Sunday, 7 December 2014

Fryatt Attempt 2014

Sat/Sun/Mon September 13th/14th/ 15th

Synopsis: 3 out of 5 stars. Fryatt sports a spectacular, albeit a bit lengthy, approach along with an awesome bivy site. The climb itself has interested bits among the scree and presents interesting route finding challenges.

Ahh, the curse of a great weather forecast! This was an ACC Rocky Mountain section trip and I was looking forward to attempting an 11,000er and checking out a new area. Jay and I drove from Edmonton and spent the night at the Athabasca Falls youth hostel, while Midori and Brian drove in the morning and met us at the Geraldine Lakes parking lot as that was the approach we chose.

There had been snow recently however the forecast was perfect with lots of sun and warm temperatures on Saturday to melt it off along with a great summit day on Sunday. Saturday started off looking good as we left the car at 9 am and made our way along the trail through the Geraldine Lakes.

It's a beautiful hike in, although sporty and with all of the mossy boulders I wouldn't want to do it in the rain. Don't expect a paved trail, especially after the 6 km mark. Having said that I would go back and camp at the campground, it is spectacular and we didn't meet anyone else until day 3!

Travelling at a relaxed pace, thanks to the overnight packs, and including lunch it took us 5 1/2 hours to reach the end of the Geraldine Lakes having gained 500 metres of elevation. The trail wasn't particularly obvious at times however we followed our noses and Corbett's directions and it all worked out. Some of it is pretty obvious bear country and at one point we followed cougar tracks for some time - fortunately without meeting the owner.

At the end of the lakes the correct way is to go straight up through some bush that develops into an alpine meadow and then go left to the obvious shoulder of the West Ridge of Fryatt. We headed left too early and ended up bush whacking and eventually cliffed out, which likely cost us an hour however was fairly simple to undo.

As you can see, there was a fair amount of snow around as we gained elevation. To add to it cloud cover started to become significant and it stayed cool with a biting wind if you were in the open.

You can see the last of the Geraldine Lakes behind Midori along with the shoulder low on the right that we climbed in behind. Once sorted out it was fairly straight forward going from bush to alpine meadow to largely scree. We hit the shoulder of the West Ridge of Fryatt at 4:30 pm, roughly gaining 800 metres total. Great views down the backside.

Once around the corner there is the tiresome sidehill trudge, which lived up to its name. My hope was once we got around the corner to the south side of the mountain the snow would decrease however I was well off the mark. It was a winter wonderland!

Our plan was to biv at Iceberg Lake and to go low past it around and back up. However as we got farther along it didn't look inviting at all. We back tracked and checked out Corbett's suggestion of scrambling up by the twin waterfalls.

I initially headed up too early however once we realized that it the way up started at the high point of a scree slope some ways lookers right of the falls it went fairly easily and is the way I would recommend. We arrived at the biv site in a bit of a snow squall, definitely not basking in the sun as I was hoping for! With the two diversions, it had taken us 10 hours to make it in and the elevation gain was roughly 1300 metres (roughly 180 more than necessary).

Given the snow about, I wasn't particularly hopeful about summit day. We had a bit of a late start, 7 am and fortunately the day started off with a high cloud that was keeping the snow pretty solid.

As per Corbett's description, we made our way up the fortunately frozen scree and found a weakness in the cliff band slightly left. 

If you are an aficionado of the Rockies, the climbing was fun in between the choss and route finding kept us entertained.

The occasional bit of tat kept us feeling good about our route finding choices. Up high, things remained pretty wintry however we were able to find the occasional cairn that pulled us climbers left.  

We actually made pretty good time given the easy travel the snow afforded.

Up high, we found a gully that lead to a rock wall which sounded a lot like the description of the start of the more technical climbing. About this time we got on some modestly technical rock and given the snow the route was obviously not going to go. To compound things right at that moment the sun started to make an appearance and I had some concerns regarding footing and rock fall if the snow rapidly melted.

Our high point was roughly 3100 metres and it was 10:30 am when we pulled the plug. I lowered and then rappelled down to the ice in the gully at the left in the above photo and then we simul-climbed down the ice until back on solid snow. With the four of us it took some time to extract ourselves.

Descending we were able to follow our tracks back quite a ways however it did take us longer descending than ascending due to the deteriorating snow. Once down a ways route finding became a bit more tricky as things looked considerably different than earlier.

We did end up coming down one lower gully to climbers right of our ascent, it did go however not as easily as our ascent route.

We made it back to camp at 5:30 pm, to give you an idea of the changes in barometric pressure - my watch read a gain of 660 metres and a descent of 750 metres, quite a swing in 11 hours!

After a great nights sleep, we awoke to a clear sky and a rapidly warming day, one day late! We left at 8:15 am and given the blue bird day took our time on the way back.

A lunch stop was made at the Gerladine Lakes campground, where we met a couple who has hiked in to check it out. A beautiful spot that I will go back to.

In all, it took us 7 1/2 hours on the way out including a leisurely lunch. The trip was as much fun as I've had not climbing a mountain. I'll be back!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Mt Sparrowhawk 2014

Saturday July 26th - Mt Sparrowhawk 3121 metres

Synopsis: 4 out of 5 stars. An easy scramble that gets up high quickly and rewards with spectacular views!

Deanna, Seana and I had been up Read's Ridge last fall and had made a note that the extra effort to go to the top of Sparrowhawk would likely be rewarding. When we were blessed with a beautiful summer Saturday and nothing much on the agenda, it was a done deal!

The nice thing about Sparrowhawk is there isn't a whole lot of route finding, you can see it as you are driving down the Smith-Dorrien. The morning was a bit leisurely and we left the parking lot at 9 am, as mentioned the trail goes pretty much straight up so the views quickly become breathtaking.

By 10:15 am we made the hump before Read's Ridge and followed a well beaten path down to the left and up a scree bowl.

It took us about half an hour to work our way up through this feature, as you can see the sun was shining and it was quickly getting warm. There wasn't anyone we could see ahead of us although there was a large party coming up behind that fortunately kept their distance through the scree.

Once above, there was some grass and some rock but the scree wasn't bad at all. The track through it helped.

There had been some precipitation earlier in the week and once we got close to the head wall, it was covered with rime in really interesting formations. We could actually hear the tinkling as it melted off the rock as the sun got to it.

The snow was pretty solid and we had no trouble making our way around to the right to the summit. It got modestly steep around back but the footing was good.

The views were fantastic! We could make out the roof of the Canmore Hotel on once side and see Calgary in the distance on the other. We were on top at 12:30 pm and spent almost an hour having lunch and pointing out the peaks of K Country.

Down was the reverse of up, the wind picked up a little and it wasn't tropical but still a great day to be in the mountains.

We had a break close to the bottom of Read's Ridge to kick the stones out of our shoes and were back at the car at 5:30 pm.

It is a bit of a huff, with more than 1500 metres of elevation gained but well worth the effort!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Grand Sentinel 2014

Tuesday July 1st - Grand Sentinel Trad Route 5.8

Synopsis: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. A fantastic location with a great approach and 4 (3 really) very fun pitches. The 5.8 (old school) pitch under the roof was the most fun I've had leading in a couple of seasons!

This was an ACC trip I lead for purely selfish reasons, I hadn't climbed it in about 10 years and wanted to go back and lead the 5.8 pitch. Seana and Andrea agreed to come along and it worked out well.

We left the parking lot at 8:30 am, fortunately there wasn't a group size limit in effect (although there was when we got back). As you can see, I made the ladies carry the ropes, so much for chivalry!

I had heard that there was still a lot of snow on the way up to Sentinel Pass and there was. We came prepared however in the end there was good, firm buckets in the snow so we made pretty good time. The three of us were at the pass, a gain of a little over 700 metres, in 2 hours.

Once at Sentinel Pass, the Grand Sentinel is obvious and not far. It did take us an hour to make our way carefully through the snow.

A warm day, it was definitely going to be sloppy on the way out! We were geared up and climbing by noon. I split up the first two pitches however in retrospect could have easily combined them and gone all the way to the base of the 5.8 corner.

Once past an initial bit of ruble the climbing is blocky, well protected and a lot of fun. Andrea and Seana simulclimbed as seconds and made fast work of it.

As mentioned the third pitch, the 5.8 corner capped with a roof was the most fun I've had leading a rock pitch in a long time. Definitely an old school grade but well protected and moving left under the roof and over was fantastic! Here's Andrea making it look easy.

The last pitch has a 5.9 option, feeling pretty full of myself I checked it out but backed off and scampered up the 5.4 finish. A lot more fun than I remember, including an airy step across.

All of this followed by the mandatory top of the pinnacle shots!

Four single rope rappels put us to the base and we were back at the base at 5:30 pm. There were two Americans from California who were on their way up and kindly helped us rap through. They did have a few questions for us: why are Canadians so happy? Why do we drive so slow (they haven't been on the QE2!)? and why can't they get a rare hamburger in Canada? We really didn't have many answers for them, however suggested some better places to eat.

We were back at Sentinel Pass at 6:30 pm with smiles on our faces. With the snow down could have been significantly faster than up, however we took our time and were still back at the car at 8:00.

Glorious day, great friends, fantastic climb!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Ha Ling Northeast Face 2014

Saturday June 21st - Northeast face of Ha Ling 5.6

Synopsis: 4 out of 5 stars.  It's a bit like visiting an old friend who hasn't aged well, but is still an old friend. 12 pitches of fun climbing, lots of fixed gear and we got lucky with the crowds.

I agreed to take Brian out for a long trad route as part of the ACC Rocky Mountain section ROCK program, originally Rebecca was going to join us but couldn't make it so then we were two. I hadn't climbed this route in 5 years so was keen to have a go at it.

Given it was a weekend with a good weather forecast we met early and were leaving the car at 7:15 am from the upper Grassi parking lot. The way up is pretty straight forward if you go right for a short bit once you hit the main trail. Then it's pretty much following the footsteps in the scree.

We actually thought we might be first (a bit delusional on my part) until we met two coming down who were bailing due to a slow group not letting anyone by. Not highly unusual for this route so we soldiered on, eventually getting to the top of the trudge and the single bolt belay at 8:40 am after a 560 meter stair master. As warned there was one party of three on the second belay and two young guys ahead of us who were just starting up.

We waited around for a bit and headed up about 9:15. Fortunately, the first party appeared to have pulled their fingers out and the young bucks were making pretty short work of it so other than a couple of short delays we were pretty much on our own (the advantage of being the slowest climbers!).

The route starts off a bit loose and given it was the day after a large rain event I expected a bit of shrapnel and it didn't disappoint. The party head got off route a couple of times and we were forced to take cover. Having said that it is nice to ease into it as the initial climbing is pretty easy and we didn't pull out the second double rope until the half way point.

We had a few chances to put together earlier pitches however I didn't due to the traffic up ahead. In two hours we were 5 pitches into it and the rock started to improve and some interesting climbing followed.

About this point, Brian came up to the belay with an odd look on his face. He caught a gear loop on some rock and in moving by ripped the gear loop open and lost some gear. Needless to say, the gear was the least of his concerns - my guess is that harness got retired!

Things progressed nicely, I wasn't using a lot of gear and it was all medium sized cams and nuts. That was until the bookend pitch where a couple of larger cams found a home.

It's really hard not to grin when you are climbing the bookend pitch. Although some of the middle pitches are getting a little greasy, the top pitches seem to climb just fine!

Once up high the views start to expand and close to the top we could see the hordes making their way up the scramble.

We topped out at 2:40 pm after roughly 5 1/2 hours of climbing, the joys of climbing with a strong partner! We took our time packing and finishing up some lunch and enjoyed the scramble down.

Great day, car to car in just over 9 hours with smiles on our faces!