Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wonder Peak and Mt. Cautley (Assiniboine Park, B.C.)

Photo 1: View once on the ridge to Wonder Peak

Photo 2: This is after we had sumitted Mt. Cautley and followed the adjoining ridge towards Gibraltar rock

Photo 3: This is looking at Gibraltar rock, after following ridge down to Cascade Rock.
Photo 4: Earlier in the day... This is Ken trying to find a route to descend off of Wonder Peak

Photo 5: View from Gibraltar rock... we almost went to the end but bailed on the last 20 metrs
Photo 6: Summit view from Mt. Cautley

Photo 6: Ken descending loose chimney
Photo 7 (right). View from ridge above Wonder Pass

Photos 8-11. Interesting wildflowers; fossilized elephant poop?; ridgewalk to Mt. Cautley

Photo 9: Ken early in AM... on ridge to Wonder Peak.

Photo 10: Ken in later PM looking off of Cascade rock

Photo 11: Ken scoping out the gully that we descended to rejoin the ridge to Cautley.

Phot 12 (right): Ken descending off the summit block of Wonder
Photo 13: Ken, standing in front of the tower we had to descend from Wonder to Cautley. The route we used is the border of the shadow in the gully.

Wonder Peak (9,289 ft) and Mt. Cautley (9,414 ft). July 29/07.

What a view... Wonder Peak truly lives up to its name!

On our third day in Assiniboine, Ken Mcdermott and I scrambled up Wonder Peak and followed the ridge over to the summit of Mt. Cautley. Along the way, we also followed adjoining ridges over to Gibraltar and Cascade Rock(s) to view the wide open valleys to the east side of ridge.

Kristien and Carol (Ken's wife )as well as a few others with the Chinook Club had set off separately that morning to explore Mt. Cautley. Ken and I had hoped to catch up with them on the connecting ridge, but unfortunately, after summiting Wonder Peak it took a lot of time to figure out how to descend from Wonder Peak to the ridge towards Cautley. (We did hear Gaylen Armstrong's booming voice at one point and we saw the group, just little tiny black specks from our vantage point on Wonder Peak, as they descended back to Happy hour at Assiniboine Lodge).

The entire route is pretty much visible from the meadows at Naiset Huts - we were able to plan our route for the day from the Naiset kitchen hut just after breakfast! One option we had considered was 'The Towers' - a grouping of interesting rock towers to the west of Wonder peak... We were tempted to try that scramble but ultimately we decided on a multi-peak day with the hopes of meeting up with the others by following the ridge to Mt. Cautley.

To get to Wonder Peak we followed the hiking trail to the highpoint of Wonder Pass, then followed the faint hiking path that goes up the ridge from the pass. Gaining elevation, it did not take too long to be rewarded with impressive views on the ridge and the views got progressively better the higher we went. The glaciers and the lakes below were almost a sensory overload! There was a lot of exposure on the ridge but getting to the summit of Wonder was mostly a straighforward hike, with just a bit of class III scrambling near the summit. (On the other hand, getting off of Wonder to the connecting ridge to Cautley was downright hairy, by our route.)

We had lunch at the summit and found a mickey of rum that some chap had hid under some rocks! There was also a metal box at the top that housed a register with lots of interesting entries.

Descending from the summit, we made our way east along the ridge and came to the crux of the trip just a little while later. Following the ridge, we arrived at a set of cliffs. The ridge at this point was separated by this set of cliffs that we needed to descend. We backtracked and got fixated somewhat on descending on the class 3 ledges on south side of the ridge and spent an hour scoping out possible routes ~ 50-100 metres back from the end of the ridge... The ledges got too sketchy for my taste as we descended, although we found a couple of possibilities (one gully we had hoped to descend had snow/ice.)

Eventually we went back up to the top of the ridge and followed it again to the end where it dropped off and and found a steep, loose chute at the very end on the south side... twas hairy but we managed. There was a possible route on the north side of the ridge at this exact junction but the chute we followed looked ok from above, and had visible footprints. The footprints were probably the reason we followed this route! Someone else had gone down this way, so we could too.

I had met a chap at the group kitchen at Naiset in the morning who had advised on descending on the North side of the ridge at what I think was that exact junction, but gravity had already taken hold of Ken and me and so we made our way down the south facing chute.

{EDIT Sept. 2010: Not to overstate the difficulty... We did a lot of farting around trying to find a way to descend the rock bands at the end of the ridge off Wonder Peak and encountered some cliffs, but the descent route we took off the rock bands was only class 3/4, not class 5. As stated above, there is apparently an easier route on the north side of the cliffs, but this is not how we got down. See final photo.}