Stanley Mitchel Hut 2004
Every year ACC Ottawa heads west for a week of mountaineering in the rockies.
This is Our Story
Packed? Of course I'm packed! Let's see, helmet, ice axe, crampons, harness, rope, ice screws, snow pickets, a liter of wine, boots and gators, oh yes, some clothes... Now, who's gonna carry this 56 pound pack for three hours from the trailhead to Stanley Mitchel hut? Oh yeah, that would be me.
So begins another grand adventure whereby myself and 23 other mountain softie toffies head into the mountains for a week of fun. Once again we're doing this under extreme conditions, what with a great cabin to keep a roof over our heads, and this year, Kit, who's going to keep us fed morning to night.
I wasn't sure I would even make it, what with sailing across the Atlantic in June, but the boss is getting used to me not being at work by now.
Day 1 - Lake Louise
The adventure starts with Darren, Markus, Claire and Elfrieda on the same Calgary flight where we are met by John and Jim. Next stop is Lake Louise where most of the rest of the gang meets us. Josee, Todd and I drive to the back of Lake Louise where we meet Darren and Markus climbing. Before you know it, Josee is on the rope and climbing up in Markus' 10 sizes to big shoes! Nice 5.10a lead Markus!
A scrumptious dinner at Peyto Bills sees us well fed and off to bed before dusk.
Day 2 - Stanley Mitchel in Yoho
Next morning we board the Giddy Goat express for the 1/2 hour drive to Takawa Falls where we stretch, gear up and start our hike up the trail. Everyone is smiling and ready to go. Some of the food has arrived but it's up to those incredible porters to get our goodies up to the hut before we starve! John looks ready but gives his feet a pep talk just to make sure.
It's 9.3 km to the Stanley Mitchel hut. We pass by the conjunction of two rivers (what where their names?) and Laughing Falls . So far the trail seems easy enough. But before long it gets steep. Angel Staircase lookout? I don't think so!
After three hours some of us have made it to the camp while some of us are still on the trail. By 2 PM everyone is in. Dave has been out west a week and is well acclimatized. He's pushing for the Presidents tomorrow so off we go up the moraine to see what we'll be in for. It's a hard grind and I can feel the elevation. What was that about taking the first day or two easy?
By 6 PM Kit has cooked up a great meal and soon enough we're fast asleep.
Day 3 - President
We're up for breakfast at 7 AM but Kit and Chris have been up earlier making cowboy coffee and flapjacks. Some of us are wide awake and some of us are snoozing , but after a great breakfast eight of us are off to the Presidents.
Hiking up the moraine is tough and we stop about 1/2 way for a mandatory photo/reststop . Soon we're on our way again over the boulders and to the glacier where we gear up. Lynn couldn't make it but Twigs, who crossed the Atlantic with me, is along as part of the gang. She has no crampons so she'll be taking a ride.
Dave, Markus, Jim and Josee make up one rope team while Darren, Rob, John and myself make up the other. John hasn't climbed in over 8 years but he's eager so we tie him onto my rope with the admonation to do as I say. He's a bit rusty as we all would be but remembers quickly and manages to stay out of the crevaces.
Soon we're on the ice, approaching the col, and then on the snow and heading up the col. It's overcast which is grateful as the temperature is warm. John, Rob, Darren and I are working well together. Another rope team of 5 is on the ice coming up from the right. The catch us as we're roping up on the snow. There are three ropes and 13 people heading up. Quite a picnic.
The president are side by side and reached by climbing up a col between them. Soon we're on our way up the col , passing crevasses on the way and then we're at the top of the col . Looking at the VP we see a route we certainly don't want to take! (although the snow route from the right traversing left and then up looks tempting). We've doffed our gear and packs, taken some food and water, and then we're heading up the scree to the president. We stop for photos of the group at the top (not forgetting Twigs). It's been an easy 5 hours to get here. Not bad for the first day. Further on we spot a snow serac. It's actually higher than we are but it doesn't count and we stay away. So it's back down, through a squeeze passage between two boulders to the col where we gear up again and head down across the glacier and home.
