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!