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Portal Peak

Difficulty: 
Difficult Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
2932
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
19.5
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1026
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
1077
Ascent Time: 
3:00 From Iceberg Lake
Tripdate: 
Sunday, July 14, 2013

After plans for the weekend were changed around Steven and I were looking for a good daytrip for Sunday. After reading Marko's description of (most of) the route up Portal Peak we thought it would make for some great views of the Wapta in summer (and it did), Steven wanted to try for good alpine sunrise pictures using a bivy with seemed alright to try out. Take away message from this peak is that it is VERY loose, most of the gully have to be ascended/descended one at a time unless you want a facefull of scree coming down on the people below!

Setting out from the Num Ta Jah Lodge parking lot around 9am we headed up the Bow Falls trail following Marko's ascent route up some rocky/mossy/grassy ledges on the climbers right of the falls. Soon after it became too dark to see we got a few hours sleep, awakening at sunrise to considerably cloudier skies than forecast. There were original plans of trying for Mt Jimmy Simpson before Portal, but the threat of thunderstorms (which TWN was forecasting for starting really early around noon!) in the afternoon focused our efforts Portal-wards.

Leaving the upper area accesed from the ledges we descended down to Glacier Lake and gained the moiraine which marks the start of the ascent route. I was feeling kind of sick at this point for some reason and felt bad for dragging down progress (luckily things got better once we started the actual scrambling). From Paul Zizka's previous route info we knew where to generally look for weaknesses in the rock and finding them proved fairly straightforward (they were much harder to spot on descent). After negotiating a few difficult (and very loose) cliff bands it was on to the SE face, traversing loose scree to gain the Wapta adjacent side of Portal. From there more loose scree (loose rock was the theme for the day) while angling towards the Thompson side of Portal slowly heading upwards. Scrambling was usually moderate with a few difficult bits. Right below the summit there was a climbers scramble section (which we later learned could be bypassed by going 5 ft to the climbers left of Steven's route below) which made for fun climbing.

The views from the summit of Portal Peak were pretty great (its hard to go wrong with views of the Wapta!), only complaint is Portal's limited height cutting off views that could be seen from nearby Mt Thompson. After taking in the views (and finding a register container with no register inside it) we descended down towards the Thompson-Portal col.

The rock on the Thompson-Portal col was considerably less loose than our ascent side (but still loose by any definition) and made for a reasonably quick descent. If you chose to head up this way it would make the route a little easier. After loosing a bunch of elevation we had to find our descent line which took a long while (be sure to memorize where you came up!), and after a long while we came down to Glacier Lake and descended the tourist route back to the main trail.

 

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