Alpine Club of Canada
Vancouver Island Section
Summer Camp 2010
The Journal of the ACCVI
Vancouver Island Summer Camp 2010
July 17 – August 7
6817E 0681681 E
55308N 5531045 N North of Mt. Bate
Map: Gold River 92 E/16
Grid Ref 816308 (0681689/5530851)
Week 1: July 17 – 24
Saturday July 17
To everyone’s amazement, all of the team for Week 1 arrived at the appointed
chopper pad in Conuma River, on time, although Graham Maddocks was an hour
early, and had begun to fret that he might be in the wrong place! And Catrin’s van
had a leaking brake cylinder.
But thus we gathered, 13 good souls (Sylvia having stepped down at the last
minute). Indeed, the Hon. Chair was also present, as much as to see off his
precious daughter Krista, but also no doubt to cast a beady eye on the
arrangements, given that he would inherit the entire mess at the start of Week 2.
The E&B Helicopter Long Ranger arrived at 10:00, and a merry Ken – the pilot –
gave the safety briefing, and then carried 2 loads of 4-5 passengers, then 2 sling
loads, and finally the remainder of the group. The weather was perfect, calm,
cloudless. Alas, the upper basin known as Shangri-La had 2 metres of snow in it,
making for a more complex camp plan.
Nevertheless, biffies were dug and the mighty Space Dome erected, everyone
grateful for the clear clip labels, and the absence of wind. Then tables and stools
were installed, the stoves connected to propane, and we were ready, while the
biffy party, ably led by Geoff Bennett (like a duck to water) reported that all sewer
systems were “go”. (The plan is to fly out all waste.)
Private tents were then pitched under a blazing sun that will still not clear the
basin of snow in the coming 3 weeks. Gear was unpacked. Food was shared and
freshly buried garbage cans, all shiny, with snow providing some cooling.
Various parties wandered off to explore the nearer areas. The sun dropped
behind Thumb Peak at 6:50pm and we drained sundowners outside, and battled
with 3-leg stools that suddenly sank into the unconsolidated snow.
Dinner was an aromatic and swell affair, and I will let the chefs describe it below,
while others discussed the many options for the morning. [Rick H]
When Morgan dropped Krista a line introducing himself as her cooking partner
and suggested a simple dinner of quinoa and peppers, Krista took it upon herself
to share with him the camp’s unspoken contest for each night’s meal to outdo
that of the previous, so while quinoa was a good start it could perhaps benefit
from some more lavish touches. And a starter. And a good dessert. And so that’s
just what they did. Krista cooked up a bruschetta with roasted red peppers,
roasted almonds, mint, parsley and other tasty additions, and a spread of roasted
and sundried tomatoes a splash of balsamic vinegar and plenty of ginger. Both
were served with toast and or onion bread. Morgan made a phenomenal main
course, supplementing the quinoa with peppers, nuts and a homemade peanut
sauce. Krista finished the meal with 2 2-layer chocolate cakes with chocolate
sauce and raspberry topping. We don’t think anyone will top it. Neener neener.
(Nearly all these recipes were taken from the Rebar Cookbook.) [Krista]
Sunday July 18
The sun touched camp at, curiously, 7:50 am. The weather is clear, with a light,
Mo Blakley, Russ Moir, Rick Hudson.
Left camp at 8:00 and followed the East terrace to the low end(s) – about an
hour, and then climbed up easy snow slopes to the summit tower (about another
hour). Superb views from Warden and Victoria to Golden Hinde, even to Nine
At the final tower we dropped into the moat on the NE corner, and our young
tiger (Morgan Blakley) quickly climbed the chimney to a stance 25 metres up.
Russ and Rick then followed, and the views NW to Rugged Mountain were soon
apparent. Morgan then led a fine slab pitch – all of the rock is firm red basalt, but
with little protection – and our leader, facing his first time at the short end on
Island rock, did well. The final 10 metre slab to the very summit is delicate in
snow boots. In due course, he was joined by the other two, who then retreated to
the ledge 10 metres below, while he put a peg into the summit and rapped down.
From there, it was uncertain whether a single full rap would reach the snow, but
with 2 good slings around a block, we just made it, saving much time. [Rick H]
Afterthought – a 60 metre rope is needed to rap to just above the moat – knot
needed to avoid a drop – down climb last 5 metres!
We didn’t find the old pin at the summit which we rapped off last time here –
“somebody” rapped off two manky placed wire nuts which fell out when touched
– must have been a desperate team. The new pin in crack below top is fine. [?]
Phee Hudson, Roger Painter, Peggy + Roger Taylor, Geoff Bennett
Left camp at 0800, kicked steps straight up the couloir to the col at the lowest
point of the ridge east of Thumb Peak. There is a huge snowfield on the north
side of the col.
From the col there are several options to climb Thumb Peak – snow ramp on the
south side (OK); snowfield on the north side (a bit steep in places); or the rock rib
in the middle – which is the route we chose. Looks steep, but firm third class / no
The ridge tops out at another col about halfway up, from which you can kick
steps up an easy snowfield to the right of the summit. But we elected to go up the
easy rock (more fun) and reached the summit cairn at 10:30 (2.5 hours from
camp, 460 metres elevation gain).
The rock route we would do again because of the lovely heather meadows.
Fabulous views in all directions: NE (Waddington?), W (the ocean), S (Col Foster
et al.). The view over to the Thumb is very impressive, with an exposed and level
traverse ending at the base of the steep pinnacle of the thumb. No interest in our
group to attempt the traverse!
Sketch of the region between the Thumb and Thumb Peak
Sketch of the region of Thumb Col (Thumb Peak is to the left, Tlupana Ridge to
Sketch of the start of Tlupana Ridge, to the right of Thumb Col
The summit register was totally soaked, despite being in a PVC container, and
the pencil was destroyed. After lounging around in the sunshine under a beautiful
blue sky, we glissaded down the snow slopes to the intermediate col, then down
climbed the rock to the main col. From here we continued over easy mixed
terrain over the first bump, then onto the second, and finally one more lesser,
very red bump, before deciding to return. We took many breaks and enjoyed
ourselves thoroughly. The only required gear is an ice axe. Had to climb back up
the two bumps but most of the return journey involved long snow glissades.
Back at camp before 1600. It should be possible to traverse the entire ridge to
the east, but it would be wise to check out the route through the bluffs at the east
end (below the camp). A good view of these bluffs can be obtained from the
lower part of the route up Mt. Bate. [Geoff]
I was pleased to find flowers at the col and up the rocky slopes to Thumb Peak.
Alaska saxifrage, western spring beauty, yellow mountain heather, white
mountain heather, Sibbaldia, round-leaved violet, sub-alpine buttercup, pink
mountain heather, bird’s beak lousewort, alpine azalea, sickletop lousewort,
spreading phlox, smooth dovglasia, scarlet paintbrush, Davidson’s penstemon,
western hedysarum, deer cabbage. [Phee]
Chef Roger and chopping assistant Peggy started dinner prep @ 5:30pm.
