Author Topic: Au Canada  (Read 663 times)

Offline rpdoucette

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Au Canada
« on: July 31, 2003, 09:11:16 am »
As the police car door closed behind Tom, I wondered could there be a worse way to start a trip?  First, one member of our party missed his connecting flight and wouldn,t arrive until after midnight (and we had a two hour drive after that), then another member,s luggage arrived 4-5 hours after he did, now this. Although we didn,t know it at the time, the other half of our group was at this very moment lost in the hinterlands west of Calgary, Alberta with insufficient directions. To kill time waiting for our wayward companions and luggage, Tom and I went out for dinner and visited our first Hooters ever we don,t get out much. I can report that it was quite unspectacular. Then we went off to buy a few last food items. On the way back to the airport we got caught in the police roadblock. We had each had 2 beers with dinner, and it was a nerve-wracking few minutes before Tom wandered back to the car after passing the mobile breathalyzer test. We v-e-r-y carefully drove back to the airport and tried to stay out of trouble till the luggage and our last team member arrived.

In a few hours we met up with the other half of the  Adamant Eight . There were eight of us, and we were headed to the Adamant Group of the Selkirk Mountains in the Canadian Rockies. It,s better known as a backcountry ski destination, but it has a great variety of mountaineering and alpine rock routes within striking distance of a plush cabin. The fully-outfitted cabin sleeps 20, but there were only 8 of us, so it was spacious.

Our leader was Paul Dale, who had been to the hut some 25 years ago for a grand total of 1 hour. He had made most of the logistical arrangements. Also along were Yuki Fujita, Chris Dame, Heidi Zinser, me, and three Toms. We were confusing the hell out of ourselves. Every time somebody said  hey Tom ,  lookout Tom , three heads would turn. So we came up with nicknames. There was  Double 07 Tom Carey (he is after all a spy, not an architect),  Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis, manager) and  Magnum Tom Boydston (hey, we were desperate for another nickname).

The next day we drove further west from Canmore and caught a lift from Alpine Helicopters of Golden, Alberta. We were deposited in a quiet grassy meadow just 50 yards uphill of the hut (6,675,). The chopper lifted off and we were surrounded by miles and miles of glaciers, mountains and absolute quiet. After quickly stowing our gear we were off on a 2 hr hike up to Friendship Col. This would give us a chance to quickly begin any acclimatization process that was required, and to see who had the legs/lungs necessary for success on this trip. As the hut (and most of the summits) is relatively low, altitude was not expected to be a factor. All trip members made it to the col at 8,925,. Some members of the party climbed Mt. Pythias and Mt. Damon (9,150), on opposite sides of the col. First day: 5 hours round trip, 2,475, elevation gain from the hut. That night, and every night, one member of our party prepared dinner for the group. The meals were all good, and kept us energized.

The first day was followed up by what we thought was to be a relatively short day but turned out not to be so. Unicorn Mtn. (9,910) is located at the head of Granite Glacier, one of the two large glacier systems in the area. It,s a grade I route in the guidebook. After several hours of glacial approach and weaving among huge crevasses (some big enough in which to land a Kansas farmhouse), we found ourselves at the base of the rocky summit. Less than half an hour scrambling on loose rock in a light snowstorm led to a few feet of five-nothing climbing to the very top. Our names were added to the summit register. On the way down we passed Chris and 007 who had left the cabin an hour or so later than the forward group. We arrived back at the cabin after 7 hours, figuring this a pretty lengthy Grade I. The grades here seem to have been determined more by the amount of technical rock climbing than the length of the day. Even a Grade I or II could mean a full day, if there was little technical terrain on the route. Our earlier return to the hut meant we could avoid the hailstorm that hit later, but Chris and Double 0 were forced to trudge back in the storm, wet and weary. Second day: 7 hrs, 3,235, elevation gain.

The next day we headed over to Rabbit Ears   (est. 8,500,) on Mt. Quadrant. These lagomorphic spires made for some interesting and exposed climbing. The route was only graded as a 5.1 rock climb, but we found one move much more difficult than that, particularly for those such as me who were doing it in their mountain boots. Paul and Magnum did a fine job leading the route. We rapped into an endless, loose gully and scrambled down to the valley bottom before hiking back to the hut. Day three: 10 hrs, est. 1,825, gain.

