Edith Cavel East Ridge

August 12th, 2017

Author: Steven Rockarts

In early spring I was contacted by Craig Hartmetz asking me if I’d like to help co-lead a trip up Edith Cavel. I’d wanted to climb Cavel for quite awhile but usually in mid-August I’m climbing in the Bugaboos and hadn’t had the chance to attempt Cavel. I decided to take a break from the Bugs and give Cavel a shot, as an Edmontonian that visits Jasper on the regular it’s the mountain you stare at every time you visit. How cool would it be to say I’d made it to the top?

We headed out after work on Friday and made it to the Edith Cavel hostel fairly late. We all cooked some pasta before heading to bed and woke up at 3am and were at the trailhead by 4am. We left the parking lot at a fairly quick pace and reached an awful scree slope. As a group we snaked up the scree slope and it proved to be a bit too much for one member of our party. He got sick and unfortunately had to turn around.

Cavel Moonlight Silhouete

Cavel Moonlight Silhouete

After some reshuffling of our group we decided to keep going and reached the steeper scrambling. At least the scree was a thing of the past at this point and the scrambling was straight forward. We kept heading up the ridge and reached the first snow slope. Luckily the slope wasn’t too bad and we were able to get up it without crampons by kicking some good steps in the snow. By this point Craig’s group was way ahead of mine.

The first snowslope

The first snowslope

After quite a lot of ridge walking we arrived at the rock climbing portion of the climb. The rock was quite good we decided to rope up and proceeded to pitch out the route. It got a bit bizarre on these pitches as we were passed by a soloist in a wizard hat. Then a couple pitches later, I’d just built an anchor in the rock and yelled out “On belay!” to my second when he yelled up “uhhh, I need to untie and go to the bathroom”. It turns out Kraft Diner from a gas station in Hinton is not the best thing to have the night before an 11,000er. After waiting for my second’s stomach to settle, we continued up the rock. I started to get radio calls from Craig proclaiming that his group was proudly on the summit and asking where we were. At this point we were quite far behind so I decided that the best way for us to speed up was to start simul-climbing on the easier terrain. Placing intermediate protection in good rock really helped speed us up and before we knew it we were making our way up the ridge to the summit

Some of the steeper climbing

Some of the steeper climbing

Most times when I go mountaineering when I get to the summit I don’t take it in or enjoy it as much as I should. On the walk up the ridge to the summit I could feel the smile growing on my face and when I reached the summit I was grinning ear to ear. I’d never been happier to be on the top of a mountain!

Group on the summit

Group on the summit

We soaked in the summit as a group and signed the summit register, then made our way down the west ridge. If you hate scree, this isn’t the place for you. If the west ridge wasn’t the scree covered hellscape that it is, it would be one of the most popular scrambles in the Rockies! The scattered snow slopes across the scree was a welcome sight to break up the rocky knee punishing descent.

The awful scree slope descent

The awful scree slope descent

36556068725_7afedf8f9c_k.jpg

At the bottom of the scree we refilled our water bottles in one of the creeks and made our way to the path out to the Tonquin trail. We came across a grouse “camoflagued” with her chicks on the path, we stepped around them carefully and carried on.

A few of us who were in the slower half of the group came up with the term “mall walking” to describe the pace we were moving at. At this point we were motivated by some of the cold beers and desserts that awaited us back at the hostel. Just before you get back to the hostel you come out at Cavel Lake. I dipped my head in the lake to cool off and then just sat on the bridge for awhile to take in what we had accomplished. It was a perfect ending to a great day out.

36556074695_2ec3addba8_k.jpg

Winter TNF 2019

Author: Jarett Stastny

Jessica Ferguson and I (Jarett Stastny) had the privilege of being endorsed by the Edmonton section to attend ACC national’s The North Face leadership course this winter.  We quickly had a chance to meet our eight companions from various sections (the most distant hailing from the Montreal section) and our two expert ACMG guides Cyril Shokoples and Matt Reynolds.

We called the Lake Louise Alpine Centre our base camp and we steeled ourselves for the -30C average temperatures for the week.  This was a particularly bitter thought having just enjoyed not so long before an unusual +8C weekend in Edmonton’s January.  Despite the frigid and enduring cold, Cyril and Matt kept our brains burning with thoughtful and challenging teachings.  We applied our learning straight away and all through the course by breaking into smaller groups to take turns completing morning briefings on weather and avalanche conditions, as well as with evening MIN writing and trip planning. 

Classroom sessions in the Alpine Centre’s guide’s room, which is seeping with history and adorned with vintage mountaineering equipment and ACC paraphernalia, were a real treat.  Readings and lessons I completed about outdoor leadership were revelatory to some of the complex thinking my own outdoor mentors must have been applying at times when I admittedly didn’t fully understand it.  I proudly remembered past trips where I demonstrated sound leadership but also sheepishly reflected on times where I acted selfishly or emotionally and could have been a better trip leader or trip participant.  Whoa. This was an “intensive, thought-provoking course” just as advertised!

