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Mount Victoria, North Peak

Mountaineering (Steep Snow, Glacier Travel)
Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
YDS Difficulty: 
Ascent Time: 
Saturday, July 25, 2015

The North Peak of Mount Victoria is one of the most easily accessed 11000ers in the Rockies, with a short approach on a good trail starting at the Lake Louise Chateau. As a result it is often on the bottom of the list of possible objectives (i.e "well what about North Vic"), having often been discussed but takes a while to get around to. Steven and I had gone up the route previously during early season conditions on snowshoes and while Steven made the peak, my crampons busted at the base of the black band (which was 50 degree snow/ice) so I had to turn around. Fast forward to 2015, Vern and I had been talking about North Victoria for a while but something would always get in the way of plans. At long last though we had a break in our schedules and a forecast which promised perfectly clear skies while we would be ascending. The actual weather was much different than forecasted!

Setting out from the Lake Louise parking lot we made the trudge up the Plane of the Six Glaciers trail (which now even has a nice bridge near the back of the lake to avoid the rockhopping last time I was around here), and up the Swiss Guides trail to the base of the glacier. Despite the forecast of perfectly sunny until ~1pm there was dark menacing clouds threatening the route already which seemed to be moving in unceasingly from BC. So long as the clouds didn't actually start to throw down rain on us or get thundery we were fine with carrying on so cramponed up and started up the glacier.


Setting foot on the glacier at first light.


A bit higher up, much less snow than last time I was here.


Interesting alpine-glow just on the tip of North Vic, a good omen perhaps?


Neat low cloud above Lake Louise.


Higher up and the glow spreads to the rest of Mount Victoria.


The first thing I noted after gaining a bit of elevation on the glacier was how many open holes were around on Steven and I's previous snowshoe line, clearly that would not work this time of year so a different route was needed. We ended up trending upwards on steeper snow slopes near the rocky walls of Collier Peak which traded big open crevasses for smaller holes and steeper snow. On the upside this route ended up keeping us in fairly safe terrain (at least this time of year, the steep slopes would be very avi prone and succeptible to rockfall from Collier Peak in the early season) and also had the benefit of popping us out at the base of the black band right where the 'shrund was best bridged!


Me leading up the steep snow slope.  Photo by Vern Dewit.


This was probably the nicest looking sky of the day, meancing clouds rolled in soon after.


Looking back at Vern almost at the black band.


Crossing the 'shrund was quite straightforward with a deep enough snowbridge that Vern's probing pole I was using couldn't go all the way through, after which a bit of traversing climbers left took us to a short wide snow slope allowing for a gentle transition to rock leading up to the rest of the peak. The black band was in fabulous shape with very little snow and no ice to speak of on the slope. This meant that while some parts of the band are very loose (ledges covered in pebbles where either the ledges or pebbles could fall away from the slope) the slope was technically only moderate scrambling. Given the number of rap stations we encountered many people have less ideal conditions and belay/rap up/down as required. One atop the black band on more supportive rock we gained the col-proper and moved between freshly snow covered rock and snow to the base of the rock crux. We had a difficult time finding any first hand accounts of the rock step (most folks take the snow or ice line to the climbers right) but came loaded with a whole bushel of rock gear just in case it had to be fully protected.


Atop the black band, the rest of the route in sight.


At the North Vic, Collier col, pretty good views.


Looking up at the crux.


After staring at the crux for a while getting the rope set up it was only a few short moves to pop up the step (probably more difficult wearing crampons as we were than just mountaineering boots) to reach a duo of large rap anchor boulders complete with a network of cord twisting to and fro. After the rock step there were no more technical difficulties, just winter scrambling type of conditions to head up the final rock/snow slope to the summit. Views from the summit were better than expected given all the dark clouds rolling around (Temple had already been totally socked in several times), in more clear conditions this could be quite a nice viewpoint indeed.


Above the crux just a winter scramble from here.


Not too friendly clouds over from BC.


Summit views from the North Peak of Mount Victoria.


Zoomed in view.


Looking down on Collier Peak.


A few more partial summit panos.


And a zoomed in variety.


Back down we go.


With the weather possibly moving in at any moment we stayed on the summit for a short while, snapped a few pictures and then started to ramble down. Just above the rock step we looked down and saw another party (a group of 2) on their way up. After rapping the crux (in total ~5m of rapped elevation) we stopped for a quick chat with the other group and carried on downwards. We ended up downclimbing the rest of the mountain including a few "low 5'thy" moves to get back to the col and then some loose sections on the black band. Given all the rockfall potential if you can downclimb the black band comfortably that might be a good idea, but it is very conditions dependent. Once back at our entrance point to the black band it was time to put the 'poons back on and retrace our steps down the glacier (at this point the snow had softened up considerably and kept balling up in our crampons, not the greatest feeling when you are traversing above large open holes!). Once back at the edge of the glacier we were laughing at our good luck with not actually getting rained out and started the plod ack down to the car.


A look at the scrambly terrain above the crux, usually this would be gentle snow I would imagine.


Vern almost at the crux.


Verns rap rope down the crux with the semi-guided group below.


The semi-guided group on the crux.


Me downclimbing one of the lower tricky steps.  Photo by Vern Dewit.


Back down at the col looking towards Collier.


At the bottom of the black band, time to put on crampons.


Back down at what would have been an excellent bivy corral on the edge of the glacier.


Looking across the valley to the Abbot Pass Hut.


Back down on the Swiss Guides trail.


Quite nice to get up North Victoria properly. The short approach certainly gives it a different feel from other 11000ers, but the route does have some allure given the variety of terrain and quality of views.


Good varied route, nice short approach for a change.

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