10h52 round-trip via the Athabasca Glacier and east face, by far the longest ski I have ever done. Perfect day until the final afternoon slog down the Athabasca. Trip report.
From camp near Snowdome, skied/climbed standard East Face route with Martin Siddles and Ian Hunt. Bluebird, until a cloud formed at 11,500, giving us cloud on our summit, but otherwise bright, clear, and cold.
4:00 Woke up
4:30 Left Calgary
8:10 Left the car, choosing to navigate the well bridged crevasses than take our chances with the seracs falling from Snow Dome
10:30 Above the Athabasca headwall. 600m elevation gained from the car
11:30 Climbed another 200m around Snow Dome, stopped for lunch
12:00 For some unexplained reason decended 220 to the base of Castleguard at the head of the Saskatchewan Glacier. I'm not sure whether we actually thought we were walking towards Columbia or not...ohwell, there was no wind.
13:00 Walked for about an hour towards the real Columbia. The forcast East wind started to pick up (12km/hr), which was just enough to pull the kites out for the downwind, and uphill run.
13:30 Looked down into the trench, had a good strong wind by now (30 km/h), made a few runs across the top looking for a wide path down through the crevasses
13:48 At the bottom of the trench looking up
13:52 On top of the trench 150m higher looking down. Ascent rate over 30m/min! I love kites!
15:22 Packing the kites up, and burying our camping gear at the base of Columbia
16:00 Start skinning up Columbia 4.6m/min avg for 140m
16:34 Start walking up Columbia 4.4m/min avg for 260m
17:33 Turned around at 3670m. 80m shy of the summit. What was a relatively small convetive storm was enveloping the mountain. Plates of snow and rock were being whipped up the mountain, and snow was starting to fall. We hastily retreated.
18:48 Back at our camping gear with near whiteout, we thought we might as well decend a little lower before digging a cave. The further we went the better the visibility got. Soon we pulled out the kites again, this time travelling directly into the wind (40km/h). We flew back through the trench, climbed the laybrinthian east face of the trench with the wind blowing across/down the face but still managed to fly up at >9m/min ascent rate!
20:15 Spent about 15 minutes hanging out with some good folks from Kamloops who graciously shared some water with us. While gas is lighter than water, if you never stop to make camp it doesn't do you much good!
20:30 Skiied back down off Snow Dome & the Athabasca glacier. Ski quality was excellent with 3-4 inches of dense powder ontop of a solid crust. My legs were almost too tired at this point to enjoy the great skiing, but it still brought smiles & laughs. The snow on the lower Athabasca was a mix of frozen & wet
21:30 Back at the car, very thankful we'd left ~4 litres of water for our return!
1:30 In bed, back in Calgary. mmm so much better than a snow cave