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Avery

climber
NZ
Dec 5, 2014 - 05:30pm PT
Mt. Alberta, Anderson-House. (VI WI5+ M8 R/X)

At 4:30 a.m. on March 26, 2008, in bitter cold, Steve House and I left the Lloyd McKay hut and approached the ridge leading to the rappel station down to the north face of Mt. Alberta. A harsh breeze made it was hard to fully appreciate the beauty of the aurora display on the northern horizon, dazzling and ominous at the same time. After rappelling onto the northern slopes, my losing and then finding one of my ice tools, sometime between 9 and 9:30 we arrived at the base of the north face, roped up, and started the real climbing.
We climbed what we may be the common approach pitches, probably M5, though pho­tos in the guidebook seem to put the normal start farther right, and where we went did not feel that “climbed.” Anyway, we reached the base of the ice (snow) field in three pitches. We put the ropes away and soloed the incredibly steep (for snow climbing) face, passing the occasional bare ice patch. Near the Yellow Band, the snow yielded to the typical steely, hard, gray ice you’d expect there. We got the ropes out again and did three easy but scrappy mixed pitches through the Yellow Band to the base of the steep, rock headwall. The weather deteriorated, and it start­ed to snow and cloud over. We considered bailing to the Northeast Ridge, but continued convincing ourselves that retreat would still be feasible from a short ways higher. We could see the start of the Gladden-Lowe route nearby, but found a crack system 60m right that looked like better climbing in these winter conditions. Two long, difficult pitches (M7 and M8R/X) of high-quality dry-tooling led up and left to intersect the G-L above its third pitch, in the snowy alcove described for that climb. Here the G-L angles up and right onto a buttress, but we found a steep, narrow ice pillar above. It was now about dark, probably 9 p.m., and we hoped to find a decent bivouac spot above the obvious ice. After an exhausting bout with this pitch (cold, black ice) and one more short pitch through snow mushroom s, we found a bivy spot between mushroom s that was somewhat protected from the now-frequent spindrift ava­lanches. We fixed 30' of the next pitch, and by 1 a.m. we were finally settled in and ready to try to sleep. The night was cold, but tolerable. Our down sleeping bags had gotten a little wet, but we hoped to avoid another night on the mountain.We woke after 6 a.m. and slowly made our way out of our wet cocoons and back onto the climb. Steve had done the bulk of the hard leading the previous day, so I took the sharp end and started up a small ice corner to the end of the water ice. A small ledge system then tra­versed right, towards the G-L and the summit ice slopes. Deep snow covered the airy traverse, which required belly crawling and precarious tip-toeing to reach a niche with more moderate ground above. By now, most of our gloves were frozen hard and semi-useless from constant immersion in the snow, making it quite diffi­cult to manipulate the gear. Another few pitches of good mixed climbing up flakes, corners, and slabs covered in thin neve (M7 and M6) brought us back to the G-L exit pitch. A short bit of moderate mixed terrain put us onto the upper slopes, from where we continued straight up on slabby mixed, because we thought the exit traverse onto the ice seemed convoluted. The ground we climbed, however, would probably be less attractive in summer conditions. A 150m pitch put us onto the summit ridge and gave us our first glimpse of the sun in two days. At 5:45 p.m. we stopped briefly on top before heading down the corniced south ridge toward the Japanese Route. Unsure of where to descend the east face, we guessed the wrong gully and spent a truly miserable night out, shivering in our frozen, useless sleeping bags, before brilliant morning sun­shine greeted us on the 28th. By 10 a.m. we were safely in the flat basin and slogged back to the hut, where we could eat, drink, and rest a bit before heading out for Steve’s truck.

Vince Anderson
AAC
Avery

climber
NZ
Dec 8, 2014 - 03:26pm PT

Thanks to Brock Wagstaff
Avery

climber
NZ
Dec 8, 2014 - 07:32pm PT
Mt. Alberta, Brazeau-Walsh. (1,000m, 5.11 M6)


Thanks to Jon Walsh
Batá416

Trad climber
Calgary
Dec 11, 2014 - 06:03am PT
FWIW, here's a shot looking down into the gully that comes up from the west side to join the NW ridge. Would like to know if the last pitch below the icefield is really A2. (We backed off on account of a general lack of skill and courage.)
Avery

climber
NZ
Dec 27, 2014 - 01:20pm PT
Brandon P

Mountain climber
Canmore
Dec 27, 2014 - 10:02pm PT
I have been working on a book with Urs Kallen for a decade about routes such as this. It is called the Bold and Cold and was started with Dave Cheesmond in 1985. It will be out in the summer. There are 25 routes, it is the ultimate tick list. RMB is publishing it. Rock on.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 30, 2014 - 05:37pm PT
A really nice detailed photo of the Mt. Alberta North Face headwall, by John Scurlock
from
http://www.pbase.com/nolock/image/104546961
Avery

climber
NZ
Dec 30, 2014 - 06:20pm PT
Impressive!, thanks Clint.
Avery

climber
NZ
Jan 18, 2015 - 10:11pm PT
Thanks Jim.
Avery

climber
NZ
Feb 27, 2015 - 01:18pm PT
Mt Alberta, North Face: Scott Backes and Bill Bancroft

Bill Bancroft and I did the 5th ascent of the Lowe route in 1990. We started up the face around Aug 5th I think?? Roped up for the first couple of rock pitches and then soloed the ice. Bill took a rock through the top lid of his pack!! Rockfall was so awful by the time we got to the yellow band we stopped a the Lowe Bivy (which was pretty sheltered) and climbed the yellow band early the next morning by tying our two ropes together and not putting in any gear till after the knot. We climbed up to the crux which was a waterfall-no ice tongue for us! Tried another way and took a whipper aid climbing then it started raining. We gave-up for the day and bivied again in the rain. Next morning everything was soaking wet and we were going to bail-then the sun came out and by 10:30am the face was dry enough to continue. I took off all my fleece and in underwear and g-tex lead the crux pitch. Water pouring off me and scary expando for sure. We got to within a couple of pitch of the summit ice field and rain again. Bivied again! Rough night of lightning-we lowered the rack and everything metal and hoped for the best. Next morning same as the previous day we waited and waited then the sun came out and we finished to the summit. Here's the crazy part...On the summit we thought we heard voices and although it had been an arduous ascent we were not that wasted! Turns out Tim Auger was leading 6 other Park Wardens on a "Training" and had taken them up the Japanese route. We descended with them keeping us from being like every other party that had climbed the face before us and getting lost and bivying on the descent. Next day we walked out happy and satiated. All in all a proper adventure.

Thanks to Scott Backes
Avery

climber
NZ
Feb 28, 2015 - 12:38pm PT
I started this thread with the hope of identifying and naming the climber's responsible for the first six ascents Alberta's NF. With a little help from my friends this has been accomplished.

I then decided to approach every successful NF party I knew of, in the hope of getting a short trip report from each. I ended up with eleven excellent reports covering eleven separate ascents of Alberta's NF. (This includes Will Sims’s pics)

With that in mind, I would like to thank: Peter Arbic, Andy De Klerk, Dana Ruddy, Jon Walsh, Vince Anderson, Will Sim, Jason Kruk, Gregg Cronn, Steve Swenson, Scott Backes and last, but not least, George Lowe.
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