Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hermit Mountain West Ridge

Up to Hermit Meadows with Dave to try Hermit Mountain.

Chatting that evening with another group we learned that there was a party of two still on Hermit Mountain. They were in radio contact with the rest of their party at Hermit Meadows. At this late hour they were intending to hunker down for the night and bail off in the morning. There didn't seem to be too much concern overall so we went to bed without worrying about it.

Next morning on our way up the moraines at first light we heard a helicopter coming up the valley. Uh-oh. It flew right over us and sure enough we watched as two figures were long lined one-by-one off the summit of Hermit. Pretty bizarre to watch this unfold as we were heading up to climb the same peak. We spoke with them afterwards. They were little sheepish but fine otherwise.

The west ridge is an excellent route. Clean, continuously interesting, and much more aesthetic than many of the similar easy climbs in the area.

With some careful route finding we managed to avoid using the rope and were on the top within guidebook time. Unheard of. For us.

We considered descending the east ridge but it looked liked an awfully long way. Meh. The descent didn't go quite as smoothly. We kept getting suckered to skiers left onto easier ground that would usually end up leaving us cliffed out. But we sorted it out and after one or two short rappels near the end we were back at the Truda-Hermit col.

An excellent day out and another milestone of sorts as this was the only remaining peak in the Hermit area that we hadn't climbed. A climb worthy or our minor ambitions! We packed up the tents and headed home.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lyell Icefield

This was a fabulous 4 day trip organized by Ross. Several months have passed so the details have faded somewhat. The plan was to fly in from Golden and spend 3 nights at the Lyell hut and then hike out via Crampon Col to a vehicle that we had shuttled to the Valenciennes FSR.

It all started with James in his truck and us in ours making the long drive up Big Bend Highway onto the Valenciennes. The first washed out bridge at around 10km wasn't too much trouble.

The second was veeery tempting...

But it was a little too late in the day for shenanigans so we called it quits. We wrapped the truck in chicken wire and sped back to Golden for a few hours sleep.

The next day dawned clear and hot. The weather would follow this pattern from the rest of the trip. The flight from Golden was spectacular giving us a first look at the Lyell Hut perched on a rocky knoll.

Our landing, gripping? The wind was swirling around pretty badly. We finally touched down on the third attempt at what seemed an insanely fast speed. We unloaded the helicopter which then disappeared into the distance leaving behind the five of us, the hut, and one awesome shitter.

The Lyells are five peaks all above the magic 11,000' mark. Four of them are basically walk-ups but Lyell 4 is fairly technical. After arriving we explored the approach and decided to attempt Lyells 1, 2, and 3 the next morning. It was the first really warm spell of the summer and given the amount of snow still on the ground it meant a 3AM start to avoid post-holing up to our necks all day. When the sun rose the next morning we were well on our way.

Lyell 1 and 2 (right to left)

Lyell 1

Lyell 2 from Lyell 1

Lyell 3 from Lyell 2

Lyell 3

Lyell 4 (foreground) and Lyell 5 (background) from Lyell 3

Three 11,000ers in one morning and back at the hut by noon. How cool is that? We relaxed in the sun and napped away the afternoon.

After our close up view of Lyell 4 we decided that a group of 5 would take far too long on the exposed and heavily corniced ridge. Not to mention the risk of a cornice collapse with the rapidly deteriorating snow conditions. So the next day Dave and Ross would have a go while the rest of use ambled up Lyell 5. However one thing lead to another and in the end we gave up on 4. Ross did an exceedingly good job of hiding his exasperation. Sorry bud.

Lyell 5

One of the great aspects to this trip was that it would continue to be an adventure finding our way out. After another early start the next day we first watched the moon set over Crampon Col in the west.

Made our way up the icy slope.

And then looked back to east watch the sunrise over the Lyells.

From here we bumbled our way across the glacier and then across endless moraines and stream crossings in the general direction of Icefall Lodge.

At Icefall we met the owner Larry Dolecki just heading out. He mentioned that he kept an old truck on this side of the washed out bridge on the logging road far below and kindly offered us a ride if we got there in time. This turned out to be an absolute godsend because it saved several hours of slogging back along the road to where we had left the truck.

The hike down from Icefall is straightforward but gruelling with big packs after an already longish day. River crossings everywhere during the spring melt.

Finally back to the truck.

A brilliant trip! More photos over here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Mount Macdonald SW Ridge via Herdman Couloir

Edit June 2017
Google killed Picasaweb and the photos in this post will no longer click through to larger versions. Here's the full album if you're interested:

This was a milestone of sorts. Our last unclimbed peak of the 14 summits that make up the Asulkan Valley Horseshoe (Abbott, Afton, Rampart, Dome, Castor, Pollux, Leda, Youngs, Terminal, Sir Donald, Uto, Eagle, Avalanche, and finally Macdonald).

The Herdman is the obvious snow filled gully in the photo above (taken from Hermit meadows about 2 weeks later). It's best climbed during that narrow window in early season when there is still enough snow remaining to cover all of the scree and alder but not so much snow that you'd rather be skiing.

The day began with the same stream crossing that we had checked out a couple of weeks earlier.

Followed by the deceptively long haul up the broad gully.

And the final steep pitch below the col.

Giving us a spectacular view of the north side Mount Avalanche just a few hours from the car.

From the col we expected to simply cut across the ridge crest and find our way up the south west ridge. Almost immediately we encountered a 10m overhanging cliff that forced a tedious detour down and back up the south side. We could have just rappelled over it but there was no evidence of anyone else having done so and since we were coming back this way we did need to find a way back up anyway.

Once back on the ridge there was a little bit of interesting climbing.

But mostly it was just a matter of finding a way through the snow patches and over the shattered rocks which make up the majority of the route.

It was fun albeit a little tedious and eventually we were on top not far outside guidebook time.

Down was mostly uneventful with a couple of rappels and the gruelling detour off the ridge.

There was a frightening little incident part way back down the Herdman. We quite literally watched a fridge sized block peel out of the snow right below us and crash down the length of the gully in a devastating slow motion explosion of snow and rock and mayhem. If we'd been 50m further down the gully? Oh man. Better not to think about. But all's well that ends well and we could chalk up another lesson learned. We got out of there as quickly as we could but there were only so many places to hide.

The log across the creek was now a good 20cm under water and this provided the final entertainment at the end of a long 12 hour day. Crampons worked surprisingly well! Overall this isn't a great route with much more grovelling than most others of a similar (ie: easy!) grade in the area. All the same Macdonald is an impressive looking peak and we were happy to climb it.