Friday, 21 July 2017

The West Ridge of Mt Tupper 2017

Sunday June 2nd, 2017 West Ridge Mt Tupper 2804 metres

Synopsis: 4 1/2 stars out of 5. A little bit of everything; steep hike up to Hermit Meadows, snow up to the ridge and rock that improves quickly to being very, very good. Something for everyone and a little crowded because of it.

Tupper had been on my list of Rogers Pass classics for awhile and with the long weekend, a good weather window and two good friends who had been up it before why not? We originally were thinking of the Lone Pine approach from the highway however when I checked it out on the drive on Friday there were definitely gaps in the snow and unseasonably hot temperatures had us choose the regular route up through Hermit Meadows.

Up at 4:30 in Revelstoke, a bit of an Alpine Start although already light out. Out the door quickly with mugs of caffeinated beverages had us leaving the Hermit Meadows parking area at 6 am. There were a few cars about and another party about to head up the South Rib which is an interesting sounding route.

The forecast for the day was clear and hot and it started off without a cloud in the sky. The almost 800 metres ascent to Hermit Meadows took Andrew, Brenda and I about 2 hours and once near the camping sites we ran into snow. It was with some relief that we found it to be firm enough to hold us (read me, the Clydesdale of the team).

Water bottles were filled just past the camp ground and we could see the snow slopes right up to the ridge. There were at least one other party ahead of us judging by the tracks in the snow and we followed them over a couple of humps and across a rapidly growing creek. I don't know what I was thinking but I didn't bring a pair of sunglasses. Brenda did have an extra pair, lesson learned - always climb with people better prepared!

Once up a bit, the approach was spectacular as we made our by past Rogers, the Swiss Peaks Traverse and Truda visible in the photo above. We felt pretty lucky that the snow was just right for kicking steps in at 9 am but wondering how it would hold up for the descent in the heat of the day. The easiest and quickest approach took a pretty direct line near the top of the ridge and as we crested it Tupper itself came into view, looking spectacular!

10 am saw out team on the rock ridge, ditching poles and mountaineering axes. My watch measured roughly 2500 metres, up roughly 1200 metres and with 300 metres to the top. Interesting metres mind you.

We off course celebrated by the taking of second breakfast . 

As you can see, the ridge starts off a bit rubly however fairly quickly improves to solid blocks with great exposure. 

As you can imagine there are a few ups and downs along the way and the summit block didn't appear to be getting any closer for a bit.

Shortly before noon, we came over a bit of a rise to find the party ahead of us pitching out an exposed traverse including a bit of an au cheval type move. Given there was a bolted anchor, that Andrew and Brenda remembered pitching this bit out and christ there was a lot of exposure we elected to wait our turn and pitch it out as well.

Andrew offered to take the pointy end, although shortly into it mentioned that it was slightly downward trending so he actually had the safest belay of the bunch. Crafty bastard! At this point we could see that in addition to the party just ahead of us there was another party on the 5.6 pitch partway up the summit block and another party above. You can actually see a climber in brown pants (wonder if they started out that colour!) above and to the left of Andrew in the photo above.

Andrew and Brenda were pretty certain that we could scramble up to the start of the single 5.6 pitch above without the rope and the team just across were kind enough to let us by as they chose to pitch it out. There was enough rubble on the steps we needed to be a little careful not to rain rocks on them and by working our way back and forth soon found ourselves at the bottom of the 5.6 pitch just as the second of the party above us slid off the first holds and of the crack and rejoined us on the ledge.

After roping up, Andrew handed over the alpine rack; all 4 nuts, 2 cams and 5 draws. Good of him to keep it to a minimum, you wouldn't want to haul any extra weight! As expected, it worked out perfectly although I did use a stuck cam the previous party left behind. As we agreed, I was the only one to bring rock shoes for the lead. Andrew and Brenda seconded it in their trusty Trango's in fine form (if you ignore the grunts and knees). Good, old school 5.6 however with 2 shiny bolts up top!

Once above this obstacle, the top looks pretty close however don't be fooled. The first team were descending with sore feet as they left their rock shoes on. It's further than it looks and the photo above is a false summit. Once cleared the true summit block comes into view.

Although it looks a little stiff, as is often the case in Rogers Pass the holds were perfectly spaced and incut enough that we were comfortable soloing it and found ourselves on the summit at 1:30 pm, 7 1/2 hours from the parking lot.

Interestingly I counted 5 other parties on the mountain, everyone doing things their own way. 2 parties used a rope throughout most of the upper mountain and did a fair amount of pitched climbing. We took a middle ground and pitched out two bits, the au cheval traverse and the 5.6 crack, and while we were on the summit a solo soloist arrived.

The weather was holding, although as you can see some cloud cover did develop and the wind made it's presence known from time to time so after a bite to eat, filling in the register and the obligatory summit photo we got out of dodge.

Just down from the summit itself was a bolted rappel anchor that we used to rappel off the summit block and after a short down climb we rapped off the anchor at the top of the 5.6 crack. Below the gear up ledge roughly 7 metres to climbers left was another bolted rap anchor that we used. We down climbed a bit to it but I believe that you would make it there with a 60 metre rope and save some time.

Once at the bottom of that rap it was a pretty quick down climb to the exposed au cheval like feature. We chose to rope up and I led it however not certain I would in retrospect. On the return it is slightly uphill and less awkward.

At this juncture, we stopped and grabbed second lunch. We were lucky in our timing with the others on the mountain and had made good time. From this point in it is mostly scrambling and reversing our up track.

Lower down, we did use one more rap anchor to avoid some tricky down climbing. It was a bit sketchy as there is a single bolt and a red sling around a block. If you use it pay attention as the block did move and spooked the hell out of us.

Other than that it was a pretty uneventful descent. We did watch a helicopter land just our side of the Swiss Peaks and met up with the guided party lower down. We felt a little releaved to hear that it was a medical emergency although I'm not certain why, it sounded like everything worked out. We were lucky that with a bit of cloud cover the snow on descent was perfect for plunge stepping and a bit of glissading.

7:30 pm found us back at the car after a 13 1/2 hour, 1680 metre day. A day well spent and highly recommended!

Monday, 5 September 2016

The East Ridge of Mt Edith Cavell 2016

Fri, Sat Aug 19th-20th, 2016 East Ridge Mt Edith Cavell 3363 metres

Synopsis: 4 stars out of 5. Where it's good it's very good, and it's a long way up to get to the good stuff.

Andrew and I had climbed the East Ridge before, like 14 years before, and Brenda hadn't and wanted to. A great excuse to revisit the climb as we were both keen to see if it lived up to our rather idyllic memory. The one memory that we wanted to avoid repeating was the long slog down the west ridge. We therefore planned on bivying at the base of the East Ridge, committed to coming back the same way we went up.

I met up with Andrew and Brenda in Lake Louise and headed North, complete with 3 mac and cheeses from Laggan's to be reheated for supper before heading up. We were nice and early so it was a pretty relaxed drive and hike up to the biv site below the East Ridge. 

The hike up in the late afternoon sun was fantastic, the area was lousy with marmot's and pica's (shh, don't tell the bears). I missed the last of the trail up to the col and we ended up bashing up the scree to the ridge to the left and higher than the col itself. Kind of funny when you consider it was daylight and it usually gets down in the dark! It ended up taking a little over 2 1/2 hours given our lively detour. We also didn't take the optimal route out of the parking lot, ideally take the paved trail until the Cavell Meadows sign and go left. There is a sign further up showing the way for the climbers, this must be becoming a popular route. The hike up to the biv site did involve a climb of 633 metres and I was happy to deduct that from the summit day. 

Brenda found water 10 minutes down the other side of the col and we made good use of the biv sites complete with stone windbreaks. There were two up higher however no water there so we stayed at the first one. It was a beautiful night, not cold but plenty of stars. Just before the alarm went off at 3:45 am the wind shifted to the south and picked up which woke me up, the forecast was for it to be mostly clear with the wind picking up to 30 km/hr and that was pretty accurate.

One party of two passed by as we were getting geared up, they had no gear or rope and planned to solo and descent via the west ridge. Given we watch their headlamps disappear above and didn't see them again I assume that is exactly what they did. We got on the road at 5 am, after dealing with a pesky pack-rat who actually attempted to drag my biv sac off! I wanted to kill it however the pacifists prevailed. 

Brenda lead the initial push by headlamp, it definitely isn't early July anymore! There is a pretty beat in path up the obviously gully eventually involving scrambling up some fairly solid rocky bits. Cairns festooned the upper part of the trail and I was surprised to pull up on top of the initial pitch to find a couple more biv sites. We made it this far at 7:30 am at roughly 2900 metres and it starting to brighten up about half way up.

