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Mount Baker and Peyto Peak

Steep snow for Baker and mid 5'th alpine climbing for Peyto
Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
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YDS Difficulty: 
Ascent Time: 
4:30 Car to Hut, 3:00 Hut to Baker, 3:00 Hut to Peyto Summit Block
None if on route on the approach from the highway
Saturday, February 21, 2015

As the winter dragged on and snow conditions finally started to improve Steven, Vern, and I all were up for a two day trip, but what to do?  Eventually we decided upon heading up Peyto Peak, the last of the main Wapta peaks for Vern to climb and a worthy foe based on some previous beta we had read (for the true summit at least, everything except the last 10 vertical meters is skiable).  After some more discussion (and looking at the forecast) Steven and I decided to try to push for ascending Mount Baker on the approach day and Vern (having already climbed Baker) said he’d have no problem getting a few skis runs in while we went for the climb so a plan was successfully hatched!


Leaving from the parkway just after sunrise we set off initially along the road following Vern and Steven’s route from Trapper peak last spring heading into the bush and came across an already established trail leading out to the lake (complete with a wee bit of deadfall for variety).  Once at the lake travel conditions were quite good and we steadily sped across amidst chilly cloudy skies towards the hut.  Near the edge of the lake there was still open water necessitating carrying the skis for a bit, but nothing too outrageous.  After ski-ing up again we set course for the moraine leading up to the Peyto Glacier which while tedious and somewhat treacherous wasn’t too terrible (and would have been closer to pleasant if not for a bone-chilling wind).


Steven crossing Peyto Lake heading towards the hut.


Still open water flowing into Peyto Lake.


Steven about to take off his skis and cross over.


Vern sidehilling on the rock hard moraine.


On the other side of the moraine looking towards the Peyto Glacier.


Past the moraine we came across the Peyto weather station and were soon on the Peyto Glacier itself (complete with some curious snow measuring contraptions).  Getting up the glacier was quite straightforward with no obvious signs of open crevasses except for the icefall in the distance (which is why you don’t want to make a beeline for the Peyto Hut!).  Also just after we hit the glacier the weather started to improve considerably on the Wapta (and oddly enough back on the parkway looked much worse).  After aiming for a wide arc pointing first towards Mount Habel and then turning back towards the Peyto Hut to avoid the crevasse field we were within site of the hut and able to significantly lighten our packs while enjoying some lunch.


A curious weather contraption on the glacier.


Vern leading up the Peyto Glacier, Mount Habel and Mount Rhondda in the distance.


Higher up on the glacier, Peyto Peak on the right and Mount Baker in the disant centre.


Nice approach conditions not too warm and relatively clear skies.


The boys almost at the hut, Peyto Peak in the distance.


After being refreshed in the hut (which was exceedingly warm despite the cold air temperature due to that excellent large west facing window) Steven and I set off towards Mount Baker with Vern saying he would follow our tracks in a little bit for some skiing.  I had brought along a pair of 2-way radios specifically for this purpose so we were able to keep track of each other during our separate treks.  Snow conditions were pretty much perfect for both stability and quick travel and Steven and I made short work on the approach from the hut towards the Baker/Barrel col.  Leaving our skis at the col Steven lead the way upwards kicking steps up the north face of Baker (to avoid the large cornice along the ridge) eventually merging to the ridge-proper for the final push to the summit.


After leaving the hut Steven staring down Mount Baker.


Baker is quite a striking peak.


Onwards towards Mount Baker with the hut in the distant centre-left.


Steven approach the Baker/Barrel col.


Steven up on the north face of Mount Baker, quite steep in places.


Steven leading higher up almost at the ridgecrest.


At the ridgecrest things got quite chilly, the summit in view in the centre-right.


We got to the summit as the sun was starting to set so had very nice lighting and quite a chill.  Steven’s camera batteries ended up freezing causing picture-problems it was so cold.  After a bit of time to take in the views and snapping a series of summit photos we both agreed that heading back down to the col soon rather than later was a good idea.  Retracing our steps back down was quite straightforward and quickly enough we were back at our skis as sunset was casting rosy tones above Mistaya Lodge to the north.  The run back to the hut went by quite quickly and had good snow to make some turns in.


Great frosty summit views!


Zoomed in summit views to the north.


A wider look to the rest of the Wapta and SE.


One last summit view pano for good measure.


Really neat looking peaks to the north.


Back down the ridge we go.


Me descending the ridge, photo by Steven Song.


Back at the Baker/Barrel col looking down towards Mistaya Lodge.


Steven donning his skis for the run back to the hut.


Looking up towards Peyto Peak in the last few minutes before sunset from the hut.


Overnight at the hut we were joined by two Calgarians who were happy to escape all the hullabaloo of packed conditions over at nearby Bow Hut (where apparently a pack of snowshoers descended upon the place).  The sky was exceedingly clear overnight letting Vern and I take some decent star pictures (see the attached video for a time-lapse of some of the stars above the hut).  We were all fairly tired and turned in pretty early aiming to wake up around 6 the next morning to head up Peyto Peak.  In the morning temperatures had warmed up considerably (a tropical -15C air temp outside the hut) which we were quite pleased about.  After a short run down from the hut we skinned up, dropped a bit of gear at the base of Peyto and then started our way towards the summit.  From our previous beta we had known that the crux of the entire trip would be the last 10m between the true summit of Peyto and the top of the summit ridge, this proved to be true.


