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Mount Brazeau, Mount Warren, and Mount Henry MacLeod

Difficulty: 
Mountaineering (Steep Snow, Ice, Glacier Travel)
Elevation [m]: 
3480
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
56.0
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1950
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
4100
YDS Difficulty: 
3
Bushwhackyness: 
A small bit of bush on the approach
Tripdate: 
Thursday, July 30, 2015

Second only to North Vic, Mount Brazeau and Mount Warren were the second most purposed 11000er objectives of our recent memory  (often brought up but shelved for a later day due to their long climbing season and relatively short approach).  Suffice to say the time was ripe to give them a go and after the usual flurry of emails Vern and I had a solid plan and agreed to meet at the Poboktan Creek trailhead at the ripe hour of 8 to get things a rolling.

Curiously enough, due to an old bridge having been taken out many moons ago the trailhead for the Poboktan Creek trail is actually on the other side of the creek from the trail itself!  The trail is in very good shape and while chatting to ourselves we hardly realized the first 8 km had gone by and we were already at the first campsite (Poboktan).  From the campsite after crossing two log bridges the climbers trail was quickly reached (no cairn just a spur heading left into the bush).

This climbers trail proved to be excellent as well allowing for swift travel alongside the creek while keeping bushwhacking to a minimum.  Before long the trail leads to the headwaters of the creek, a long open marsh (at least there were nice views to balance the soggyness in a few places!).  We stuck slightly left of centre in the marsh and were on mainly solid ground until the waterfall at the head of the valley (bypassed easily on the climbers right by a cairned trail).

 

Off onto the climbers trail, quite faint for the first few meters.

 

Vern on the edge of a boulder-field, quite a nice trail here.

 

A very tropical-looking lake at the lower edge of the ascent valley.

 

Vern on the flats, good thing it is dry this year, this could be swampy earlier on.

 

The route winds up the scree slope right of centre.

 

There is a decent cairned trail on the right side of the waterfall.

 

Above the waterfall the rest of the trek to the high bivy was a bit of a trudge sidehilling on loose scree fading into ascendig straight up hard moraine before eventually yielding to the col itself (see pictures below).  From the col we both agreed that it was too early in the day to set up camp so we tossed on our crampons and set off down to the lower glacier to make a higher high camp than normal.  The lower glacier was super melted out at this time of year and large channels (read, rivers!) had to navigated around to reach the rock ledges that grant access to the upper glacier.  Once on the upper glacier it was time to put the 'poons on (aside from sleeping they would be on for the next two whole days!) and make a push for as high of a camp as we could.

 

Up, up we go, the 'low bivy' is not far from here.

 

Water always makes interesting images.

 

Higher up and glacier starts to become visible.

 

Looking back down towards the road.

 

Near the high bivy the views start to get pretty fabulous.

 

The sea of unofficially named peaks south east of the Brazeau Icefield.

 

Looks like prime ski touring terrain over there.

 

The lower edge of the Brazeau Icefield.

 

The rock on the other side of the icefield.

 

Still a long way to go with the thin snow barely bridging lots of holes.

 

 

Given how warm this year has been the glacier was much more melted out than usual with a thin snowpack giving just enough snow to obscure crevasses but not enough to make instantly trustable bridges, we were in for an interesting  (read, very exhausting) bit of navigation.  Given our slow pace, our initial goal of pushing for a high camp below Brazeau to get Warren first was no longer in play so we dug in (metaphorically only as the snow wasn't thick enough for digging...) below Valad Peak a very short distance from Brazeau itself.  After setting up camp, rehydrating a bit, and refocusing our plans we decided that so long as the snow held going for Brazeau that evening would make a fair bit of sense.

 

Looking up at Valad Peak from near our camp.

 

The tent is pitched and we are re-caffinated, time to head for the peak.

 

Leaving camp at a bit before 7pm (yay for high high camps), we set off for Brazeau cutting a line below the big holes on Valad Peak to gain the broad scree on the west face of the Valad/Brazeau ridge.  Recent storm snow was actually beneficial as it allowed for us to kick steps up most of the mountain (yay for less scree sloggery).  The mountain itself was much more straightforward than the approach and before long we were at the summit and basking in sunset colors.  Views on the way down as the evening colors deepend were even more lovely.  Back at camp we discovered that we had a new friend, an anklebiter 2 feet from our tent on the Brazeau side we termed Charlie the Friendly Neighbourhoos Camp Crevasse.

 

The direct way down to the lower icefield would be very crevassed this year...

 

Our first glimpse of Malinge Lake from the ridge.

 

Night and day difference in snow on the west side of the ridge.

 

Looking back at Mount Henry Macleod and Coronet Peak.

 

If Indiana Jones taught me anything, there is treasure buried at the tip of that shadow!

 

Partial summit pano from Mount Brazeau.

 

Partial summit pano 2.

 

Partial summit pano 3.

 

Phenomenal lighting up here looking towards the Columbia Icefield.

 

Wider view.

 

Starting to descend as the sun starts to scrape the horizon.

 

Mount Clemenceau is giant.

 

One last look towards Mount Alberta and the Columbia Icefield.

 

Thankfully today we had moonlight to take over once the sun was down.

 

Still a bit dark while getting back on the glacier.

 

Should have brought moon-screen!

 

The next morning Warren was centre stage.  Given the thin snowpack neither of us wanted to be navigating by headlamp on the way down in case we missed any sagging so we awoke around first light and set off.  While previous groups had descended then wide bowl beneath Brazeau to reach the Warren side of the glacier our views from Brazeau told us that those slopes were riddled with holes so we elected a more 'scenic' route sticking to rock and dry glacier whenever possible.  Even this proved to have a few interesting snow bridge crossings and both of us were glad to be on the bone dry lower glacier just so we could now see the holes for a change!  Crossing the lower glacier was kind of fun jumping over gaps but did get somewhat repetitive after the 100th time...  Before too long we were slogging up the large scree slope that leads the upper mountain and were presented with, you guessed it, another crevasse maze to circumvent.  After more careful probing we were at the base of the actual 'route' for Warren and saw lots of ice on its slopes.

 

The next morning (surprisingly difficult to merge this without stitching errors...).

 

Down towards Warren we go, hugging the rock on the right to stay away from the mega-shrund.

 

Lots of thinly bridges holes around these thar hills.

 

Down below Warren and Brazeau on trustworthy bare ice.

 

Vern atop the mighty scree pile used to access the upper glacier.

 

Lots of ice up on Warren's ascent route.

 

 

Picking a line that crossed what looked like the broadest snow bridge through the lower shrund we ended up belaying eachother up a short ice pitch (only having one axe and a mountaineering axe not a tool at that...), before hitting another snow/ice pitch we simul-climbed before getting off the ice onto loose exposed rock.  Sure enough the rock lead up to the summit ridge but also showed showed a bunch of natural rockfall heading down our ascent ice - line, natural hazards abounded!  On the summit ridge we avoided crevasses by sticking near the rock on climbers left when possible, sidehilling snow on climbers right when required (watch out for cornices).  It seems that the official summit of Brazeau is not the actual highpoint as the summit register is on the northern (lower) peak.  Possibly the peak wad named from Maligne Lake and that summit is more visible?  In any case it felt wonderful to be on the summit and we were both taken back by how great the views looking down on Maligne Lake were.

 

A few more holes to thread through, our route would traverse one of the bridges higher up.

 

Higher on the mountain looking down at the quickly drying off glacier.

 

The summit ridge at last!

 

Looking towards the official summit from the true highpoint.

 

Vern on the summit of Mount Warren.

 

Zoomed in pano 1.

 

Zoomed in pano 2.

 

Very neat view of Maligne Lake from here.

 

Vern on the true summit of Mount Warren.

 

 

Given how much time navigating through crevasses took, traversing down to Monkhead Mountain would have taken too long so we headed back down, retracing our steps where possible (sometimes finding that previously solid steps were actually anklebiters), belaying down the one ice pitch as on ascent.  It was amazing how much the glacier had melted even just during the time we were gone on Warren's slopes, the sun was very powerful that day!  We ended up getting back to camp just before headlamps were needed, a much longer day than planned!

 

More neat looking views westwards.

 

Back down we go, note the crevasse on the ridgecrest.

 

Retracing our steps only hours before things have gotten icier.

 

Belaying Vern down ice above where we crossed the shrund.

 

Looking back up at Warren.

 

Glaciers always have neat texture.

 

The north face route on Brazeau would be pretty icy today...

 

Lovely texture in the ice.

 

Back on the other side of the icefield (nearer camp) around sunset.

 

The scree on the left was our friend for a while here.

 

The next morning we had two goals, head up Mount Henry MacLeod, and get down to the regular high bivy (before reaching the first glacier).  Mount Henry MacLeod was exceptionally windy but despite that and a few open holes on the summit ridge didn't provide many challenges (or take that long).  Summit views made it well worth the effort.  Getting down to the regular high bivy took some more careful probing as two days worth of sun had cut a swath out of the already thin snowpack.  Our tracks helped by in a few cases revealed we were walking over rather large holes, literally the last of which required a belayed crossing (read oozing forwards stomach down) as it had become too wide to step.

 

The next morning looking back to the east.

 

The very windy summit of Mount Henry MacLeod.

 

Zoomed in summit pano.

 

Good views looking towards Warren, Brazeau, and Maligne Lake.

 

One last zoomed in pano.

 

Warren and Brazeau are both impressive peaks.

 

One last view northwards.

 

Lots of bare ice around here.

 

After that it was just one foot in front of the other until hitting the high bivy where most unexpectedly we ran into another ascent party with Rob and Vickie, the folks who had followed our tracks on The Twins and Stutfields trip!  Even more oddly our two parties were joined by another group who showed up slightly later, the Brazeau Icefield was a happening place!  Given how early it was Vern and I went for a stroll up a nearby highpoint (which we termed 'Bivy Ridge'), which given the scree track was a fairly common ascent.

 

Almost back at the high bivy.

 

Just one more patch of dry glacier to be traverssed.

 

Interesting channel in the rock.

 

Really neat lines on the ice.

 

Vern on the top of 'Bivy Ridge'.

 

Looking towards the Columbia Icefield.

 

The peaks south east of the Brazeau are worth a trip at some point.

 

A zoomed in look south eastwards.

 

Neat dinner plate rocks.

 

Sunset from the high bivy looking west.

 

Looking towards Mount Clemenceau.

 

The next morning we awoke and descended, things went quite quickly and in very comfortable temperatures.  Quite a great trip, I am supper motivated to come back to the valley to the east of the regular high bivy (north of Brazeau Lake), looks like great scrambling and skiing terrain!

 

The next morning at sunrise the sky looked grim.

 

Vern getting a little bit drenched.

 

Looking back down towards the rest of the descent.

 

Pretty great trip.

rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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