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An Almost Ascent of Pinnacle Mountain

Alpine Climb
Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
YDS Difficulty: 
None, Yay For High Starts!
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

With an extra day around Lake Louise before a trip up to the Neil Cogan Hut (delayed as the hut was booked up for maintainence) Sean and I were looking for something alpiney to do (with a short day being ideal).  A long purusal of several sources lead us to Pinnacle Mountain, the less popular peak sandwiched between Eiffel Peak and Mount Temple.  According to Dow's SummitPost article the description in Selected Alpine Climbs was actually quite accurate with the route being a mostly scramble with a few pitches of 5th up to 5.5/5.6 thrown in.  After settling on the plan it sounded like Ken might be interested in this one too and soon enough we were a trio!

Heading out from the Moraine Lake parking lot we made good time up the Sentinel Pass trail getting to the slopes below the Eiffel/Pinnacle col at around 3 hours.  Sticking fairly climbers right we rambled up scree, ledges, and the occasional crop of greenery towards the col itself.  At the col, solid views towards both the Valley of The Ten Peaks and Paradise Valley could be had. 


Almost out of the bush on the Sentinel Pass Trail.


Off trail heading for the Eiffel/Pinnacle Col.


Looking back from most of the way up the Eiffel/Pinnacle Col.


Looking across to the other side of the valley up Mount Fay.


Nearing the col looking upwards Pinnacle Mountain does have quite a few pinnacles!


The start of the 'route' was then upon us, but where to start!  The beta referenced climbing 'the feature to the right of a water worn chimney with a waterfall' or something like that which seemed to fit with our views of a gully with a pair of anchor stations above it (looking back we were 'half a feature' too far right!).  Things started pretty scrambly but eventually the gully got definitely 5th and we broke out the rope at a big sassy chokstone belay (complete with a nice hideyhole for rockfall).  The first pitch we climbed went up the gully then traversing climbers left and following a small chimney up a tower between two rubbly gullies.  There were a couple pins on the line and I found some decent cam placements to make some of the more hairy moves feel safer.  At the top of the chimney there was an anchor with fairly new slings where I could belay up the boys (a most precarious perch for 3 amigos).  From here it was starting to look like we were one gully over from the line in the beta but progress upwards still seemed reasonable so we kept on trucking.


The start of the ascent heading up and left of a chockstone-filled crack.


Ken at the top of the first pitch.


Looking back where we topped out on the first pitch (centre of the image).


The next pitch was a yellow rock crack with more fun stemming and fairly solid rock at the top of a rubbly gully.  This pitch went pretty quick with a patch of 5th then more scrambly terrain above topping out at a slinged boulder for an anchor (I found space for a couple pieces and a chokstone to clip enroute).  A quick traverse lead to the base of the infamous dark and dank chimney, the crux of the route.  A couple sources mentioned an old hemp rope that would span the crux leading easily to the summit but all that was left for us was a frayed tail wedged under a boulder.  By this point things were much slower than anticipated (3 man crews make everything take longer) and our 'extra' pitch compared to the scree in the 'on route' gully had added extra time.  The rock below the last pitch felt bad with big chunks slipping and sliding as we double checked the beta to make sure this dank chimney was dank enough to be the 'right' one.  Sean wanted to take a stab at the pitch and worked upwards a few meters placing a piece but encounting difficulties and loose junk wedged in the chimney.  He lowered down and I took a stab at it.  The main challege with the chimney is rockfall.  There are numerous rocks and boulders balanced with a bit of soily mortar in the middle of the crack than are most precariously balanced indeed.  Trying to avoid a rock storm I stemmed up the lower few meters placing a thin sketchy cam before tackling what SummitPost called the crux of the climb, a traverse to belayers right onto some rubble strewn ledges that lead to easier terrain above.  The crux move is kind of an off width crack and foot smere working upwards onto the ledge.  At this point any movement would kick down rocks below and the boys took a few hits and more than a few near misses.  Once getting on the ledges careful tiptoeing upwards lead to gargantuan boulders that would be solid anchors and the edge of the ridge leading to the summit.  Unbeknownst to me every flick of the rope after I crossed over to below the boulders was raining blocks down on the boys and the rope.  After yelling over for slack to reach the ridge I heard a strange reply which Sean repeated as 'your not hearing right, the rope is cut!'.  Uhoh.


Looking down from the second belay.


At the base of the crux pitch, many folks were coming on and off the summit of Eiffel Peak across the col.


One of the rockfalls had done a number on the slacked parts of the rope biting into the core.  Not sure where or how bad the damage was we talked over our options.  After the boys got to a safe stance I hauled up the rope and surveyed the damage.  Thankfully the cuts were in the middle section and spread over around 10-15 of the 70m length of the rope.  Slicing off the bad stuff I set about making a rap anchor to get back down using some of the rope as a lossy backup to the anchor sling.  Rapping the smoother face meant less chance of rockfall slicing the rope while I rapped but did mean leaving behind some pro (oh well)...  Suffice to say the rap worked out and we had enough good rope left after tieing the lengths together to get back down safely.  My GPS topped out around 3041 m, which looks like just shy of the scrambly summit ridge.


Looking towards where the rope used to be from where I topped out.


Comparing what we saw (left) as I rapped from the highpoint to what Dow saw (right) back in 2006.  Left image by Sean, Right image by Dow from Summitpost.


Looking back towards Eiffel on the way down.


Zoomed in with Eiffel Peak and Eiffel Tower.


The ridge of Deltaform Mountain looks very striking.


The rest of the way down retraced our ascent line using a well backed up station to bypass the pinnacle at the top of the first pitch.  Rockfall was an issue when waiting for the other two guys to rap but stations had decent spots to cower in.  A trio of raps later and we were back on scrambly terrain and mere minutes from the col.  Descending back to the trail was actually quite nice with good scree making for quick sliding and before long we were on trail and making good time back to the car.  Not sure if I'll head back up Pinnacle at some point.  Being exceptionally close to the top is both a reason to return and one not to bother.  One of those big plastic riot shields might be a good piece of kit for a belayer below the last pitch...


Back at the gully between the first and second pitches.


The peak between Eiffel and Pinnacle doesn't look too tricky, proably good views too.


Looking back up as the boys rap down the second pitch.


Back down at the base of the rock route, the 'book' route heads left earlier than we did to the left of the rock rib in the middle of the image.


Traversing back to the col on eassier terrain.


Back down at the col, at least we were still up high for good lighting.


Down near the trail looking up towards Mount Fay.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


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