Monday, September 02, 2013

Mount Assiniboine North Ridge

Update April 2017:
Google nuked Picasa Web Albums so these photos no longer click through to full size versions. Thanks Google. Here's the full album on Google Photos.

Mount Assiniboine was fresh on my mind after climbing Lunette Peak just a few weeks ago. I first tried to climb the north ridge 13 years ago. It was a trip best forgotten as I spent a cold and lonely night retching my guts up outside the hut. It was a crowded and noisy place and let's just say that hygiene wasn't the first thing on people's minds.

Dave suggested having another go over the long weekend. I agreed with the idea that we should hike in a day late in order to be out of synch with the Labour Day crowds. Also to bring a tent. This turned out to be just about the best decision I've ever made.

The hike in took us 8 hours which was fully 2 more than the guidebook suggests. We suck. But Assiniboine Lake was a real highlight.

The scree much less so.

Crossing old moraines I almost tripped over this ptarmigan who stood there blinking at me long enough to get a photo.

The final scree slope up to the Alberta-BC border was agonizing but once at the col we got our first look at the Hind Hut and Magog Lake far below.

At the hut we met two guys sitting outside watching the route through binoculars.

Carl and Roger told us that there had been 27 people that night in a hut designed to sleep 14. It was now 4:00PM and not a single party had returned from the climb. Through binoculars we could see people spread all over the mountain, kicking rocks down on each other, rappelling, pulling ropes. Shouts of "ROCK!" rang out every few minutes. There was so much rock fall it seemed a miracle that no one got smoked. What a gong show. We were so happy not be on that mountain.

After dinner people began returning from the climb in ones and twos. As the light faded it became clear that several people would spending the night out. We set a 5:00AM start time with R&C and turned in.

The next morning we toiled up the rubble of the lower half of the route by headlamp. What a pile of choss. At daybreak we came across a party of three on their way down. They had spent a long and cold night out and looked a little haggard but otherwise non the worse for wear. We offered them food and water which they declined and then wished them well as we parted in opposite directions.

We negotiated our way through the Red Band without needing the rope and found ourselves on solid rock for the first time just as the sun came out in earnest.

From here the route is delightful: good rock, albeit a bit slippery with the fresh snow, terrific exposure, and fun climbing.

We were on top before 9:00AM.

On the descent we made 5 or 6 rappels along the ridge.

After this we put the rope away and reversed our steps through the Red Band before skittering back down over the endless scree. Have I mentioned the scree? Gawd the amount of rubble on this peak just blew my mind.

In the end we were 4 hours up and 4 hours down and didn't use the rope at all on the way up. I wouldn't class the north ridge among the most aesthetic of climbs but it's a great setting and combined with the lovely approach hike it makes for a memorable trip.

Check out Roger's superb photos on Flickr.