Thursday, April 6, 2017

Chester Lake - Ski Tour

Short fun day out to get some cardio with John. We did a brilliant cruisey ski to Chester Lake, up to Elephant Rocks and high speed exit to beers in Canmore.  Great time.

I totally think Mt. Galatea would be a great ski after this view.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

GR378107 "Mt. Roberta" - Solo ski ascent via west slopes

Great solo ski day up the small and obscure “Mount Roberta” (GR378107), northern most end of the Elk Range, just north of “Mt. Pocaterra”.  There seemed to be a furry of the famous local scramblers heading up this minor summit in 2013 to about 2015.  Seems like a great shoulder season or winter trip that would provide a great view to the southern end of the Opal Range; views of the Opals, count me in.

Seeking an easy solo ski trip I thought it was time to check out this little summit. The standard approach trail off of highway 40 is not accessible by car from December 1 to June 15. I have skied up the closed highway many times over the years, so I thought I would an approach via the network of crosscountry ski trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, near the Kananaskis Lakes, would be a nice change.  In the end I think both approaches are likely equal in time and distance.

View up Packers ski trail with "Mt. Roberta" in the background.

For my trip, I parked at the main Boulton Creek parking lot and skied to the “Packers” trail, then connected onto the “Pocaterra” trail.  I spied the western slopes of Mt. Roberta looking for the lowest angled slope with the thinnest trees, then end up at the intersection of Pocaterra and Whiskey Jack.  I think I end up too far south, so I decided to use this clear landmark as my exit.  I skied up slope from here with a variety of thick and thin trees, with mostly a solid and supportive sun crust and no ski penetration, with the rare bottomless facetted uphill slog.  The upslope was a bit of a grind, but eventually reached tree line and open wind blown scree.  When I reached the summit ridge line, turns out I was quite a bit south, and higher, than the summit of Mt. Roberta.

Typical terrain that I ascended and descended on the west slopes.

At tree line, scree hike to summit ridge.

From my ridge position, view downhill to summit.

Great views of the southern Opal Range summits, Elpoca Mtn. shows it prominence in this view.

First big bump before main summit bump.

Summit bump, Elpoca Mtn. behind on right.

View up ridge to "Mt. Pocaterra".
I bet a traverse from highway 40 to Roberta, Mt. Pocaterra to Mt. Tyrwhitt would go.

Cat's Ear's (north and south towers)

The mighty "South Schlee"

Old guy on little summit, Elpoca Mtn. behind.

Quick boot run , downhill mostly, to the northern end of the ridge and the summit of Mt. Roberta.  I was keen to see the old 1949 summit register and old summit note, but it was gone.  I carefully disassembled the summit cairn and the only thing I found was an old mason jar with a rusted out lid.

Used without permission from Vern Dewit.

Rebuilt the cairn and ran back to my skis, an interesting and challenging tree ski back to the trails. I skied down the Whisky Jack trail and it was the right choice, mostly downhill and very direct back to the parking lot.  Interesting, my time to reach the summit, and disassemble/rebuild the summit cairn, was just under 6 hours. Time from summit to car, under 2 hours. Got to love ski descents.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Blue Cheese - WI3, 20m

A last minute chance to get out for some ice cragging. Had the opportunity to get out with my old friend Raff. Raff wasn't looking for a big day and the weather was quite cold and snowy so this easily accessible and quiet crag was the prefect fit for a fun day of easy climbing.

Once we found the proper drainage, which was easy since we followed an old snow shoe track, the tight creek bed soon revealed the cool little ice sheet.  About 30 metres wide and about 20 metres at highest point. The ice ranged from steep 3+ on wet featured ice to dry, brittle and dinner plating grade 3.  I lead a few times up the ice wall and we both enjoyed top roping for a full arm and calve pump.  

We spent about 5 hours climbing at this cool crag and had the place to ourselves.  A great Sunday out, close to town.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Green Monster - WI5, 30m and Yoga Monster - M5+, WI4, 25m

John and I were looking for an ice and mixed climbing crag day and decided on WD40, Slurpee and some potential easy trad mixed routes in upper Evan Thomas Creek. Colin was able to join us last minute and we still set our sights on upper ETC.


