This is one of the most classic routes the Canadian Rockies and yet another fine FA by the King of Guides, Conrad Kain. The route follows the stunning left skyline of the mountain (see George's picture
From the parking lot, take the trail to Cavell Meadows and then head up the moraines towards the bottom of the ridge. The scramble to the start of the ridge is one of the looser more unpleasant ones around, especially by headlamp.
At the base of the ridge you may want to wait until there's a bit of daylight. My partner and I arrived about two hours too early and felt that it was better to wait. We tried to nap but critters kept trying to get into our packs, even with us sitting on them.
The ridge has a snow couloir on its left and the north face on its right. Stay on the rock, but mostly on the left side closer to the couloir.
Depending on the snow and weather you may have bare rock the whole way (as we did) or snow and ice requiring crampons and an axe. Most of the climbing is fourth class and the rock is generally good, but it's still wise to be wary of the holds. If you pitch it out, you'll be there for days.
Roughly half way up the ridge there is a shoulder after which the route steepens a bit. One or two sections might be worth belaying, they'll be noticeably harder than the rest and it's fairly obvious from below.
It's not a knife-edged ridge so it's possible to do many variations in a lot of sections, but if it starts to feel harder than the grade would suggest, given the conditions, don't be afraid to scout a few options.
I'll post some pictures when I get the slide scans....
To descend: Many, perhaps even most, parties reverse the route by downclimbing. Another option is to descend the West Ridge route which makes for a very large traverse of the mountain. The West Ridge is less technical (see the description once it's posted), but takes about six hours (but it could be a lot less depending on your fitness). Note that once you have crossed the summit and have started down the west ridge, stay on the ridge until the col with Mt. Sorrow. If you drop off the ridge sooner you may end up in some nasty cliff bands.
The West Ridge takes you into the Tonquin Valley which is relatively heavily populated by grizzly bears. I have no faith in bear bells -- we blew whistles, which made for a very long hike out. 'Didn't see any bears though. The most demoralizing part of using this descent is that at the end of a long day you have to finish by walking uphill on the road back up to the tourist parking lot since the trail dumps you out 2km down the road.
One thin shorter rope (30m even) should be plenty for any belayed sections or simul-climbing. There shouldn't be any rapelling on descent unless conditions are poor. A set of nuts and four or five cams up to hand size is more than enough. If snow or ice is present, and you still want to climb it, equip yourself accordingly. We saw no fixed gear at all.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 18, 2007
This route is not to be underestimated in length, it is longer than it seems. I climbed this route when the upper part of the mountain had received six inches of snow (not that uncommon in the summer). This made the upper part more interesting, although it was still quite reasonable (but took some time as we belayed all the steep section). The view looking up the ridge was exciting, I'll post these photos if I ever scan my slides.
By Steven Lucarelli
From: Moab, UT
Jun 18, 2007
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a Mod. Snow
This is a great route and worth doing for sure. I soloed this in mountaineering boots in 2003 or 2004 and it took me about 6 hours car to car. The descent is a lot longer than you would expect and if your belaying the steep pitches this route will take a full day for sure.
Oct 25, 2010
Best time to climb is usually August and sometimes into early september (if there are no big snowfalls). A sunny day makes it a relatively easy rock route. Snow and ice definitely change the character of the route and there have been a fair share of rescues. One snowpatch lingers throughout the season therefore ice axe and possibly crampons are recommended to get across the gully.
The traverse down the west ridge is highly recommended and will get you back to the car in 3-3.5 hours. Watch for grizzly bears in Verdant pass!
Car to car expect 8-16 hours depending on your routefinding, experience, and skill level.