The Northwest Ridge route (II, 5.5) (Greenwood Boles-1961) runs over the summit of Mount Neptuak on its way to Mount Deltaform’s summit atop its triangular massive. You start the ascent at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta. Walter Wilcox named Mount Deltaform after the Greek letter “Delta” because he thought its north face resembled same. The Kaufmann brothers, guiding Herschel Parker, made the first ascent of Mount Deltaform in 1903. “Although we had been successful in conquering what is doubtless one of the most difficult mountains on the American continent, no word of mutual congratulation was spoken. Our position was far too serious to permit any feeling of exultation.” Parker wrote. Our party of four celebrated the summit about as much, realizing we were going to end up bivying somewhere high on the gendarme laden eastern ridge since we were committed to a traverse of the peak. The northwestern ridge up and over Mount Neptuak (the ridge we took on ascent and most common today) was not actually climbed until 1961 by Greenwood and Boles.
Park at the Moraine Lake Lodge (at the end of Moraine Lake Road from Lake Louise Village below Valley of the Ten Peaks). Follow the Larch Valley Trail which heads up to Sentinel Pass. At a marked trail junction, turn left following the Wenkchemna Pass trail to the pass itself. Turn left to start the climb of Mount Neptuak and Mount Deltaform via their northwest ridges.
Route DescriptionThis is a 5500’+/- accumulated elevation trip.
The broad amount of 4th and 5th class choss up the northwest ridge of Mount Neptuak and then Mount Deltaform varies in difficulty and exposure. My preferable method to climb such a loose ridge would have been solo. In fact the first climbers to climb this ridge in 1961 (Greenwood and Boles) did exactly that until the final summit headwall. Unfortunately one in our group did in fact require a rope for much of the travel and if pitching the cruxes on this ridge out (i.e. guiding the route), it will make for a slow ascent I can assure you.
Circumvent Neptuak’s headwall at the col to the right and follow broken ledges up and around until you are forced to climb up and back left to avoid a deep gully/void. Move back left just a few meters below the steep wall above and you will find an alcove that leads to one pitch of mid fifth class broken quartzite. I soloed this wall from left to right, making one exposed move at the end mantling up to just below the ridge proper.
Follow the ridge up Mount Neptuak, via mostly just scrambling, to its summit. We took two separate raps down to two different large flat plateaus at the col separating Mount Neptuak from Mount Deltaform. Many parties chose to bivy at the second such plateau, particularly if just climbing the northwest ridge and return.
At the base of Mount Deltaform’s main northwest ridge, walk along the right side to a short pitch of 4th class (maybe a small amount of 5th) climbing up another quartzite rich section of the wall to gain the main ridge. Scramble up the ridge to the final summit headwall. Either climb this headwall (160m) or circumvent it to the right and into a gully via a rightward traverse. I recommend you climb the headwall, but since we had a slow 2nd with us, we chose to seek other options and ended up climbing out of the gully to the right of the summit headwall.
This description involves the rightward option, circumventing the summit block headwall. After the traverse below the headwall, move up and cross the ice choked gully to the right. Climb easy 5th class rock here to just below a short steep section. We built a station with pitons and blades and then proceeded with a short mixed lead up and over the shattered rock on the right side of the gully and onto a short amount of ice above. This pitch took us to the top of another ridge where existing pins existed. This is a very loose and potentially dangerous pitch thus why I recommend the headwall.
Scramble up the ridge, but stop just short of the final technical section. Set up a gear belay here. Traverse the snow out left until you can climb up a decent 5th class chimney to a slung block just above the infamous notch before the summit.
Rap down to the base of the notch. The most exciting bit of climbing of the whole traverse was climbing the opposing wall. This short pitch consisted of old school 5.5 complete with ice rime, no gear, face climbing, left to right out of the notch. A leader fall here would be quite serious and is impossible to protect. You can go up the much steeper corner to the left, but the shattered rock does little in terms of giving you much more confidence about pro. Either option is quite exposed. Once up the 15m or so of steep climbing, the angle eases up to the summit proper. Belay directly from the summit of Mount Deltaform by slinging a block. Return with a 60m rope.
60m rope, alpine axe with hammer end, selection of pitons, a few cams, a few wires, cordelette for slinging blocks and replacing weathered tat, rain gear, down jacket, bivy sack if you are going to pitch it out, climbing boots with edges, helmet, harness, slings.
External Links100’s of Canadian Rockies multi-pitch rock climbs, ice climbs, alpine climbs and scrambles, just scroll down to routes
Banff National Park, Parks Canada
Best Eats in Canmore: Iron Goat, tons of organic/free range fare, my favorite is the game meat loaf. As good as prices as anywhere really and the staff is made up of a few aspiring climbers. The main man works his heart out making everything run smooth, not a given in Canmore. Best dining views (and sunny outdoor seating) in town bar none, from Mount Lougheed to Mount Rundle traverses, two of my trademark beta contributions near the town of Canmore. True best of the best mountain local dining experience.
Best Eats in Banff: The Bison, all organic/free range fare, with a detailed description of their suppliers. Recently expanded (2010), I recommend sticking with the downstairs. Better menu, prices and social ambience. Maybe retire to the bar upstairs for sunset or late night. Bison chili is amazing!
Best Coffee in Canmore: Beamers, the locals favorite, super wholesome lunch stuff, local guys, no attitude on service
Best Climbers Hangout: Summit Café, most likely place to find me or my brethren shooting the bull about beta. Best breakfast place in town, good coffee as well, serve Mennonite meats from Valbella, which is the best place to buy free range products anywhere in the world, right here in Canmore.
Climbing Gear: All way too expensive in the Bow Valley, but if you must, Mountain Magic in Banff is far superior to service and actual knowledge about climbing than the two in Canmore.