Colin had never been up past Moonlight before and was keen to lead up Green Monster, so we did that. Colin is a solid off the couch WI5 leader and even though he is recovering from a broken hand and hadn’t been on ice for a month, he easily led up the WI 4+/5 curtain of Green Monster. John and I were happy to do top roped laps on this big curtain and the three of us did laps on various lines on the steep wall for a few hours.

John TR'ing on Green Monster

To finish up the day, Colin led up “Yoga Monster” a 25 metre M5, WI4 bolted route.  This route was set in 2008 as part of the larger mixed crag of Rehab Wall, just after Jason and I did the first ascents of the three new ice routes in this section of the canyon in January of 2008 (WD40, Slurpee and Green Monster).

Stiff M5 route, short, and well protected by bolts, but super technically and strenuous, I think a + is warranted.  Colin led the route, John and I top roped, solid route, but once you know the move and tool placements, comes together really nicely.  Recommended little M5+. Ice on the upper section of the route was fairly brittle, but took good screws. An enjoyable day out at the crag with the young guns.

Colin heading up Yoga Monster

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Better Than Solstice - WI3, 150m (3 pitches)

November 24, 2007 I led the first ascent team on this slacker WI3, eh, hard to get FA's. I spotted this waterfall solo scrambling/traversing Mt. Bryant back in 2006. Jason, TJ and I had fun on this route in 2007, so fast forward to fall 2016, I thought I would head back here with John for some early season fun.

Back in '07, the ice quality and quantity was better than John and I had this year.,_F&D

In the lower section the ice was not well attached to the rock, was super dry and aerated and where it transitioned from near vertical to lower angle, was only about 1 cm thick; difficult to protect. After the first 30 metres, the ice improved greatly.  John and I had a lot of fun of this early season route.

Mt. Bryant from the parking area.
View of BTS from creek.

zoomed in view of BTS

First pitch of BTS, F & D to left, not safe to  climb.

John having fun.

View down from first belay station.

View up from second belay station.

Friday, September 30, 2016

GR 396219 “Little Tombstone” - "Janelea Mountain" | Scramble, South Ridge

After our ascent of South Schlee, we spent Sunday night in the same camp in upper Piper Creek, then at first light moved camp over Piper Pass. Originally we had hoped to ascend “Ripsaw” (GR373253), but the approach was too long for the short days, so we decided to ascended “Little Tombstone” (GR 396219).  We set up the tent about 2 kilometres north of the pass along a beautiful larch tree lined bench, then hiked down the steep headwall, across the valley and up the simple east slopes of Little Tombstone. 

We did gain the South Ridge up to the southern summit (had a fun series of towers that we scrambled up), then hiked up the South Ridge to the summit, bypassing one tall/steep gendarme. 

Route up and down Little Tombstone.

On the summit we found an old small jar (baby food maybe) in the summit cairn.  The only entries were:

“Janelea Mountain” S. Toporowskj and D. Smith, July 3, 1975. Ascent by North Ridge.

Jim Palmer, Rita Polt and Jerry Piro. September 11, 1977. Ascent by East Ridge.

John Martin. August 19, 1986. Ascent by East Ridge.

Also an entry I couldn’t read. I kept our entry simple since paper was brittle and falling apart). Kevin Barton, Scott Berry. September 19, 2016. South Ridge.

Old registry, 1975.

Scott and Kevin on the summit of Little Tombstone.
Our summit entry.

Quick descent, basically straight west down the slopes, avoiding the few steep slab sections. Then across the meadows and light bush of "Paradise Creek" and a tough scramble up the headwall back to camp.  We got back after dark, finished our small supply of whiskey and headed to bed.  We woke up to about 20 cm's of snow, packed up without a hot breakfast or coffee to make good time in the boot to knee deep snow.  Slog over Piper Pass, soaking wet trees back to the Elbow River and out.  A great three days in a special part of the Rockies.

Snowy start to the day.

Heading to Piper Pass, our camp site back in the clouds.

Tarn on the north side of Piper Pass.

