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The Goodsirs: The Bad and The Ugly? With Ascents of Center, North, and South Towers.

Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
YDS Difficulty: 
Overgrown On Approach Trail, Marsh is Marshy, More Moderate Bush After Marsh.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Title jokes about spaghetti westerns aside, it is not really much of a secret that I have been working away at the (often debated) list of Rockies 11000ers.  There are many reasons to set off for these peaks: adventure, views, and a sense of progression to name a few.  They also certainly take you on a breathtaking tour or many parts of the range.  The thing with lists though is the closer you get to finishing them, the more focused you become.  For me this was very true with The Goodsirs, 3 11000ers perched above the Ice River Valley in southern Yoho which have some of the worst reputations in the range.  Finding a partner for The Goodsirs is no easy task and I was very happy when Eric agreed to give it a go.  A few weeks prior I had done an overnight camping trip up the Ice River Valley to scout out the approach and check on conditions, this proved to be quite useful for speeding through the marsh if nothing else.
I'm not really going to touch on the approach to the marsh, feel free to take a look at the trip from a couple weeks ago if interested.  One thing to note was there had been recent cutting on the trail and at least 10 large log hops are no more making for a much more steady pace up towards the warden cabin.

After getting to the parking lot dark and late The Goodsirs themselves were still visible.

From the cabin Eric and I headed straight into the marsh and the properly named Ice River just as the sun was starting to hit the edge of the valley.  Following the tracks of the Blue Flag Bandit lead us to the correct avi path and up the Zinc Creek trail (which was much better than expected).  Making sure you are on the trail is very much worth it compared to the bush on the surrounding slopes.  As the bubbling sound of Zinc Creek started to reach our ears we hit a junction with a trail heading north and one heading south.  Following the immortal words of Yogi Bera "when you see a fork in the road, take it" we cut down to the creek and loosing sign of the trail on the far side bush - thrashed our way to the more open, more northerly creek.

The next morning after the initial plod in the trail, time for the marsh.


Looking up towards the North/Center col, this would be our bivy site.


Eric in one of the drier sections of the marsh.


After heading up the ascent avi path we were a bit off route for a while.


The trail up towards Zinc Creek is quite good in most places.

There are many kinds of approach valleys, big and small, scree and soil, hard and soft but the slopes to reach the North/Center col of Mount Goodsir have to rank among the most tedious of them.  Under a smoldering sun Eric and I worked our way up following the 2 steps up one step back movements that steep loose scree demand.  Cutting too and fro didn't seem to make much difference so we just got into a good scree trance and kept plodding upwards.  Higher up the approach narrows with a central creek dividing more icy terrain from more scrambly terrain.  We decided to split up to stop kicking rocks on each other and worked in paralell upwards.  I kind of liked the routefinding challenges the scrambly line on the climbers right provided (avoiding soaking wet hand holds with an overnight pack) while Eric kept wallowing up the scree and then snice on the left.

Eric at the junction between the North and South Tower legs of the trail.


Crossing the mighty Zinc Creek.


We accessed the upper valley on the left side of this creek.


Quite a lot of water still coming down.


It certainly takes a lot of effort to work your way up this valley.


Getting closer, boulders strewn through the veg makes for slow going.


Quite toasty with a blazing sun, these boots also need to be replaced...


Getting closer to the col, a few patches of snow for variety.


Eric and I split up for rockfall, he took the snow/ice and me the scrambly wet rock.

After 12 hours from leaving the cars we made it to the bivy site, and what a bivy site it was.  Like an eagles eery we nestled our temporary roost on a couple flat sections just below the N/C col.  Being at 3100m views were pretty spectacular with wide swaths of the Purcells and Selkirks visible to the West.  There was even running water a mere 10 feet from my tent flowing from the snow above, what luxury.  After some soup and restorative coffee we agreed that our task for the day was not yet done, there was still the Center Peak to be ascended!

Up at our bivy site just below the North/Center col.


Quite the perch up here.


Looking up at Goodsir Center from our bivy.

Heading up towards Center we came across tracks which we later found out to be from Jeff Bullock's group (who's cars we saw at the trailhead).  Center is regarded as the easiest of the 3 towers and I actually quite enjoyed it.  The route does rely a lot on small stems and slight friction moves though which may not agree with everyone.  Eric was not enjoying the way up and was actually considering returning to camp briefly before digging deep and getting past the climbey parts to more rubbly scree ledges above.  We topped out on the peak as brilliant reds and oranges of sunset were starting to be cast on distant clouds and peaks.  Sunset summits are one of my favorite times in the mountains and this peak certainly reinforced that sentiment.

Eric makes his way up the snow to reach the base of center.


The lower part of the peak is quite the easy scramble, things escalate quickly though.


Eric works his way up the start of the steeper part of Center Tower.



Up on the summit ridge of Center Peak.  South Peak in the distance.


The North Tower is almost an impressive sight.


Pretty much at the summit of center.

Descent was if anything easier than the way up as we could more easily scry where ledges connected together nicely.  Poles were very handy for a few delicate stemmy downclimbs.  As the sky darkened to near headlamp time we got back to our bivy and cooked up some well deserved grub.

