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Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

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Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby seano » Mon Apr 07, 2014 9:56 pm

I'm looking to spend some solo (<= 5.6, relatively safe glacier travel) time in the Canadian Rockies this summer, and am looking for information on both routes and logistics, e.g. park fees and cheap/free camping. I have already found a lot of good information on Dow's pages here. Would Dougherty's "Selected Alpine Climbs" be more complete, or would another book be more appropriate?

Also, any info on the year's snowpack would be appreciated. Judging by Snotel sites in Wyoming and Montana, this season is much wetter than the past two years. Are things the same farther north?

Thanks.
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby Bob Burd » Wed Apr 09, 2014 1:55 am

Disclaimer - I haven't done any scrambling in Canada, eh.
But when I was touring through the area 22 years ago I saw an earlier edition of Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies in one of the shops that looked awesome. Got me to start scrambling in the Sierra as soon as I got back.
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby Bill Kerr » Wed Apr 09, 2014 5:50 am

The selected climbs is out of date so Dow's pages have better info. There are not many alpine climbs that are recommended as solo efforts to people unfamiliar with the rockies. The scrambles book is probably best for solo efforts and general logistics.http://www.rmbooks.com/display_subcategory.php?subcat_id=116&cat_id=46
Snow pack is average amount but very bad avalanche hazard this year which may linger into early summer depending on weather during spring. Most of the higher peaks (11,000+) will have snow and small time window to climb. Best to avoid steep snow or glaciers if solo.
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby seano » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:14 am

Bill Kerr wrote:There are not many alpine climbs that are recommended as solo efforts to people unfamiliar with the rockies.

Please afford me at least some ability to assess and accept my own risks. I've spent some time in the US Rockies from NM to MT, as well as the Sierra and Cascades, but if the Canadian Rockies present their own special hazards, I'd like to learn.
Bill Kerr wrote:Snow pack is average amount but very bad avalanche hazard this year which may linger into early summer depending on weather during spring.

Thanks. I'll try to keep an eye on whatever Canadian avalanche sites I find.
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby Bill Kerr » Sun Apr 13, 2014 7:17 am

No offense intended as I would say the same to anyone. The Canadian Rockies do have some different aspects to the usual risks. Snow conditions can vary wildly on an hourly basis as the higher snow may not set up like the Cascades due to cooler summers. The higher peaks like Robson may only have 3 or 4 short windows of "safer" conditions in a season or none at all. It is difficult to get good conditions from bottom to top and back down and timing is everything.
Solo glacier travel is never recommended.
The alpine rock routes may not dry off until August if at all and thunder storms are a risk. Rock quality is not great on most routes.
A big area with an incredible amount to do so have fun but be safe.

Note the avalanche site stops reporting in the spring (about now).
Best to get on the guides MCR report (Mountain Conditions Report)email list and follow along with what is being done and the hazards they encounter.
See http://acmg.ca/mcr/
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby seano » Sat Apr 19, 2014 9:22 pm

Thanks -- subscribed to MCR. Solo glacier travel is just one of those risks you have to decide whether or not to accept. The Rockies thunderstorms are one reason I prefer the Sierra.
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby asmrz » Sat Apr 19, 2014 10:22 pm

Hi Seano

I have been reading this post for a few days thinking, should I respond? I'm not based in the Rockies so I thought there must be some people on SP who could recommend a few climbs. But so far nothing.

So here are few of my selections.

BTW, I know a little bit about your capabilities.

My last time in the Rockies was in 1997 so these might not be today's most favorite climbs, but they were good outings for me back then.

North Ridge of Assiniboine II, 5.5

Mt Table South or SE Ridge II 5.4 or 5.5

Traverse of Mt. Lougheed III+ 5.5

The Finger-Board Route II, 5.5

Peak 3,155 (Abbott Pass) East Ridge, II, 5.5

The Traverse of the Ten Peaks III+, 5.5

Mt Geraldine N. Ridge 5.5

Bennington Peak E.Ridge III, 5.4

Mt Erebus N.Ridge III, 5.6

Mt Edith Cavell East Ridge (do that one for sure) III. 5.3

I would (in general) always bring crampons and a good ice axe, also gear and rope for a rap or two.