Butternut squash soup – tetra packs emptied into large pot – easy! Cabbage
salad with grated carrots, apple, raisins – juicy and yummy, but lots of chopping.
Main was pesto, angel hair, sundried tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts. Dessert was
almond and chocolate biscotti w/ tea, coffee or hot chocolate – tasty! Hungry
hordes seemed appreciative kudos to our friend Elaine Powers – a former ski
and raft guide – for recipe. [?]
Party members Rick Johnson leading, Graham Maddocks, Catrin Brown, Krista
Zala, Kelley Osbourne, Fiona Lemon, David Lemon.
Set off at 0715, over the glass to Peter Lake. Descended from the pass to Peter
Lake and contoured around the end of the lake, then up the snow slope to the
large snow gully at the left hand end of the SE ridge. Snow gully is steep, but
was reasonably swift. Gained the ridge at the SE end of the SE summit. Decided
that traversing the SE summit on the E side was not possible, nor was it practical
to go over the summit with such a large party.
Rick descended on the best side to the top of a steep snow slope (a short
distance) and then into the moat. David and Fiona Lemon went as well; the rest
of the party remained in the ridge to enjoy the afternoon.
Halfway along the route (about 100’) it became too undecent, and traversed the
rest of the snow slope to a patch of bushes. Descended past the bushes, then
scrambled down class 3 rock to the base of the summit snowfield. Then
ascended the snow slope the left hand side of the summit block. The scramble to
the summit is loose, and a bit exposed. Rick, David, and Fiona gained the
summit at 2:00pm (Fiona’s first big mountain). Down climbed the summit, since
there were no anchors for rappelling or protection. Returned by the same route,
rejoined the rest of the party at 4:00pm returned to camp at 6:30pm. [?]
It was more than a bit exposed. [Graham]
Monday July 19
Mt. Alava “Direct”
Rick and Phee Hudson, Peggy Roger Taylor, Geoff Bennett
We all learn from experience. After listening to yesterday’s stories we decided to
look for a different approach route. Left camp at 09:00 (a bit late), crossed the
col, then way down to the lake (where mew gulls were calling), around the east
end, then traversed up into the main couloir between Alava and the SE summit.
This couloir is too dangerous (cornice atop) so we crossed it low down and
scrambled up an easy rock gully to access the upper snowfields.
Here we had a choice – lead straight up a rather steep but direct snowfield, or
traverse further to access the gentlest angle on the ridge. We did the latter, then
back-tacked up angled rock ledges to get to the snow again. Then easy snow
slopes all the way around the summit to a notch on the back side. Dropped axes
and packs; donned helmets and harnesses. From the notch we traversed up
ledges to the left. Loose rock on ledges. We belayed one pitch in the middle,
with an awkward move and a nasty drop. Then loose but easy scrambling along
the ridge to the summit. We were at the notch by 12:00 (3 hours from camp), but
spent 2 hours on the summit. Retraced our steps home. Hardest part was the
250 metre trudge back up the col. Reached camp at 16:20, less than 2.5 hours
from the summit notch. A great day!
And by the way we saw a deer in the main couloir, and later on its prints in the
snow going over the Alava col. Also a ptarmigan and four chicks on the upper
Tlupana Ridge – Above the Conuma River
Russ Moir, Roger Painter, Catrin Brown, David Lemon, Fiona Lemon, Graham
Maddocks, Kelly Osbourne, Krista Zala
Approach route – Descended E bank of river below camp site and up series of
snow ramps with two heather/rock ribs to avoid exposed steep snow sections –
achieved ridge at low point rear SE end, dropped packs and booted/scrambled
easy line along to southernmost rock knob of ridge – fabulous views into
Strathcona and out to Tahsis Inlet – also across to Bate and Alava (where friends
were on top).
Worked along ridge over good snow and lovely, warm, solid, grabby rock ribs
and eventually to col below Thumb Peak. Party split up, some to descend to
camp (they’d done Thumb day before) – 4 continued up rock buttress and up
great soft snow to Thumb Peak.
The boot-slide all the way down was exhilarating after a longish day – just soft
enough to boot ski down from summit to camp in 35 minutes. Hallelujah!! An
awesome day in the sun on a scenic ridge. [?]
Rick Johnson and Morgan Blakley
We left to climb Mt. Thumb and upon reaching the col, we saw Grattan and
decided to climb it. We had a small rack (being small gear) and a few slings. We
left a new rappel sling about 2/3 of the way up to the summit. The two old slings
are not trustworthy. I left a sling and 2 new carabiners on a bush/tree about 1/3 of
the way up.
The climbing is easy and beautiful. Rock is mostly solid with some loose rock
near the summit. In Island Alpine the route is rated III 5.6. It’s easier than that,
probably III 5.4. Not many places to build anchors, rap stations will be creative.
Morgan down climbed rest of it. We moved the summit register down to the big
ledge below the tiny summit. It was soaked, but waterproof paper. We were the
first to sign. Bringing two 60 metre ropes for rappelling will make life easier.
I collected my sling and biners a few days later.
Tuesday July 20
Mt. Alava “Super-Direct”
Kelly Osbourne, Morgan Blakley, Krista Zala
The party left camp around 9:30, a late start for sure but we quickly descended
the Bate Thumb col toward Peter Lake. Following Monday’s tracks, we traversed
around south of Peter Lake and up left of the Alava couloirs.
We traversed up toward the right into the small rocky bluff. The Team notes that
to climber's right of the short chimney is a less technical route onto the bench.
Take direct snow gulley up and left, for a more direct line to the main summit
snow slope. Had to cross a few snow bridges that were quickly fading away.
Ascended summit snow slope quickly. Gained summit block at noon (at south
side) at notch below / beside single spiky tower. Two of three of us put on rock
shoes and we all traversed left on rock just above moat of north-west snowfield,
about 30 feet. Climbed loose 3rd/4th class rock to gain summit. Enjoyed the lovely
views, discussed prohibition, boy disrobed for shots for a calendar project.
Descent: Set more or less a body belay and Morgan belayed Kelly then Krista as
each down climbed. (He was clothed at this point.) Morgan down climbed it
without rope – in his boots! Descended down snow slope to Alava col, then
stayed to descender’s left (toward Alava Lake, kinda) on easier slope than
ascent. Followed small set of cairns over rock, which mostly followed a stream,
then across shoulder, then back on to snowfield and on to the first rock grained
on ascent. Down in slow clockwise sweep over solid rock, sometimes holding
onto tree branches, until reached our footprints.
Took path to Peter Lake and swam with icebergs. Very refreshing. Had a small
siesta and hauled our way back to camp. Gorgeous weather, high wispy clouds.
