Friday, August 5, 2011

Many many mountains!

The last few weeks have been full of mountain climbing adventures with lots of great guests & fun times! The snowy season has presented lots of extra challenge, but so far almost every trip has worked out well regardless. The following are some highlights from the summer so far!

Shortly after my last Blog Posting, Shaun from Canmore joined me for a very fast ascent of the North Face route on Andromeda. It was a perfectly clear day and we enjoyed the best views I've had all season at the Icefields. Since starting climbing a couple seasons ago, Shaun has progressed rapidly and we were able to just about run up and down the mountain!

After the Andromeda day, I had a few good days in Kananaskis with a variety of beginner rock climbing groups. Unfortunately I don't have any photos to show from it but there were days at Wasootch, Back of the Lake, and my secret crag near Canmore.

In mid July, Jarrid from Edmonton joined me for 3 days of alpine fun. We started out with an ascent of the classic Eisenhower Tower route on Castle Mountain.

After a skills day at Back of the Lake, we had a good but long day on the rarely climbed East Ridge of Mt. Haddo (III, 5.4). I'd never climbed the route before but it is one I will likely do again since it has a wide variety of climbing in a spectacular setting. The route climbs the lower snow gullies in the photo below, then continues up near the left hand skyline to the summit.

Jarrid near the summit of Haddo.

A couple days later, Aaron joined me for his first multipitch rock climb. We did the NE Ridge route on Ha Ling (5.7), and he climbed so well that I wish I'd chosen a harder route!

The next day was the start of the 5 day Level 2 Alpine Skills Course. We had a horrendous weather forecast but it never got as bad as predicted and we managed to get tons of climbing in. Along with Aaron from the day before, Eric & Shawn from Calgary also joined me for the week. Our first day was spent learning a wide variety of alpine rock skills in Kananaskis. Among other things we practiced various techniques for belaying from above, lowering, rapelling, short-roping, piton craft, and a number of improvisational skills that come in handy on the big peaks. The next morning we started in the dark for an ascent of Eisenhower Tower on Castle Mountain. They climbed as a team of three and swapped leads throughout, while I climbed just above to help if necessary. It was everyones first time leading on this type of terrain but they all did excellent and were stoked with the day!

Climbing in the Dragons Back on Eisenhower Tower.

Aaron leading higher on the route.

Another air-guitar on the summit of Eisenhower Tower (Aaron was on the level 1 course earlier, see last blog post re. air guitaring!)

The next day we focused on rescue skills and everyone learned how to escape a belay, lower from above, raise another climber, and lots more.

We had planned on heading into Mt. Aberdeen for our last two days, but when we arrived in Louise it was raining so we opted to head to the Icefields instead so we could dry out in the campground between days. When we arrived we hiked into the Boundary Glacier and everyone practised leading on alpine ice, among other skills.

For our final day we made an attempt at the Skyladder on Mt. Andromeda, but only made it about half way up due to a raging snowstorm and concerns about avalanche hazard. In a way, everyone felt it was probably a better learning experience than if we had climbed it in perfect conditions. We were able to practice some whiteout navigation, and did a crevasse rescue scenario before leaving the glacier. Overall the course was an awesome time & I hope the three guys on it continue climbing for many years!

After 1 rest day, I headed up to the Neil Colgan Hut with Pat & Susie and Shaun, all of whom I've climbed with a number of times before and are always good company. The ascent of the Perren Route up to the hut is an excellent climb in itself and took most of the first day.
Shaun high on the Perren Route, Moraine Lake is visible below.

The next morning we started early and headed to the West Ridge of Mt. Fay, probably the best climb in the area. After crossing the bergshrund, we moved together up the few hundred meters of steep snow to the ridgeline. From here, we split into two teams so that Pat and Shaun could get some practice leading on alpine rock. The rock was dry and has some challenging sections up to about 5.4 in difficulty. Clear skies gave us awesome views of the Rockies, Bugaboos, Rogers Pass, and many other distant areas. The descent went smoothly and we were back in the hut before things became dangerously warm.
Pat on Mt. Fay.

Pat, Shaun, and Susie on the descent back down the West Ridge of Fay.

The next morning Pat & I cruised up Mt. Little above the hut before we all descended back to Moraine Lake.

For the last week I enjoyed relaxing in the Ghost River with friends for my bachelor party (getting hitched in September), and then an ascent of the Floe Lake Rockwall in Kootenay National Park which I will writeup soon!

J. Mills
CRAG Head Guide

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