Have a wonderful time in the Rockies.

Cheers, Alois Smrz.
Last edited by asmrz on Mon Apr 21, 2014 5:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby seano » Sun Apr 20, 2014 1:18 am

Alois,

Thanks! Assiniboine and Edith Cavell were on my list, but the rest are new to me. Based on the grades, you have a pretty good idea what I'm looking for. I hope bears, storms, and choss cooperate.

Sean
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby Old School WB » Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:15 pm

Sean

I was going to offer some ideas, but I see Alois provided a great list of climbs; he must have had a great summer in 1997. Dougherty's book is still the best for covering the highlights and the full range from K-Country to Jasper. The age of the book only really dates things like parking, trails and permits, but most of the approach information and route description is unchanged.

Dougherty's book is fairly vague for many of the described approaches and some of the climbs. I think that is why there is a lot of criticism of this book; it doesn’t take a climber by the hand and tell him/her where to walk and climb and exactly what gear sizes to place on each pitch. The number of routes and the shear extent of the book make that impossible. Personally, I like only knowing where to park and maybe the grade of the route; makes it an adventure.

In terms of permits; for climbing, none required (in the Rockies). Camping, generally, in any Provincial or National Park there are restrictions and conditions. More restrictive, even more limitations in the busiest areas, within National Parks. Any backcountry or frontcountry (road accessed) campground requires payment and most can get really busy with good weather.

Backcountry bivies without a permit are easy to pull off, but if using a busy trail to approach, good chance you can get busted by park officials. Frontcountry roadside naps are usually easy to sneak in the quiet areas of the parks, but tough to do in any busy park area like Banff or Jasper townsites or near Lake Louise or Field, B.C. In my experience the National Park staff are good to deal with when getting a “wilderness pass”. In the Rockies Mountain National Parks, a backcountry use permit (wilderness pass) is required for any overnight stay and climbers are permitted to bivouac on long routes or otherwise where necessary to safely complete a climb. Some restrictions apply; mostly prohibiting the most popular peaks (Edith Cavell, Temple, Athabasca).

If climbing south of Banff in Kananaskis Country, generally you must camp in a backcountry campground and pay in advance; similar caveat, good weather, these backcountry sites get busy. In the spring of 2013 the mountains in southern Banff and Kananaskis Country were ravaged by floods, many of the trails are still a mess and some missing bridges. Less of an issue north of Banff townsite.

In terms of snow depth in the winter of 2013/2014, generally slightly more than an average snow pack, but very unstable and unpredictable. Lots of very cold, then very warm, with several big dumps. These bad layers will linger until it all melts. Some years we get a hot July (50/50 chance) and all major snow is gone by August 1. Some years we get snow year round and get slab avalanches all summer long. Who knows. Generally by early/mid August the small glaciers (approach to Hind Hut or Neil Colgan Hut), are snow free and solo travel is easy, big icefields like the Columbia are always snow covered and very scary; not a great place to solo.

Thunderstorms are hit and miss, cooler summer means more snow lingering, but a lot less thunderstorms. July definitely has most, fewer in August and basically none in September. Some years September can be the best time to climb in the Rockies; often drier than August, cooler temps for snow freezes, no bugs, less tourists and fewer park ranger trail patrols ;-)

If climbing Assiniboine (recommended) approach via the BC side, no permits and good access on logging roads, see my Lunette Peak page for some good beta. Edith Cavell east ridge route is a scramble for any well seasoned alpinist, a descent of the east route saves a long walk out.
Bill’s link to the MCR page is great, best source for alpine conditions in the summer months!
A few choice routes I have climbed over the years and would recommend (in Dougherty's guide);


