Monday, August 25, 2008

Uto Peak SW to NW Traverse

Took a few days off last week to join Ross for some climbing. We had grand ambitions with the NW Ridge of Sir Donald topping our list. Sadly the weather turned foul and put a crimp in our plans. The third week of August is notorious for bad weather.

So, instead of meeting in Rogers Pass as originally planned I drove straight through to Canmore and met up with Ross at the Canmore Castle. We had a good fester, did some long-boarding, visited Banff where Ross bought some new boots (he needed 'em), and had a swim in the hot springs under the cold pouring rain. I hadn't been there since I was a kid.

The forecast for the weekend improved and we eventually made our way back to Rogers Pass and up to the Sir Donald bivy site. When the clouds parted we had our first worrying look at Sir Donald.


We set up camp and climbed up to the Donald-Uto col to look around. The NW Ridge was soaked and covered in snow. To our surprise there was a party on the route. We watched them for quite a while but they hardly moved an inch. We returned to camp. As we cooked and ate dinner we could see them rappelling down the west face racing against the encroaching darkness. Eventually they got down and came through the bivy site where Ross exchanged a few words with them. They were soaked to the core, freezing, and had basically had a very, very bad day. Ross said their eyes were as big as saucers.

With that in mind the next day we decided to give Sir Donald another day to dry out. Instead we opted to traverse Uto by climbing up the SW ridge and descending by the NW ridge. The weather improved throughout the day and we enjoyed ourselves. It wasn't Sir Donald but it was still good route in a much less threatening sort of way!

That's Sir Donald behind us in the last photo.

Another group that had arrived the previous night had decided to go for the NW ridge. We saw glimpses of them throughout the day but they too were moving agonizingly slowly. We lost sight of them and thought that they must have given up and rapped off.

When we got back to camp we debated going for it the next day, Sunday, but for me the momentum was lost and we decided against it. We planned to spend the night and head out the next morning.

We again had entertainment of sorts while eating dinner. The party which we assumed had bailed was still trying to get down off Sir Donald. However it was pretty obvious that they weren't going to be as lucky as the previous night's group and that they were doomed to a cold night out. We felt for them as we watched their headlights bobbing up and down along the distant ridge.

We still felt for them the next morning as we packed up and could still see them up there making their slow way down the ridge.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Cheops SE Ridge

We tried the SE Ridge on the holiday Monday with Fred and Joanne. To make a long story short...much bushwhacking, took longer than expected, and we bailed short of the summit. The worst part is that now we have to go back and do that bushwhack again!

It's quite a nice route once you gain the ridge. The final summit headwall looks a bit dodgy when you view it straight on but I'm sure it would have gone easily enough if we had had enough time to poke around a bit.

Thankfully the descent wasn't too bad. We scrambled across onto the east face and boot skied down snow patches for hundred of meters.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Over the long weekend Martin payed us a visit and we spent most of our time in Rogers Pass. Martin, who now lives in Dundas Ontario, was on his we into the Bugaboos but had come out a few days early to see us. We had hoped to do one of the Rogers Pass classics such as the West Ridge of Tupper or Uto. Unfortunately the weather didn't really co-operate and we spent a lot of time hanging out in the campsite (which was still pretty entertaining).

We did manage to scramble up Abbott and Afton one day. This is fast becoming the iffy weather route of choice for us. Joanne and Fred joined us and we had a good time.

The most interesting part of the day was this owl that was perched low in a tree just a couple of meters from the trail.

We'd never seen an owl up close like this before. It just sat there staring at us seemingly unconcerned with our oohing and ahhing just few feet away. He craned his head around and blinked in an owly manner until we got bored. It was really cool.