Crampons were really helpful. 60 metre 9mm rope perfect. But! A single 60 metre
rope is not sufficient for single rappel. [Krista]
Be careful crossing couloir in pm – we were above this on “easy” day and
watched large block come off side of couloir sending big chunks down slope –
we scootered across rapidly!! [Russ]
From above on Alava, the main couloir looks very dangerous. There are large
steep snow packs above climber's left and a cornice top and center. This should
not be used as an approach to Alava's summit. [Morgan]
The blocks covered our tracks, 30 minutes after we were there. [Catrin]
Mt. Bate (2nd ascent this week)
Peggy and Roger Taylor, Graham Maddocks, Roger Painter, Geoff Bennett
Same route as earlier ascent – left camp at 09:20 (alpine start!?). Up through
snowfields for 3 hours to base of summit block. No crampons needed. First pitch
(30 metres) up an obvious chimney – easy fifth class, stemming moves,
protection not really needed except for a sling around a horn at the top of the
chimney to redirect the rope.
Belay off two good slings around a boulder (the rap station). Final short pitch has
about 3 metres of solid 5.6 (thin hand and foot holds – best done with rock shoes
esp. for the leader because there is no protection.) Belay from a new piton with
locking biner. With large groups it may be useful to have a second rope (30
metres is enough) to belay and lower climbers up the second pitch while other
climbers are on the first pitch.
Must have a 60 metre rope to rap the first pitch. Back in camp 1.5 hours after
unroping. A great day in perfect weather on beautiful rock in fine company.
Tlupana (Roger’s ridge)
Pick and Phee Hudson (37th wedding anniversary)
Had a lovely day doing the ridge from are end to the other. Rick also added
Thumb Peak as he had not been up there yet. Another perfect blue sky day in
paradise. We cooked dinner after washing hair (Yay!) – trifle for dinner very
Wednesday July 21
Morgan Blakley went for a stroll. Started at the Bate-Thumb col and scrambled
up and across the ridge to the Thumb-Grattan col. Crossed over to Grattan,
soloed up about 1/3 to retrieve sling and biners. Then scrambled up three mini
peaks on the Grattan-Thumb ridge. Then scrambled around the side of the
Thumb to scout a route up.
Down climbed onto snow and crossed below Mt. Thumb. Climbed Mt. Thumb
and hung out for a while. Descended via snow to camp. Unpacked and repacked
for a bath. Went behind the biffies and down to the waterfall/pool. Hopped in 6
times and dried off in the sun. Lovely sunbathing. [Morgan]
Roger’s Ridge II (S. West ridge extension of Thumb)
Roger Painter, Phee Hudson and Catrin Brown strolled up to Peter col then down
a short way the other side before traversing the snow (R) to the ridge. A couple
of tricky rock moves brought us onto a beautiful heather ledge which took us to
the ridge proper. Lots of flowers near the bottom of the ridge, then fascinating red
rock formations all the way up. Great views of Mt. Alava and Peter Lake. Roger
had a bath in a pool half way up. Then we sat at the top and waited for the boys
from Grattan to join us. Highly commend this as a short day outing. [Phee]
Rick Hudson, Russ Moir, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Bennett, Roger Taylor
Departure at 8:30 am reached base of Grattan at 9:30am. Climb was six pitches
of approx 30 metres. Rick Hudson was lead climber with Russ Moir, then Geoff
Bennett followed by Roger Taylor. Graham Maddocks decided to stay at the
base. Pitches were short as Geoff had a hard time getting up past 30 metres,
due to rope drag.
Rock was excellent and able to climb in hiking boots – no problem. I’d estimate
5.4 class. Easier than the top of Bate. Not too exposed. An excellent multi-pitch
climb for a relatively new climber. Descent was 3x 60 metres rappels; 2 were
easy. The last was a bit more difficult, due to “organic” belay station but still fun
Back at base of Grattan at 3pm. Met up with Roger’s Ridge II group at top of
ridge. Back at camp by 4pm. An excellent day out. [Roger T]
Rick Johnson, Kelly Osbourne, Krista Zala, Fiona Lemon, David Lemon
We set out at the miraculously early time of 8:15. The approach was
straightforward, over a series of bumps to gullies, past the slowly melting lake
with its gorgeous azure divots in the snow.
We followed the long ramp up, choosing to hug the ridge all the way around,
hopping on to the occasional rocky outcropping, rather than choosing a direct
route up from the final basin as an earlier party evidently took. On the northern
trek to the summit slope we dropped a few metres of elevation to enjoy a great
lunch / snack break at a watering hole on some rocks with a pool and running
We traversed a steep snow slope and reached the summit block at about 11:15.
Rick led the first pitch in boots with Kelly and Krista simul-climbing in rock shoes
(which Kelly was very happy about) (and there was no way Krista would’ve done
it without rock shoes). Upon reaching the belay station Krista discovered that
one of the locking carabiners in the anchor hadn’t been closed, which made her
less than ecstatic.
Rick then ran up a second short section to the final belay station, with Kelly and
Krista following. Rick tried to climb the last pitch in boots before giving up as it’s a
scabby exposed face (beyond a single protection section on a small underhang
on the left) and switching to rock shoes and running up to the pin. Krista followed,
then Kelly. We left enough rope through the pin and at the top for future top
ropes, then Kelly rapped down, followed by Krista. [Krista]
Rick stayed at the 2nd belay station in order to provide belay to David and Fiona.
David climbed the first pitch in boots, then waited at the belay station ledge with
Rick as Fiona followed in rock shoes. Then Fiona climbed the summit pitch ,
followed by David, still in boots. [?]
Everyone enjoyed the fine views from the summit if only momentarily, especially
the lakes and Tahsis sound in the distance. Thanks to Rick for providing the lead
for our large group. [?]
Thursday July 22
A strong party of the Lemon family, Krista Zala and Graham Maddocks set off at
11:00 after a thrilling start to the day when the cook tent blew away. We headed
straight up the snow in furnace heat collecting bugs for Geoff. On the way we
gained the ridge and contoured along, eventually gaining the summit of Thumb
Peak in clear weather with superb views of Grattan and the au cheval Ridge of
the Thumb – we saw old bear scat on the peak and collected some bugs and
descended in frying pan heat.
The summit register is paper mache. [Graham]
The Great Dome Drama
7:05am and great cries for aid are heard by those asleep or dressing in their
tents! Graham, alone in the dome tent, where he has a stove on in preparation
for his first cup of java, suddenly notices that the tent is lifting to windward (W
side) as the wind that has been there and gone for the night suddenly
strengthens. He lunges for the rising side – good thing he is 200 lb of muscle and
not one of the light ladies – and hangs on for dear life for what seems an age, but
was likely a minute or two.
Still, under full sail, the dome can generate some impressive lift and then it would
be all over. All over the lower valley, most likely!