Zoomed in towards South Peak, a bit of finesse required to link these peaks via the ridge.


HDR towards the North Tower from the summit cairn (complete with a quite decent register).


One more pano looking Rockies-wards.


Zoomed in towards the Lake O'Hara 11000ers.


Zoomed in towards The Bugaboos to the west.


One last HDR looking downwards for good measure.


Hard to beat high bivies for sunset views.


The North Tower of Mount Goodsir in starlight.


A starry sky to the west.

The next morning we woke when things started to get light, not in a huge hurry (the benefit of hauling bivy gear up to 3100m).  Heading up the North Tower requires traversing the very obvious V in the face of the peak.  The V itself is a pretty cool feature and something you don't see on peaks.  From our bivy we were pretty much paralell with the entrance to the zig of the V (the zag to come later) but had to traverse a snow/ice slope to get over to it.  Travel along the zig really didn't feel that linear with lots of small gullies heading up and down.  Eric briefly went a wee bit past the end of the zig (oddly enough it isn't immediately obvious when you short start cutting back) but we got back on track swiftly and started up the much more consistent zag towards the notch.


The next morning leaving our bivy heading for the North Tower.


The sun strikes Aquila Mountain and Clawson Peak across the valley.


Our newest foe, the mighty North Tower brooding in cloud.


Traveling in the V doesn't feel as ziggy and zaggy as it looks from below.


Past the zig in the V, starting the zag.


At the upper end of the V the snow slope to the north becomes visible.


All the while as we were making our way to the notch things were quite cloudy and getting more humid.  This tracked with our spot forecast which called for clouds and a tiny spurt of precip around noon then boiling off to a clear evening.  The weather was looking more concerning but there were a few good overhangs nearby where setting a tarp could make a cozy shelter so we kept pressing on.  The crux on the North Tower boiled down to a single move, kind of a pressy pull-up while doing a half dip with some foot friction which felt very exposed dangling over top the snow gully but was over quickly.  Past that move scree ledges work upwards, i kept ascending until I came to the 4 pin anchor that Anton had talked about.


Pretty much a single 5'th class move and up on scree ledges throwing down a belay.


After belaying Eric up we were back in scrambling terrain, and if anything the clouds  were helping us not overheat.  The rest of the peak scrambled by fairly quickly topping out on the summit ridge as a break in the gloom gave us a glimpse over to the Center and South Towers.  In this light South looked like an angry Titan, not a peak to be trifled with.  Descent was fairly groovy with the good 4 pin anchor letting us rap all the way to the notch which we could kick nice steps back down the snow on.  After that it was just following the V back to the bivy and then taking a break until the weather started to clear up a bit (which it did pretty much like clockwork).


Eric works his way up cloud-covered scrambly terrain.


At last the summit ridge.


Quite the cool views given the clouds.


Center and South just barely visible.


A bit of fresh snow piled up at our bivy while we were gone.


The next order of buisiness after taking down camp was to reposition to a much lower bivy on the SW ridge of the South Tower.  Not a far distance as the dragon soars, but sadly distance as the climber clambers is much less direct.  Descending the scree from the col was not as nice as I hoped.  What patches of 'nice scree' there are are quite thin and a bit of momentum is enough to be sliding on smooth rock in many places.  When traversing a snow slope lower down to avoid the lower waterfall I ended up taking a slide.  A hasty quasi self assest/rudder with a pole directed me into a boulder rather than down the waterfall.   No worse for wear but certainly a reminder of the consequences of 'benign' snow slopes.


Back down the gully, not the best scree for descending.


Looking back towards North as we traverse over to the SW ridge of South.


This creek was exceptionally tasty.


The nice gentle lower ridge leading up to the South Tower.


Getting to our next bivy water was a big concern.  Maury's beta had referenced a 'nearby seepage' which seemed to track with the gully to the south.  Thankfully there was enough of a trickle flowing that damming the flow into a bladder could get a good 50mL a minute out of it.  On a warmer, drier summer I wouldn't count on that gully flowing.  One other bit of excitement was coming across a sodalite deposit right near the bivy.  You don't see semi precious gems that often in the Rockies and the Ice River Complex is the only place you'll find sodalite.  After that we cooked up our grub and got ready for bed.  At some point along the way Eric had lost his headlamp (this would become very relevant later) so we didn't aim for waking up dark dark and early, just kind of dark and early.


Sodalite!  Quite the pretty mineral.


The sun sets on Zinc Mountain.


Another look towards The Bugaboos, hard to tire of those peaks.


Time to head to sleep as the light fades in the distant west.


