Our second last trip of the MSS took us back to the Columbia Icefields. Two months earlier we were swinging our ice axes and kicking our crampons into the frozen waterfalls (see the video and story – here). Back then it was snowing, windy and cold. Fast forward two months and we were greeted once more with snow, wind and subzero temperatures. It was hard to believe it was Spring at the Icefields. The only contrast was the curtains of ice that once towered over us no longer existed and in their place were walls of rock.
Our lessons consisted of techniques in crevasse rescue, mountain travel and ice axe arrests. The latter of which although a last resort technique was enjoyed by all. We each took our turns sliding down the slope at break neck speeds, feet first then head first, the only thing stopping us from glissading onto the highway was the flawless ice axe arrests being performed, well maybe not the only thing, there was also an abundance of MSS students and trees in the way!
The last two days of our trip enabled us to put the skills learnt into practice. Our first objective was Boundary Peak. Nearing the summit, we kicked off our crampons and pulled out the scrambling techniques from our repertoire of skills learnt over the last eleven weeks. Our first summit of the trip provided us with stunning panoramic views. The descent to the vehicles was just as challenging with variable snow conditions, on more than one occasion ice axe arrests were used in anger.
For our final objective we would climb the mighty A2. Not visible from our campsite and not named on the map, this offshoot of Mount Athabasca although smaller was definitely a challenge. The final section was pitched out and rock protection was necessary. At the summit not only were we greeted once more by the amazing scenery but also by the Ninja Turtle guardian of A2, albeit with one arm/flipper missing!
On our safe return to camp beers were opened, coffees were percolated and the food box was ransacked. And so the final feast signified the end of our glacier mountaineering trip.With one more week of the MSS left we are all champing at the bit for our final expedition. It looks like we’ll be pulling out the skis once again and heading into Mount Columbia for this final test piece combining all that we have learned.