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An Attempt on Mount King Edward and Rambling Up GR 660745

Difficulty: 
Moderate Snowshoeing
Elevation [m]: 
2485
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
24.5
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1450
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
1600
YDS Difficulty: 
2
Bushwhackyness: 
A Bit Of Bush on the ATV Road Past Bryce Creek.
Tripdate: 
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One objective that had been thrown about for quite some time is heading in to the western Columbia Icefield and up Mount King Edward. Last year when Steven and I rambled up Mount Bryce looking over to King Eddy it seemed like it would be a decent snow route (confirmed by Trevor Sexsmith's sassy ski line down the east face) so giving it a go this year seemed like a solid scheme. Getting the timing right for this trip would prove to be difficult with most of the Rockies (at least on the Alberta side) being a solid month ahead of 'normal melting' for the year. As we would find out when getting to our bivy, there is still plenty of snow on the BC side of the divide! The crew for this trip would be Vern, Mike, Josh, and I and we planned for the trip over 3 days.

As is often the case with peaks around Kinbasket Lake the approach can be the crux of the route. For accessing Mount King Edward the first challenge is crossing Bryce Creek which can vary from a fairly straightforward creek to a full on raging river depending on how much melt is coming down from the glaciers above. Getting to the end of the road the creek didn't seem that fearsome and after fortifying the car against porcupines a quick dip got us onto the other side of the creek and on the old road. There was a bit of confusion between how far we should follow the road (and if the old logging road was the same thing as the ATV road) but eventually we were on track. The correct trail follows the logging road to the second bushy cutblock and then branches off slightly climbers right following orange and pink flagging. Once we were on the flagged-line navigation became much more straightforward even with sustained snow cover.

Crossing Bryce Creek can be quite interesting.

 

The ATV Road is still holding up fairly well.

 

Lots of good views to be had on the approach.

 

Around here the road became less 'road-like'.

 

The bush higher up was much more pleasent than expected.

 

Once we started to approach treeline views started to open up and even despite the low (and steadily building) cloud cover there was still lots to see. Lower down on the trail there were a few sets of snowmobile tracks following the approach trail and higher up they certainly seem to have taken advantage of the snowpack (and the great rolling terrain giving plenty of fun lines). At treeline we reckoned head pretty much towards the peak and set up a bivy somewhere near the edge of the icefield, ideally at a place with liquid water. Our maps showed that there was a collection of tarns that just might do the trick and thankfully enough they were open, no melting snow for us this trip! Morale was getting a little bit strained as the cloud cover overhead would no doubt delay (or deny) an essential overnight freeze to make our route up the peak feasible. After we got camp patches of blue sky did start to form so we thought we still might have a chance.

 

Great skiing (and apparently sledding terrain).

 

A fair bit more cloudy than forecast.

 

Looking south to the highline approach to Mount Alexandra, it is high up indeed!

 

The group marching on towards our bivy nearby a tarn on the edge of the icefield.

 

The group hanging out by the kitchen-rock.

 

After cooking some grub we reckoned that our only chance for the peak would be to wake up really early and try to get off the snow before things really start to heat up. Setting our alarms for 2 we went to bed exceptionally early and soon after awoke to a very cloudy sky, and a very soft snowpack. After some groggy deliberation we reckoned that heading up wouldn't be worth it given the snow and air temperature so slept in till 7 and re-evaluated our plan. We had two main options: head down right away after breakfast and make it back to the car before the creek started rising, or scout out a bit of the approach to the base of the peak and try our luck again the next morning for a better freeze. If possible it would have been nice to ramble onto the upper icefield around 'Toronto Peak' (reversing the GDT route), skis would have made this scheme a little more practical given the distance (and snow condtions) involved. After some further deliberation we eventually settled on the second option and set off towards the base of the peak under a toasty sunny sky.

 

Josh looking out at Columbia and the rest of the surroundings.

