Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Skyladder, Mount Andromeda

Skyladder on Mount Andromeda has developed into a bit of a bugbear for me over the years. When we lived back east Skyladder was always on our todo list during the annual summer climbing pilgrimage; but our trips always took place in late summer and inevitably the route was out of shape with bare ice and nasty rockfall. Eventually we'd been in several times to look at Skyladder. Yeah, I know, "look at" is a euphemism for "we went to climb it but got scared and ran away in a comical Monty Pythonesque fashion". It's probably the reason I've climbed Mount Athabasca so many times; it's right next door to Andromeda.

The solution? Climb it in June. Brilliant. Apparently we're a bit late with this revelation since I don't think anyone climbs the route in summer any more. But still, we can be taught!

Ross and I left a bleary-eyed Brenda in the van at the climber's bivy at 3:30am. She had a full day of studying ahead of her, but that wouldn't start until after several more hours of sleep. It was dark, cold, sleeting, and miserable. Egad how I envied her! I don't think we really expected to get very far but nevertheless we turned on our headlamps and began trudging along the road and up the moraines. We found our way through the icefall (not without incident), dodged crevasses across the glacier, made an end run around the bergschrund, and began kicking steps upwards.



The usual A common method of climbing Skyladder is to top out on the route and to then make a long traverse over to the Andromeda-Athabasca col. A number of raps gets you back down to the glacier. However it's notorious for getting people lost, especially in poor visibility, and visibility was decidedly lacking.

We'd resolved to kick really good steps just in case we needed to descend the same way we came up. This seemed like a great idea when I was in the lead making the steps. Unfortunately the frailty of our plan was revealed when I was later following Ross's steps; by the time I'd placed my feet in twenty of his steps the rest had disappeared. The blowing snow simply filled them in within minutes. I was mildly alarmed when I realized this but by then the weather was showing signs of improvement so we continued on up.



We'd set a turnaround time of 1:00PM. By 12:40 we'd basically completed the route but still hadn't actually topped out. The weather was still pretty dodgy so, much to Ross's dismay, we began heading down. Of course after we'd descended a few hundred meters the weather began to clear out in earnest and we were left agonizing over our decision. Oh well. The sunny skies made the descent seem easy despite not having any steps to follow down. We were back on the glacier in an hour and a half.



Almost without us noticing it had turned into a beautiful day; the sun was blazing and the fresh snow was dazzling. It was only at this point that I stupidly remembered to put on sunscreen and sunglasses. Alas, it was far too late and I already had the sunburn of my life. I'd even managed to burn my eyelids. The next couple of days were agony as my eyelids and face swelled up painfully.

Anyway, we trundled across the glacier, Ross fell into a couple of crevasses up to his waist, and we generally enjoyed our walk back to the van. Brenda, bless her, met us part way up the moraine with fresh water and snacks.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jimmy Lake

Bit late with this one...

Two weekends ago we loaded the old canoe onto the van and headed to Jimmy Lake to meet Fred. Ostensibly we were going there to do some fishing, but since Brenda and I only have one fishing road between the two of us, and one of us is a vegetarian, let's just say that the fish needn't have been overly worried.

On the first part of the drive, on paved road, we traveled 157kms in about an hour and a half. On the second part of the drive, on a logging road, we traveled a whopping 20kms in one hour. 16-year old VW vans don't like logging roads.

Some highlights of the trip were two loons tearing madly around the lake chasing each other, a baby deer with it's mother, and studying a bald eagle on its nest as we casually floated by in the canoe.

We also noticed loads of bright blue damselflies congregating on lily pads. Looking closely we realized that (what we assume to be) female damselflies were hatching in the water and clinging to the underside of the lily pads. The males were patiently waiting for them to come to the surface. As soon as a female got too close to the edge of a lily pad, a male would grab her and haul her to the surface and try to mate. There was a lot happening on those lily pads and we spent quite a while watching, enthralled.

That's about it. Fred claims to have caught a good sized rainbow trout, but since it was already cleaned and in the freezer when we arrived, we're a bit dubious.