This climb is recommended as an easy intermediate climb, suitable for strong beginners. Total time was about 7 hours roundtrip.
Some of head over to the creek for a washup in the glacial waters. You can put your feet in for about 12 seconds. At first you feel nothing, what's the big deal? And then, yipe!!!, that's cold!!!. We eat dinner at 7 PM. I'm exhausted and in bed by 9 PM.
Day 4 - Kerr
And up at 6 AM after a good 9 hours of sleep. Breakfast is at 7 AM. If you need an early start you can get an early breakfast of cold cereal, but everything is so close here that we never have to get an early start. Are we lazy or what!
Today there are nine of us, Dave, Markus, Darren, Jim W, Jan, Mim, Rob, John and I. Off we go through the meadows covered with flowers and to the stream crossing. We seem to loose the path here and cross the stream again, and again, and again. And then again ! Finally we pass a hidden waterfall (and you can't cross that) and we're back on the trail.
We pass through a highland plain (where Markus tries some bouldering), through the boulders, by the cascading waters and on to the lake. We then climb over the col and stop for a break.
Then we start up the ridge of Kerr (the third peak on the right with Ship's Prow on the far left). It looks scary from below and Mim, Jan and Rob are going to head back. It turns out to be a bit like Mt. Schaefer at Lake O'Hara and we convince them it is fun and up they come.
We're a little slower than Markus, Darren, Jim and John who are waiting for us on Kerr. They have been there for an hour, but everyone is up there by noon, around 4 hours from the cabin. From here we can see the backside of the President.
So, how do we get down? I elect to do some boot skiing through the scree while Dave takes the rest of the gang further over to come down a snow slope. This is Mim's first time on snow but she has Darren to help her. It looks scary from my distant vantage point. I keep shouting over useful advice. Nothing like being a pain-in-the-ass right!
The way down is a series of huge ledges and cliff bands. I've found a path down the first cliff band and Dave and Mim follow. Not to be outdone, Markus tries a little route finding of his own. Soon we're down through the cliff bands. Darren and I take a last scree slope down while Bill again takes the rest of the gang down a snow slope. Gotta love that snow!
Soon enough we've passed the waterfalls and we're looking down the valley. This time we manage to remain on the trail and keep our creek crossings to a minimum.
This climb is recommended as an easy intermediate hike, suitable for strong beginners. Total time was about 8 leisurely hours.
Day 5 - McArthur
After yesterday's "easy outing", Josee, Darren, Markus, Bill, Dave and I are out to bag another snow peak. Josee is into the cowboy coffee at breakfast and sets a new worlds record heading up the pass. Once again we have a creek to cross with Dave and Bill posing for the obligatory photo/rest stop.
Soon we're at the base of the glacier. You can see the peak where the snow meets the rock way above. We gear up for the climb. We cross the ice as a group until we reach the snow. Darren, Markus and I are on one rope while Bill, Dave and Josee are on the other. Dave's group heads left while Markus heads straight up towards the crevasses. As fate has it, we have the easier time while the other group navigates their way around and over a number of crevasses. We see our share though, including one big enough to store our entire camp.
Soon Markus, Darren and I are at the top of the col and there is just one more ramp to climb. We look back to see the second rope team following our tracks in the distance. Markus and Darren head up with Dave, Josee and Bill just behind us. Soon the conquering heros are on top including Josee and Twigs.
From the summit we follow the right hand ridge to Pollinger where we climb down to round the peak on the scrabbly rock. Markus blows out his boot here but after 17 years of hiking they deserve to be retired anyways. A few quick wraps of thin cord and they're fit to continue.
From here we continue along the ridge and then down a snowfield to the boulderfield below and then on to the lake where we stop for a rest. Some of us tentatively step in and others dive in for a refreshing 10 second swim.