On the third morning things were actually fairly optimistic; the other two Towers had gone over quite well, today was the day with the best forecast, and we had a decently high camp (2450 m or so).  The South Tower (and true summit) of Mount Goodsir would prove to be profoundly frightening at times.  I agree with Dow's description that (loosely quoted) ~'the rock on north tower was better than anything I encountered on South'.  The technical sections of the South Tower are steep, loose, exposed, and loose again.  Leaving our bivy we followed the SW ridge upwards on decent scrambling terrain, crossing a few gullies to gain the ridgecrest higher up the peak.  Atop a fearsome rock chute (if you went up it with a group of more than 2, you would end with a group of 2 at the top...) we were treated to some phenomenal views to the west and east.  Traversing the west face to get back on the SW ridge the next challenge arose: a series of crumbly orange towers with large exposure and little room for manovering.  Suffice to say we made it over, but the peak had begun to show its fangs.  Past the towers a perilously loose scree face lead up to the upper mountain.  Eric and I are normally quite happy with the route descriptions in the 11000ers book but this one did not seem to track with our experiences.  After the scree face the next challenge was perhaps the loosest part of the peak, replete with yellow rocks and boulders very steep and very ready to break off.


The next morning getting going a while before moonset.


The lower part of the South Tower is quite scrambly.


Looking over at the V on North Tower.


We very quickly scurried up the edge of this rock chute, not a good place to linger.


A bit of traversing to do to access the upper mountain.


Good to stay low in this case.


Now the fun (if very loose super exposed low 5'th ridge traverses is your idea of fun) begins.


Eric working up a scrambly section after the first crumbly loose tower ridge section.


The upper peak, still a long and very loose way to go.


I really hope South Goodsir never becomes more popular as even two people climbing is bad enough for rockfall.  Multiple parties on the route would not be a question of injuries but how severe of injuries...  Past the yellow rock the large summit block of the peak presented itself with bands of orange stone alongside other lighter and darker colors.  Some more crumbly towers and a loose face traverse later and we were on the summit ridge.  A couple sections on the ridge are quite committing but more solid than the surrounding stone.  A few hops, skips, and a jump or two and we were on the summit!  It was kind of interesting that of the three peaks Center is the only one with a register and the only one with a proper summit cairn!  Views were pretty darn spectacular.  It takes a lot of effort to get to the top of South Goodsir but the summit does make you forget the sketchitude for a time.


Good views to keep you motivated though at least.


Atop the gnarly loose yellow rock section, just a gnarly loose orange rock section to go!


Sentry Peak is a gorgeous mountain.


Eric staring down the rest of the mountain.


The last bit of climbing is quite steep at times with lots of large rocks ready to tumble.


Eric soloing a fairly blank section right below the summit.


Summit panorama from Mount Goodsir.


Zoomed in towards the west.


Pretty cool vantage point for Center and North Towers.


Zoomed in to the east, missed a few pictures in the pano sadly.


The way back down to the bivy took a while, quite a long while actually.  We did two raps (one on the upper orange rock and one on the middle yellow rock) downclimbing the rest with varying degrees of exposure.  By the time we got back to bivy it had been 12.5 hours since we left and we were pretty drained.  I was pretty certain we weren't going to make it out that day with Eric missing a headlamp but heading down to more accessible water seemed a good plan.


Back down we go, we did one of our two raps here.


A few hours later Eric working his way down a more scrambly section.


Descending we stuck to the SW ridge down to valley and made a beeline down and climbers right hearing the siren song of the creek.  As if water wasn't good enough, the lower Goodsir drainage is prime raspberry country.  Now as eating parts of the park is a misdemeanor, clearly we didn't feast for half an hour or so, but were instead pleasantly refreshed by the sight of the berries alone.  Daylight was swiftly dwindling and as we crossed back onto the trail at Zinc Creek it became clear that one headlamp between two dudes was not going to work; as the terrain got bushier someone was going to twist an ankle or otherwise hurt something.  We set up an unplanned bivy on a slope near where we left our shoes (better than in the marsh).  After some fanangling with my pack under my back I managed to 'correct' the 5 or so degree slope by sleeping diagonally turning it into a hammock - like posture  (just never never roll over!) that was surprisingly comfortable.


A few hours later working our way back towards the marsh, many of the shrubs hide raspberry bushes!


At least our marsh-shoes were still there.


On the final morning we woke up before moonset and after a coyote's breakfast made our way into the very chilly marsh and back towards the car.  The rest of the deproach was quite uneventful though i did find Eric's headlamp a few minutes from the park boundary.  The new cuttings were much appreciated on the way out and once we hit the ATV road the realization finally hit that we had actually gone up all three peaks.


Waking up the last morning, the ol 'pack under your back' trick actually made for a good sleep despite the slope.


Eric crossing the outflow of the Ice River at the base of the ascent avi path.


Back right near the park boundary this snow patch is still lingering on!


Back at the trailhead sign, just a ATV road plod from here!


I normally try to write these things as close as possible to trip while the details are still clear.  For this trip I waited a bit.  This was the first trip in a long while where I legitimately got spooked.  Sustained exposed and loose downclimbs bear a weight upon you that can be greater than any pack (allright maybe a 9 day Freshfields on Foot pack eh Liam?).  Looking back I do still think this trip was a big success; we did exactly what we set out to do, and got out safe.  That being said, I would caution folks about The Goodsirs, particularly the South Peak.  It is not the loosest peak I've been up but it bundles loose, exposed, and technical climbing in a troubling way.  The sharp rock and sustained rockfall even make short roping a less than ideal proposition as well.


North and Center Towers are quite nice peaks.  South Tower is concerning at times.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


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