As much as I enjoyed the classroom, nothing beats learning directly from experienced guides while out on the trail!  When I applied for the course I had already identified trail skills I knew I wanted to improve.  From tweaking trail breaking and group spacing to navigation and managing a group, I found these skills were tested during the course and I was given the guidance to help work them into shape and the confidence to continue working at it.  The class of ACC TNF Winter 2019 completed trips that included visits to the Onion/Bow Hut, the Ferris Glacier/Little Crowfoot, Helen Shoulder, Observation Peak, Chickadee Valley, Pulpit Knob, and the Dolomite Circuit.

Our cohort enjoyed relatively stable conditions with low-low-low avalanche ratings for the majority of our time out.  We were still able to seek and find interesting localized instabilities to test safely.  Beyond that we also found sunny slopes to ski, stories to tell, and new friendships to enjoy.

 

 

Parkway Ice. January 18-20, 2019

Trip Report Author:  Gord Matthies

Participants: Rob Denson (Leader), Jessica Ambler, Gord Matthies

Friday evening started with Rob and Jessica rolling through Red Deer to pick up Gord on the way to Beauty Creek Hostel.  We ended up being the only three people there all weekend.  After a couple of false starts on the heaters due to the last occupants turning the propane off at the tank, we settled in for a fantastic weekend.

Shades of Beauty looking very beautiful indeed!

Shades of Beauty looking very beautiful indeed!

Anyone who has climbed with Rob knows we get an early start so Saturday morning we headed up towards Shades of Beauty with our headlamps leading the way.  Rob lead up some fantastic ice and three pitches.

Jessica coming over the top

Jessica coming over the top

Obligatory post-climb group selfie

Obligatory post-climb group selfie

The Anna Clare Smith memorial greeted us at the top, as well as a view of Stanley Falls across the valley and a view down the Athabasca River.

The Anna Clare Smith memorial greeted us at the top, as well as a view of Stanley Falls across the valley and a view down the Athabasca River.

unnamed (2).png

Back to the hostel for cheese, meat, and cracker appetizers followed by a delicious curry chicken.  A little wine and lemon meringue pie for dessert, lots of laughs and discussion solving the world’s problems and there goes four hours!  We even spent some time learning improvisation techniques… a very full evening!

Up even earlier (!) on Sunday to head to Nothing But the Breast which was one of the few climbs in the area that Rob had not done before. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day.

Up even earlier (!) on Sunday to head to Nothing But the Breast which was one of the few climbs in the area that Rob had not done before. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day.

The first pitch is a rambling grade 2 however it was so thin it was a pretty sketchy start to the day!  A little rope stretch was needed to find a decent place for Rob to build an anchor.

Rob sets up the next pitch. The sun was nice however it was starting to rain from those icicles above.

Rob sets up the next pitch. The sun was nice however it was starting to rain from those icicles above.

Jessica half way up the last pitch of Nothing But the Breast

Jessica half way up the last pitch of Nothing But the Breast

Unfortunately, conditions warranted that we did not ascend the very final piece of this climb.

The drive home was punctuated with that amazing blood moon!

The drive home was punctuated with that amazing blood moon!

Another great weekend reuniting these three climbers from a December trip.  Rob did a stellar job placing safe screws … and may spend this week sharpening a few that hit rock on that first pitch on Sunday!   Looking forward to more fun and challenging trips to come!

 

The Brazeau Loop Hike in Jasper National Park

The Brazeau Loop Hike in Jasper National Park

The 81 km Brazeau Loop hike in Jasper National Park is a serious hike that encompasses stunning
country in the eastern Rockies of Alberta. According to the Park’s website: “The grand tour of the
southern ranges, this circuit includes one of the park’s largest backcountry lakes and an extraordinary alpine traverse with glaciated peaks, lush wildflowers and a variety of wildlife. The trail passes through extensive alpine meadows and several passes.” Listed as an ACC Edmonton Section trip for August 2017, the standard hike features five passes for a distance of 81 km; however, our seasoned but motley group of five decided to add one scramble and one day-hike for a total distance of about 120 km in seven days.

Winter Camping in Mosquito Creek

Winter Camping in Mosquito Creek

Nathan Rider

The morning dawned bright and early. Well actually, it was not dawn, and it was not bright. Instead, it was pitch black when Brian, Paul, and I left Edmonton for Mosquito Creek – 4:00 AM to be exact. Due to some work-related delays, the three of us had left on Saturday morning instead of Friday night. Undaunted, Brian bravely drove through fog and over hill to arrive in our beloved mountains at 8:30 AM and meet up with Craig, Jake, and Erin at trailhead. After a short discussion about the route, we headed up the creek.

Jake adjusts his skins on the way up the creek. Erin ravenously devours some of the delicious marshmallows you can see all over the ground in the photo. Who knew there could be so much gelatin and sugar in one place?!

