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  #1  
Old 10-16-2005, 07:00 PM
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"How I spent my summer vacation..."

This summer some of my friends and I decided to undertake a seldom-done expedition to the summit of Mt. Castleguard, located at the soutern edge of the Columbia Icefields in the Canadian Rockies. Castleguard is not the highest nor the most difficult climb, but it's remote location means that few parties attempt it.

Typically, for an alpine climbing trip, we can put together a group of three or four people, but this trip generated lots of interest and we had nine people ready to go. Unfotunately, one fellow got ill before the departure day and him and his wife bowed out, bring our group down to a still-large seven. We got seven people to the Caslteguard Meadows (really just a giant rock slab), but on climbing day, six headed out thanks to one fellow losing his sunglasses. Glacier travel and snow/ice climbing without sunglasses can be painful and deadly, so he got to sleep in. I admit as I crawled out of my bag at 3:00AM I was a tad jealous, but as I locked my crampons on I was glad to be getting going...

Backing up a bit...

Here is the view of the Saskatchewan Glacier from the valley floor. We'd been on the move for a good portion of the day when we came across "The Objective." The trip involves backpacking to the toe of the glacier, traveling on the glacier to the base of the Castleguard Meadows, climbing the rock to the Meadows and overnighting. The second day is climbing and the third day is out. the red line shows the route to base camp and the yellow line is the climb.



Here I am after donning my glacier travel gear. After slogging across the moraine (rubble) it was great to get on the ice. Even though it was 20C, the wind was very cold on the glacier. Thanks to the lack of snow on the glacier, we could see the crevasses and decided to travel unroped to make some time.


We goofed a bit on the glacier, staying to the left and hitting many heavily crevassed areas. Up on the Castlegurad Glacier, we could see the center of the glacier was much smoother and on the return trip, it saved us nerly two hours. That's me leaping over the crevasse...


Here is my tent mate and my tent. We were tired and hungry and even though the rock was hard, we were happy to be settled in for the night.


The "other half" of base camp.


We'd climbed the glacier out of base camp and luckily it was snow covered. We were worried about the snow conditions as it was very warm. The snow covers the crevasses and we were very concerned about those snow bridges weakening. Castleguard has a massive system of crevasses called bergschrunds prior to the summit ridge and we'd have to find our way past them. We ended up on the left-most edge of the mountain. The yellow line shows our route...


Leading Rope Team 2 (my team) up the final part of the steep snow slopes is my partner Sandy, and that's me just finishing step-kicking at Anchor position. We're simuclimbing roped, but unprotected as the snow conditions were awesome. The clouds hung around until nearly 8:00AM and it really helped.


After the last steep part, we negotiated the not-too-narrow summit ridge and gained the summit. The summit itself is very exposed and quite small. Our group of six was a little crowded. We remained on the summit for 15 minutes as the sun had come out and we were very concerned about the snow conditions. This is me on the summit...


Another of me...


Here's the north side of Mt. Bryce and it's valley from the summit...
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  #2  
Old 10-16-2005, 07:03 PM
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Here's Mt. Columbia as from the summit. It's the tallest mountain in Alberta and is on my list for next summer. It's much further away, but is climbed more often thanks to it's height.


Here we are returning to the camp, just a few hundred meters from camp. Our stranded partner too this pic. That's my lily-white helmet leading the team down the final slope. By this time (about 1:30pm) many of the crevasses had weak snow bridges and snow conditions were getting worse by the minute. We were glad to be be back.


Here I am relaxing back at camp. The climb was fun, but it was nice to stretch out and have my boots off.
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Old 10-16-2005, 07:23 PM
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Cool...nice photos....
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Old 10-16-2005, 08:29 PM
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Wow! And thanks for the photos, too.
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Old 10-16-2005, 08:47 PM
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ditto what Bot said...!
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  #6  
Old 10-16-2005, 10:28 PM
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So you spent your summer in the ice? What's in store for this winter?
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  #7  
Old 10-16-2005, 10:32 PM
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Way cool John.
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  #8  
Old 10-16-2005, 10:34 PM
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You're welcome! And thanks for the comments. Earlier in the summer, I was with a different group on Mt. Athabasca, also part of the Columbia Icefields. The snow conditions on the glacier were terrible. There had been heavy snowfall and warm days, meaning a very deep and unstable snow pack. Parts of the climbing route are in prime avalanche zones and there are terrible overhanging seracs, most bigger than cars. Not a good thing to have fall on you. We spent three days on the mountain. We aborted our climbs and on the last day decided to attempt A2 from the A2 glacier and at 2:00AM it began raining, well, pouring. By 4:30 the rain turned to snow and we were soon in the middle of a near-zero-visibility blizzard. We found a snow slope, practiced our self-arrest skills until about noon and headed back to the cars.

Here we are gearing up, ready to get onto the North Glacier of Mt. Athabasca. Withing two hours the clouds were gone and the sun was busy burning us


Unlike us, a group decided to brave the terible snow conditions. We heard a giant slab release and looked across the glacier to see a giant avalanche sweep a rope team about 800M down the mountain. Luckily for them, we had a radio and called Parks Canada and within no time they launched a chopper rescue. Unbelievably, only one climber was hurt and no one was killed.


Since we couldn't go for the summit, we headed to the A2-Athabasca Col on the Boundary section of the North Glacier. Conditions were decent there. Here's our rope team taking a short break...


The view from the Col includes the incredibly picturesque North East Ridge of Mt. Athabasca...


Another view from the Col, towards A2. On the right you can see our tracks.
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  #9  
Old 10-16-2005, 10:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azimyth
So you spent your summer in the ice? What's in store for this winter?
Waterfall Ice, of course!

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  #10  
Old 10-16-2005, 10:39 PM
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Looks like quite an adventure, John. You may need to do the Amazon this winter to seek some temperature balance.
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  #11  
Old 10-16-2005, 11:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blackmercedes
Waterfall Ice, of course!

What a beautiful photograph, Black. It will be a while before we get to do cool stuff like that again.
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  #12  
Old 10-16-2005, 11:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azimyth
What a beautiful photograph, Black. It will be a while before we get to do cool stuff like that again.
Wish I could take credit for the pic, but I didn't snap 'er. It's a beaut, you're right. Just a few weeks until waterfall ice will be up! Some really high-up stuff is formed now, but the lines within MY ability won't be formed until late November. But, that's only 5-6 weeks away! Got some new Ice-Climbing boots I'm eager to try out.
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Old 10-17-2005, 12:29 AM
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Nice photos! Not to pick on out of the bunch but the north side of Mt. Bryce is especially awesome.
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  #14  
Old 10-17-2005, 12:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blackmercedes
Wish I could take credit for the pic, but I didn't snap 'er. It's a beaut, you're right. Just a few weeks until waterfall ice will be up! Some really high-up stuff is formed now, but the lines within MY ability won't be formed until late November. But, that's only 5-6 weeks away! Got some new Ice-Climbing boots I'm eager to try out.
That's cool stuff, my friend.
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