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Mount Wilson

Difficulty: 
Snowshoe Mountaineering
Elevation [m]: 
3245
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
16.4
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
1809
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
2242
Ascent Time: 
9:35
Bushwhackyness: 
A Little Right At The Start
Tripdate: 
Monday, April 22, 2013

For our second day out Eric, Steven, Vern and I were planning to snowshoe up Mount Wilson (basing on Nugara'sgoldenscrambles TRs). We knew this was going to be a big day and got started early at the trailhead (the closest turnoff towards sask crossing) around 430 and set out for some nav-by-gps fun. It took a while to track down the proper ascent gully bushwhacking by dark but eventually we honed in on it (base is GR ZZZ) and it was time to toss on the shoes and start gaining elevation. The first important thing to note about the route is the first split in the ascent gully, left is the right way to go even though it looks smaller and more treed than the gully directly ahead (this took some deliberation to confirm, see the picture below). Further up the gully there was tons of avalanche debris and a decent snowpack beneath us allowing for relativly quick travel upwards (with a few places near the end where the grade got steeper and switchbacks were needed). The gully gains a lot more elevation than it looks like from the road and be prepared for a workout! Once up the gully at the col views of the Wilson Icefield and surroundings abound (and they are both expansive and awesome)! As in Chic Scotts route description the slope after the col is big business 40 degrees and 150m down, luckily today it was a solid snowpack and made for good for snowshoeing up and down. We chose to traverse beneath some avalanche slopes to gain a nice line up towards the high col and slowly but surely plodded on upwards towards the summit. There were a few open crevasses lower down on the icefield and we roped up pretty quick as two rope teams. Heading upwards picking the easiest line worked out well for us avoiding the first ridge and hitting the second (the proper) ridge leading to the high col.

From the high col things got kind of sketchy. Firstly there was bonechilling wind (to be expected I suppose given Wilsons height and location) which made for hard communication and less time standing around for discussion. Secondly, there was just firm enough snow to make crampons a good call but still the threat of crevasses to make snowshoes an asset. I kept my shoes on and it was good that I did because I stepped into a crevasse (probably the same one as golden scrambles which we thought we avoided by heading climbers right, evidently not far right enough, see picture below for location). Luckily one of the crampons on m snowshoe caught on the edge of the crevasse and I only have one foot about a foot into the chasm (which looked to go down a long ways!). After some quick maneuvering I avoided going deeper into the crevasse, let the other rope team know and then we kept inching towards the summit on solid (too-solid in places), slippery exposed snow slopes. DON'T underestimate this traverse, one slip could send you (and your rope-mate) 2km downwards and if conditions are like what we had arresting would be difficult. The first half of the traverse was pretty sketchy but after that we reached a final rocky slope which made for more comfortable travel and then on to the summit itself.

The views from the summit are wide reaching (though hindered by the bulky weather station) and well worth the effort to get up there (if only the wind wasn't so fierce and we could have stuck around for a while to enjoy it more). With the prospect of another trek back across the sketch ridge with ever more frosty fingers we all snapped a few pictures, took a few looks around and then made our way back towards the high-col. The slippery-solid snow offered more complications on the way down and we ended up giving each other sequential ice axe belays to offer some protection (though in some places the snow was packed enough that the ice depth was a little shallow..). This might be a good place to set up a running belay with screws if you have them along.

Once back to the high-col the wind died down a little bit and we could relax for a better appreciation of the surroundings. Descent was through the same route as the ascent and midway down we opted to unrope being certain of our previous tracks (one of the advantages of snowshoes rather than skis). Once back near the low-col we decided to re-use our tracks beneath the large slopes overhead with the logic that it would allow for faster travel and if a big enough slide came down being lower down might be even worse. The 40 degree slopes up to the col proved to be still in good shape and quickly yielded their elevation regain (though not without some huffing and puffing, 2200m gain at this point). Once back in the gully it was a straightworward matter of slogging downwards chasing the afternoon sun until we came out back in the trees and meandered back to the car.

Just over 15 hours for the round trip which is certainly a big day.

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