The next morning looking out towards Baker, Trapper, and Peyto.


Steven and Vern heading up Peyto Peak, the summit block visible in the top right.


Steven staring down the summit block after leaving his skis.


The boys enjoying the tropical weather.


As we got higher and higher up the peak the summit block loomed larger and larger in front of us until the texture of the rock started to become apparent and it became time to rack up and make an attempt.  There were a few options for tacking the summit block.  The first was on the sunny side of the peak but looked both loose and difficult (but on the upside, dry).  The info we had told us that there was a ~5.5 gully on the shady side of the summit block which lead to a decent belay station, a quick peak around showed that things were quite snowy on the shady side!  After setting up a belay at the base of the first gully I set off and was first struck by how horrible the snow was up here compared to the bomber conditions on the other side of the peak.  Conditions were that oh so unenviable blend on unsupportive snow on mystery 5’th class rock.  Thankfully front pointing on crampons and two ice tools made the ascent possible.  First I tried a direct route up the nearest gully to our belay but was foiled by a lack of decent footholds though on the upside managed to place a good cam lessening my dread.  After the first gully didn’t go I traversed over to the next gully (making a gnarly amount of rope drag) and started up.  This gully was a little less snowy and had some more texture so I felt much more secure.  It took a bit of time but eventually I picked a way up and placed a few more pieces before cresting onto a ledge of likely fourth class rock a move or two away from a good belay station (which lo and behold already had a few pieces of cord tied to it from previous groups!).  By the time I got to the belay I was damned cold but couldn’t turn aside from such a solid top rope anchor.  After setting up a belay I got on the radio letting the boys know I was up and started belaying Steven (who cleaned the gear) and then Vern in succession.


A helmet-camera still from my lead midway through the first gully.


Vern making his way up the top of the second gully from our belay.  Photo by Steven Song.


After the belay point our work wasn’t done and there were still a few snow covered (very) low 5’th class moves between us and the summit.  I hung back for a few minutes making sure the rope wasn’t going to go anywhere and the boys lead up to the summit-proper.  The first observation that Vern made was that surprisingly there was no wind on the summit, and it was really really warm.  Hearing this I hastily made my way up and basked in the sun (grabbing ice tools for an hour makes for very chilly hands!).  Views from the summit were outstanding (be sure to click and zoom in on some of the pictures below).


Steven and I happy to be on the summit (and warm!).


Perfect summit views.


More perfect summit views.


One last zoomed in summit pano for good measure.


While the summit was very comfortable we still had a long way to go back to the car (and then a long drive home, I had classes to teach in the morning and it was looking like we wouldn’t get back to town till 3am ish…).  After spending a few minutes trying to look for a register we decided to start setting up the rap.  Steven volunteered to go first giving me a few more minutes to warm up (thank you very much for that!).  A few of the rocks near the anchor boulder were surprisingly very loose and created a bit of terror during the first rap.  Vern chose a different rap line along the border of the shady/sunny side.  Eventually my turn was up and I brought the rope back to Steven’s line, and in short time was back down on solid ground and trudging downwards towards our skis.  The ski run down from the summit ridge was outstanding, possibly the best backcountry run I’ve had so far.  After a cold a challenging climb such a nice ski was certainly well received and sped us down towards the base of the glacier in no time.


Looking down at the lower false summit to the north.


Vern getting set up for the rap.


Me rapping down, photo by Steven Song.


Me enjoying a fabulous ski run down from the summit block.  Photo by Steven Song.


The boys back down off the Peyto Glacier.


From the base of the glacier the rest of the deproach was pretty much one foot in front of the other.  Thankfully some other folks who were approaching Bow Hut (via the Peyto Approach for some reason?) had made some new tracks which helped out on the moraine and made for quick travel across the lake.  Vern was a fair bit ahead on the deproach while Steven and I plodded back across the lake amidst the last few rays of daylight.  We ended up getting back to the car just at the threshold of head-lamp-required light levels.


A while later back down on the moraine.


Looking back at the moraine from the edge of the lake.


Pretty sunset views from Peyto Lake.


Another great trip with some excellent views!


All in all this was a pretty great trip with a lot of variety.  We had cold temperatures, t-shirt skiing (in February no less!), snow climbs, mixed 5’th class, clouds, sun, and everything.  Thanks to Vern for breaking trail on the way in, Steven for leading up the snow pitch on Baker, and thanks to both the guys for being patient with my lead up the summit block on Peyto (spotting good gear placements is tricky when everything is blasted with snow).  Can’t wait to head back up the Wapta to tag some of the other good summits I haven’t yet set boot upon (Olive, Gordon, Vulture, Ayesha, Collie, Trapper, Des Poilus)!

Average: 4 (1 vote)


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