Reinforcements arrive. The tent has shifted downwind several feet, off its
pedestal, and the stoves are still on, though the kitchen table has fallen over and
landed where the gas bottles were. Excitement! Confusion!
Many hands quickly muster to switch off the gas (no fire, luckily) and we use
water buckets and later pickets together with 100’ of parachord to anchor our
home. Half an hour later the wind has dropped, the tent is fixed to the ground like
glue, and breakfast resumes in its normal, innocent fashion.
Wind: 0 ACC: 1 Thanks Graham! [Rick H]
The tent was sitting in the lit burners. [Graham]
Friday July 23
Phee Hudson, Catrin Brown and Rick Johnson returned to the 3 rock towers at
the lower end of the SE Ridge of Mt. Bate, where yesterday they, with Roger,
had been without a rope. This time they were without Roger, but with rope, and a
very pleasant lower 5th class series of pitches led them up red knobbly rocks.
Broad heather terraces on the E face of the left hand (S) one.
The summit was a perfect square of level heather. The day was cloudless, still
and in all other respects perfect, and they ate lunch and savoured the view in
every direction – the great peaks of Strathcona being particularly handsome with
their late season snow cover.
They then descended the W side of the S tower to reach the middle tower, where
an exposed but easy ramp and wall on the S side brought them to summit #2
where a cairn was built.
Then down a long easy ledge to summit #3 before following an easy grass ramp
that cut down the red rock to a level section of the ridge. The level of difficulty
was class 4 with some exposed very low class 5 sections – a perfect day out for
the last day.
From the ridge, there was easy access onto the snow to connect with the Mt.
Bate up-track, and a speedy snow descent.
Sketch of the SE Ridge of Mt. Bate
Roger and Peggy Taylor
Peggy was eager to get moving again after catching Geoff’s cold on Wednesday.
Had a great rest day at camp – affixed an umbrella to a hiking pole for a shade
and sat on the rocks reading!
Thursday went bug hunting/collecting with Geoff – to get entomology samples for
his brother. Feeling better on Friday – so raring to go! We started at about
9:10am and traversed above Conuma River behind camp, past the waterfalls.
Stopped at a rock perch for snacks after heading up some easy snow slopes.
Roger cut lovely steps for me!
Going up a dog-leg snow gully to climber’s left in crampons was just a bit more
pleasant. Instead of trending right at the top of the dog leg, on Catrin’s advice we
turned left onto a heather/rocky ledge with our crampons – worked will for grip –
and headed up a wee stream to gain the ridge. Then headed right along the ridge
to a view point for a bite of lunch.
Spectacular views to Bate and along spine of the island’s mountains saw Rick,
Phee and Catrin on Bate extension peak. Back along the ridge – hiking between
snow and rock north along the ridge. Easy hiking and scrambling.
Saw a mother ptarmigan with four chicks and took tons of photos and watched
for about 10 minutes – very cute Reached the midway bump at 2 pm and had
a nice lunch, and revelled again at the views. This was the spot where we
reached on the first day with Geoff Bennett. Easy scrambling/hiking again on the
ridge to col above camp/below Thumb Peak. We snow-plunged down the snow
slope back to camp and arrived at about 3:45 pm. An excellent day out indeed!
Mt. Grattan Redux
Kelly Osbourne, Graham Maddocks, David Lemon, Geoff Bennett
Left camp at 0800. Arrived at the base of Grattan an hour later. 4 people – so two
independent rope teams with 60 metre ropes. Beautiful tactile rock climbing.
Holds everywhere. A pleasure in rock shoes. 3-6 pitches to the summit.
Graham and David entrapped in coils of 60 metre rope by Shelob, spider of
Mordor, near the chimney where Geoff dropped a rock on his leg. David dropped
a rock on Geoff’s toe. Otherwise a lovely summit on yet another hot and sunny
day. We’ve been so lucky this week. 3 raps to get down. The 60 metre ropes
were useful, but two 50’s would probably work too – but just barely on the second
rap. Roger got stuck on the last rap – wouldn’t you know it – with the packs so
Climbed all the way back up to free the knot. Don’t use the Double Fisherman on
the rock. No complaints, the rock is superb – so any excuse to climb a bit more is
OK. A great way to end the week. Second ascent for Geoff. [Geoff]
“We are not that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven.
That which we are, we are.
One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate,
But strong in will to strive, to seek, to find.
And not to yield.”
Ulysses by Tennyson
I.e., old men can still climb mountains (!) [David]
Saturday July 24
Musings from Catrin Brown
Having heard and read so much about this area over many years, in the back of
my head before the trip had been a quiet unspoken thought that I might be
underwhelmed – that it could not live up to its expectations. I could not have
been more wrong, or more impressed by everything that we have experienced
here. Suffice to say this has been one of the best weeks ever in the mountains
for me, heightened by the sense of how few have gone before.
Grateful thanks to the early explorers, and especially to Rick and Cedric for
making it happen. May the next 2 weeks be as happy for you all.
Best line of the week: During our morning flying tent activity, while all busy
shovelling snow to anchor the perimeter, Graham suggested we could use the
full biffy bags to help as anchors. But we weren’t sure of the expletive would be
“Oh shit, there goes the tent” or “Oh tent, there goes the ….” [Catrin]
What an amazing week of perfect weather, great company, superb food and 7
wonderful days in the mountains. What a great area – truly a Vancouver Island
treasure to be loved and protected. [Rick Hudson]
Thanks to Rick for all his amazing organizing. It was our first VI section camp and
we loved it! Got to do some wonderful rock and steep snow – pushed our
boundaries and learned lots. Great group of people and wonderful food.
Thanks to all for the support and fun! [Peggy and Roger Taylor]
Week 1 Participants (L to R): Back row: Roger Taylor, David Lemon, Fiona
Lemon, Peggy Taylor, Geoff Bennett, Krista Zala, Kelly Osbourne; Front row:
Graham Maddocks, Catrin Brown, Roger Painter, Rick Hudson, Phee Hudson.
Missing: Morgan Blackley (photographer), Russ Moir, Rick Johnson
Week 2: July 24 - 31
Alcina de Oliveira
Realizing the unique situation and a late snow pack this year and above average
snowfall, Martin suggested skis for anyone interested. Five sets and boards
came in on the heli basket. Well, it might be said that 6 sets boards came in,
Excellent spring snow conditions:
Up to col (en route to Thumb Pk) snow contiguous except for one short bit.
On July 26, Martin and Chris: up col, east along ridge to next high point,
heading down north facing slopes intending loop to climb back up to col.
