Friday, 28 September 2012

Mt Woolley & Diadem 2012

Saturday/Sunday/Monday Sept 22-24, 2012 Mt. Woolley 3405m Mt. Diadem 3371m

Synopsis: 3 stars out of 5, two 11,000ers in a beautiful setting with great views of Mt Alberta and the North Twin.

James and Andrew met in Lake Louise and picked me up at Saskatchewan River Crossing at noon on Saturday.  It was a perfectly blue sky on the drive down and between the mountains and the fall colours it was a beautiful drive.  The pull off is just 12 km north of the ice field visitors centre and we left the car just after 1 pm.

Likely the most dangerous part of the trip was crossing highway 93 with an overnight pack on a sunny afternoon, after that the Sunwapta river crossing was nothing.  Being fall it wasn't mid calf, although still a little chilly!

The trail was a pretty good trail up the gorge and once up a bit the spectacular peaks of the MacArthur group come into view.  In the photo below both are over 10,500' and look like interesting objectives in their own right.

About then we came to a bouldery section and took a trail a bit higher than Woolley creek.  On the way down we saw the error of our ways, the good trail is right next to the creek.  3:45 hrs and 675 meters of elevation gain put us at the biv site, there was a few to choose from.  We did have neighbours, a team of three from the UK.

We spent most of the very short evening reading over the three different route descriptions we had attempting to plan the next morning.  Our plan was to attempt the regular route which we thought would go up the rock between the two snow gullies in the photo above.  The SE face route, the right hand snow gully, looked interesting however we were a bit concerned about snow quality.

Sunday morning, up at 4:30 am and we were walking at 5:30 anticipating sunlight at 6:30.  In spite of a chilly evening it was a balmy 7 above when the alarms went.  We skirted the lake and followed scree on glacier as much as possible.  After roping up for a short section with some significant crevasses, we caught up to the other team at the nose of the rock, between the two snow gullies, at 7 am after a gain of roughly 350 m and with not a hint of sunlight.

All 6 of us worked left and right on the choss pile that made up the toe of rock attempting to find a route through.  After an hour of futility, Andrew finally put his hands on his hips and uttered "I'm sooo done with this" (likely caused by sleeping on a female specific thermarest).

We immediately escaped climbers right and jumped on the SE face route.  Needless to say it was a pleasure to be on snow.  Funny enough once we climbed up to the large snow patch on the rock to our left, Andrew and James saw a significant cairn on the other side.  We skirted around the bottom of the snow patch and climbed a short chimney feature to the cairn.

This was the passage through to the left hand snow gully.  There was a bit of a trail rising diagonally through the loose rock.  It made sense as our goal was to gain the left hand snow filled gully above the area threatened by serac fall.  Not great rock but pretty easy travel none the less.

We then jumped in the snow gully for a short steep (40 degree) section before breaking climbers left through a gap in the rock.  We had a second tool and ice screws just in case, but they weren't close to being necessary.  The sun was starting to make itself felt however there was some significant smoke in the air.  Not good for the views but likely saved the snow very getting too sloppy on the descent.

I expected to go around the corner and be on the Woolley/Diadem col however it was a fair way back.  We arrived at the col at 10 am at roughly 3100 m.  We chose to climb Woolley first as it looked more inviting, a long ridge with an interesting bit mid way.

On top of Woolley at 11:15 am, as mentioned it was a little smokey but we still had great views of Mt Alberta with some of the biggest hanging glaciers I've ever seen in the foreground.

There was a bit of wind but it was still pretty mild, especially given it was the end of September.  Nice view back to the campsite down by the lake!

It was a pretty simple exercise to retrace our steps to the col, near the col there are a few crevasses however we felt comfortable without the rope.  Back at the col shortly after 12:00 pm, we started the rocky scramble up to Diadem.

On the way up Diadem, we met the other team coming down as they stuck to the SE face.  They were going out that night so were descending and skipped Woolley.

The top of Diadem is a straight forward snow slope after you scramble up the scree, we didn't even put our crampons back on.  Having said that once on top we saw the small rock outcrop further on that just might be higher...

It turned out not to be (just) but it is a fun scramble with a bit of exposure to liven things up.

On top of the rock pinnacle at 1:15 pm, we retraced our steps back to the col and then back to camp.  Pretty straight forward, we were in camp at 4:30 pm with a grin on our faces.  After 11 hours and 1400 metres of elevation gain there was a short discussion about packing up and heading out but we opted for the nice meal, scotch, sunset and bug out in the morning.

