Saturday, July 19, 2008

Eagle Peak Traverse

We were back in Rogers Pass again this weekend to try Eagle Peak. Most of the fresh snow has melted off and it's beginning to look more summer-like in the alpine, although I think there is still more snow remaining than in previous years.

The plan was to gain the col between Avalanche and Eagle, climb the N Ridge and then descend by the SW Ridge.

We really enjoyed the route up. There was plenty of snow below the col which really helped. Under the snow is a steep scree slope which I suspect becomes more character building as the summer wears on. From the col the route is part ridge walk, part scramble, and part low 5th class climbing. We did get the rope out at one point as the ridge became steeper and less blocky near the top. Probably wasn't necessary in the end but hey, we had a rope, might as well use it.

All went well and we were on the summit by 2 o'clock. The guidebook suggested 6 hours up and we took 7. What!? Slower than guidebook time? Us? We'll have to have a word with David P. Jones about this!

So, the descent down the SW ridge...

Here's some advice: if there's someone in your life that you really, really don't like, tell them that the SW ridge is a good way to descend from Eagle Peak. 'Nuff said.

Six hours(!) after leaving the summit we arrived, very footsore, at the Illecillewaet campground. We didn't even look for the friends that we knew were camping somewhere nearby. Food. Bed.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Balu Peak SE Ridge

We planned to try the north ridge of Eagle Mountain in Rogers Pass this weekend. It was to be our first alpine climbing weekend of the summer and the route seemed like a good low-key way to start. We were already familiar with the descent route since we had checked it out last summer. However when we arrived at the pass on Friday night the mountains were looking very white from the storms which had come through the region on Thursday.

In the photo Eagle is the peak at middle right. Uto is peaking out from behind and Sir Donald looms high above from the far right. The north ridge of Eagle climbs up and right from the col in the center of the photo.

So enough about what we didn't do.

A post on the ACC Okanagan forum made us think of the SE Ridge of Balu Peak. A quick check of the guidebook and we were on our way.

We've been up Connaught Creek many times in the winter but this was our first summer trip. What a fine hike. Great trail, great views. From Balu Pass our route followed the left skyline in this photo. The col on the right is the start of the 8812 bowl.

A fine day out as they say. 3rd class scrambling over mostly solid rock.

It took us 9 hours including a short nap at Balu Pass. There were a couple of guys skiing up there and it looked pretty good. Only 4 months to go until the season starts again :)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Glacier Circle Hut

Brenda hasn't written for the blog since the Little Sifton Traverse. Take it away Brenda...

The Glacier Circle Hut is an historic and seldom-visited hut. It was built in the early 1900's, and sits in a hanging valley beside the Dawson Range, a stunning group of 11,000' peaks.

The fastest access to the hut is over the Illecillewaet Glacier. The guidebook gives 10-12 hours to get to the hut, so we started off at 6:30 on Saturday morning. We hiked for three hours with skis on our packs in order to get to the snow - a heavy three hours, tottering top-heavy over first the trail, then rocks, then finally snow. We were moving slowly, and concerned about making it to the hut in reasonable time. We got to the toe of the glacier, had lunch, and put our skis on for the 10km slog across the flat nevé.

There is a magical window of time during which the hut is accessible to average mortals such as ourselves. In the winter, the days are so short that we would have to leave well before breakfast in order to arrive at the hut in daylight. And with fresh winter snow on the neve, breaking trail for that long distance would be hard. In midsummer and fall, the melting snow reveals the crevasses on the glacier, and walking roped across the whole glacier would be exhausting and long. In the spring, the consolidated snow makes for fast travel on skis, days are long, and the hut moves several hours closer to the highway.

We made quick time across the glacier, and the ski was thoroughly enjoyable. We ran across the tracks of a bear who had loped across the neve from the Asulkan side across to the Beaver Valley. I bet he made good time.

At its south end, the Illecillewaet drops off into the Glacier Circle. We were able to make a few turns on the last tongue of snow before abandoning our skis and staggering down the rocks into the valley floor.

The hut itself is notoriously difficult to find. Stories abound of people spending the night out because they couldn't find the hut, then waking up to discover they were sleeping not 100 feet away. I had programmed the location into my GPS to avoid such a fate.

Fred decided that he wanted the experience of discovering the hut by himself, so he took off ahead. Andrew and I were more interested in the experience of boot-removal, so I took the GPS and forged straight at the co-ordinates. We were so tired that we didn't bother to find a trail through the woods - we bashed forward through ponds, rivers, over logs, and through brush, anxious only to arrive. Which we did, a full half hour before Fred, and a half hour within the 12 hour time limit given by the guidebook.

The hut itself is beautiful, and the surroundings nothing short of spectacular. The Deville Glacier, two kilometers away, spills over a cliff and spends the afternoon hurling school-bus-sized chunks of ice off into the valley, and the thunder echoes all around the Cirque.

Sunday was spent relaxing and exploring our new surroundings. We planned to go for a short stroll after breakfast. Then we discovered a family of mice, and our stroll started late. We walked to the top of a small hill. We had a swim in the lake at the end of the valley. Then we realized that we had almost missed lunchtime, so we walked back to the cabin. We had lunch, and met the porcupine who lives next-door to the hut. Then it was naptime, then glacier-watching time, then suppertime, then bedtime. It was a great day.

On Monday we got up early, tidied the hut, and started back to Rogers Pass. The trip was uneventful, and four hours faster than the trip in - downhill most of the way, and we were glad to have skis. We had the increasingly familiar surreal feeling of getting back to the hiking trail wearing our huge packs with skis strapped on, amongst the hikers wearing summer clothes and tiny fashionable day-packs. We were quite pleased with ourselves when we got back to the car.

distance: 16 km each way
elevation at Rogers Pass: 1350m
elevation at Glacier Circle: 1850m
elevation at high point on Neve: 2700m
species spied: grizzly bear*, porcupine, nuthatch, common butterwort (carnivorous!), herd of unidentified ungulates, frog, deer mice
*Do not worry, the grizzly bear was very far away. Good eyes Fred.

Lots more photos here of the porcupine, the mice, and Fred's sun burned knees.