Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Glacier Travel Course & Mt. Athabasca

Just finished up a few great days out at the Columbia Icefields with some really fun guests!

On the weekend, six climbers from around Alberta & BC joined me for the first Glacier Travel Course of the summer. It snowed a little bit on Saturday morning but after that it was beauty out for the rest of the weekend. On Saturday we went to my usual crevasse rescue site & practiced all sorts of crevasse rescue skills. By early afternoon everyone had a good handle on how to build snow anchors, escape the system, set up a rope rescue, and get someone out of a crevasse. We then practiced using the rope to hold a partners slip or fall on moderate angled snow slopes. Finally, everyone learned how to ascend a rope out of a crevasse with a couple pieces of cord and a few biners.

Climbing up the lower tongue of the North Glacier.

Sunday, we started earlier and headed up to the North Glacier on Mt. Athabasca. We did a nice long tour on the glacier & everyone learned how to rope up, travel efficiently with the rope on, identify likely areas of crevassing, and avoid a variety of other mountain hazards. We finished the day with some glissading & self arrest practice.

Practicing self arrest below Mt. Athabasca.

On Monday, two of the course participants, Tyler & Mark, woke up at 1:00am with me so that we could climb Mt. Athabasca before the sun weakened the snowpack. It turned out that there had been a good overnight freeze and conditions were perfect for our ascent of the Silverhorn route. We moved quickly across the lower glacier & were kicking steps up the Silverhorn as the sun rose. Tyler & Mark climbed steady & efficiently so we reached the summit at the early hour of 7:30! The view was awesome and we could see as far as the Selkirk Mountains in B.C., as well as hundreds of peaks in the Rockies. A quick descent down the Ramp Route (N. Glacier) while the snow was soon frozen had us back at the car just eight and a half hours after we started.

Just a quick word of caution to other climbers attempting climbs at the Icefields in the next few weeks that a good overnight freeze will usually be essential for safe travel conditions. There is still plenty of snow to produce high avalanche hazard, especially if it is warm & sunny or lots of snow is being transported by wind.

Tyler & Mark on the summit of Athabasca!

Overall it was an excellent first trip of the season to the Icefields & I'm looking forward to many more fun days out there this summer!

J. Mills
CRAG Head Guide

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