The Great Divide of the Canadian Rockies May 2007
to all who have helped me with the last minute preparation.
Firstly and most importantly, thanks go to Chic who had shared his extensive knowledge about the traverse with me,
Don who's thoughtful and positive attitude always produces constructive comments,
Conrad who's recent info on rappels and communication advice were greatly appreciated,
Claude and Bruce for understanding that these kind of trips can not happen on a corporate schedule.
Ken, Sean, and Ross all contributed pieces of gear to my last minute kit assembly.
Kirsten, Ken, Chic, Don, Barry, and Katherine were
thinking of me while I was on the icefields.
Special thanks also go to the Park's personnel Grant, Rupert, A.L., and Louisa, all from the Columbia Icefields, and Marc from Jasper.
James kindly picked me up at Lagans in Lake Louise and
drove me straight to my car 230km north at the Edith Cavel Trailhead.
We had a mutually satisfactory chat all the way and the drive passed by in no time while he was surveying his relay run change points.
I spent Sunday rockclimbing at Grassi Lakes completely absent minded and mostly thinking about my gear kit. Met Sean who agreed to give me his light tent used only once in exchange for my not arrived yet new tent of the same model. I was working on Monday and was choosing gear during the breaks, Tuesday working in Calgary and running around for a communication device, and Wednesday packing. Thursday morning I placed a food cache at the toe of the Saskatchewan Glacier, registered at the Icefilds Parks Office, did some last minute shopping in Jasper, and started towards the Edith Cavel Hostel at 7:45 pm.
Middle Whirlpool River
South of Mt. Serenity
South of Apex Mt.
North of Edert Pk.
South of Chaba Pk.
South of Mt. King Edward
South of Mt. Columbia
High Level Traverse
South of Division Mt.
Mt.Lambe North Col
Wild Cat Creek
St. Nicholas-Olive Col
Balfour High Col
Mt. Niles South Col
My kit after ditching the 52 litre Khamsin that extends to 65. All the metal was hanging on the outside, not a good idea. A step up in the bag that I had was a Bora 95 :( Of course everything did fit inside. Weighing after the trip showed that my pack with clothing weighed 22kg, food and white gas on top of that at about 12kg for the first leg. My ski gear was very heavy by today standards at about 10kg. My kit included a 3.2 m probe, ski crampons, crampons, and ice axe. All of these items were at use one time or another...
The dirt on my boots was from the toe of the Saskatchewan Glacier where I had put a food cache that morning. The road is 12 km long and was bare, so could have been driven had it been open :) Not exactly ski touring yet. I walked it in my runners that I then stashed soon after the bridge the next morning.
Skis were not new, but essentially not used (only three days). So walking the sandy bridge surface was heart "breaking" but ski bases would be the least of my worries in the comming days :)
Sking in the Astoria Valley.
Looking towards the Fraser Glacier, the first ice you encounter on route. However, this one is not a measure yet for how passable will the glaciers be due to its small size.
Open creek beds will become a daily affair and so will canyons - Simon Creek.
Is that cute or what? In my short preparation time I missed a lot of sleep due to thinking about crevases, but just about the same amount of worrying had been done on the theme of moving through animal habitat alone. Clearly, I was not alone. This is however at least a day old track.
Looking downstream in Simon Creek. The canyon is still coming... the bush that everybody talks about was nowhere to be found. In fact, if you have done any ski touring on the Coast or even better, Alaska/BC boarder, preferably sea to sea, then the Great Divide has literaly NO bush. Sure, there are steep forests, deep canyons, a handfull of avalanche slide paths with slide alder, but there is virtually no devils club and no real bush on this route.
No, I am not sponsored by BD... and yes, these are womens skis. I had Havocs (men's version) and found the tail way stiffer than the shovel which made for an unbalanced ski which is not what i want for my style of skiing. A softer tail of Lyric's prvides for a smoother ride... Skis were used in shallow crreks to stand higher from the stream bed. Again, edges and bases were not somthing you worry on a long ski tour :) The ski performed very well. Extremely stable torsionally with a medium longitudinal flex. Torsional stability of your ski is very important on all morning downhills when you are skiing frozen concrete and on the creek sections. Holding an edge 50m above the streem is a life saving device :) With a light noodle ski (I used to have Atomic Tour Light) one would have to detour from the steep creek sides more often resulting in way more elevation gain and loss on the creek kilometers. Medium longitudinal flex is desirable in the forests when you are walking/skiing the spines between two tree wells or simply traversing them.
