Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Alpine Adventures with Luke (Mt. Cline, AthaB, and Yamnuska)

Spent a great week in the alpine with Luke from Wisconsin in late May.  Luke had come out once before for an ice climbing trip, but it was tons of fun getting to know him better and do some big peaks! 

One of his main ambitions for the week was to do a more remote wilderness peak.  We decided upon Mt. Cline since it is rarely visited and would be fun climbing in it's current wintery conditions. 

On day 1 we hiked up Thompson Creek to our basecamp in the giant boulders.  Despite all the snow, travel was quite fast since there had been a good freeze the night before to keep the snow solid & supportive.  There were a few small flurries in the afternoon and evening, but we were up early the next day to try for the summit.  We had very poor visibility throughout the day, but the climbing conditions were mostly really good on firm snow.  The crux notches are a heck of a lot harder when they are snowy though!  Exciting times climbing up and down the first notch with a thousand foot drop below your feet and snow & ice on all the handholds!  We reached the summit in good spirits and descended down the normal route past the Cline Lakes to camp.  The next morning we packed up and hiked back out to the car. 

Luke climbing up the snow gully low on the route.

Luke in the crux notch enjoying some fine winter climbing!

All smiles on the summit of Mt. Cline.

For the next portion of our trip we decided to do some climbing at the Columbia Icefields.  Since our day hiking out from Cline wasn't too tiring, we got up early and headed to the North Face Bypass route on Mt. Athabasca the very next day.  Again we had very limited visibility, but the snow conditions were fantastic and travel was fast.  After the traverse below the Silverhorn & North Face routes, we were able to move together up the snow gullies to gain the upper North Ridge.  From here there are a few fun pitches on low angle rock & ice, then a really cool snow ridge to the summit. 

Luke on one of the icy sections high on Athabasca.

On the summit, with a nice view of white on white.

After Athabasca, we decided to head back to the Bow Valley for a couple days of rock climbing.  Unfortunately it started raining that night, and continued to be mixed snow & rain for our remaining two days.  However, Luke was as keen to learn as ever so we spent a productive day at Wasootch rock climbing in our boots, building various gear anchors, practicing rescue skills, and perhaps getting just a little bit wet!  The next day all the cliffs were snow covered, but we decided to have an adventure on the classic Grillmairs Chimneys route (5.7) on Yamnuska.  It was indeed adventurous, with snow & ice on the holds, and a mix of snow, light hail, rain, and occasional sunshine throughout the day.  It was really fun climbing though, and very much felt like an alpine route in those conditions.  We climbed almost all of it with gloves on, and never switched to rock shoes. 

Near the base of Grillmairs Chimneys.

Climbing up one of the chimney pitches low on the route.

Luke entering the cave/chimney system on the second last pitch. 

Overall it was a fantastic week of adventure climbing, and Luke was always psyched about the wild conditions!  I think he learned alot about mountaineering, and I'm sure will continue to improve his skills every chance he gets.  He also taught me a ton of stuff during the week as he was always keen to share his encyclopedic knowledge of science, nature, and history. 

J. Mills
CRAG Head Guide


  1. Fantastic. Thanks for sharing.
    Teri - Luke's aunt

  2. Love the pictures! Thanks for sharing them.
    Jo Ann