This face looks scary from the parking lot so don't linger looking at it. Doing the climb in a day is a long day but I'd recommend this. If you take bivy gear it will slow you down and it is best to spend as little time as possible on the lower part of this face as it is very exposed to rockfall.
Getting to the Angel Glacier is non-trivial and we checked it out the day before. From the parking lot, cross the stream and head up an obvious moraine that heads toward the cliff right of (and below) the Angel Glacier and Icefall. We found a low 5th class route left of a waterfall with one bolt and a few rap anchors on it. This is fairly easy to find - during the day!
Above here we wandered up and right on easy scrambling terrain, crossing to the right side of the stream that forms the waterfall. Do not traverse left here or you could be killed by a falling ice block from the Angel Icefall. Eventually you reach some nice bivy sites at the edge of the Angel Glacier. If you know the route, you can get to this point in only about 1.5 hours from the car (even roping up for the crux cliff).
Rope up and cross the Angel Glacier. Above the left side of the Angel Glacier in the middle of the North Face locate a prominent pillar. This is the crux rock section of the route and what you want to shoot for. Below this the line depends on where you can cross the 'scrund. This section is mostly easy scrambling with a lot of loose rock. It's extremely exposed to rockfall so whatever you do, don't linger.
After crossing a prominent snow band about 1/3 of the way up the face, climb a pitch up a V-slot, then traverse right to the toe of the crux buttress. Three to four excellent short pitches lead up this buttress at about 5.7 in difficulty on stellar quartzite (some of the best rock I've encountered in the Canadian Rockies). It is great when you reach this section because it is spectacular and also the danger of rockfall is much less from this point on.
Above the crux buttress the difficulties ease and you can follow a rock rib on the left or snowy gully on the right depending on conditions. We followed the rock rib and this became quite difficult near the top where there was a short vertical wall dripping with water with a piton for pro. It may be easier to move right here and climb some snow or ice. It was extremely dry on the route when we did it and we were able to climb rock pretty much from the bergscrund all the way to this point (except for crossing a few snowfields). However I believe this is quite unusual.
At this point you reach the summit snowfield, which can vary from a foot of mush (when we did it, probably a bad idea) to ice. It averages about 45 degrees, with some sections steeper. Somehow the knowledge that a 2000 foot cliff underlies this simple snowfield makes it much more terrifying. I recommend avoiding the shale bands just below the summit. They look easy but there will be absolutely no pro (so I hear). Traverse left to avoid the shale. Master the cornice (small for us) to top out very close to the summit.
The descent is by either the West Ridge (non-technical but long) or East Ridge (harder but shorter). We went west.
Light rock rack plus a couple of ice screws and maybe other snow gear (pickets, etc). We also took crampons and two tools. One weight saving trick is to bring one 8mm 60m or 70m rope. We used it doubled on the crux rock pitches, but single on the upper snowfield.
|Comments on North Face - Chouinard/Beckey/Doody
Sep 14, 2011
Climbed it Aug. 26, 2011. Recommended strategy: day 1 climb up approach route (II 5.6 - see topo)and bivy on moraine next to glacier. Day 2 climb N. Face and take W. Ridge descent back to hostel. It's a long day so best bet is to plan to sleep at hostel. Day 3 walk back to car (2km)and continue up to bivy site to retrieve bivy gear. Rappel approach route.
Last half of August/early September is a nice time to do this route because the sun hits the N. Face at a low angle. We experienced almost no rockfall. Good route!