With crystal clear skies and no wind we had a glorious ascent of the South-West Face of Mount Fryatt (3361m (11,027ft.)) on Sunday August 26, 2012. Our team of 3 (V. Dewit, E. Coulthard, K. Barton) was expanded to four around 3200 metres (10,500 feet) by Summitpost’er, Ferenc Jacso.
Long drive up
Saturday August 25, 2012 (6am to 11am)
For some reason I thought we could drive from Calgary to the Athabasca Falls trail head (30 km south of the town of Jasper) in 3 hours. Vern was gracious enough to pick me up at 6am. Well it took more like 4.5 hours to drive the 420 km (260 miles) from my place to the parking lot. Poor Eric had driven in from Edmonton the night before and was eagerly waiting for us to arrive, as I told Eric we would be there at 9am. After eating some crow, we started our charge up the Geraldine Lake trail at 11am sharp. The trail head for Geraldine Lakes is accessed off a rough gravel road that originates about 1.0 km in from the southern end of Highway 93A, at the Athabasca Fall turnoff. Travel this rough gravel road for 6 km to the well signed trail head.
Beautiful, scenic, awe inspiring approach to idyllic lakeside bivy site
Saturday August 25, 2012 (11am to 6pm)
After researching different approaches and route descriptions, we decided that the Geraldine Lakes approach was the best choice for us. We decided that we would bivy at an alpine tarn (GR376218) just below the South-West Face, putting us in a great position to easily access Mt. Fryatt. Overall the lower sections of the Geraldine Lakes trail are very muddy and the upper sections have long stretches of boulder hopping. Despite these inconveniences, the trail is easy to follow, has a moderate grade, provides glorious scenery throughout and provides direct access to the base of the West Ridge of Fryatt.
The first Geraldine Lake is only about 2 km from trail head. The hike through forest is a bit of dry and wide trail, mixed with rooty wet bogs. Great views start to open up at the end of the lake. Eric on the shore of the first lake (l) boulder field above the first lake (r) .
The second lake is only really a small pond, boulder fields above first lake lead to section where avalanche debris make the trail hard to find. Great view of a nice waterfall originating from the third lake (l). There is a steep grunt up to the third lake, great views back (r).
The third lake is the largest and quite scenic, the northern end provides a long section of boulder hoping (l). Passage to the fourth lake is made difficult by fallen trees and overgrown sections, all manageable. Once at the fifth lake you are near tree line and travel improves with lots of late blooming meadow flowers and views of the North Face of Mt. Fryatt (r).
Once at tree line head towards the base of the West Ridge of Fryatt (GR 360230) (l). Round the edge of the ridge and head South East towards visible glacier. Great views to some large alpine lakes to the south (r).
Two large waterfalls (l) on the left originate from the scenic tarn at GR376218, best to head up to snow slopes near glacier to get easy access to the south end of the tarn. Once above this headwall you get a great view of the South-West Face of Mt. Fryatt (r).
Saturday August 25, 2012 (6pm) to Sunday August 26, 2012 (5am)
On the north shore of the tarn, above two tall waterfalls, we rearranged some rocks to provide a very comfortable bivy campsite. Our location allowed maximum solar exposure to enjoy the heat of the late summer sun and provided a dramatic sunset silhouette of the horizon peaks.
Our scenic and comfy bivy site (l) with a beautiful sunset view (r).
The Climb (yeah baby)
Sunday August 26, 2012 (5am to 4pm)
The night before our ascent we decided to head to the low point of the col south of Fryatt, the slope was mostly a scree hike with a scramble to the reach the col, all easy to ascend by headlamp. We planned to reach the more complicated terrain of the South-West face at sunrise to maximum cool temperatures and minimize rock fall exposure on this big and loose face; worked out perfectly. We were up just after 4am, quick pack and stash of food and we were scree bashing right at 5am.
View of the South-West Face of Mt. Fryatt from bivy the night before, approximate line of ascent shown (l). Beautiful sunrise colours, North Face of Mt. Clemenceau from lower SW face (r).
Typical terrain on the lower face, Vern heading to the cairn (l). Eric, south col behind (r).
The ice/snow gully we traversed (l). The boys crossing the rock hard ice tongue (r).
The next section was more moderate scrambling, easy 4 class, then we decided to try a long snow slope to quickly gain elevation. The snow was mostly water ice with a skiff of fresh snow, but easy travel with crampons. Looking up the last section of the snow slope (l). At the top of the snow slope, about 80 metres vertical below the summit ridge (r).
Nearing the top of the ice/snow we had a surprise, a solo climber caught up to us (Ferenc Jacso). FJ got the green light from his wife later than the rest of us and decided to catch up to us, crazy guy (l). Above the snow slope we had about 30 metres of moderate 4 class climbing, poking around we found a nice looking 5.4 face climb. Eric snooping for a route (r).
I believe we ascended the final cliff band more right (east) than drawn in Bill Corbett’s and Sean Dougherty’s guide; I think we were just climber’s right (east) of the 5.7 chimney that has a chockstone at the top. Worked out great, I lead a fun 30 metre pitch of 5.4 with great pro on solid holds to a set of two rappel anchors (slings around boulders). A short scramble of 10 to 15 metres, then another short pitch of 5.3/5.1 (easily lead by Ferenc) to another rappel anchor (slings around boulder). All rock on this band was bone dry and quite solid. OSWB leading 5.4 face (l). Ferenc starting up 5.3 section, pitch eased to 5.1 for the top half (r).
Above the two short roped pitches, easy to moderate scrambling along the summit ridge leads to the top (l). Fun scrambling on summit ridge (r).
We reached the summit of Mt. Fryatt about 11:30am, 6.5 hours from our bivy camp. We spent a wonderful windless and warm 30 minutes on top and left at noon. OSWB on the summit (l). The boys getting ready to descend (r).
Old summit register holder, copper tubing (l). Register left by famous Canadian Rockies guide, Hans Gmoser in 1960 (r).
View to the north, Mt. Robson in the centre on horizon, Mt. Geikie to left (l). View to the south, Mt. Clemenceau to right (r).
After descending the summit ridge, we did three raps on the descent, all from boulders slung with cord/slings. Vern on second rap (l). View up the snow/ice snow slope we ascended on the way up, on descent we scramble down fourth class rock to avoid rock fall potential (r).
Past all the complexities and on easy hike back to south col (l). Nearing col, SW face behind (r).
Long, boring, pain in the butt hike out
Sunday August 26, 2012 (5pm to 11pm)
From the summit to our bivy camp took just under 4 hours. We spent one hour repacking and have a light early dinner, we left bivy at 5pm.
Last snacks before we hit the trail (l). Leaving our idyllic lakeside bivy site (r).
Our last view of the SW face, our bivy site was above the waterfalls (l). North-West Face of Mt. Fryatt seen from the fourth Geraldine Lake (r).
Long drive home
Sunday August 26 (11pm) to Monday August 27, 2012 (4am)
Now knowing we couldn’t drive from the trail head to Calgary in 3 hours, we were prepared for the worst. We pulled out of the parking lot around 11:15pm (6 hours from bivy location, in total our trip was 36 hours car to car). Vern was strong as I had the odd spontaneous nap, but about 1.5 hours into the drive Vern took a 10 minute nap, then back at ‘er. Another short nap between Lake Louise and Banff, then straight to the 24 hour McDonald’s drive through in Canmore. Apparently the drive through guy needed to “reset the system” and there was no food service for about 30 minutes, WTF? What system is being reset? We got food and drinks at a 24 hours convenience store and were home at 4am. Big kudos to Vern for the tough drive.