Skyladder Mt. Andromeda, Columbia Icefields 1974 & Recently?

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kunlun_shan

Mountain climber
SF, CA
Jan 16, 2018 - 08:02pm PT
^^
an account of an ascent by a reasonably competent solo climber, who knocked off Skyladder in June 2014.

Fritz, I have to laugh when I see the words "reasonably competent" :-)

"Dr Dirtbag" is seano, here on ST. He's extremely modest. Reading Sean's blog, his climbs sound very ordinary, but they are exactly the opposite.

Among a long list of solos, he has "dayhiked" Robson a couple times - 7 hours from the base to the summit up the SW ridge, not sure the time on the descent. Robson ascent number 2 took a bit under 15 hours return; up the Kain Face, over the summit and a SW ridge descent.

He also holds the record for climbing ALL of California's 14'ers in 62h3m! No typo there - 10 hours less than 3 days of continuous movement, including a few naps.
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2018 - 08:20pm PT
kunlan_shan! Re your comment:

Fritz, I have to laugh when I see the words "reasonably competent" :-)

Please understand, in my world of dry humor & understatement: "reasonably competent" is a tremendous complement. The next stage up of climbing ability, in my parlance, is: "Godlike."
kunlun_shan

Mountain climber
SF, CA
Jan 16, 2018 - 08:26pm PT
We're on the same page, Fritz!

Love the dry humour :-)

Just wanted to throw a few props in for seano.

seano

Mountain climber
none
Feb 28, 2018 - 08:59pm PT
Fritz -- Just found this thread. TFPU, but it's sad to compare your photos from 1974 to what I climbed 40 years later. It's hard for me to imagine the glacier at the bottom connecting to the Athabasca, much less what it might have looked like back when the Athabasca extended across the valley.

Comparisons from the Bugaboos, Rogers Pass, and Robson are similarly shocking. If you want to get on any classic snow/ice route in the Canadian Interior Ranges, you should probably do it soon...
Steven Amter

climber
Washington, DC
Mar 7, 2018 - 02:10pm PT
Me and my buddy, Ron Sacks, had a great two weeks at the Columbia Ice Fields in the mid-70s when we were young Gunkies. We spent a lot of time on the Ice Fields, and climbed Snowdome, Skyladder (while our friends climbed Photofinish to our left), Silverhorn, and the North Face of Athabasca, which we descended via Silverhorn, and some other stuff I can't remember.

I recall the scene at the campground very fondly - climbers from around the world hanging out and swapping stories into the night, the best Northern Lights I have ever experienced (we could hear them!), great rainbows, and hanging out at the Columbia Icefields Chalet. We didn't have a lot of money, but Chalet folks gave us free dinner after a climb in exchange for folding napkins and sitting in the picture window in full gear. The snowcat buses on the glacier even let us hitchhike rides back down the glacier if we would answer questions from the tourists.

Fun times.
domngo

climber
Canada
Mar 7, 2018 - 02:27pm PT
Andromeda
Andromeda
Credit: domngo
AP

Trad climber
Calgary
Mar 7, 2018 - 02:57pm PT
The alpine season has changed.
Many routes are best done in the October to May period
Most of my alpine was in the 70's and 80's before the big melt.
I can't understand why you climbed gullys above Moraine Lake in daylight hours Fritz. They are usually death on a stick. We climbed the 3/3 1/2 starting at midnight under a full moon, bivied in the hut for a few hours then climbed the N Face of Fay and went back to the hut. We descended the 3/4 in the early hours before daybreak.

We also climbed the majority of the snow/ice faces unroped because that way if something went wrong only 1 person dies.
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 7, 2018 - 06:59pm PT
Nice photos & stories folks! Thanks for posting up!


AP! Re your kindly mention:

I can't understand why you climbed gullys above Moraine Lake in daylight hours Fritz. They are usually death on a stick. We climbed the 3/3 1/2 starting at midnight under a full moon, bivied in the hut for a few hours then climbed the N Face of Fay and went back to the hut. We descended the 3/4 in the early hours before daybreak.

AP: No arguement. Even though I knew climbing while alpine temps were below freezing at night was safer, I suspect my daytime ascents of 3/4 Couloir, above Moraine Lake, to the Cooper hut, may well have happened due to these reasons & thoughts:

1. 3/4 is an approach couloir, first climbed in the 1890's.
2. My wife is not going to be happy hiking to the start of the couloir in the evening & then bivying until it gets cold, to start climbing in the dark to an uncertain destination.
3. Our time was limited & we needed to climb the couloir in daylight to be in position the following night to start the Chouinard Route on Fay, when it was cold & dark.
4. It was warm mid-August conditions, & I didn't think the warm night conditions would freeze.
5. We were stupid Americans.

Our daytime descent of 3/4 Couloir the next afternoon, was due to the rapid buildup of snowfall at Cooper Hut & my "trapped-rat" feelings that we needed to get the hell down, while the getting was merely dangerous, rather than disasterous.

On the 2nd trip up 3/4 Couloir, with Mark, 4 of the original 5 reasons to hike it in above-freezing daylight conditions still applied, but I was now familiar with it & as we all know: "Familiarity breeds contempt."

