Sunday, September 23, 2012

Woolley and Diadem

Ross is secretly trying to climb all 54 peaks over 11,000' in the Canadian Rockies. This is news to Ross. He hasn't yet admitted the fact to himself. So perhaps "secretly" is the wrong word. It's more like he's coyly climbing the 11,000ers. Whatever, we certainly applaud his efforts since now he will look after the logistics and planning for whatever peak has most recently put a bee in his bonnet.

Woolley and Diadem are two such peaks. Given how accessible they are are, and how they can both be done in a single push, it was surprising that Ross hadn't dragged us here sooner. They are located on the west side of the Icefields Parkway just north of the Athabasca/Andromeda group. The plan was to do the 4 hour hike in on the first day, bivy, and climb the peaks the next day.

The first order of business was to cross the frigid Sunwapta River, thankfully only knee deep this late in the season, but still shockingly cold. We left our wet running shoes hanging in a tree to await our return.

Sunwapta River

The bivy site is a barren spot but does have a certain stark beauty.

Bivy site

Our goal was to get up both peaks so we planned to take the line of least resistance to the Woolley-Diadem col and proceed from there. There are a few variations to get to the col. It doesn't look like it from the photo but the lower part of the glacier is threatened by serac fall from above so the obvious choice of heading straight up the left hand gully isn't a good one. Ultimately this was the route we followed:

Woolley (L) and Diadem (R)

One route description suggests climbing the toe of rock between the two obvious couloirs on Diadem before traversing left into the couloir adjacent to the glacier. We killed an hour investigating this option before giving it up. It was just a pile of loose shitty rock and in retrospect was a pointless endeavour when climbing the right hand gully and cutting across was so straightforward.

James at the point where we cut across to the left gully

From the col we made our way up the ridge of Woolley, broad at first, but narrowing in a few places where the late summer snow still lingered.

We had some mediocre views of Mount Alberta through the haze of forest fire smoke.

Mount Alberta

A quick lunch on top before retracing our steps back to the col to scramble up Diadem.

Descending Woolley. Diadem in the distance.

Heading up Diadem. Woolley behind.

Standing on the snowy top of Woolley it looked like there was a rocky sub-peak that was just slightly higher. Of course we now we had make our way across and scramble up this little pinnacle of rock to make sure.

James on the Pinnacle/ The first summit of Diadem just behind.

According to my altimeter the pinnacle was 1 metre lower. Doh. Back to the first summit, back to the col, and then back down the gully and across the glacier to the tents.

Descending the left gully. The tents are beside the lake below.

After relaxing in the sun beside the tents we decided to spend another night out.

A fine, fine way for Ross to tick of two more coy 11,000ers.