Lewis Crack and last technical pitch
Brussels Peak is a 6400’+/- ascent. The approach to Brussels Campground in the Fryatt Valley is 18k by bike and hike or 11k by canoe and hike.
Either way it is a 3-5 hour approach. The Athabasca River flows fast and furious in the summer months by means of glacier melt that fills its banks to capacity. One would have to be an accomplished whitewater aficionado to ferry the gear over via canoe. My partner and I were accustomed to whitewater enough to perform this maneuver, but that also meant a longer hike versus bike if we did it that way. He was also quite the serious mountain biker so we rented a BOB trailer and biked in. I believe if you have an accomplished biker in your party, this is the best approach.
From the Geraldine Fire road trail head for Fryatt Valley, proceed 11+ kilometers to the Lower Fryatt campground. You will have to cross several log bridges and with a BOB trailer no doubt have to get off your bike a time or two on the steeper terrain as well as the creek crossings. Still it is better than hauling your gear on your back. Park the bikes at the Lower Fryatt campground.
The traverse back to the ridge on descent to that last rappel station that we put in (2006)
Cross the bridge and ascend the Fryatt Valley Trail for 7 kilometers to the Brussels campground. These 18 kilometers from the trailhead cover about 1500’+/- in elevation gain. My advice is to continue up the major drainage that descends from the Mount Christie-Brussels Peak col directly across from the Brussels campground and camp at two tarns at the top of the tree line and below the massive headwall protecting Brussels Peak’s western flank.
Due to the volatility of Fryatt Creek area weather and little if any protection offered from storms on the North East ridge of Brussels Peak, it is best to gain an early start.
The Fryatt Creek crossing is really a full on river crossing during the summer months.
It runs hard and fast fed by several glaciers up valley. There are several crossing options. The further you head south the narrower the creek bed, so it is best to attempt a crossing either directly across from the Brussels campground or slightly north of it. Pick an area after a braid or two which will allow for smaller volume. Be familiar with the buddy whitewater technique of crossing whitewater. Once to the other side, bushwhack through thick brush back south along the bank until you reach the main drainage coming down from Brussels and Christie.
Ascend this drainage up the left bank. This is an objectionable approach. An animal trail will show up here or there, but for the most part you are on your own. You will gain well over 1000’ and break out onto marshy ground that forms around a huge pile of left over glacial debris (large rocks and old moraine) that originates the drainage. Move left through mosquito infested terrain and use the large scree slopes to the right as an opportunity to move out of the trees, but stay low, do not ascend any moraine you do not have to. Continue up to below the soaring headwall below Brussels Peak and Mount Lowell
. Here you will find two tarns as you turn northeast to catch a fold in the headwall below Mount Christie and Brussels Peak. You do not need to load up with water here as the scramble up the headwall is adjacent to a waterfall.
Continue northeast until you take a right turn around a large red rock and ramp up to the base of solid rock scrambling that is well over 1000’ below the col. This scramble section is full of about 5 rappel stations to climbers left of the drainage (waterfall).
We did not rope up for this section, but some parties might find it more comfortable. The crux section is within the first hundred meters. After that it becomes easier. You eventually top out of this steep solid rock onto a huge scree ledge with another impenetrable headwall above it. Move left across snow or scree slopes towards Mount Christie. Again, you will find a gully or two that ramp back right to ascend this section. Once you top out here, you simply hike over to the col right below the start of the north east ridge of Brussels Peak.
Again, for the umpteenth time, I have a problem with Sean Dougherty’s Selected Alpine Climbs guide book. I have a dozen guide books in my office and this is the only one which consistently gets me in trouble. Locals have named it the “Book of Lies”. I tire of defending it and will no more. The ironic twist is that we had my partner’s grandfather’s notes with us back at camp, and in retrospect, I would have much rather followed his first ascent notes than what one would think would be more accurate (modern) notes in the guide book. The main problem with his description on this climb is the circumvention of Brussels Peak to the east. What he fails to mention, but Ray Garner definitely mentioned, is that there is a substantial glacier hugging the eastern flank of Brussels Peak.
I happened to be in trail runners I used for the approach. Not to mention that this glacier forms a formidable moat around the eastern portion of Brussels. Needless to say we followed the guidebook’s advice and ended up having to jump the moat once we circumvented way more of the eastern walls then we needed to. We then had to climb a full pitch to get to the upper nasty “scree on slab” slopes above and traverse back north to the base of the ridge. My partner was not used to this type of scrambling and this section cost us huge in terms of time. In my opinion, you should attack the ridge direct.
Start climbing from the col. There is no fixed protection except for belay stations (which of course the guide book gives no mention despite the fact they have been there a long time). The climbing is cleaner and it is a much more aesthetic approach. If you want to avoid the tougher climbing here, barely move over the glacier to the east and immediately jump the moat to gain nasty loose ledges that wander up to the ridge higher up. In any regard you will have some short sections to climb following my advice before you reach the start of the real climb.
Eventually you will make it to the base of the solid ridge (no more scree ledges to break up the terrain).
The first pitch follows a chimney to the left up easy but loose rock which leads to a short steep section of really good rock.
Enjoy this nice 5.7 climbing on solid rock as most of this climb is loose. There will be a rap station at the base of this pitch that takes off the east side of the ridge on descent.
Scramble along the western side of the ridge until you find decent rock again. Rope up for a short pitch to the base of one of two roof options. This is easy climbing.
The first and most clear roof is a black piece to the left that follows the ridge true. This pitch can be well protected and is much more aesthetic climbing than the other option, but also probably more in the 5.8 range of climbing.
To get to the other roof, move right and follow an easy ramp of solid rock to turn a roof to its right, but on loose holds. Again, you have plenty of opportunity to protect this pitch as well. Either roof will get you to the base of a short ramp where you can build a station.
I placed no gear on this pitch and it might be combined with pitch 4 via good rope management. Climb easy ground to the base of the Lewis Crack, the crux of the climb.
Ascend the Lewis Crack and scramble to the first of four summits on Brussels Peak. The second pinnacle is taken direct, the third to the right and the four direct for the summit.
DescentRap the ridge complete.
We found existing stations for rapping the ridge with one 60 meter rope with the last rappel being the exception. I believe most parties descended to the east at this point, but the loose scree leading down to the moat and glacier below did not look very inviting. We descended partially down the east side and then traversed (photo) a loose ledge back to the ridge and fixed cordellete and a biner (2006) onto a bomber boulder at the top of the last rappel that takes you back to the col.
While descending the lower headwall below you will find approximately 4-5 rappel stations straddling the drainage to skiers right. The only one we utilized was the last one which was an ascent pitch we remembered well as being the toughest climbing on that section.
Aim back for the red rock and return to the river where the crossing will be even more eventful than it was in the morning hours due to summer day glacier melt.
Metolius Cams 00-9 were used. Used mostly smaller curved nuts. Will definitely want 3-4 longer slings.
8-10 draws total should be adequate. Helmet, harness; climbing shoes are nice for the crux spots. Plenty of cordellete to reinforce the rappel stations, this route is rarely climbed. Bear spray and mosquito repellent are not bad to have around.
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