Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Mount Whymper (2845m) - Kootenay National Park     September 27, 2014

The only plans for this weekend in advance were to take a coworker hiking on whichever day she wanted. As the week progressed I settled on Sunday as the weather was nicer and that was the day she didn't have any plans for the evening after the hike. That left Saturday free. With everything snow free still I didn't want to waste it so I started to consider my options. Originally I really wanted to climb Mt Rae since I still really want to go back and conquer it (this is the only mountain I would use such a stupid expression for climbing it), ever since it tried to kill me when I slipped on a snow slope and self arrested in 2010. I also was looking at trip reports of Mist Mountain in case Saturday turned into a solo objective because Heath didn't want to go. Then on Friday before noon, another coworker from a different department emailed me. We had been in contact a lot because we had always planned on getting out together at some point. It turned out his original objective was out due to the increased chance of rain in the south, and he wanted to do Mount Whymper. Well I can't turn down an offer like that, so I quickly looked at, and printed out some information / trip reports on the mountain and agreed as long as our group could tolerate my general fear of heights. I need not have worried as we had a great group and my fear was unusually absent.

We set out under overcast skies for the mountains. On the road we found patches of sky through the cloud but it was uncertain whether the unsettled forecast of some clouds would hamper or stop our attempt. We parked at the Stanley Glacier parking lot and proceeded to walk up the road. There was an early cairn that pointed to a high trail above the road, then another one a few meters on that indicated the actual gully to ascent. There was a bit of worn down section that tended towards being a trail in the initial part of the gully but it was not always obvious. We ascended on this through mist without really seeing where we were going. We hoped (a lot) that the mist would rise at least a bit, so that route finding would be easier. If we were socked in the whole day we would have trouble picking the right gully farther up. 

Thankfully we were in luck. Within a hour or so of hiking we got above most of the cloud and were the witness of a great view across the valley with the cloud below us.

Mist in the morning did not give very far views. That can be both good (you can't see how very far you have to go) and bad (can't see where you are going and might make improper route decisions). Since it only lasted our approach it was good.

As we get above the cloud, looking back at Stanley Peak to the right.

Again, but with a view of our gully as well.

We continued up as the cloud continued to lift an dissipate. We were now a lot more optimistic about our chances of good weather.

You can see the next part of the ascent finally. We will go climber left on the first section as per one trip report stating it is not as steep. Then we will have to traverse left, in our case getting close to the last possible moment. This worked well though as before then there was a bit of a steep step that looked like it might not go. Traversing later made the scrambling easy.

Looking back again as the clouds dissipate in the valley.

About to go up climbers right.

Going up climbers right. The clouds had basically gone by this point. The step like terrain of small rock ledges was easy to ascend and quite fun as well. The rubble on the steps was not a problem on this mountain.

About to traverse to the left into the narrow part of the gully. Again step like terrain, whether covered in rubble or not, was easy to negotiate and quite fun. In this narrow section it got a bit steeper, but it was also more solid and had less rubble.

Looking up the narrow part of the gully.

This section was less rubbly and was very fun. Really in general this was quite the fun scramble. I must be getting better at scrambling and getting over my fear of heights more finally. Plus this was just a good one in general, there were a lot of solid holds.

Looking up from above the narrow part of the gully. After this wide open area there are several gullies to chose from higher up. Some are technical on climbers left, and some on climbers right do not take you in the correct direction, as after this section you need to get onto the ridge or you'll end up on too steep, too loose of terrain. The ridge you need to get onto is to the left. We went up the gully that another trip report mentioned directly ahead, in the center of this photo. It is distinguished by the large cubic block on its climbers right hand side. We had originally gone one more to the left in the hopes of finding Spirko's chimney based on a description on a clubtread post, but where we were was definitely not it.

Looking back down as the others come up the narrower section.

Looking back down from further on.

Looking up again from a bit farther on. This section is rubble and steps with a few larger steps that require some fun scrambling. Originally we went up a bit more climbers left and found some harder terrain. On the way down we stuck more to the center of this photo and it was easier.

Looking over at the various gullies from below the technical one we thought was Spirko's. As we were wrong we traversed over to the next one to climbers right. You can see it here with its large cubic block on the corner.

Looking back down.

Almost at the large cubic block gully. In my opinion the small ledge traverse to get into this gully proper is not as bad as others claim. It goes climbers left to right so our coming from this side helped us find it easily from the bottom. Yes it is a small ledge, and yes the ledge is strewn with rubble, but there are decent handholds so it doesn't feel that sketchy. This way worked very well for us, and I would guess it could possibly be the correct way that Kane went up. It is very hard to tell from his description though and other people are sure to disagree with me. The slope before the ledge traverse is very loose scree and is a bit steep, so that does add to what could feel like the sketch of the traverse. But again we didn't feel it was a problem. In fact on the way up I was worried that we hadn't done that bit yet and it would be farther on. It was only on the descent when we had to look down it more that I realized this was indeed the same section.

 After the bit of a traverse looking down at the large cubic block.

Heath considering his options. The rest of the ascent was easy on rubbly step terrain again. We tended left and hit the ridge where it has a wide flat section. Above a bit of a step, that could be avoided on the far side of the ridge, we could see the rest of the route to the summit. The ridge is easy and there was even a bit of a trail through most of it. There are a few cairns where we gained the ridge although it was mostly obvious where we had to come back to.

The ridge. The summit cairn was on the far side from our ridge, although the part in the center that we hiked over to get to it looked higher to Heath and I.

Summit looking northeast towards Castle Mountain.

Summit looking down at the ascent route.

Summit looking northwest into the upper part of Chickadee Valley.

 Summit looking southeast at Stanley Peak. Too bad we can't see Mount Ball. Its hidden in the clouds.

Summit looking south. Mount Vermilion is left of center and next to the left is Mount Haffner. That mountain we ascended on snowshoes this last late winter/spring. Behind the col between them is Numa Mountain from last weekend.

Summit looking northwest.

Starting back down the ridge. Since bushwacking and sidehilling both sounded terrible and the ascent hadn't given us any real problems, we all decided it was best to descend the same way we had gone up rather than the alternative down scree in the south bowl.

Off the ridge looking down the gully.

Heath on the last part of the ledge traverse to get out of the top gully and into the wider area.

Looking back up from a bit of the ways down. All small steps like this had an easy way down even if you had to go a bit right or left to find it. We never had to do any major traversing from our center line to find the easiest way down.

Going back down the narrow part.

Looking back up as we start to trend a bit skiers left to get back into our originally side of the first gully.

Mount Whymper as we descend the approach gully. The clouds have lifted. The summit is to the right.

Looking back from very near the road.

I was very pleased at my lack of fear on this ascent. I must be getting better at scrambling finally. It was also a really fun scramble and I highly recommend it.

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