Lake Louise Classics – Part 2 – July 27th – 29th, 2010 – By Chris Dodd
Len has described Part 1 of this Lake Louise Classics trip, which was based out of the Abbot hut. The following describes the second three days of the trip which took place in the Valley of the 10 Peaks near Lake Louise.
After two great summits in two days, we had descended back to Lake O’Hara via the Huber Glacier and Huber ledges. Back at the Outpost in Lake Louise we said farewell to Len, Roy and James over a beer.
After a night at the Alpine Club Hostel and a short drive to Moraine Lake, four of us, led by our guides, Paddy Jerome and Jason Billing, struck out with re-filled packs for the Neil Colgan hut, (apparently the highest permanent structure in Canada), the route is said to be an excellent mountain day, and it was!
The lake-shore was relaxed, with folk exploring, some photographing the views, one of which was an area high above us of mountains and glacier that we were aiming for.
Where the lakeside trail ends we crossed balance logs in the creek then pushed up through the boulder-field. Given the unusually wet and thunderstormy summer we’d been very fortunate, with no rain yet on the whole trip and today in the sun, the boulder-field was alpine plants, Cambrian trace fossils, spiders and orange lichen rings.
Paddy pointed out the next part of the route, which from this angle was looking implausible – up the left edge of the boulder/scree cone, then around to a gentler scree area before a cliff beside a hanging glacier.
T-shirted and with water stops, we moved up steadily and after an hour or two were at the foot of the cliff, “The Perren Route”. Paddy and Jason carted the packs to a location at the base of the cliff below a belay point. Then we were seconded up the steep rock pitch further left, about a 5.8, but with a chain if you wanted something extra to pull on.
This pitch was followed by a well protected traverse along a cliff-band. Bryan hadn’t done a climb or a traverse before so got two firsts in an hour. Then each pack was tied at the base of the cliff by Jason and rope-hauled up by Paddy. We reloaded at the end of the traverse and continued up a couple more fun, low-grade rock pitches to the Faye glacier.
Changing to glacier-roping, we had a relaxed mid-season hike up across the glacier. It still had good snow cover and only one short area with hints of crevasses.
After another 45 minutes we were at the hut, a neat place, with an outhouse that stands in all its finery on the saddle between the hut and Mt Bowlen. They have taken no chance of it lifting off, with guy-wires tensioning it to large plastic barrels of rocks.
The hut is fun, a bit like the Scott-Duncan or Balfour and small enough to get to know everyone there. It also has a sun deck, which, with no wind during our stay, we made good use of later in the afternoons.
That evening some of the group saw a large area of smoke that appeared to be above Prospector’s Valley to the southwest, beyond Kaufmann Lake – a biggish BC forest fire, glowing through the night and which the following day we could smell. It was a warm thunderstorm night, probably not assisted by the fire, although by 5 am the next morning the weather was clear again but very warm, as Paddy and Jason had a careful look at the snow, concluding the traverse of Faye would be spent post-holing, with both hassle and safety issues. So it was back to bed and then at about seven, up to climb the closer, rock-dominated Mts Little and Bowlen – both good viewpoints.
Mt Bowlen is a short ascent from the hut and has good views out across to Mount Temple and Eiffel to the north and Wenkchemna Pass to the west.
Mt Little is bigger. Paddy, Bryan and Alan had found a lot of loose rock on the lower ridge, so Jason, Liz and myself used the lower snow slope on the northeast flank instead. We had some short-roping over the upper rock section, then were greeted by great views across Faye and in the other direction, across the wide glacier to the south. There are another whole bunch of peaks across there, including Mts Perren and Tonsa, which another party from the hut were aiming for.
By the second evening we had got to know everyone at the hut and there was a lot of chat, jokes, swapping of stories and suggestions for other trips. It was a good evening with great company, whom I like to think I will meet again, possibly on some of the routes they suggested.
And food – I nearly forgot the food. Yamnuska cook most of their evening meals for trips in-house then put them through their own dehydrators. We had experienced this a couple of years ago with Yamnuska on the ski traverse of the Wapta Icefield and this was again, delicious, real food. My favorite of Yamnuska’s is a butter lentil curry, although I’ve been told by friends that the lamb curry is stunning.
On the final morning we did a short round-trip to a viewpoint hill to the northwest, from where there’s a view of a possible Moraine Lake-Wenkchemna Pass–Opabin Pass–O’Hara backpack. From the viewpoint we watched a blue-black storm edging nearer, deluging Wenkchemna Pass with rain. We made our way briskly back across the glacier, but the storm, as through the whole trip, missed us, leaving us in the sun again, as we headed back down the Perren route, the drive to Canmore and farewells again with new friends over ice-cold beers and sodas.
Story and photos by Chris Dodd