Looking towards the first col after simon Creek (my northern section maps are still not with me, so I will have to fix the geographical details when I pick up the maps).
A late afternoon view down into the Middle Whirlpool River Valley.
Middle Whirlpool River Valley. Chasing the remaining light to the high camp on the shoulder.
The camera crew messed up. The screen of my digital camera was turned off due to excessive light on the snow - I was not able to see anything anyway. I also did no previewing due to the battery saving - I only took one camera battery. Zoom was not used much either for the same reason.
Approaching the shoulder before droping down into Whirlpool River Valley. The peaks visible are on the Hooker Icefield.
A huge cornice, more than 10 m thick.
The first view of Scott Glacier - the start of the Hooker Icefield.
Mt. Scott on the left and Mt. Evans on the right.
Beautiful alpine meadows with many boulders :)
I am descending into the Whirlpool River Valley and there is no skiing there :(
The valley bottom is visible at the bottom of the picture. South facing forest provided easy walking on moss with lots of big deer tracks.
The colour of this one does not do the nature justice - it was almost a mesmerizing green...
The valley opened with a view of Scott Glacier.
Close up of the ground surface.
I was especially glad for the big bag when skis were strapped on it. A smaller bag would simply not carry a load like this very well.
At the glacier lake. I set up camp just to the right out of site.
The angle of theis rock bed and ice fall is about 45 degrees and I am standing far out of the reach of any colapsing ice. Nothing came down all night.
A close up.
Traversing the moraine with the approach slope visible in the profile just at the edge of the moraine.
From the end of the moraine walk, time for some snow.
Icefall from the same point.
And a close up of its upper tier from higher up with Mt. Evans in the background.
Surface is frozen solid.
The slope to the right was wind packed snow. It went from melt-freeze to windpacked with more than 3.2m (the length of my probe) depth in a few metres.
First time on the icefield. View to the north. I am still probing and my probe is too short to reach the ice.
View towards SW.
Another close up (110mm equivalent on the 35mm cameras).
A wide angle view (28mm equivalent on the 35mm cameras).
Looking back towards north again.
(The sources for this one were low res files. A much better version was obtained using full resolution.)
Rimed crevases on the south slopes and the top of Mt. Serenity.
Fortress Lake. Chic's 1966 party went around the lake on the left and then turned right towards Chaba Gl.
This would be the next escape route (10km around the lake, then 40, I beleive to the highway)
Wood river, time for some cold walking...to warm up after the crossing I had to have a big hot meal. My first supper of ther day:)
Some numbers for those who would like to do the trip:
|DAY/CAMP||GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURE||UTM GR||Elevation (m)||El. Gain (m)||Total El. G./Day (m)||Total El. Loss/Day (m)||Distance (km)||Total D./Day (km)|
|Day 0 (10.05.2007;20:00)||Edith Cavel Trailhead (93A)||1200||0.0||0.0|
|Camp 0||Edith Cavel Hostel||284399||1720||520||520||0||12.0||12.0||12|
|Day 1||Astoria Valley/Wates Gibson Hut||151355||1920||200||15.0||27.0|
|Camp 1||Toe of Fraser Glacier||147354||1960||40||240||0||1.0||28.0||16|
|Day 2||Fraser Glacier||137336||2420||460||3.0||31.0|