There was some discussion about going left to keep from having to climb the next hump, it worked quite well as there was several well worn trails in the scree. Not a huge savings but worth looking for. The ridge then bobbles along for a bit and we had second breakfast while eyeing up the upper ridge. Our plan was to solo up however we had a two 30 metre ropes and alpine rack ready to go should someone call uncle.

There were a couple of steps on the upper section that reflected my memories of originally climbing the route, the first shorter than the second. Fairly steep with some exposure, great quartzite with incut holds. It goes at old school 5.3 so if it felt more difficult we just looked around a bit. 

Once on top of the last serious bit the angle backs off considerably, as does the rock quality, and I was surprised how long this section was up to the summit. We did cross 4 or 5 small snow patches, some were a little icy on the margins however we didn't make use of the crampons we hauled up. Having said that I wouldn't want to be up there without them if they were needed.

Some interesting moves to be made here and there but mostly careful scrambling. The first snowy summit looks to be the highest however we went to the next two and found the summit cairn and register just to be sure. We managed to summit at 10:30 am, a 5 1/2 hour trip up. 

In the end we soloed it all, however I could see someone calling for a rope given the exposure. The summit was windy and cold, we took photos, filled out the summit register (thanks Andrew) and started our way down. Right behind us were two parties of two making good time.

Coming down the east ridge involves a lot of down climbing, even if you use the two rap stations set up. Funny, it took my a bit to get into the rhythm however after about 20 minutes I loosened up and started to have fun. The upper part is pretty straight forward with a little awkwardness (on my part) getting onto the snow sections where we couldn't avoid them. We ran into 2 more parties of 2 making their way up the route. It does take a bit of finesse to work around each other on the upper sections without knocking rock however it was a good day and everyone played nice.

One party passed us on the descent and the second caught up just as we had set up the first rappel on the upper steep section. There was a obvious well used anchor with pins, a quick link and fresh tat. We had 2 30 metre ropes so were able to rig up a full 30 metre rap which worked out well, a 35 metre rappel would have worked out a bit better and there is an intermediate rap station to climbers right if needed. We let the other party rap and descend through although we all had something to eat at the bottom of the rappel, in the sun and out of the wind. 

By the time we got down to the lower rap station the same guys had rigged a rope and gave us a free rappel. They had a 70 metre rope and there wasn't much of it left on the ground, it's not completely necessary but made quick work of some tricky down climbing. 

The three of us made it down to the top of the first long section of climbing above the col right about 2 pm. Obviously there was still a lot of down climbing to do and this was the part we either did in the dark or had very little recollection of. A little futzing found our way down looking for cairns and foot prints skiers left of the big gully. It did try and suck us into the gully every now and then but we avoided it by down climbing on more solid rock. By this point is was starting to feel like a long day and a degree of concentration was still required given the exposure and not fantastic rock quality in spots.

We eventually made it back to the biv site 11 1/2 hours at 4:30 pm. By my watch it was 1150 metres up and down from the biv site to the summit. Fun route, not quite the quality of rock that I had remember but some darn good rock, exposure and fun moves up high. Andrew and Brenda have done a lot of climbing in Rogers Pass and they rated it better than many of the routes there which says something. I would still down climb the East Ridge rather than do the West Ridge slog any day. Interestingly enough, of the 6 parties on the route this day 1/2 chose each way down.

It was great to be back at the biv site with lots of daylight left and no imminent storms moving in. We took our time, packed up, drank tea and soup and eventually departed at 5:30 pm. We stopped for snacks along the way and a bit of a wash up in a creek getting back to the car a little after 7. 

Best of all we made it back to Canmore for pizza and beer. Yeah!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Mt Aberdeen and Haddo Peak 2016

Wednesday July 20th, 2016 Mt Aberdeen and Haddo Peak 3,151 metres

Synopsis: 4 stars out of 5, in the right conditions it is a varied and interesting climb with the opportunity to bag 2 good sized peaks in brilliant surroundings. We took the Paradise Valley descent which added some interest, and some bush whacking.

The three of us had a somewhat alpine start out of Canmore and left the car at 6 am, nice to be able to get a parking spot at Lake Louise. The approach follows the trail around Fairview and we made the junction with the trail down to Paradise Valley at 7:30 am with an elevation gain of roughly 600 metres. We continued up the Fairview scramble trail for 10 or 15 minutes until an obvious path cut left.

This trail works through the trees and eventually breaks out onto packed scree. 

As per the directions, we followed along and eventually crossed to the other side of the valley and followed a cairned trail to the base of the Aberdeen snow slopes, arriving at 8:40 am and roughly 2550 metres. Much quicker than my last attempt when we followed the valley bottom.

Jackie, Steven and I donned helmets, harnesses, crampons and roped up. Steve led and I was the lard ass at the end of the rope. We were very lucky, even though the cloud cover didn't allow for the freeze we were looking for over night the continued cloud cover kept the snow from getting sloppy and even more important kept the rock fall at bay.

The recent snow made for easy steps and we followed the right hand edge of the snow slopes until we ran into the ice proper. Steve did a great job of leading and we simulclimbed with a couple of screws between us at all times. The ice was pretty good however there was some excavating necessary along with the spindrift associated with it.

I don't know whether it was due to it being my first alpine day of the season, the fact that 24 hours of adrenaline was a couple of days before, or just being out of shape but I struggled a bit. 10:45 am saw us at the top of the technical climbing at 2750 metres and over a couple of big slots. One I managed to penetrate into trusting Jackie's foot prints, failing to consider the likely 75 lb difference in our weights!  Steve built an anchor and we took a breath. There were a few rests along the way but my calves were pretty much screaming.  We calculated that the more technical climbing amounted to 160 metres of elevation gain and took us roughly 1:15 hr. The bottom line is that it went well and the cloud cover stuck around so we didn't have much for rock fall. Using one technical tool and a mountaineering axe did take a bit of a toll on my right hand knuckles though!

The next step up to the Aberdeen/Haddo col was prefect snow bucket steps most of the way. We passed the 'shrund on the left hand side and once we made it up to the upper rock band and went left above there was some ice that made for two great screw placements for a running belay.

We were on the col shortly after noon at roughly 3000 metres. The three of us essentially walked to the edge of the snow and left behind the crampons, rope and packs as the summit of Haddo looked pretty close. 30 minutes later were on topwhich by my watch was 3070 metres. Yes it's farther than it looks, however we were lucky to have an easy packed scree slope that we made good time on. There was a summit register that went all the way back to 1973! Either a lot of people skip the peak or don't bother filling out the register. Here's a look back at Aberdeen from Haddo.

15 minutes later we were back at the col, roping up for the final snow slopes. When the sun popped out you could see the old tracks under the new snow and we pretty much stayed on the left hand margin of the slope. The snow did get a touch sloppy, especially close to the rocks however as soon as the pitch backed off the snow firmed up. Jackie did a great job leading the charge and we set up a belay up the final slope and rock step.

2 pm and 3151 metres saw us on top. What a vista! Victoria, Lefroy, Temple and Valley of the 10 peaks all laid out before us. The view of the final snow slopes of the east ridge of Temple were superb. A great place to be, the sun was coming out from time to time and although the wind was around it wasn't terribly strong. It's nice to be able to enjoy the summit!

We took the Paradise Valley descent, which basically headed straight down the other side. However contrary to directions down a couple of hundred metres the more packed trail goes descenders left side of the ridge line and we followed it pretty much straight down all the way to the Paradise Valley creek. The start was actually pretty quick descending with great scree followed by snow, easy on the legs.

Quite a ways down right in the middle of the photo above there is a small col, we continued through it and found a fairly established trail on the left side of the creek. It took us a fair ways down until a small amount of bush whacking was necessary to reach the creek itself. The three of us arrived at the creek directly below the lower col at 4:30 pm at just over 2000 metres in elevation.

Once down at the creek we lost a little time monkeying around a bit getting to the main trail. We crossed the creek and found a decommissioned trail going the right direction however came to an area without a bridge. We then attempted to go up the slope to find the Paradise Valley trail. The bush whacking got pretty bad and we failed to find it so ended up going back to the creek and following a variety of animal trails and making the best of it, afterwards finding that the trail had been decommissioned some time ago.

It took us 1:45 hr to find the bridge down stream and the trail proper which lead us back to the car at about 8 pm. Having said that I would take this way down again is it avoids rappelling, potential rock fall and the climb back up to the col in the heat of the day. It looks like it is best way is to traverse skiers left just above the creek and stay on the near side of it until you find the bridge. In the end it was a 14 hour and 1750 metre day. Great to complete a climb I had been hearing about for years, in good condition and it sure was good to get back in the alpine!