 

Heading up towards the edge of the icefield for a closer look at the approach.

 

As we got closer to the icefield the number of sled tracks increased dramatically many of which going on some pretty agressive lines! From skiing by here a few years ago I reckoned that gaining the icefield further towards the climbers left (west) side would have less crevasses so we set course for a set of snowy ridges that would give a good vantage point to survey the rest of the route. At this point Vern, Mike, and I were kind of regretting not bringing skis as Josh playfully bounded up and down the rolling terrain on his splitboard-telemark setup. Before long we made it up to the top of the closest ridge (around GR 660745) and stopped for a break. As far as viewpoints go this ridge was a pretty good one, with the towering bulk of Mount Columbia to the east, huge walls on The Chess Group to the west, not even to mention all the peaks to the south!

 

Lots of neat rolling terrain on the edge of the icefield.

 

Looking up towards Mount King Edward, if only the snow was more solid!

 

The top of the ridge we rambled to was quite a great viewpoint.

 

Mount King Edward and Mount Columbia wreathed in cloud.

 

A zoomed in view towards the peaks around the Chess Group to the west.

 

With snow bridges likely being fairly weak we didn't ramble further onto the glacier and headed down back towards camp to lounge around the rest of the day hoping for a good freeze overnight (at least it seemed like the sky was staying nice and clear which would help). There was certainly a lot of time for getting some good shots of the surrounding peaks (and thinking about how pretty this area would be later in the season once the snow had melted back). In order to make it possible to get up and down the peak and then cross the river before the warmest part of the day we set our morning alarms for even earlier (the surprisingly not that dark hour of midnight) and went to bed rather early.

 

Josh practicing for a cover photo on Splitboard-Telemark Monthly Magazine.

 

Back down towards camp we go.

 

A small avalanche from serac fall below Mount Columbia.

 

Our camp near our network of meltwater tarns.

 

Not a bad place for a camp at all.

 

The meltwater algae out in full force.

 

The next morning at the crack of midnight we awoke to a clear sky (yay!) and a warm wind (boo hiss!). The air temperature was still around 5C with the snow being only a little bit colder. Things would be chillier up on the glacier but given how long it would take to get up and down the peak it didn't look like the ascent was in the cards. After another groggy conversation we reckoned that sleeping for a few more hours and then getting an early start back down to the car would be a good call. On the upside things were setting up for some very nice sunrise colors and plenty of pictures were taken while rambling down. Getting back down to the car was very quick and in good snow skis would be super great for this area. The last crux of the trip was getting back across Bryce Creek. With a couple warm days increasing melt the creek had risen but not dramatically so. Even still there were a few sections that were starting to get 'camera-case deep' which is not a good sign (and even a small whirlpool near the car-side shore)! If levels were any higher we probably would have considered using the big steel cable spanning the creek and do a Tyrolean traverse to get us (and our packs) across. The chilly water of the creek was quite a refreshing way to end the trip. After packing up our supplies and noticing it was still before 10am I proposed scouting out the nearby Sullivan Point FSR which was rumored to be washed out late last year. After another 50km or so of logging road after getting back to the main B road junction we reached the staging area on the edge of the Sullivan Arm and stopped for lunch. Even without making an attempt on King Eddy itself there was still a lot of good views on this trip! Have to come back when the route is in more conventional shape and see how the alpine meadows look when free of snow.

 

An early start to beat the rising river.

 

Mount Bryce and Bush Mountain are both very impressive peaks.

 

It will be great to come back here in the summer.

 

Vern coming back through the end of the less bushy ATV road with Mount Columbia in the background.

 

The upper mountain of Mount Columbia is gorgeous.

 

Bryce Creek was a wee bit higher on the way back.

 

A small whirlpool had formed near the car-wards shore of the creek while we were gone.

 

Not a bad trip at all, great views around here.

 

Stopping for lunch on the edge of the Sullivan Arm a few hours later.

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