3/4 Couloir from the top, August 1978.
Credit: Fritz
AP

Trad climber
Calgary
Mar 7, 2018 - 08:06pm PT
Brings back fond memories of my first few years.
Fritz what other routes did you do up here?
seano

Mountain climber
none
Mar 7, 2018 - 08:08pm PT
the big melt
This seems like a significant piece of history, which deserves to be preserved. Do you have Rockies or Selkirks pictures from 30+ years ago? If so, please publish them somewhere.
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Mar 7, 2018 - 08:17pm PT
I also did the same north face of Fay route back in the 80's. That was probably my best all time alpine ice experience. Perfect, perfect conditions. I pulled over the 'schrund and THWACK! Each placement was a belay. I just ran out every pitch. We approached via the direct buttress below the face. There was some memorable mid fifth class work. I remember decent pro and some fixed stuff-anchors, et al. It was by far the safest way up and down. We bivi'd on the prow at the edge of the glacier. Oh, what a great ascent that was.

BAd
AP

Trad climber
Calgary
Mar 7, 2018 - 08:36pm PT
I would have to scan pictures or slides.
How to post pictures these days?

My favorite alpine ice pitches were:
Hourglass on N Face Athabasca. A grade 3 waterfall pitch with exit stemming between ice and rock. My partner Sean Doughtery has just been named director of Alma (Atacama Large/Sub Millimeter Array) Best radio astronomy facility in the world.

First roped pitch on Greenwood Locke N Face Mt Temple. 1 foot wide thin ice strip in a corner for 70 feet then ice ran out, took the poons off and rock climbed the rest.

Being a local meant we could wait for good conditions.
seano

Mountain climber
none
Mar 7, 2018 - 08:48pm PT
I would have to scan pictures or slides.
A friend scanned some 70s Bugaboo slides at some point, and recently sent me JPEGs. This stuff takes work. If you can spare the time, please do it. I'm happy to help you.
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 8, 2018 - 10:09am PT
AP & all: I didn't do much climbing in the Canadian Rockies. The only other big mountain I recall stumbling up, was the south ridge tourist route on 11,365' Mt. Victoria by Lake Louise in the mid-70's. We had given-up on climbing in the Bugs due to horrid weather & hooked up with two experienced American women climbers, who dumped the Brits they were with.

The Canadian Rockies were absolutely snowed under, so Victoria seemed like a possible option. A long slog ensued. Here's my photo of Abbot hut, where we overnighted & the snowy slopes above.
Credit: Fritz

I did do some winter waterfall climbing around Baniff, starting in 1974, when we climbed Cascade Falls as our 2nd waterfall ever, after being bored on adjacent Rougan's gully. On later trips Cascade got climbed several more times & attempts were made on Louise Falls, but somehow, we didn't leave enough time to deal with the upper icicle. We climbed a couple other minor waterfalls in that area too. The one in the below photo was short, but great fun.

An insiders view.
An insiders view.
Credit: Fritz


Most of my Canadian climbing was in the Bugaboos, where the only notable success was the East Ridge of the Bugaboo. We did several routes on Crescent Tower & made 3 attempts on the classic West Ridge of South Howser Tower, but were thwarted by the weather.

However, I do have some old glacier photos from the Bugs. Sept. 1972, Looking up at the Bugs from the lodge parking lot. Snowpatch Spire at top center-right.
Credit: Fritz



Taken from near the hut, looking south at the Bugaboo Glacier & Marmolata.
Credit: Fritz

August 1974, The Howser Towers from near the top of Bugaboo Spire.
Credit: Fritz

seano

Mountain climber
none
Mar 9, 2018 - 11:07am PT
This is the Bugs in early August 2014:
Howsers from Pigeon
Howsers from Pigeon
Credit: seano
Marmolata, August 2014
Marmolata, August 2014
Credit: seano
And Victoria in 2017.
Victoria, early July 2017
Victoria, early July 2017
Credit: seano
Things are changing fast.
domngo

climber
Canada
Mar 9, 2018 - 11:25am PT
Some more pixels to go along with the minor thread drift - flown over this are more than I care to count, yet to clamber around...

Morning sun, from the east.
Morning sun, from the east.
Credit: domngo

From the SW, 2016
From the SW, 2016
Credit: domngo
AP

Trad climber
Calgary
Mar 9, 2018 - 04:12pm PT
Awesome b&w photo. Gives a whole different perspective of the Bugs.
By the way how is the Bugaboo Snowpatch col?
In the 80's we could descend it with running shoes straight down the middle the whole way on snow.
Off White

climber
Tenino, WA
Mar 11, 2018 - 07:28pm PT
Credit: Off White

Here's the right shoulder of the u shaped Andromeda N Face bowl, Skyladder tops out on the upper right, NW Shoulder in the center, and Photo Finish curves around the left end of the rock bands. August 1981.
seano

Mountain climber
none
Mar 11, 2018 - 07:59pm PT
@domngo -- These are pretty bad, but they're what I have from July 2017.
Kitchener from K2
Kitchener from K2
Credit: seano
Athabasca Glacier from the east.
Athabasca Glacier from the east.
Credit: seano
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Mar 11, 2018 - 08:17pm PT
Wow looks so awesome. Would love to climb some of those peaks some day.
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