Tom Livingstone and Uisdean Hawthorn report on their recent trip to Canada.
Basing ourselves in Canmore and Banff, we made several forays into the mountains. We were thwarted by poor conditions due to warm temperatures interspersed with heavy dumps of snowfall. To our knowledge there has been very little alpine activity this winter season thus far, with only one other team attempting alpine objectives.
The Rockies are notorious for poor-quality rock (predominately limestone), bears and wilderness. The scale of the mountains and prairies of Canada is absolutely vast, and should be viewed on Google Earth for full effect. However, the ‘relatively low’ altitude mountains do provide fantastic alpine objectives and aesthetic, impressive faces when in good condition.
After an attempt at the Grand Central Couloir on Mt. Kitchener (warm temperatures and slush avalanches caused a retreat) we climbed the Greenwood/Jones route on Mt. Temple. This rock-based route was, at times, well-covered with snow and ice, but we managed to make a free ascent in a day. The ‘dried weetabix’ style of climbing took some getting used to, and was occasionally worse than the climbing on the Lleyn Peninsula!
We then attempted The Andromeda Strain on Mt. Andromeda (a classic ice and mixed route which is climbed approximately once a year - that’s very impressive for the Rockies) but spindrift avalanches and virtually no ice forced a retreat.
Next, we made two attempts on Mt. Alberta’s North Face - firstly by looking at the Walsh/Brazeau route (covered in snow and therefore not rock shoe ‘connies’). We returned to the valley and worked ourselves into a frenzy of psyche, determined to give Mt. Alberta our best shot.
Unfortunately a good forecast deteriorated and we returned to the North Face after another dump of snow, covering bare, iceless rock in powder. Nonetheless, we crossed the ‘schrund the next morning and waded up the impressive ice field. Poor conditions forced us to retreat after spending several hours leading in the upper headwall. A ‘necky’ descent on the east face followed, and then a long walk back to the road. Although bitterly disappointed, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Canada and are keen for more.
Tom is sponsored by Jöttnar
Uisdean would like to thank Mountain Equipment for their support.
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