Jake adjusts his skins on the way up the creek. Erin ravenously devours some of the delicious marshmallows you can see all over the ground in the photo. Who knew there could be so much gelatin and sugar in one place?!

Arriving at our campsite, we set to work piling snow for a quinzhee, digging a cooking and sitting trench, erecting our tent and tarp shelter, and enjoying the views from our campsite. Then we headed off to enjoy some tree skiing on a nearby ridge to the northeast near Quartzite Peak.

Our camp. Photos were taken at dinner time – hence why you can see Paul acting as group chef. His homemade pasta sauce was pretty delicious! Thanks Paul! In the bottom right, you can see Noseeum Peak through the trees from our camp.

After dinner, it was time for bed. Three of us slept in the quinzhee while three others braved the cold in our tent or tarp shelter. After what was a cold night for some, we awoke around 7:30 AM for breakfast and packed up the camp.

Brian lounges in the quinzhee entrance. It should be noted that he opted to not sleep here for fear his white ball cap would be lost in the white snow. Photo by Brian.

Brian lounges in the quinzhee entrance. It should be noted that he opted to not sleep here for fear his white ball cap would be lost in the white snow. Photo by Brian.

Sad to leave our luxury palace, we were determined to get in a few more runs in order to console ourselves. Therefore, we headed up once again towards Quartzite Peak, this time venturing into the alpine. Carefully taking a ridge to minimize exposure to avalanche terrain, we inched higher and higher. The weather was gorgeous and it was quite warm.

Our ascent tracks from the top of an unnamed rise.

Our ascent tracks from the top of an unnamed rise.

Group photo, minus me. Noseeum Peak looms to the south in the background. From left to right: Brian, Jake, Paul, Erin, and Craig.  

Group photo, minus me. Noseeum Peak looms to the south in the background. From left to right: Brian, Jake, Paul, Erin, and Craig.  

Paul and Craig look out over the frozen wasteland and wonder why they ever bother coming out here. Nothing to see anyway…they look like they wish they were watching Netflix.

Paul and Craig look out over the frozen wasteland and wonder why they ever bother coming out here. Nothing to see anyway…they look like they wish they were watching Netflix.

The party skiing down the ridge opposite the one we came up. Noseeum Peak in the background. Photo by Craig.

The party skiing down the ridge opposite the one we came up. Noseeum Peak in the background. Photo by Craig.

After a lovely run down, we powered through the half-dozen or so kilometers back to the parking lot. The snow was sticking to our skis, so we hurried to reduce that problem! Overall a fantastic trip with good snow and company. Thank you again to Craig and Paul for organizing!

Steep Skiing Clinic

Steep Skiing Clinic

Foster Karcha

Six members, with dreams of steep ski lines and powder descents, spent two days at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (KHMR) getting their wiggles woke by the perpetual stoke of Level 4 CSIA instructor Steve. The stars aligned for our weekend, with 38 cm of powder dropping on the resort during our Friday drive out. We stayed at the Kicking Horse River Lodge, right on the access to KMHR, and within walking distance of the Whitetooth Brewery and the local sledneck, pro-dogs bar, the River House (best burger in town).

Our first day was a powder day, with everyone stoked to discuss the impending apocalypse of a Trump presidency while the gondola ride up was delayed by high winds and avalanche control. I made the mistake of telling Steve we were fairly advanced skiers before double ejecting during our first powder turns of the day due to low DIN settings and a boot neglectfully left in walk mode. Some quick adjustments and a sheepish click into walk mode saved the day - along with a quick screw at Selkirk Sports shop to save the Vice-Chair’s boot - kept us going.

Steve kept us going, getting us in balance, and focusing our ‘small and tall’ movements in the turns while leading use through powder filled chutes and trees. Every small success was met by Steve interminable stoke, and he quickly caught on to the group’s love of bad German accents. We were quickly disavowed from close, evenly weighted, upright stances while he drilled into us each run the body positioning, open hips, and downhill weighted feet needed to execute turns at will. Every steep entrance of the CPR and Redemption Ridges came with an approach strategy. By the end of Saturday we had done nearly 7,500 m of vertical skiing on steep powder laps.

Powder is a finite resource, and the lack of refresh overnight meant that we got to put our balance skills to the test on steep, chopped up, dense powder and crud. While Steve kept giving us hints on how to farm the last of the soft stuff, we focused on refining and consolidating our gross and fine motor techniques: the balance points and stances Steve advocated allowed us to powder through the increasingly marginal snow conditions. Someone must have told Steve I loved bootpacks before he brought us up in to the Whitebowl. More than a few goofy exercises with our ski poles really cemented the movement we were trying to achieve. With our final victory laps we managed another 5,600 m of skiing and we all felt it as we accommodated this with our new skiing positions

Of course, we had to start the cannonball run back to Edmonton, but not before one last stop for some swag at the Whitetooth brewery. The Steep Skiing clinic increased everyone’s ability and confidence skiing all types of terrain. These skills will really increase our confidence in the backcountry, especially when leading trips.