Carpe Diem!!! Ephemeral nature of those great conditions conducive to
getting “out there”. [Judith]
Monday July 26
Martin Hofmann and I set off from the ACC camp on our skis, heading up to the
col just east of Thumb Peak for a day of skiing on the awesome (a word used too
much I’ll grant you but applicable in this instance) north snowfield starting down
from the top of the first high point east of the col. We felt a certain sense of
urgency due to the rapid melting on this baking slope and we were determined to
put in a day on these gorgeous expanses of snow.
In the afternoon on the first day all of the skis came out for a scorching trip up to
this col to check out the conditions and look around. It was really good skiing and
we had seen the big snowfield farther east and the huge snow-filled couloir down
off the col.
At any rate, today Martin and I were on the way up via the col to the big snow
slope. Once on top of the rise it was obvious there was no issue getting off the
top, there was no cornice and just below there was a nice ledge with a big roll
over onto the main slope. We took off right away and soon found what snow was
still in shade was icy and not great so we kept to the sun slope. We descended a
long way past the easier slopes just to have a look past the edge. We reached
back up to top in roughly ½ hour and took a break in the sun to check in on the
radio and have a snack. It wasn’t long till we were on the ever warming slopes
having another excellent run (no, I mean really excellent).
At that point we decided to try to make a ski connection to the huge couloir below
the col at the narrow last remaining snow bridge, it was laced with cracks from
the snow creep. Back up to the top then and our last run down with Martin
making a lovely ballet leap off the ridge over a large gap. Once at the snow
connection to the gulley we discovered only one spot where large cracks did not
block our descent and it was not clear how substantial it was, so no lingering and
a quick ski over into the vast gulley. This gulley will, from this day onward, be
known as Bear Shit Gulley due to the pile, fairly fresh, not far down in the steep
snow. There was no sign of ski tracks associated with the shit so Martin and I are
still pretty sure we are the only skiers this feature has known. It took us an hour
to grind back up the gulley from the 1100 metre level by Martin’s GPS and there
we had lunch and watched as the Mt. Bate group finally reached their summit; I
have a monocular in my pack. It was a great 15 minute ski down to camp then
out of the clutches of the ski boots.
*Judith has asked that I mention today is the first appearance of mosquitoes,
perhaps of interest to Rob and Ken. [Chris]
A party of six left camp at 7:15 in slightly cooler conditions than yesterday (2
nights ago there were Chinook winds). Within a half hour we were in the sun and
needed to remove some clothes, put on sunscreen and our glacier glasses. The
snow was firm and full of “melt triangles” (sun cups) and as such we speculated
the skiers would have a miserable time on such hard snow. I was even thinking
that my narrow “misery boards” with skins wouldn’t hold on the steep sections..
(we later found out that Martin and Chris had no trouble with the sun cups on
their wide “shredder boards” – so what was I thinking ?!?)
My official duty today was the stair maker punching in large flat steps in the snow
with my plastic boots. The snow was flying everywhere around me on every kick,
including up the legs of my ¾ length climbing shorts, a welcome occurrence, as it
cooled me off in the morning heat.
The route past above a gorgeous little lake/tarn that was forming above the snow
looking like a blue lagoon with young coral. Before this section we did a little ice
axe self-arrest lesson and Jeremy and Byron got to experience hucking
themselves down a snow slope and stopping on each side. Some of the steep
sections of the day would have had moderate consequences from a fall, so
practice was important. We went straight up the second last snow gulley to an
upper bench (last week’s group took the 3rd last gulley, but a snow bridge over a
creek was nearly finished) and quickly gained the summit block after a total travel
time of 3 hours. Byron and Karen headed back while John Gray (John #1), John
Young (#2) Andrew and Jeremy made the summit. It is really dark now in the
circus tent, so I will finish this tomorrow…
…The climb was stimulating and rewarding. This was my very first “alpine climb”
with a harness and rock shoes but I have a year of sport climbing experience, did
a couple alpine short rope trips and have been introduced to trad climbing on a 3
month mountaineering course (Yamnuska mountain skills semester). How was
my first technical alpine climb? It was sugoi! (Japanese for awesome and great!)
Not only did I avoid feeling vertigo, but my climbing was really clean, the
protection system was interesting and multi faceted and John Gray’s leadership
was excellent. The major hazard was rock-fall down the “black dike”. I belayed
John to the shelf, but stood to the side below a slight overhang to avoid rock fall.
I wasn’t anchored in, but had some foot supports. John belayed at all the other
stations from above, probably a good approach due to rock fall.
I found the whole experience really confidence-building and plan to work towards
becoming a trad leader in the next year. I down-climbed from the summit to the
shelf and was lowered with the second rope in my hand so that our rappel would
get us to the bottom (last week’s group said a 60 metre rope was 5 metres short
of the base). Note: the final pitch to the summit starts with a delicate section
where you must search out little half-cm pieces (outcrops) for your feet for a few
metres before turning left along a less technical slab. If there was protection, the
rappel slab would be a beautiful climb. Total climb: 690 metres. [Andrew]
Diagram of the route up the summit tower of Mt. Bate
Tuesday July 27
Left camp @ 10 am – returned about 3.
A great hike! A little slow to start, as I was too close to the creek just below camp.
Rough terrain. Then contoured a little higher to the “S” couloir. A nice, gentle
slope – easy kicking steps. Crossed some rough, and the near the top I took a
gulley left. Probably would’ve been easier , but not as interesting, if I’d gone
straight. Nice flowers in gulley against the ridge. (Judith ID’d them.) Gained the
ridge, and went south to the high point on ridge. Admired the view of Colonel
Foster et al. while I ate my lunch. Then re-traced my footsteps but continued on
the ridge to col below Thumb Peak.
Some nice scrambling on the way and 2 sets of deer tracks on the ridge line.
Snow is deteriorating and coming back down to camp was more round-about
than it had been on Sunday. [John Y]
Chris Ruttan, Martin Hofmann, Alcina de Oliveira, Judith Holm, Peter Brunette,
Karen Payie, Cedric Zala
A party of three skiers and four hikers left camp about 7:30, having to ford the
stream, as the snow bridge had recently collapsed (with the aid of a couple of
ice axes). The group – known as the “Reprobates” (“Elitist Pigs” was suggested
in reference to a story about a summit register but was vetoed) – hiked and
skied happily along the lower bench past an azure blue ice lake, until Judith had
trouble with her skins and joined the ranks of the hikers. Following the wise
words of those who went before us, we took the second-last couloir up, which
was quite steep. Cedric, with crampons, led the hiking contingent and kicked
steps until we all reached the summit tower around 10:10.
There was then some debate among the climbers as to where to stand, but
recalling Andrew’s comment about a chimney with some large stopper rocks,
Martin set up a belay at the bottom of the right place. Chris then led up and
belayed Karen, Peter and Martin from above. He then soloed to the top and
belayed the others up. Meanwhile Judith and Alcina botanized away at the base
of the tower and Cedric collected insects on the snow.
