Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Swiss Peaks 2011

Saturday/Sunday August 7th/8th, 2011
Mt Rogers, Mt Grant, Mt Fleming, Swiss Peak - 3169m
Synposis: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. Great day in the mountains, fantastically exposed climbing on mostly solid rock and a real feeling of doing something that doesn't get done every day. One of the summit cairns still had the first ascent noted.

Met the night before at the Hemlock Grove picnic area, Brian went early but no camping spots so bived there.  Great evening, lots of stories and a few beers then borrowed Brian’s biv sack and with the help of earplugs had a good nights sleep.  Up 7:30ish to a great breakfast (thanks Andrew), a good deal of organizing and off to the visitors centre for all the legal paraphanelia.  Hit the trail at 11 am, nice day with great views.  2.8 km trek but just over 800 metres of elevation gain.  Arrived at Hermit Meadows at roughly 2 pm after a long lunch on the trail, elevation 2135m.  Got organized, lazed about and scampered up the moraine for a look about.  Bunked with Brian on one of the great wooden tent platforms and after an awesome meal, some scotch, rye and tequila turned in relatively early.

Sunday up at 4:45 am out of camp at 5:45.  A little bit of up and down as we headed towards the toe of the glacier.  Moderate scrambling up glacier scrubbed rock lead to the toe at 7:20 am (2525m).  We roped up, debated crampons however elected to put them on as there was some bare ice around.  In retrospect taking the gentle slope to climbers right would have been easier as a few rolls on the direct route.  Brenda and Andrew on one rope and Brian and I on another, both 30m’s.  As we approached the Rogers/Grant col it steepened nicely however great snow for step kicking.  The schrund was easily passed on the right and Brian and I kept the rope in glacier travel until past.  After that Brian untied and I simply dragged the rope up, Andrew and Brenda also untied.  Pretty straight forward, although a bit of a huff.  We went around some rock on the left near the col, more snow than typical years.  Gained the col at 9:30 am (3081m).  

Mt Rogers is the highest of the bunch and to the climbers left, straightforward snow slopes lead to the summit along an interesting snow ridge.  Just past the summit was a rocky outcrop with a cairn.  Photo’s were taken at 10:00 am (3169m).  Back down to the col and along the snow to gain the rock on the way to Mt Grant.  We found out afterwards it would have been best to remain on the snow to the 2nd or even 3rd little col however good fun.  Ran into an interesting chimney down climb that was fairly committing.  Easy enough to go around however we all squeezed through and I may have dented my camera.  Mt Grant barely feels like a summit as quite flat however great climbing on blocky granite with some quartzite apparent.  The exposure started to increase.  Hit the top of Grant at 10:15 am, took more photo’s and carried on. 

The climb up to Fleming was probably the best rock, a few pauses to select the best route but great, exposed rock.  We took turns leading the crew and it was great fun.  The sky stayed blue and the views were incredible, especially of Sir Donald.  The rope stayed in the bag although there were moments.  The guide book indicated ½ hour between summits however that is a little keen.  Fleming was a great summit, very exposed with just enough room for all of us to nestle in the rocks. 

We stopped for some lunch before down climbing to the Fleming/Swiss col and the started up Swiss, no real place to bail even if we wanted to (which we didn’t).  Early on the way up Swiss there were two cornices barely hanging on.  One was part of some snow that we had to cross however given the sun, the cornice and the angle on the non corniced side we broke out the rope and did a closeline belay between a couple of blocks, all worked out well and then carried on.  Swiss was a little worse for rock quality but some sections were amazing.  Summitted Swiss at 1:40 pm after traversing around the front side and then working back along the ridge.  

Clouded over about then however descending Swiss and traversing the gendarmes on Trudel did take some time and a rap.  I rapped first, however had to hold off midway as there were a few loose blocks that needed adjusting (thanks Brian and Andrew).  It was slower down climbing, steep and more loose rocks.  I got to the snow first and started to work around Trudel, some interesting fluting in the snow.  Attempted to jump back on the rocks a few times however didn’t work out so stayed on the snow.  At one point descended to the point of being on loose rock over a very large and steep drop.  Worked my way back on the snow and guided everyone higher.  Finally gained the Swiss/Trudel col at 3:25 pm (3023m).

Given the time of day and the complexity of Trudel we elected to descend the col, fairly steep snow however didn’t require crampons or a rope.  Stayed fairly focused as some rocky outcrops near the bottom however descended the couloir in ½ hour and jumped into glacier mode, stayed pretty cloudy until close to camp however not a hint of precipitation and not much wind.  Made it back to the toe of the glacier at 4:40 pm and back to camp an hour later for a 12 hour day and 1300m.  However not over, Brian cooked us up some Ichiban and we broke camp at 6:30 pm after using the great throne - what a view!  Made it back to the car in 1 hour, mostly by myself.  Great lighting as the sun was getting low.  Had time to clean up and change before the others arrived and drove back to Canmore.  Great, great day.

For all the pix: