A gorgeous peak situated on the Haig Icefield with stunning views in every direction.
Most of my Wapta summits have had brilliant blue skies and views to die for. Mount Rhondda was not one of those peaks. When I first ascended it back in April of 2007 we had very windy conditions with limited views. I set out to rectify this injustice on Thursday, April 26 2018 on a brilliantly sunny and warm Spring day. I was joined by Liz and Alison, both of whom had not done this central icefields peak before.
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’ve been dreaming of climbing the highest peak in Banff National Park and 8th highest in the Canadian Rockies for many years. I’m not 100 percent sure when I first laid eyes on the hauntingly beautiful northwest face and dramatic summit pyramid of Mount Forbes but I do know that it probably terrified me the first few times I looked at it. That giant triangular face of snow, rock and ice stretching upward into the clouds continued to draw me in as I gazed at it from many surrounding summits, year after year. In 2015 I was sure I was going to climb Forbes with Ben and Steven, but alas they chose a weekend that didn’t work and I was once again left to wonder at a missed opportunity.
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.
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)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!Technical Rating: MN7; YDS (I)Map: Google Maps The winter […]
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 was finally time. It was time for me to give in. After years of temptation, years of friends cajoling and battering me over the issue and years of resistance, it was finally time for me to ski at Roger’s Pass in the Selkirk mountain range of British Columbia. Steven had already fallen in love with the area and has climbed quite a few of the mountains in and around the pass. Last weekend, while we were settling in for the evening in the cozy Peyto Hut the topic came up again. We should do the Youngs Traverse in Rogers Pass next time the weather and avy conditions were good for a high level, exposed alpine ski traverse. I agreed that it sounded fun.
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.
Saturday afternoon, once we moved bivy sites from the South Glacier to the east one, Steven came over and expressed some concern at the obvious giant, open ‘schrund splitting the whole south face of the upper glacier on Prince Albert. Initially I dismissed his concerns thinking of how easily we avoided similar issues on King George’s South Glacier. (You can spot these giant holes on the Google image of Prince Albert.) Saturday night was warmer than Friday night had been, and we woke up wondering what conditions would be like on the glacier. There was only one way to find out – go put boots on it.
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!
On the shortest day of 2012 I was joined by Wietse and Kelly on an ascent of Mount Gordon on the Wapta Icefields in bitterly cold but clear conditions. Of course, this wasn’t my first time ascending this peak. It was the very first summit on the Wapta for me, back in 2006 on a bitterly cold January day. The afternoon before, we had skied to the Bow Hut in marginal early season conditions across a groaning Bow Lake and barely enough snow in the canyon. We made it to the hut with just a few minutes to spare before dark and enjoyed the hut entirely to ourselves.
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.
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.