Then came the main attraction- the first known ski run down Mt. Bate! After a first
“yahoo”, with great style and even greater speed they whizzed, whooshed and
sprayed their way down the slope and the couloir, Martin only pausing to retrieve
a dropped hat. They were back down at camp only 43 minutes after starting.
On the hike back, Judith, Cedric, and Alcina checked out the final couloir but
weren’t happy with the look of it and so retraced their steps and went down the
second-to-last. A great day full of sunshine and high spirits! [Cedric]
Wednesday July 28
Moving the Dome Tent
Since the tent was originally erected by the intrepid first-weekers, it gradually
settled as the surround snow melted by about a metre overall as of today. This
made the experience a bit like entering an elevated temple – a temple with daily
decreasing headroom! Also, a network of previously hidden streams appeared as
the melt continued. As the stream to the southwest approached the wall of the
temple, it became clear that we would have to move before we were undercut.
But where to? The area under the snow is riddled with unseen streams, and so
we made an inspired guess as to where the water wasn’t and drove in an ice axe
as the centre point. We then cleared and leaded an area to contain our new
dome home. Stage 1 done.
Then undid the guys, and a team lifted the dome over the tables, etc. and
plunked it down at a temporary spot. The team then fell in and moved the tables
to the new site, and lifted the tent onto it – a perfect fit. Stage 2 done!
After we finally decided which way it should face, we finished the layout, finishing
with a stepping stone before the main entrance. All done!
We leave it to week 3 to finish the landscaping! Fun times! [Cedric]
Leaders Andrew Pape-Salmon and John Gray, with John Young and Jeremy
Cramponed out of camp at 8:20 – up to Shangri-La, down to Peter Lake, around
the shore – glad for the snow! (which hadn’t frozen overnight, but was firm.) We
went up the main couloir and up the first “bunny ear” – snow melting out quite
badly, and was tricky getting on to the rock. Three of us removed our crampons
then – up the rock, onto more snow, then rock – some beautiful scrambling up to
the last snowfield. Snow soft now, no crampons. Up to the summit block, around
to the left and up through the “notch”. Donned helmets and harnesses, and
Andrew his rock shoes. We free-climbed to the top – easy, not much exposure.
Reached the top at 1:04. Relaxed, took pictures, admired the view of Rugged
and the others. Andrew set up an anchor, and he, John Y, Jeremy, and I down
climbed on belay, and John G soloed. On the way up we’d looked at the cornice
at the top of the main couloir and deemed it to be fairly benign, so we thought
we’d check it out. We entered the couloir from the side, near the top; not too
steep, no signs of rock fall, and great way to descend! Andrew and John G
stopped for a “swim” in Peter Lake, and Jeremy and I headed to camp to get
supper ready; arrived back about 5.
Great day! [?]
Grattan Col and Thumb Peak
Jules and Karen travelled up couloir to base of Mt. Grattan. Very nice views of
Peter Lake, Listened to the gulls in the lake, two ravens above and a visiting
hummingbird. Watched the Alava group summit with binoculars. Flower collecting
and scrambling. Over to the scramble up to the Thumb climb. Very easy and
enjoyable. Saw Martin’s ski tracks in the couloir snow – wow!
Nice easy day. [?]
Thursday July 29
Jules Thomson, Karen Payie and Chris Ruttan went up Mt. Grattan today,
leaving camp at 7:30 or so and up the big couloir to the col below the Thumb
then out the connecting ridge to the base of the climb. We scrambled up a short
ways then set up an anchor of sorts in the chossy garbage so Jules could lead
up. It’s an easy ridge with the biggest concern from rock fall and of course no real
way to protect the leader. One pitch was a bit steeper but no concerns and we
were on the summit by 11am enjoying the views on another blue bird day. We
replaced all the slings with new ones and Jules included rap rings. We were back
in camp by 2pm. [?]
Byron Johnson puts pen to paper - finally.
The week has been a fantastic experience for me. I’d not expected to do
anything but hiking, yet joined the large group going up to Thumb Peak on July
25th. Despite being slightly spooked by the wind and loose stones I really enjoyed
the climb. The next day’s ascent up Mt. Bate was great. I didn’t think I was able
to do the summit tower so came down with Karen, who had also decided to skip
the summit tower. The 27th and 28th were spent mainly around camp. I practiced
rope climbing with Andrew and realized how much I had to learn to do that
properly. On July 29th I joined the party going down to Peter Lake. We scrambled
up to the col. I felt good dong that despite the “exposure”. Tomorrow, I’ll join the
group doing the ridge. [July 30th – Fantastic walk up to and along so-called
Tlupana Ridge.] [Byron]
Between Grattan col and Shangri-La/Peter Lake col. John Gray and Andrew
Pape-Salmon sought out dry rock after a day on Alava snow. We walked past the
little lake toward Peter Lake and assessed several crocks to our right – selecting
the one that was least steep. We scrambled cleanly with little rock fall and no
protection, gaining the ridge and bouncing over some bumps to the unnamed
summit “Azalea Mountain” We explored the base of Grattan and concluded that
the climb up would be full of loose stuff. We sought more clean rock and as such,
“The thumb” scrambled to the base of the gendarme ridge. I decided to try a pitch
on the ridge – placing two cams and one nut before turning around. I wasn’t too
adventurous because I knew I had to down climb. We later found out that the
route to the gendarme drops low from the base of the ridge and joins the SW
facing chimney to the thumbnail. Total climb: 450 metres. [Andrew]
Peter Lake and Grattan Col
Enjoyable it was to explore for flowers with ACC’ers! We did a loop down to Peter
Lake (a hotspot for not only flowers, but also birds). Then up a mellow ridge (3rd
class) specifically following vegetated areas. Up to Grattan col, where there were
three plants of special interest, home via snow gulley. [Judith]
By Judith Holm
Since there are no botanical records currently on file for the Alava-Bate area and
it is clearly a special, unique area of the Island, it seemed worthwhile to take
some time to “have a go” at recording our finds.
Many contributed, bringing back sprigs of this and that, and all those eyes
observing have enabled not only a longer list but also more fun in the process.
Alcina, Jules and Terry were especially keen observers in week two.
Most of the following species have been collected to enable verification,
particularly for the rarer species. Roots were not taken except for some grasses
and sedges, where roots are often essential for identification. The photos of
flowers used for identification are almost all by Ken Wong.
There is a late snow pack and much/most terrain is still under snow. This has
been an advantage in respect to protecting the land from impact by our large
party over three weeks. In fact we have camped in snow the entire time and our
impact will be very low. However, only the earliest bloomers have been recorded
during 1st and 2nd camps; hopefully week three participants will make additions
and take photos! Certainly we need you, Ken!
