbidding place and actually enjoys themselves while doing it!
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): 3340Elevation Gain (m): 2500 (from parking lot)Round Trip Time (hr): 10 (from high camp)Total Trip Distance (km): 48 (from parking lot)Quick ‘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!GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: MN7; YDS (I)Map: Google Maps The winter of 2015 […]
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): 3747Elevation 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!GPS Track Download: Download GPX FileTechnical Rating: MN8; YDS (II)Map: Google Maps I have been waiting many years to climb Alberta’s highest mountain and the 2nd highest […]
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.
Admittedly, after standing on the summits of 3 11,000ers only a few days previous, “Parker Ridge” does seem a bit lame. 🙂 But there’s a reason for this objective. The original intent was to climb Mount Athabasca via the AA col on Friday, May 10 2013 with Wietse, Scott, Kelly and myself. We planned an overnight stay at the Rampart Creek Hostel and met there on Thursday evening. Patrick Delaney, a guide with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures was also at the hostel with a client and we spent some time chatting. Patrick was concerned about the “big melt” that was going on and cautioned our group to be super-careful. We took his advice to heart and decided to get up at 02:30 and try to take advantage of colder morning temps to meet our objective safely.
After ascending Mount Kitchener in the morning, we casually packed up camp and started heading back out, around the west side of Snow Dome. It was another gorgeous day with warm (almost too warm) sun and very little wind. Last year we had exactly the same conditions around the same time of the year – early May. We followed the standard tracks and then cut higher on the west side of Snow Dome before dropping the big packs and re-gearing with just the necessary glacier travel gear. It felt good to ski up with virtually no weight and we quickly made our way up to the broad summit area.
The day after our exciting ascent of West Twin and attempt at South Twin (including a crevasse incident) we were in the mood for a slightly easier approach and summit. Since TJ, JW and I were ‘only’ looking for one more day on the Twins, we’d set up our camp much closer to the exit on the ice fields and on the southwest side of Kitchener instead of going the extra 5km closer to the Twins / Stuts area. This was fine for our group but didn’t work out for the other group of Anton, Ian and Kev. I think if they were closer they could have at least gone for the Stutfield Peaks and still managed a few more of the northern ice field summits. As it was, they were feeling to tired on Sunday to go all the way back to the Stuts.
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.
On Sunday, April 21 2013 I joined Steven, Ben and Eric on a two peak day in which we snow shoed Big Bend Peak (BBP) and Mount Saskatchewan Junior (MSJ). Our plans for this weekend were originally to have an easy day out on Sunday with an ascent of BBP followed by some relaxation at the Rampart Creek Hostel and then a huge one day ascent of Mount Wilson on Monday. The weather forecast for Sunday was a mix of sun and cloud with the weather on Monday looking perfect for an ascent of Wilson – notorious for white out conditions on the summit with any cloud cover.
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.
Sometimes in life you get a chance to do something that you’ve always wanted to do but scares you a little at the same time and you have a choice to make. Is it one of those moments that you jump in or jump out? Monday May 7 2012 I was presented with such a chance. Since our failed attempt at Mount Columbia in February, Ferenc and I had been planning a repeat 2 day trip to get redemption. Our plan was to wait for optimal conditions in May before our next attempt. TJ was also keen on Columbia so I agreed to keep him in the loop.
Ever since reading the Nugara’s trip report on snow shoeing Castleguard Mountain I’ve wanted to attempt it as a day trip on skis. Kevin Barton was also very interested and since Ferenc and I were turned around due to thick cloud cover in February 2012 while on a Columbia Icefield camping trip, Ferenc was also keen on a day trip attempt. Originally we thought that we’d have to camp at the trail head or even stay in the Saskatchewan Crossing hotel just to give ourselves enough day time to complete the peak, considering that the Nugara’s took 18 hours to do their trip.
The first week of February 2012 was looking pretty promising for weather and avalanche conditions in the Alberta Rockies. Since Hanneke wasn’t on call for the weekend of the 4th I decided to send out the “who’s in?” emails to start organizing at least one day of backcountry skiing – hopefully involving a summit of some kind.
Since school was just around the corner (where does time go?!) and Hanneke, my wife, was on call for the weekend, we decided that the weekend of August 19-21, 2011 would be a good weekend for a father / kids adventure. After some debate, the kids and I decided that Yoho would be a cool place to camp and the Burgess Shale guided tour would be a pretty awesome thing to try! Of course, since I’m a peakbagger and we had another two days to do other things besides the shale tour, I found us a nice peak to bag on Saturday, August 20.