mountaineering

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

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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.

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