Partial Plant List of Alava-Bate Sanctuary
Alpine Habitats (with some sub-alpine)
The following list is the edited version and includes the findings of Ken Wong in
week 3. Hans Roemer, PhD, has confirmed the identifications of the species
collected and photographed. The responsibility is mine for ensuring that the final
list is correctly spelled and includes only those species for which we have proof.
(JH) Nomenclature follows the “Flora of British Columbia”, G. Douglas et al.
Much information learned prior to visit was provided by Hans.
Partial list of alpine plants (plus some from subalpine)
Alnus viridis ssp sinuata
Carex saxatilis (?)
Deschampsia caespitosa ssp beringensis
Hypericum scouleri ssp scouleri
Hypericum scouleri ssp nortoniae
black alpine sedge
western St. John's-wort
western St. John's-wort
Minuartia tenella (?)
Penstemon davidsonii var. menziesii
Petasites frigidus var. nivalis
Phyllodoce x intermedia
Saxifraga nelsoniana ssp cascadensis
hybrid of pink and yellow
mountain holly fern
early blue violet
Plants in this list which are of specific interest (rare)
Peripheral species, southern (Olympic mountains)
Douglasia laevigata (smooth douglasia)
Blue listed in BC and rare on V.I. However, here it was not uncommon
and was observed all along the ridge east of Thumb Peak, on Tlupana
Ridge and at the base of Mt. Bate's summit block.
Hedysarum occidentale (western hedysarum)
Blue listed in BC. Here I saw it on same ridge as above, east of the col,
slightly S-facing exposure but near top of ridge, a showy plant, here ~45
cm. John Young brought back a sprig from Tlupana Ridge
Peripheral species, north western (Queen Charlottes /Alaska panhandle)
Gentiana platypetala (broad-leaved gentian)
Here found by Jules (and previously by Jules and Christine Fordham) at
base of Mt. Grattan.
Geum calthifolium (caltha-leaved avens)
Rose family, leaves like a marsh marigold, a plant of northern oceanic
distribution. On Vancouver Island it is known from Brooks. Pen. and
scattered alpine habitats, especially moist and cool places such as near
Harrimanella stelleriana (Alaskan mountain-heather)
Has been found only a few times on northern Vancouver Island. It shares
the same habitat as white and pink mountain-heather. Flaring flower bells,
different leaf from regular white heather, white flower.
Here first found by Alcina de Oliveira. 1550 metres. 0681117, 5531581 on
ridge between col and Thumb Peak. And also seen on the west side of the
bump that is immediately east of Grattan col.
Ranunculus cooleyae (Cooley’s buttercup)
Look for in cold places near late-melting snow (here in downdrafts of
Shangri-La basin), looks like a many-petalled subalpine buttercup with
roundish leaves that are less deeply divided but have many marginal
Generally rare on VI
Lloydia serotina (alp lily)
Despite being a very widespread plant globally with a circumpolar
distribution, this miniature lily is rare on VI and restricted to northern third
of VI. Rarely more than 10 cm tall. The plants on the Brooks Peninsula
have been identified as a special variety, Lloydia serotina var. flava.
Ken: Lloydia serotina is growing in the stony ground alongside the stream beside
camp (camp is at 1152 metres . 0681680 , 5531056) would be great if you can
find this one too. Otherwise, Ken: There is so much snow around that it is simply
a matter of looking where there is no snow! Peter Lake shores have a great
display; scrambly bit at the start of the summit block of Mt. Bate (is above the
snowfield) has a good display; The Antennaria alpina was collected at the
summit of Mt. Alava; scrambling around rock faces produced results – in general
plants are ahead on S facing rock faces of course. May the snow keep melting so
you can find more flowers! You – and all who are or become interested
As limestone is where there is more diversity of plants, I checked into where the
closest limestone is, hoping to get to it from the camp. However, it was clearly
too rough to travel and too far, even with the benefit of stable snow, when we
saw the ridge for ourselves.
Chris, Karen and I will investigate the possibility of an approach via the logging
road north of the heli staging area.
Almost everyone participated in bug collecting, Martin with the most exciting and
successful way of capturing fast flyers.
Week two’s little vial of preserved bugs is jammed full and we are hoping the
specimens will be in good enough shape to be identified.
It was easiest to collect from the snow. A bug / butterfly net was improvised to try
to catch the faster moving species, as our samples were clearly skewed by
ease/difficulty of capture.
Ants were very common and were observed on flowers. There appeared (to the
layman’s eye) to be several species of bees (and bee lookalikes) pollinating.
These were the two general groups of insects associated with the flowers.
Deer seen several times up on ridges
Fresh bear scat north side of Thumb Peak E-West ridge
Frogs – began ‘rivet-rivet’ for first time July 29. Interestingly they turned up
almost immediately following a Cedric-led evening of song in the lady bug tent. Is
Birds: Ravens, Anna’s/rufous? hummingbird, American dipper, pippit? ptarmigan
with chicks, mew gulls
Friday July 30
Base Camp Bump
Today I climbed the “bump” directly south of camp. My altimeter read 1474
metres on the summit. I crossed the creek on “terry’s bridge” traversed west, for
maybe 100m (just above the creek) and then up a snow ramp that led me to the
couloir coming down from the bump. I went up the snow to about 1330 metres
elevation, and then scrambled up the rock to the summit. Lovely, grippy rock,
albeit some loose chunks. I built a cairn on top and made a temporary register
(pill vial). Wandered around the top, and then descended on the S SW side
directly onto snow and started down.
It steepened up, and I thought the rock looked more appealing so I down climbed
on rock back to 1300 metres then I returned to camp via the Mt. Bate route. A
lovely outing. I was hoping to see Andrew and Martin skiing down from Alava, but
I missed them. Took me 1.25 hours to the summit – 4 hours overall (with my
moseying around the summit). A great ending to a great week! [John Y]
White-tailed Ptarmigan Sightings (UTM’s on Gold River) 92 E/16
Thumb peak, 1601 metres, 0681054 , 5531575, Mom and 5 chicks –
summer foliage and again at 1506 metres, 0681200 , 5531644
Tlupana ridge , 0682500 , 55, 2 Ptarmigans (note: week one folk also saw
4 chicks on this ridge)
Mt. Bate – south end snow ledge on approach to base , 0682400 ,
Mt. Alava , 1300 metres , 0680300 , 5529400, 2 Ptarmigans (note:
week one folk also saw 4 chicks on this ridge)
Mt. Bate – Beside snowfield at base of summit block, 0681500 , 5529250,
Butterfly beautiful orange and brown patterns! Pinned taken to Victoria for
identification) 1101 metres , 0680500 , 5529400 , Mt. Alava – snow
couloir, same species seen in various locations in Alava Bate area,
Other butterflies / moths maybe
o -Small white – many
o -Small blue with navy blue markings – many 1473 metres,
06819233 , 5531693
Dragonflies – several
Caterpillar by camp – black shiny eyes, 1 blue-black spot 2/3 back, black
cross stripes length of body, dusky yellow rear
Alava on Skis
Martin and Andrew skied to the summit bloc up the main gulley/couloir. I checked
the state of the cornices 2 days earlier and felt that it had receded enough to
justify using the gulley. (Note: Major rain or lack of night cooling could make the
whole gulley an avalanche hazard) We switch backed up to some rocks just
below the cornice and crossed 20 metres to the main summit snowfield. About 50
– 100 metres below the “notch” we walked because of the steepness and the
lack of strength in the top inch of snow.
