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Mount Edith Cavell

Technical Rock 5.3
Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
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Ascent Time: 
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

After I had known two different groups of people having gone up Mount Edith Cavell in the last few weeks I was anxiously watching the forecast for a patch of clear sky (which in the last few weeks has been quite a rare commodity) to give it a go. Seeing a forecast which was sunny of both env canada and weather network it was time to head out.

Taking Vern's advice of the approach trail being easy to get lost on in the dark I scouted the approach the night before which certainly made for a more relaxed start in the wee hours of the morning. Leaving from the Cavell parking lot around 330 I was (at that time) the only car in the lot and aside from a few roaming marmots seemed to have the mountain to myself.

As in the 11000ers book the trail starts on the big paved trail and then soon after goes onto a subsidiary trail on the climbers left that switchbacks over some boulders before descending onto dirt on the edge of the forest. Following the trail (and turning climbers right at the signed junction) eventually it becomes less distinct but by the point the course is pretty clear, aim for the big snowline ahead. Snow conditions weren’t ideal this morning so I got off the snow and onto rock as quick as possible and shortly after gained the base of the lower ridge just as the sky was starting to brighten. Looking back down I could see the glint of headlamps which showed that two other groups were on the route this morning.

The lower ridge proved to have lots of fun hands on scrambling with an easy to follow trail showing a decent path upwards. Taking a break for sunrise on the lower ridge was an awesome area for good views, if you can plan your trip to be up here by sunrise its probably worth doing. Crossing over from the lower ridge to the bench on a snow slope was pretty slippery but tracks in the snow were enough to do it without crampons. Once past the snow traverse the rest of the route was all rock. Soon after the upper ridge comes into view and I was super glad to see it bone dry (essentially if you are planning to climb it solo!).

Reaching the base of the upper ridge I took a break amidst a chilly morning wind, stowed my camera, and got mentally in 'climbing mode' having been warned of the exposure. Given the frosty wind I was kind of in a hurry to get up the ridge and got from the base to the summit in a little less than an hour. The climbing on the ridge is graded as 5.3 and consists mostly of upsloped slabs, a few pinches, and even a pocket or two (my first time using pockets on an alpine route!). I have been doing a bunch of sport climbing recently of midrange 5.10s which I think may have lowered the perceived difficulty considerably. From that all ill say is if you are comfortable on 5.9/5.10 sport routes and the route is dry you'll have no worries and have a great time!

From the top of the east ridge it was just a short walk on scree to the summit (and an even shorter walk to the big cairned summit). Views from the summit are excellent as expected with tons of great peaks showing up. I wish I would have stuck around longer but even with my down jacket on it was damned frosty up there! After trying to sign the register but failing to find a pencil it was time to get out of the wind and head down the west ridge.

Descending the west ridge was the least enjoyable part of the day. It is loose, it takes a long time, and the views become more and more limited. Not much to say about it other than follow the scree tracks and failing that generally aim to skiers right until you see an obvious gap in the cliffs amidst several waterfalls.

Once down the scree its onto the trail which takes a long while and was quite toasty today! If you have the technical ability heading up the east ridge is definitely preferable, I can't imagine up and down the west being a fun outing unless you were just super stoked about Cavell. The path back to the car is long but very obvious, if you think you'll be thirsty stock up on water at the base of the west ridge before hitting the trees.


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