Our entire party then took an unscheduled rest day. Copious napping, domino playing and picture taking ensued. Colonel Parker and I went in search of the actual  Fairy Meadow for which the hut is named. Turns out, its just a few minutes downhill. Except for the hoards of ravenous mosquitoes, it,s worth a visit, and very picturesque. We found ourselves on a terrace overlooking the lower reaches of Granite Glacier. It was a great vantage point for an awe-inspiring view, and provided the perfect launch point for massive rock-trundling. Our only loss of the trip occurred on this day. Chris, our unofficial photographer, was on Rabbit Ears   when his camera bag took an unplanned ride down the descent gully. After a few hundred feet it came to rest at the bottom. Most of the parts remained in the bag, but the lens was totaled and the camera out-of-commission.

After the rest day, we sought out another high peak. Paul chose East Peak of the Gothics. This required a 3am wake-up and 4am departure. I saw the northern lights for the first time. No real color was apparent, but the glowing curtains of light danced in the darkness. They formed a huge arch, filling much of the sky. The 2 hr. hike up through Echo Glacier to Friendship Col was followed by the crossing of Gothics Glacier. In the early morning light, it had the feel of being on the roof of the world. The Gothics Glacier crossing was relatively flat (after the 2 hrs of uphill to Friendship Col), and there were much fewer crevasses than on Granite Glacier. We made good time, but the cold winds made us change our minds from our original objective – East Peak of the Gothics – to Pioneer Peak (10,795,). Pioneer is a few feet taller, but required almost no technical rock climbing. Most of us felt the desire to keep moving and keep our gloves on in the cold weather. After a steep snow slope near the summit and a five-nothing rock move, we were on the summit. Day five: 10 hrs, 4,120, gain.

The next day the entire party assembled for an ascent of Sentinel Peak (9,940,) via the SE slopes/ridge. This required our third ascent up to Friendship col, past our apocalyptic friends – the rock formations known as Gog and Magog. Yuki, upon realizing he would have to climb up to Friendship Col yet again, broke off from the group and soloed a peak along the north ridge of Sentinel Peak. Sentinel was visible from the hut, and we had spied our route during our climb of Pioneer Peak the day before. It was non-technical, but offered great views, and was a fun day for all. Colonel Parker got up his first mountain, and planted a diminutive American Flag on the summit. We hoped our Canadian friends didn,t mind. Day six: 8 hrs, 3,265, gain.

The next day, Paul and Magnum were off to climb the north ridge of Sentinel, an arduous Grade III climb that included copious climbing and rappelling. Most of the rest of the group planned to attempt Outpost (8,920,), but a late start, unending scree slope and insufficient motivation necessitated a change in plan. A circumnavigation of the two valleys above the hut (Echo and Shoestring Glaciers) was undertaken. Double 07 and I engaged in a lengthy rock-skipping competition in a glacial tarn, as others napped or looked on quizzically. A fine deposit of fool,s gold was discovered, and a flurry of rock breaking followed. The snout of Shoestring Glacier was investigated, and one massive boulder was ascended by a party of 4, with the help of a cheater-stone. This was the only bouldering on the trip; which was a good thing since we were almost stranded on the darn thing due to our limited technique. The day was capped by a radio call from Magnum and Paul, who reached the summit of their climb late in the afternoon. Celebratory rock trundling followed the summit call. Day seven: 7-8 hrs, a few hundred ft. gain in elevation (except for Paul and Magnum).

Our final day in the mountains saw most of the party ascend the elusive Houdini Needles (8,860,), while Heidi dragged Magnum up a nice rock route on the south ridge of Gog. Paul, Yuki and I then climbed Mt. Quadrant (8,955,), which finally gave me a chance to break out my rock shoes and lead something that felt like rock climbing. I am sure it was easy, but the exposure on the arête was very exciting. Day eight: 8 hrs, 2,280, gain (total for the trip: approximately 17,500,).

On the last day, the chopper arrived and we were too quickly transported back to civilization in Golden. We then drove to Banff where we wandered among the international shoppers for an hour or so. It felt surreal to be surrounded by so many people all of whom had traveled a long way into the Canadian outback so they could wait in long lines to window-shop. I couldn,t wait to leave. On to Calgary we went, cramming ourselves into a couple of hotel rooms. We enjoyed a fine last night,s meal at  Earls restaurant were we regaled the young waitress with adventure stories. She kept up a good front, appearing to be entertained.

Jack Y

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Re: Au Canada
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2003, 03:28:23 pm »
Nice TR.