Wouldn't you know it, the next day dawned clear as a whistle.  We waiting for the sun to warm things up before getting too carried away.  Broke camp and left at 9:30 am and were back at the car in two and a half hours.

We did discover that a climb isn't complete without a theme song, one that Andrew started singing after I called him a negative nelly:

Thanks to Andrew and James for a great weekend!


Friday, 7 September 2012

Willingdon Attempt 2012

Sept 1-3, 2012

It was set to be Ross and Deanna's excellent adventure.  You know the story; big plans, long weekend and great weather forecast.  We knew it wasn't going to be text book when we arrived at Mosquito Creek parking lot Saturday morning shortly before 9 am to torrential rain and wet snow.  Hmmm!  We sat it out in the car for an hour and sure enough, a sucker hole of blue sky spurred us into action.

Off we went at 10, basically following the trail to Mosquito Creek campground for an hour until a bit of a trail to the left just before the 3rd bridge.  We followed this trail which follows the left hand side of the creek for another hour and a quarter.  A little tougher going and we managed to get soaking wet from the branches grabbing at us.

We then headed up through sparse bush as per Bill Corbett's directions and made our way up to a bit of alpine meadow.  The weather was coming and going with a bit of snow and grapple but not enough so send us home.  Our goal was to pass through Quartzite Col which is just to the right of my head below.

We managed to make the col in 5 hours from the car, not bad for a guy recovering from a broken ankle and a girl that doesn't climb (apparently Cotopaxi doesn't count!).  We traversed into the col from high and spent more time in awkward blocky terrain, could have saved time and energy by entering the amphiteatre lower and heading straight up to the col.  We managed to make the col in the middle of a particularly energetic storm cell, I was happy not to hear any thunder.

Deanna may have mentioned once or twice that she wasn't happy with the weather but we elected to carry on.  Fortunately, just after we did the cloud lifted and we could at least see our way down to the Siffleur valley.  Descending the other side of the col is pretty steep, we found some passable terrain well to the climbers right of the col, an alternative would have been to descend a steep snow slope right under the col.

Once down onto the Siffleur the terrain was stunning, not much of a view of the mountains but interesting terrain and soft under foot.

A bit undulating and a few creek crossings later we picked up the horse trail coming in from Pipestone valley and made our way up to Clearwater Pass.  Unfortunately, shortly about then it started to snow in earnest.  At about 6 pm we were getting a little weary and hid under some trees, ate something and agreed to carry on for 1/2 an hour and if we didn't find Devon Lakes we would just camp wherever.

Funny enough, as soon as we got back on the trail the snow eased enough for us to realize we were 40 metres from the lake and right beside the creek we were looking for!  We quickly set up camp as it continued to snow and found a clump of trees to cook under.  After a 9 hour day with a little over 1,000 metres of elevation gain in a raging blizzard it was good to be in the tent.

The snow and wind continued through most of the night and it was pretty obvious we weren't going to get up any mountains however it cleared enough in the morning to allow for a great view of the start of the route on Willingdon to the right of the nipple on the ridge below.

We had a bit of a relaxing start to the day and elected to take the long way back and spend another night out.  We packed up and headed towards Pipestone Pass at 11 am.  It stayed cold and windy but the cloud cover came and went enough to get some great views.

Two and a half hours got us to Pipestone Col which was pretty spectacular albiet chilly.  A little scotch out of the wind helped us to forget about the cold.

Carrying on down the Pipestone valley was spectacular.  We carried on for a little over an hour and just before Moose Lake headed up and over to shortcut back to Mosquito Creek. 

The route up and over takes a line of least resistance just before the large face of snow on the right above a green bench.  Given all of the obvious bear territory and no other people around I was surprised not to see any wildlife.  The climb up to the unnamed col was pretty straight forward as you can see below however we found more hoof than boot prints.

On the other side was a descent of about 200 metres to a little lake that we elected to set up camp beside.  It was still cold and windy so we spent the evening wearing every bit of clothing we brought.  In fact we had to heat up the box of wine to get it up to room temperatures!

In all it took us 7 hours to get here from Devon Lakes at a pretty pedestrian pace and there was 700 metres of elevation gain.

The next morning we tore down camp with threatening skies but managed to get out without getting wet.  It was beautiful terrain on the way down to Mosquito Creek.  At one point we were following bear tracks through a meadow with lots of signs of digging however the lack of steaming scat kept the heart rate down.

We left at 9 am, joined the trail after an hour and a half and made it back to the car in three and a half hours including a few rest stops.

Probably the most fun I've had without climbing a mountain.