Monday, 12 September 2011

Mt King Edward 2011

Sat/Sun/Mon  Sep 3rd-5th, 2011        Mt. King Edward  3490 metres, 11,450 feet

Synopsis: 4 out of 5 stars, very worthwhile outing in an unbelievable setting and an 11,000er however not an absolute classic

Left Edmonton at about 5pm on Friday evening and made our way to the rendevouz at the post hotel pub where David and I met Rob and Eric and chatted over a pint.  Left 10ish to find the campground on the way to Golden full (not a big surprise) and found a roadside picnic area to crash at.  I dropped the biv sac on the ground behind the shelter and had a great nights sleep to be woken by David at 7 am.  Only after I took out the earplugs did I get a load of the ongoing noise of a generator from a trailer that came in after us and ran all night!  After a quick breakfast at the A&W in Golden we headed to Donald Station and up the gravel road.  We followed the most used trail, not taking the Bush arm at the half way point, carrying on past a sign indicating a wilderness trail and drove by the right hand turn off near Bryce to the end of the road.  Saw a small black bear crossing the road in front of us, not much dust as there was some precipitation over night and quite cold.  Drove until the end of the road, organized and started hiking at 11:15am at roughly 1070m.  Crossed the river just to the left of the trail, which was below the knee but strong and cold.  Then hung up the approach shoes on a tree and headed off.  Pretty much an old logging road for a while, however there was a recent burn and logs were blocking the way.  Some had been cut by quaders however some required scrambling up and over.  Eventually came to the first cut block and cut up to the left at 1pm (1530m) and took it only to discover that we were one cut block too quick.  Some bush wacking ensued as we made our way through the forest to the next cut block and along until we regained an old quad trail.  We joined the the trail at the top of the second cut block at 1:45pm (1680m) near some flagging, good to know we were on the right track.  The quad trail beat an undulating path through the forest however it was fairly easy going.  Eventually the forest thins out and alpine meadows appear.  We then angled north east to gain a moraine and finally grey glacier scrubbed rock.  We found a great biv site on flat rocks after hiking for 5 ½ hours at 2120m after 1180m of elevation gain within sight of the toe of the glacier and set up camp.  Perfect weather, without much wind and quite cool once the sun went down.

Next day up at 3:30 am, groggily boiled the porridge water and got the gear together.  Temperature was 4 above so a not bad freeze.  Left camp at 4:20am and headed up blindly towards the toe of the glacier, very happy to have my new headlamp - a gift from D and blindingly bright.  After just 20 minutes got the rope out and tied in for the glacier.  Surprisingly steep for a short bit with interesting frozen texture (at least by headlamp).  Climbed up in the dark on the glacier, ended up a little east however after seeing the crevasses afterwards probably a good thing.  Did cross an area or two heavily crevassed and I fell up to my waste at one point although snow bridges were generally good.  Turned the head lamps off shortly before 7am and stopped for a snack and to look around.  The alpine glow on Bryce was stunning, perfectly clear sky although still chilly.  Worked our way towards the west ridge of King Edward and as we crossed the last hump a snow slope came into view with thankfully not much descent to gain it.  Crossed over and zig zagged up the snow slope with the ropes in glacier mode.  Good stiff snow, went straight up the last bit and gained the ridge line just after 8am at 3000 metres.  Shortened the rope between the three of us and left a long line out to David to lead.  However around the corner found fairly well bonded scree on a steep slope with a bit of a path.  
Wound our way through a few snow bits and eventually chucked the rope.  Made our way to a snowy col in a mid level cliff band.  Climbed the snow for a bit and then on the rocks with crampons and made our way up to a belay David created only about 10 metres above.  Good fun although spent most of my time ensuring not to get stepped on with the crampons above.  Emerged to see the summit block above and well packed scree on the way.  Made our way up the scree to the summit block, very interesting rock formation.  Skirted it on climbers right and passed one weakness and then Rob belayed David up the next snow gully.  David set up an anchor in the rocks on the left and then lead a 25m mixed pitch up to the summit ridge.  All there although with the exposure happy with the rope.  We then made our way up the summit ridge minding the cornices for a short bit and hit the top at 11:20.  Very clear day with great views in every direction.  Especially happy to see Columbia, the Twins, Snowdome and Kitchener from the other direction.  Took some photos however somewhat windy and cold so decided to descend a bit to get out of the wind for lunch.  Setting up the first rap took a bit of fiddling and Eric hadn’t rappeled before so was lowered, then found a station below for a final short rap to the snow.  Eric and I then scampered around the corner to the edge of the summit block and waited for the other two.  Then a case of making our way down the scree, some good loose bits to aid the descent.  Easily found a rap station near where we climbed in mid band and scrambled further down the scree.  Due to the sun (although still wearing a toque) elected not to follow our up track to the south facing snow slope and headed further down towards the glacier.  Ended up on scree just above the slab steps above the glacier.  I was a little worried however once we got going went easily across wet snow slopes to a final rap anchor and down to the glacier.  Gained the glacier at about 3:30pm at 2780m and immediately it got very warm.  We attempted to work our way to the eastern edge of the glacier above where we had gained it however stopped by broken glacier.  Instead made our way further down on gently sloping glacier with not a lot of crevases.  Eventually worked our way down and exited the glacier at 5:30pm at roughly 2400m.  Wore crampons all the way to the summit however took them off for the scree down and the glacier slog.  Made our way slowly back to camp on the glacier scrubbed rock, actually a nice change from the glacier and easy going.  Long day however lots of variety and went by quickly.  Totaled 14 hours and 1520m of elevation gain so fairly full day however perfect weather.  

After a great sleep got up at 6:30am to get to the river crossing before too strong.  Off at 7:30am and made it down (the correct cut block) in 3:10 hrs including river crossing.  A little higher but not much above the knee.  Great views of Bryce, the Bush Group and many others.  Nice and warm when got to the car for a cold beer and wash up in the creek.  Great trip, a fantastic area!

For all the pix: