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Lakes, Lightning, and a Little Lollygagging: An Ascent of Mount Fryatt

Alpine Climb
Elevation [m]: 
YDS Difficulty: 
A Wee Bit Past the Parks Campground.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Of the peaks visible from Jasper there are a few which really stand out over the rest such as Mount Edith Cavell, Mount Kerkeslin, and the slightly further away but just as majestic Mount Fryatt.  Weighing in at 3362 m, Mount Fryatt is a striking peak with numerous outliers visible on the west side of the Icefield Parkway.  Fryatt was one of the last peaks Liam has yet to climb that are visible from Jasper and when a weather window showed up was keen to give it a go.  Joining us would be Jesse (from the Whitegoat trip the previous week).

There are two main ways to approach Mount Fryatt, from the south heading up the Fryatt Valley trail (same approach as for the Sydney Valence Hut) or from the north along the Geraldine Lakes Trail.  The Geraldine route sounded shorter and more scenic so seemed a good way to take!  From the trailhead, after driving up a gravel (and quite bumpy) side road off 93A, the Geraldine Lakes trail starts out fairly gentle but quickly adds of some elevation in spurts (thankfully there are many lovely lakes to keep you motivated as you work your way upwards).  The main themes to the approach seemed to be boulders and lakes, and their are certainly both in spades!  As the trail snakes upwards past the first lake and then a few smaller ponds the first mighty waterfall comes into view.  It would be a bit of a grunt to get in here in winter with the road not being plowed but there could be some decent ice to climb.


The Geraldine Lakes Trail starts off quite wide and calm.


A fair bit of water around (and on) the trail!


The first of the lakes.


Quite the raging water between the lakes.


Even the ponds between the lakes are quite pretty.


Whirlpool Peak (or Geraldine Peak) depending who you talk to, reflected in the pond.


The boys inspecting the waterfall draining from the second big lake.


The second large Geraldine Lake, the campground is in the distant middle of the image.

The second 'proper' lake (with the campsite at its south side) is a real beauty from any angle.  As we were crossing from the north there was even an old canoe someone had stashed beside a tree (no sign of paddles but could be a fun time if staying at the campground).  Crossing the lake was once again a mix of boulders, and muddy patches near the lake shore.  We came across a few other groups of people who were staying at the campground and leaving today or the next day (some of which were even trying to fish from near the campground!).  Getting to the campground itself required crossing a couple short bridges but seemed like a good place to stop for a break.

Looking back towards the trailhead.


The campground has quite the nice creek beside it.


The view from one of the tent pads at the campground.

After backtracking across the bridges we carried on along the trail towards the head of the valley.  Past the campground the trail is no longer maintained and can be quite bushy in places.  After passing to the climbers right of two more lovely lakes the trail seemed very indistinct but thankfully the only navigation goal is aim for the big ridge ahead!  From the top of the ridge there is lots of scenery to take in.  Fryatt itself dominates the view to the east while a duo of more lakes below to the west had a great pale teal color distracting from more impressive peaks to the west.  After some ankle straining grassy side hilling we came to the waterfall that Corbett describes and weasled our way back and forth on some (sometimes narrow) ledges to pass the cliffs and reach the last lovely lake above.  Setting up camp around the ripe hour on 330 things we feeling pretty good.  Then the thunderstorms rolled in.

Sometimes I get lazy and use a hand instead of a lens hood...


Lake and Sky look pretty similar here.


Lots of water flowing from the upper valley too.


The lakes above the campground are certainly worth a visit.  Mount Fryatt rising up in the middle of the image.


Many flowers in the upper valley.


Even more lakes to be seen as you crest the ridge.  Lots of unnamed peaks too.


Looking over to Divergence Peak.


The boys enjoying the sun.


Interesting pinnacles on the right here.


The boys crossing to near the bivy lake.


Quite the nice access ledge to get up to the lake.


Certainly not a bad place for a camp.


Despite a very sunny forecast it is still summer and some downright unsavory clouds were rolling in from the northwest.  The first storm wasn't actually that bad with maybe 30 minutes of rain and then back to toasty sunny lake lounging.  The sun lasted for maybe an hour and a half before the next storm rolled in.  This one was much sassier and kept raging for a couple hours dropping a lot of water.  Thankfully things cleared off again for dinner and a quick walk before heading to sleep when the last thunderstorm of the day started (once again coming from the NW and most intense near the Tonquin Valley, no doubt Thunderbolt Peak over there was to blaim).  We fell asleep to the mighty roar of thunder and glimmering flashes of lighting not sure how the early morning would shape up.


After the storm heading up to the ridge near camp looking towards the Fryatt Valley access col.


Good place for a lake-side feast.


Cool photosphere from above the bivy.


Interesting colors around moonrise.


This almost looks like a diving board up here.


A lightning bolt hits the Tonquin Valley.


Waking up dark and early things were not off to a good start. Despite the early hour there was still a thunderstorm raging over in the Tonquin and it was hard to tell where it was heading. After a quick powwow we reckoned to sleep for another hour and a half and see what things looked like under better lighting.  At the second wake up time the sky still looked gloomy but it seemed like there was a chance things might clear up. Gathering our gear and our nerves we set off up the 400 m slope to the Fryatt/Unnamed col on a mix of very loose scree and somewhat less loose scree. Higher up a few moderate scrambling moves let us weasel our way to the col.


Still thunderstorms in the morning over in the Tonquin.


Pink cloudy sky up towards the summit.


Really unique lighting this morning as we made our way up the slope.


Cool HDR with the surrounding peaks.


We hoped sunlight would boil off some of the clouds...


Really interesting lighting towards BC.


Similar view  as an HDR.

From the col the rest of the mountain doesn't really look that large but it takes a fair bit of time to tackle! Liam lead a path through (and up) the cliffbands aiming for the flat plateau on the west ridge. This was Jesse's first real alpine climb (and 11000er!) and he was finding the mix of scrambling rock and brief snow to be pretty cool (also being able to use an axe and crampons in a proper setting ;) ).  At the base of the flat spot on the ridge we came across an eminently ascendable crack and busted out the rope and gear to head upwards. The crack itself wasn't too tricky and after a couple moves eased up to more scrambly terrain above. After belaying the boys up we surveyed our position and got ready for the next pitch, a traverse over a giant chokstone to move towards some visible cairns and the more regular ascent line.


The upper mountain for Mount Fryatt.  Doesn't look that far away to the summit....


The view to the east from the col.


Liam leading across a snow bank below one of the gullies.


Jesse heading up one of the lower cliff bands.


Jesse with his game face on just below the first 5'th class pitch.


At the top of the first pitch atop the flat bench on the west ridge.


We had to climb across this gully on a chokstone to get further up the peak.


Me leading up the traverse.  Photo by Liam.


Crossing the chokstone had some decent views to the north side and then some surprisingly solid rock along a narrow ledge to reach a decent belay-boulder. Being a short pitch Jesse had the luxury of a double sided belay (quite nice for traverses). From the new ledge we reckoned that we were still one gully over from the main ascent line and picked our way up an orange gully to hopefully get back on track. A steady worry throughout all this was the weather. At this point the menacing clouds were out of sight to north but not out of mind! From the top of the orange gully belay rap anchors could be seen, back in relative civilization!  Hitting the rap anchors our next task was the 'short but steep' crack that Corbett describes that lives up to its name!  Finally after topping out from that pitch we could traverse the black scree band to the south ridge (as black clouds started to menace the peak) and race up the last bit of moderate scrambling to the top.


Atop the 'short steep crack' described in the 11000ers book, not far to go!


The scree band across the face is quite wide.


One last moderate scrambling move to the top!


Not the greatest views on the summit but at least it wasn't thunderstorming up here.


A quick photo by Liam.


The register was pretty cool, an old copper tube design from the 60s with lots of familiar names ensconced within.  The summit stay was short lived (there was still a storm a brewing) with a few pictures and an offering to Zeus (Lord of Thunder) to spare us from his tempest until we were off technical terrain.  Descending back down across the scree and to the first rap a dark tragedy insued.  I brought along a tasty Windstorm IPA (a fine brew from Stanley Park) for the summit but given how stormy it seemed breaking it out lower down seemed prudent.  Sadly after passing it around some of Jesse's imported trail mix type snacks (loaded with nuts) coated the rim, being very allergic to nuts the fine brew was lost to me.  Dark days indeed.


A little lower down the sky cleared, our offering to Zeus was accepted!


Looking to the north, even more lakes I havn't seen.


Getting started for the first rap.


On a clear day this would be an amazing viewpoint.


Back to more relevant info!  The raps down the face worked quite well with my 48m rope being just enough to get the job done.  While scrambling trendig back towards the col the weather started moving in (our offering to Zeus worked for a while but it might have been hubris to make it while above nearby Mount Olympus in the Fryatt Valley!) with grapple and proper snow coming down.  Once at the col rain started coming down in ernest and it was looking like it might be a pretty soggy hike out!


Jesse heading down the first rap.


Looking over towards super impressive Tsar Mountain.  Someday....

Back at camp the rain turned monsoon style and we fled into the tents for a 30 minute break hoping the storm would work itself out.  Thankfully this actually worked!  Like clockwork 29 minutes after Liam called for a 30 min break the sun was shining and moods were high!  Packing up camp we made our way back toward the car preparing for a long day.  I was moving like an arthritic city-dweller from the grass traverse onwards; being not used to travelling poleless with a big pack my knees were not standing up well!  The boys were gettig far ahead but we regrouped often and eventually made it back to the car at the dark hour of 1230ish.


About to start the (surprisingly sketchy) grass traverse.


And the ants go marching on, on, to get out of the (actually its not raining for a change!).


Reflections of Mount Fryatt in the last upper lake.


Back down at the campground lake, almost headlamp time.


Still a ways back to the car.  My knees were not doing well at this point.


Mount Fryatt is a pretty special peak.  Given how widely seen it is (especially from town), the excellent views on the approach, and the calm waters of the bivy site it is certainly a trip I won't soon forget.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


Great to see your photos and wordings.
Knowing the issues bad knees can bring, but still looking forward to my regained enthuse for hiking and climbing.
Your sharing of adventures is very inspiring.
Thank you

By Peter

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