Little Tombstone from the pass, looking snowy this day. 

GR 388157 “South Schlee” - FRA North Ridge/West Face - 5.6, Alpine II

South Schlee (GR 388157) is a minor summit between the incredibly beautiful and massive Elpoca Mountain and the unofficially named summit of Mount Schlee (GR 385168). Located in the Opal Range along the boundary of the Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park this peak does not have an official name and, until recently, there was no record of an ascent of this significant mountain. This singularly prominent blocky summit reaches an elevation of 2820 metres (9,250 feet) and is the twentieth highest summit in the Opal Range (I have identified 35 significant highpoints in the range). 

I applied the name of “South Schlee” to this summit simply because it is immediately south of "Mount Schlee".   The summit of South Schlee is about 1.2 kilometre north of Elpoca Mountain (3029 m) and shared col between is approximately at 2680 metres; giving South Schlee a prominence of 140 metres from this col. There is about 100 metres of prominence between Mt. Schlee and South Schlee, and isolation of about 1.2 km between the two summits. 

"South Schlee" in the centre, Elpoca Mtn. on the left, "Mt. Schlee" on the right.
South Schlee 

On Saturday, September 17, 2016, with a late afternoon start, with my new friend, Scott Berry from California, we headed towards Piper Pass (immediately north of Elbow Lake) to set up a camp for some exploration and climbing in the southern Opal Range. We camped at tree line near the approach of Mount Schlee.  After a big sleep and a nice casual start Sunday morning, lots of breakfast and coffee, we head up the easy east slopes of South Schlee to gain the long North Ridge. Easy route finding and easy scrambling brings one to a low point horizontally very near the summit block of South Schlee on the North Ridge. 

South Schlee could be scrambled by the North Ridge direct by a competent scrambler, but it goes at about 5.2 with extreme exposure; we descended the full North Ridge from the summit block. On our ascent, from the low point on the ridge north of the summit, a deep notch on the upper ridge looks very difficult (turns out to be easy left of the crest). Fearing a difficult rock ascent, we dropped from the low point on the ridge and followed easy scree slopes south, skirting the summit cliffs until directly below the deep notch. From there we climbed a steep gully, first with scrambling, then a 5.3 ish step, then we got out the rope. From the belay we climbed about 30 metres of 5.6 rock, difficult since much of it was covered in verglas.  My friend Scott lead this pitch. We only had one hammer, Scott placed a piton at the crux section, which I could not remove, so the piton is left as a relic on the mountain.

After the 30 metres of gully, about 10 metres of loose scree bring one to the deep notch. Turned out the overhang of the notch could be avoided by scrambling a loose and steep gully to climber’s left of the notch overhang, difficult scrambling at the start of the gully. Once up the gully and on the final broad summit ridge, it is a walk to the summit.  We found no cairn or any trace of previous passage. I built a cairn and left a register. First recorded ascent of this cool peak, Sunday, September 18, 2016.  
Approaching low point on North Ridge before summit block.

Over the low point on easy scree slopes on the West Face, heading the to the  gully.

Lower section of gully.

Start of roped climbing in gully. 

Crux of gully section.

Looking down to crux; piton left for the ages...

Route beta for summit block from north ridge approach.
Looking down the North Ridge, just above the "scary notch" section.

We descended the North Ridge, just after the deep notch, the ridge gets super narrow, with extreme exposure to the east, we bum shuttled on the knife edged ridge without a rope. Continued descending easy ridge (15m) to a short traverse section that had two towers, these small towers were climbed directly, I lead across this sections, maybe 15 metres with easy climbing (5.2 ish), but exposed bumps, got good cams along the towers.  Once across these two features, steep traverse on scree, then back to the ridge crest and scrambling back to the low point, and easy slopes back to Piper Creek and our camp.

Nearing summit, no cairn on top.

Scott M. Berry on the summit of South Schlee.

Kevin Barton and Scott Berry on the summit South Schlee.

New summit registry left on the summit.

New summit cairn.

Leaving the summit.

Scott seconding the 5.2 towers on descent.

Scramble back to the easy North Ridge.