Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Alpine Skills Week!

Last weeks Alpine Skills Course was a huge success with tons of climbing, lots of skills training, two major summits, and of course a healthy dose of fun! Thanks to Riel, Mike, and Justin's natural ability, good fitness, and great attitudes, we were able to achieve all our goals for the week.

Once the glacier travel course was over, we progressed onto steeper snow & ice climbing skills. On Monday we headed up to the Boundary Glacier and spent the day on it's steep snow & ice slopes. The lower part of the slope was snow so everyone took turns leading up and practicing belay techniques for this type of terrain. Once we reached the steeper ice up high, I set up some topropes and everyone had a bunch of turns climbing up and down the 45 degree glacier ice. Finally we did a full 60 meter pitch of steeper ice and then learned how to rappel back down it using a V-Thread anchor.

Top-roping the glacier ice on the Boundary Glacier.

Up at 3:00am we scarfed down some cereal and coffee then began our ascent of Mt. Athabasca! The Silverhorn route was looking too icy, so we opted for the classic North Glacier route. This turned out to be a perfect climb to give everyone a chance to lead the way and put all the new skills into practice. The day was very smoky due to forest fires in BC, but otherwise the weather was perfect and we made good time up the route. After high-fives and a break on the summit, we descended back down the same route.

Justin, Mike, and Riel on the lower part of Athabasca en route to the summit. The smoke in the air caused a strange reddish glow all day.

On the final part of the ridge with the summit in the back.

On Wednesday we said goodbye to the land of snow & ice and moved to the David Thompson Highway where we began the alpine rock climbing portion of the week. We started off with a rock skills day at a roadside crag. We practiced rock climbing in boots, anchor building with cams, nuts, and other trad gear, multipitch belays, and a variety of other skills.

Thursday we packed our bags and made the trek into Mt. Cline basecamp. Once there, we had a fun afternoon of rock climbing on the giant boulders and making improvements to the camping area. In the evening we enjoyed a feast of fancy cheeses, dry salami, crackers, and an Indian curry dish to help refuel for the next day.

Rock climbing on the giant limestone boulders below Mt. Cline.

Up early again we began the ascent by headlamp on another perfect weather day! We soon reached the scrambling gullies, which are snow earlier in the year, and climbed a few hundred meters of 4th class terrain. This route isn't in any guidebooks but is definitally the best of the moderate routes up the peak. Once on the upper bench below Mt. Owen, we crossed the small glacier & snowfields to reach the harder upper South Ridge. Some more scrambling brought us to the two notches that gaurd the upper slopes. The first notch requires some careful downclimbing and then a few moves of 5.4 rock climbing up the other side. The thousand foot drops on either side make this section quite exciting! The second notch is crossed via a rappel, although some foolish climbers have jumped this notch over the years! Why? I can't imagine.
An hour later we reached the 11000 foot summit! On the way down we had to reverse the notches and then continued down the normal route to the Cline Lakes. Back at camp we packed up and made the hike out to the highway.

Nice scrambling on the lower part of Mt. Cline.

Crossing the first notch.

Rapelling the second notch. Someday I'm going to sit on top of that tower in the back!

The team on the summit!

Descending the upper slopes back to the notches.

Overall it was a fun & succesfull week, and I was glad to see that all three of the guys are now hooked on climbing! I look forward to getting out with them again in the future.
J. Mills
CRAG Head Guide

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