Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Calf Robe Mountain (Sept. 14th, 2009). East Glacier area, Glacier National Park

K. and I camped with J. and C. (and little Tristan) at the Two Medicine Lake campground this past Sept. 13th and 14th and did a couple of pretty good hikes.

J and C actually brought Tristan along for a couple of huge hikes in a backpack and were impresively well organized (almost with military precision) to deal with all the various things that babies throw at a guy - poopy diapers, feed-me fits etc. Tristan actually was really good though, aside from not sleeping completely through the night in their tent trailer.

Saturday we hiked up Scenic Point (see previous blog entry) and Sunday we tackled Calf Robe Mountain. Pix follow below.

See route description on trailpeak

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bad Marriage - Eagle Plume - Mad Wolf traverse with James Yearous

Climbing up a mountain can be just like a bad marriage. Our ascent was not unlike this peak's namesake, with more than a few moments of soul sucking uphill bushwhack. However, once up high on the open ridge, we forgot all about the bushwhacking and enjoyed a fantastic ridgewalk.

Unsure of the descent route off Bad Marriage, we decided to do the traverse in reverse and start off by ascending BM and descend off of Mad Wolf, which we could see looked straight-forward. We had also been forewarned not to drop down off of BM by the drainage as there were some cliffs adjacent to the waterfalls. I was hoping to find a weakness in the cliffs on the way up but as we hiked up the trail, the cliffs on the North face of BM looked like an impenetrable fortress. Finally, we hiked all the way up the valley and passed the interconnecting stream coming out of Triple Divide Pass, and found a more moderate approach that took us right up. Hiking further upstream made the first stream crossing much easier and other than being really frikkin' cold, was no biggie.

Views from the ridge were pretty grand. Lots of snow in every direction and the ridge walking was great. The connecting ridges from BM to eagle Plume was straight forward, as was the walk from Eagle Plume to Mad Wolf (despite appearances). On the descent we spotted a pair of bears far off below... reminded us a lot of the scenic point (Mt. Henry-Apistoki) traverse last year!

There were some good game trails from the reservation horses that seem to have taken over this corner of the park that we were able to follow through the meadows almost all the way back to the last stream crossing. The stream crossing at the end of the day was unforgettable (neither one of us swam but it was dang close! The water was generally 3-4 feet deep but I sank almost right up to my neck at one point when I found a deep pool right at the edge where the water velocity was zero). Cold water wakes a guy up, that’s for sure!

The drive home was an adventure, a moose popped out in front of the car at one point and we barely made it accross the border in time (there was a 10:40 PM Sunday traffic jam happening...) When I told the border patrol dude we were hiking in the Cutbank area, he thought we were hiking in the town of Cutbank and commented that he did not think there was much hiking to do in that town and asked if we had been hiking in the coulees... being tired, I almost could not remember the names of the mountains we had been on and I made quite the long awkward statement when I clarified where we had been, "We were up..." (pause) "Bad Marriage mountain... and" (pausing longer) "Mad Wolf mountain" (pausing one last time) "in the Cutbank camground area of Glacier Park."

Luckily he let us through. I was still pretty wet from the stream crossing and was happy we did not get searched!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Iceberg Peak (August 24th, 2009)

From the summit of Iceberg peak we had awesome (but somewhat vertigo-inducing) views looking straight down upon Iceberg Lake... To the north the sea of peaks include Ahern, Ipasha and Merritt; Wilbur dominates the view to the to the south. Swiftcurrent mountain fire lookout and the southern end of the Highline trail can be spotted as well.

Another group scrambled up with us to the notch (they hiked to the notch and did a loop descending below Swiftcurrent mountain to the trail and back to Many Glacier).

Ascending to Iceberg notch was really fun (solid class III the entire way). I was apprehensive about descending this way but it worked out fine... one just had to be careful not to trip on all the marbles that cover the ledges.

Other possible descent routes that we discussed were: 1. descending to the Highline trail below and following it back to Swiftcurrent pass and back to Many Glacier. 2. Descending to a saddle between Swiftcurrent mountain and from there dropping down via a goat trail, crossing above Windmaker Lake to the Swiftcurrent trail (this route was a bit exploratory... but David, a dude in our group had done it years before... we discussed it briefly with the other group that we met ascending to the notch and they managed to pull it off (we met them back at the parking lot at the end of the day). Not sure if I have described this second descent route correctly... looking down from the summit, I couldn't see any goat trails to get accross!

We passed B7 pillar on the way up (a 5.8/9 rock climb; two rope pitches) that Ken Mc. had done earlier this summer.

A classic ascent with the Glacier Mountaineering society!

Round trip: 12 hours
Total Ascent: 1,387 m (4,552 ft)
Total round trip distance: 23 km (14 mi)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mount St. Eloi

August 16th, 2009.

We wanted to climb Mt. Dungarvan but again had to go with a backup plan due to uncooperative precipitation!

As an alternative, we decided an easier summit with no hands on srambling required, and settled for Mt. St. Eloi in the Castle Crown. We biked the approach as far as we could and the precip actually held off all morning... but it started to rain lightly around 1 PM. We followed a drainage up to the ridge just below the second summit of Mt. Syncline and enjoyed a great ridgewalk to St. Eloi. The ridge top was quite rocky and almost otherworldly - and with the intermittent views from the shifting clouds, it was quite worth the slog to get up to the ridge.

We got to the summit around 1:30 PM and I whipped out the old umbrella. Instead of retracing our steps along the ridge, we dropped down from the saddle summit and got simply drenched bushwhacking back to the main trail and were back at the cars by 5 PM.

Final stats: 14.7 km round trip
Total elevation gain: 1173 metres

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Gargantua Cave

Aug. 1st, 2009.

The entrance to Gargantua cave is located on the southern flank of the massive Mt. Ptolemy (in the Crowsnest Pass.)

Great fun! Long day.

My friend Jollin organised the outing... We started out as a bigger group with some of Jollin's colleagues from Alberta Agriculture... The Alberta Ag gang were only interested in hiking to Gargantua and exploring the first chamber. To get up the cart road, one guy quad'd and another dirt biked while the rest of us used mountain bikes.

Jollin, Matt, Chris and I dragged along some climbing gear and our plan was to descend the first rappel, explore a bit of the second level and climb back up the rope with Jollin's ascender. We parted company with the Alberta Ag dudes after lunch as we wanted a head start on exploration in the caves...

We got to the entrance around 2PM and met some people who had done the full route before and they encouraged us to follow them and do the full route. They figured it would take only 3 hours (give or take). They were a family group from Kamploops/Lethbridge and had approached the cave from the B.C. side...

They went on ahead after the first rappel, but luckily we were always able to catch up to them at the subsequent rapelling stations... despite us getting lost a couple of times. The map was pretty confusing and there's no signage or anything in the caves, but once you find those rap stations you know pretty much where you are. Still, one time we went down the wrong chamber, another time Matt rappelled down too low into a big hole and the ropes got wedged somehow and we had to fashion a pully system to pull him back up.

Anyways, the 3 hour estimate was a tad off... we started around 2:30 PM and didn't exit until 8:30. By the time we got back to where we stashed our bikes it was after 10 PM and it was pretty dark... so the bike back was pretty exciting as it was almost pitch black and we had to do all those stream crossings - plus there was a electrical storm that was pretty cool... lots of lightening but we only got rained on for a few minutes.

Ended up back at the cars at 11:30 PM and only got back to town at 2 AM!