(Editors Note: Markus' butt is hidden to protect the innocent .ie. your eyes. No butts were injured during this operation. Does Markus look better with a black butt? Only Florence can say for sure.)
This climb is highly recommended as an moderate intermediate climb. Total time was about 7 hours round trip.
After that, there's nothing to do but hike back to the camp for late afternoon snacks, a sit and read in the sun and then a great dinner before planning our next day.
Day 6 - Kerr and Ship's Prow
Another rest day and I've decided to be a guide for hire, but no one's hiring today. Bill mentions that he wants to climb Kerr and Ship's Prow but doesn't have anyone to go up with. We had looked at the Ship's Prow when on Kerr but hadn't gone up so I readily agree and off we go.
The route up is the same as for Kerr. We stop at the lake. It is a calm day and the mountains are reflecting in the water. Bill and I make our way up to the top of Kerr in about 2 hours time. We descend onto the ridge and traverse across the blocks and scree to the farside of Ship's Prow where we wend our way to the top.
From below you can see a giant cairn above and when we get there we see why. The cairn is over 6 feet tall! Of course Twigs has to get her picture taken as well. As boys will be boys, so go I and soon enough, I've added another 4-6 inches to the cairn. You should be able to see it even better now.
On the way back down we visit a rock bridge crossing the falls. It's really cool to be standing over the roaring torrent with the cool spray. After a brief pause we saunter back to the camp.
This route is highly recommended for intermediate hikers. Total time was about 6 hours round trip.
Day 7 - Snow School on the President Col
It's thursday, my last day as I am heading out early with Todd and Josee, but more importantly, it's snow school day where we bring up all the hikers who want to try out moving across the ice and snow. Dave, Josee and I lead Claire, Elfrieda, Alain, Jadwiga, Todd and Mim. The route is the same as for the President. Claire suffers from vertigo but makes it up the moraine. Once we arrive at the ice we give a little talk about crampons, Dave gives a demonstration and we get them practicing before we head out across the ice. We get them jumping across small crevasses, one after another, after another. Then we head across the ice. Soon we're at the snowline and we rope up. Dave's rope team leads off and we follow, snaking our way across the snow and practicing our traverses as we go.
We get to the bottom of the col and decide to go no further. However I spot a small snow crevasse and decide to cross over. There is a continuation of the crevasse about 30 feet up and I suggest to Dave that he take his rope team over there. Alain has me on a boot and ice axe belay (as I've shown him). I boldly step across and glance uphill into the crevasse. The 30 feet of snow between this small crevasse and the one I was sending Bill over conceals a 12 foot wide chasm! If we had tried to walk across the snow bridge we would have fallen through! I get everyone to cross over, including Bill's team and get them to stop and look at the trap. The are suitably impressed with the dangers lurking beneath the snow that we had been warning them about.
We head down the snow slope where I really wanted to get off the rope and boot ski down (but didn't). Instead I lead the two ropes onto the ice. I had planned to derope but thought everyone would feel more comfortable roped up. Instead, I headed straight across the bulge in the glacier and into a crevasse field. We threaded our way through some interesting crevasses, stopping to fill our water bottles at the rushing streams, and finally down to the toe of the glacier. Josee had her heart in her throat what with me taking them all through that dangerous terrain, but at the end everyone was thrilled to pass safely through the crevasses. On our way up I had asked where should we go? Most everyone suggested the snow as it looked like the best route. Now everyone understood that we could safely make it over the dry glacier, even through the crevasses whereas it was much more dangerous on the snow because you couldn't see where the crevasses were.
In fact Jadwiga and Alain were so inspired that they joined Markus and Darren to climb the President the next day! Once back at the cabin we all gathered for our group photo.
Day 8 - Heading Home
The next day, Josee, Todd and I humped out heavy packs down the trail to the waiting car and then on to Lake Louise and then home where we plan our next adventure.
Many thanks to Dave Foster and Elfrida Bock for organizing this year's camp.
Make sure you join us next year!!!