Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cathedral Mountain, Yoho

I love crossing streams at 6:00AM. Oh yeah. Freezing water gripping your nards like icy tongs really makes you feel alive! And don't let all of that screaming fool you. Ha-hah. Acting!

Alas I hang my head in shame. Cold water is my nemesis. Cold, rushing, waist deep water even more so. Combine that with an early start and I'm having a rough morning. This is Ross and Deanna crossing Cataract Brook (sans all the screaming).

After such a rude beginning the day did improve. We found a faint path to the Cataract Brook trail and immediately picked up the climber's trail leading up into the alpine. From there we wandered over scree and patches of summer snow towards the glacier.

There were great views of Huber and North Victoria and the other peaks surrounding Lake O'Hara.

But it was several hours before we got a look at the upper slopes of Cathedral.

And a couple more until we were post-holing along the snowy ridge below the summit.

But we got there in end, 9 hours and 1600 metres after leaving the cars.

Thankfully the return journey took only 4 hours including re-crossing the river.

This was a great day out in some impressive terrain. Researching the peak beforehand we were surprised by how little information there was, and the information we did find was confusing. So here's the scoop:

You need to cross Cataract Brook. This used to be easy because the Cataract Brook Trail to Lake O'Hara is on the west side of the river and there was a bridge. Today the trail is no longer maintained and the bridge is gone. Instead walk up the Lake O'Hara road for ~3.8km and access the river at an obvious open area at GR455960. There are km markers on the road so it's easy to estimate how far along the road you have walked. Once across you'll find a faint trail slightly up river. It's not obvious at first but quickly becomes a well beaten path leading away from the river. After 10 minutes the path will intersect the Cataract Brook Trail at a large boulder. Just behind the boulder is an obvious trail that follows a water course straight up. The trail emerges at a small scree field. Work your way up and left until below a cliff band. There is a fairly obvious trail. Follow this up through a sparse larch forest into the alpine and it's obvious from there.

Takakkaw Falls

Probably the wackiest rock climb we've ever done. The route has you climbing within metres of raging waterfall and ends with a short, wet, and dark cave pitch that tops out at the very crest of the falls.

We met Brian, Shannon, Deanna and Ross at the Tak Falls campground on Friday night. Brian was on his way to Yellowknife and this was our first chance to meet his lovely partner Shannon. The next morning we made the short hike up to the base of the climb.

The local goat populace gave us some bemused looks and the babies elicited much "oohing" and "aahing" from us in return.

Brian had climbed the route once before so we made good time and linked pitches 1-2 and 3-4.

At one point Ross tried to put in a new direttisima but we convinced him that this was an Unwise Choice and he lowered back down to the belay one camming device lighter.

Thankfully the wind was in our favour and the rock stayed dry but the falls constantly reminded us of its presence with it's thunderous background noise.

I had expected that the cave pitch would be much like other "cave pitches" that we'd climbed through before; a short grunt through a tight squeeze and voilĂ  we'd be on top. I hadn't quite grasped just how cave-like the cave pitch actually would be. The start seems innocent enough.

Soon I found myself forced onto hands and knees in a rapidly constricting, wet, and very dark tunnel. My headlamp flickered a few times just to remind me how long ago it had been since I'd replaced the batteries.

The roof got lower and lower until the only way to move forward was to crawl on our bellies like worms with the boom of the falls vibrating through the rocks. Finally after what seemed like ages, although it was probably no more than 10 minutes, we popped out into the daylight at the top of the falls.

How cool is that? Not the cleanest pitch of rock climbing it must be said.

There is actually one more pitch of climbing above this point but given the size of our group and the darkening clouds we reversed our way back through the cave to begin the rappel gong-show. In fact it did start to rain and thunder shortly after we hit the ground.

Overall the climb is rated at 5.7 but really there's only one short section at this grade and that is well protected with bolts. In fact there are bolts all over the place with well established belay anchors. It's a great day of almost-alpine climbing in a fine setting.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mount English

Mount English last weekend with the ACC.

We drove up on Saturday afternoon, removing a few obstacles along the way.

To where the logging road ends at 1600m.

Tents, dinner, beer, fire, bed. Pretty much in that order. Except with more beer.

We got an early start the next morning hoping that the snow would support our weight. Before long we were above the trees and working our way across old avalanche debris up to a col on the west ridge.

From the col we scrambled over loose and shattered rock before post-holing the rest of the way to the summit.

We had some fine views of the peaks south of Revelstoke.

And came across this mass of ladybugs swarming all over the sunny rocks.

They were everywhere, providing a stunning contrast against the dark lichen coloured rock.

A fun day out and a great early season destination.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Glacier Circle Hut Attempt

Through the dripping rain forest we trudged.

Across filthy avalanche debris strafed by rockfall.

Dodging scary creatures emerging from the spring snow.

Weaving our way amongst the yawning crevasses.

And then we waited, wetly, for a break in the weather.

Fought the good fight we did! Alas 'twas not to be! And the Glacier Circle Hut awaits our next visit for another year.