|Middle Whirlpool River||208190||1620||-720||4.0||49.0|
|Camp 2||Treeline at a lake||212176||2000||380||1,660||-1,620||2.0||51.0||23|
|Day 3||Shoulder “500 m South of a pass”||212155||2260||260||1.0||52.0|
|Camp 3||Lake at the toe of Scott Glacier||256124||1460||80||340||-880||3.0||58.0||7|
|Day 4||Hooker Icefield||287056||2810||1,350||8.5||66.5|
|Col WSW of Mt. Serenity||288058||2740||-70||0.5||67.0|
|Col S of Mt. Serenity||313051||2860||120||2.5||69.5|
|Camp 4||Lake at the toe of Serenity Glacier||348037||1620||-1,240||1,470||-1,310||5.0||74.5||16.5|
|Day 5||Wood River||364020||1320||-300||2.5||77.0|
|Camp 5||Clemenceau Creek (burned forest)||373393||1680||600||600||-540||7.5||89.5||15|
|Day 6||Clemenceau Creek||377918||1480||-200||2.0||91.5|
|Camp 6||Toe of Clemenceau Glacier||386899||1680||200||200||-200||3.0||94.5||5|
|Day 7||Clemenceau Glacier Col S of Apex Mt.||443844||2940||1,260||11.0||105.5|
|Apex Glacier Day Camp||469849||2880||80||2.0||109.5|
|North of Edert Pk.||488834||2940||60||3.5||113.0|
|Camp 7||Col ESE of Chaba Pk.||550828||2940||80||1,480||-220||2.5||120.0||25.5|
|Day 8||Wales Glacier||574798||2200||-740||4.0||124.0|
|Col N of Triad||616780||2820||620||5.0||129.0|
|Col Triad & K. Edward – Columbia Icefield||630770||2620||-200||2.0||131.0|
|Camp 8||Camp SE of Mt. King Edward||667762||2760||140||760||-940||4.5||135.5||15.5|
|Day 9||South of Mt. Columbia – Start of Bush River||692728||1600||-1,160||5.0||140.5|
|Camp 9||Camp MIKI :)||694740||2000||400||400||-1,160||1.5||142.0||6.5|
|Day 10||Start of High Level Traverse||700730||1520||-480||1.0||143.0|
|Columbia Icefield-High point E of the Trench||780760||2800||100||2.5||155.0|
|Columbia Icefield-Col NW of Mt. Castleguard||810750||2580||-220||3.0||158.0|
|Col W of Mt. Castleguard||818725||2700||120||2.5||160.5|
|Toe of Saskatchewan Glacier||905790||1840||-860||12.5||173.0|
|Camp 10||Col W of Mt. Castleguard||818725||2700||860||2,420||-1,720||12.5||185.5||43.5|
|Day 11||Castleguard River||900637||1600||-1,100||13.0||198.5|
|Camp 11||Lake at the Toe of Alexandria Glacier||907617||1600||-80||80||-1,180||2.0||201.5||16|
|Day 12||E Alexandra Gl. - Col W of Errnest Pk||918560||2990||1,390||8.0||209.5|
|Lyell Icefield – Ernest/Edward Col||932564||3400||410||2.0||211.5|
|South of Division Mt.||977500||2800||-600||8.0||219.5|
|Mons Glacier – Col Division/Mons||983474||2480||-320||3.0||222.5|
|Camp 12||West Gl – Mons Rapel||017445||2700||220||2,020||-920||6.0||228.5||27|
|Day 14||Toe of Freshfield Icefield||055347||2100||-250||2.0||241.0|
|Camp 14||Freshfield Icefield – NW of Mt. Lambe||110310||2580||480||480||-250||7.0||248.0||19.5|
|Day 15||Mt.Lambe North Col||119320||2900 ||320||2.0||250.0|
|Bowl N of Mt. Lambe||124324||2760||-140||1.0||251.0|
|Mt. Lambe E Col||130325||2860||100||1.0||252.0|
|Bleabery River @ Wild Cat Creek||200295||1260||-240||6.5||261.5|
|Camp 15||Wild Cat Creek – Mistaya Lake Sauna Room :)||254274||2060||800||1,220||-1,740||6.0||267.5||19.5|
|Day 16||Trapper-Baker Col||284243||2880||820||5.0||272.5|
|St. Nicholas-Olive Col||345190||2950||390||7.0||282.5|
|Camp 16||Vulture Glacier – Balfour Hut||375157||2460||-490||1,210||-810||4.5||287.0||19.5|
|Day 17||Balfour High Col||388120||2940||480||4.0||291.0|
|Mt. Niles NE Col||410069||2680||-260||6.0||297.0|
|(27.05.2007;~20:00)||Sherbrook Lake – West Louise Lodge||452992||1620||-1,060||480||-1,320||11.0||308.0||21|
|TOTAL VERTICAL GAIN||16,540|
|TOTAL VERTICAL LOSS||-16,120|