Mt. Louis – Kain Route 5.6 (no glacier); rappel descent
Castle Mtn. – Brewers Buttress 5.6 (no glacier); rappel descent
Castle Mtn. - Eisenhower Tower 5.4 (no glacier); rappel descent
Tower of Babel – McKay Route 5.7 (no glacier); walk off
Mt. Deltaform – NW Ridge 5.5 (no glacier); rappel descent (big ass alpine, Dow has an awesome description)
Mt. Fay – West Ridge 5.3 (lots of glacier); walk off
Mt. Colin - South-West Face Direct 5.7 (no glacier); walk off


Have only climbed Mt. Fryatt and Edith Cavell, not actually on the Ramparts, so I cannot provide first hand experience, but there are a pile of rock routes, reportedly on great rock, in the Tonquin Valley.

Dungeon Peak – 5.7 East Face
Oubliette Peak – 5.7 East Ridge

Since I now have two little boys and a pile of recent sport injuries, I am not getting out much, but I am happy to chat, send me a PM if you like.


Cheers
Kevin Barton
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seano

Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby asmrz » Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:35 pm

Kevin, just to clarify, that 1997 trip was my last of 6 summer trips to the Canadian Rockies. I spent about half a year there hiding from the liquid sunshine and a few days scrambling and climbing. First trip 1984 and last one in 97.

One of these days, when I finally solve the "climber Van" or small RV problem, Penelope and I will go for three months, I promise..I love the place!
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby Old School WB » Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:56 pm

Alois

Sorry bro, didn't mean to call you out. Just a nice list of routes and climbs :-)

I long to visit the High Sierra. I have only bouldered in Joshua Tree and have done no alpine in California. The awesome granite walls and huge elevation gains are incredible, maybe one day we could house swap?

Cheers
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby asmrz » Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:15 pm

Now Kevin, that is not a bad idea. I'm a bit far from the Sierra (4 hours to Lone Pine), but the deck overlooks Tahquitz Rock, Suicide is next door, J Tree 1.5 hour away.

We are leaving Saturday for 3 months climbing and hiking in Scotland and England, so not this summer, but when we get back in late August, either you drop me a line or I will. Not a bad idea at all...
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby seano » Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:20 pm

Thanks again for the beta! I finally made it up here, and have had a couple pretty good days on Assiniboine and Sir Donald -- particularly the latter. A man I met on Sir Donald mentioned that Farnham and Farnham Tower in the Purcells would be another good outing, but I haven't found any beta online. From my map, it looks like you can follow a trail up McDonald Creek (from a road along Horsethief Creek) to almost 1900m, then go at Farnham Tower's NE ridge from there. Anyone have any experience in the area?
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Re: Canadian Rockies beta/guidebook, 2014 snowpack

Postby Old School WB » Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:37 am

Seano

Glad you had a good trip! Been a great summer so far in the Rockies.

I have climbed Jumbo Mountain and Commander Mountain, just across Farnham Creek from Mt. Farnham, in 2010. After seeing Farnham it is on my Must Do List. I climb and ski with a strong athlete who grew up in Invermere, the local big town. He is a ski guide and knows many of the local guides. TJ has verbal beta on the Tower routes, there is a newer 5.8 trad route put up within the last few years. Good beta on Mt. Farnham on Bivouac.com, but a paid membership is required. http://bivouac.com/

http://www.summitpost.org/mt-farnham-and-farnham-tower/743851/c-743685

http://www.summitpost.org/farnham-tower/743852

I did an attempt on Mt. Delphine, next to Farnham, summer of 2012, but the McDonald Creek forest service road was washed out so we bailed as we were day tripping and it was getting late. See my links above for great photos of Farnham from McDonald Creek, taken in 2010. I will likely attempt both the main summit and tower within the next few years; if you are planning another trip up north, let me know and maybe we can attempt these together.

Cheers
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