The ski down on the summit field was exceptional around 1 pm – soft sugar
snow. Spring skiing on July 30! I borrowed John Young’s AT skis and used my
old leather tele-boots. The hard sun cups at the top of the couloir were too much
for my abilities so I slid down horizontal (on my edges) to the lump in the middle
of the gulley (likely a rock under snow) After that I did turns to the bottom –
exiting on the right snow bank (left as you are looking up).
Martin tele’d the entire thing, including a narrow band below the cornice (extreme
skier!). Overall, I would recommend skiing Alava – provided stability is good. It
was fun to take off ski boots and put on rock shoes for the scramble to the
summit in full summer weather and heat! Total climb 870 metres. [Andrew]
Keenest climber: Jeremy
Best catch (insect and flower): Judith
Formidable self-arrest: Byron
Ingenious anchor: John Gray (wrap around chalkstone)
Most falling off stool: Jeremy
Amazing turns: Martin
Guide extraordinaire: Chris and John Gray
Fantastic climb: Karen (Grattan)
"The Hills are Alive with the Sounds of Music" - Cedric and Martin
Exceptional bridge and rock work - Terry
Decadent dessert: Alcina, Cedric and Karen
Light footed - John Young
Precarious water collection - Andrew (on the flank of Bate)
Singer-songwriter - Peter and Chris
Final night – John Y bivied on a rock.
Final Morning – Awoke to Chris’ mellow guitar playing out on the gravel bar,
where Cedric, Peter and Chris have sung each afternoon – I will miss their lowkey, musical gifts. [Judith]
Week 2 Participants (L to R): Back row: Byron Johnson, Jules Thomson, John
Gray, Peter Brunette, Jeremy Gallie, Mt Alava, Martin Hofmann, Cedric Zala,
John Young; Front row: Terry Gagne, Judith Holm, Alcina De Oliveira, Karen
Payie, Chris Ruttan, Andrew Pape-Salmon
Week 3: July 31– August 7
Saturday July 31
We were all raring to go at 10:00. Even Rob, who had a flat tire 16 km from the
pick up area. The transfer of gear and people went smoothly. After setting up and
eating lunch the group split up. Group #1 consisting of Lindsay, Val, Mort, Karen,
Walter and Frank, headed up The Thumb. We went up the snow ramp and onto
the rock climbing to the south ridge onto the Thumb. Half way up where the ridge
steepens and narrows Lindsay led a pitch and 3 climbers (Val, Karen and Walter)
prussiked up then Frank and Mort tied onto the end of the rope and were belayed
up to Lindsay. This was repeated again to the notch on the south side of the
summit block. Lindsay then climbed down and across the east side to the north
of the summit block and set up a hand line. Once there we scrambled up to the
summit where we could see group #2 on the summit of Thumb peak. We rapped
down from the peak used the hand line once again to traverse back to the east
side where Lindsay set up a full single rope repel which he down climbed. We
then scrambled back to the bottom of the south ridge. Before we descended the
snow ramp we scooted across to the high point overlooking the col. PS. The rock
is sharp! See frayed rope used as a sling on the first rap. [Val]
Group #2 Rick, Rob, Martin, Cory, Tony and Ken made up the 2nd group as we
didn’t want to carry climbing gears on the first day. We went up Thumb Peak via
the col east of Thumb Peak. We watched group #1 climb the Thumb and
rappelled off. It looked steeeep from our vantage point! All captured with my
400mm zoom. [?]
Group #3 Only consisted of Nicole and Paul. We headed up the little peak to the
west of camp via the ‘bate route’. Was fairly easy and straightforward a mixture
of easy snow-walking and rock scrambling. A few tricky bits at the top. Nice view
though! And a lot higher than it looks at first glance. Boot skied most of the way
Sunday August 1
Mt. Alava and Lindsay’s Accident
The day started out with blue sky and excited energy exuding from all, although it
proved to be a day of big ups and downs.. both literally and figuratively. The
entire group of us were kicking steps into the snow en-route to Mt. Alava by 8:00
An easy traverse around the ice-covered lake near the camp and a slight incline
brought us to the col above Peter Lake. We descended via boot-ski to the rocky
base. Disaster struck at a rest spot near the bottom. While waiting for the other to
catch up, Lindsay took a tumble into some rocks. He gashed his head a bit and
landed badly on his right hand. It appeared that he’d dislocated his thumb and
the rounded end of the bone was poking out through the skin. We sat him down
quickly and did some quick first aid on the hand. Then, realizing that Lindsay
would have to be flown out, the group split up with Mort, Karen, Val, Rob, and
Walter escorting him back and eight of us continuing on. (Paul, Cory, Nicole,
Ken, Frank, Rick, Martin, and Tony)
We were all pretty shaken, but continued up the planned route. We followed the
gulley for a short bit, then crossed over to the right and scramble up the ridge
towards the summit. Another patch of snow and a tricky bit to the top, with lots of
We enjoyed the summit view, darkened slightly as it was from the day’s events.
We headed down back the way we came and our group of 8 split in two again.
Rick, Martin and Tony decided to return to camp while the remainder went on to
climb up to Alava-South. It was a pretty steep climb up a snowy face with icy
parts, and now run out. We regretted not bringing the rope.
The top was meadow-like but the last step up was again quite tricky (high fourth,
maybe a couple of fifth class?) Again with the regret rope-wise we all scampered
up anyways to enjoy the view and sense of accomplishment. Wee continued
down around the other side of Alava-South to make a circuit out of it for the
descent. We crossed across the snow in search of a gulley, which we found.
It was fairly steep but do-able. There was much boot-skiing and one risky
situation when Paul fell waist-high into a 30ish foot bergschrund. Luckily he fell
forward and averted the crisis. The rest of the walk back was pretty uneventful
we descended to the lake, then walked back up the col and back into camp.
Lindsay was gone already air-lifted out. [?]
As mentioned, Lindsay slipped and as it turned out what could have been a
scuffed hand ended up as a compound dislocation and a substantial scalp
wound. Val dressed and stabilized Lindsay’s hand, the cut on his head was
thankfully not very bad. Once Lindsay was ready to go, he retuned to camp with
Mort, Karen, Val, Robie, and Walter. The climb back up to the col is not the
easiest at the best of times, but Lindsay naturally did a great job one-handed.
From there it was across the steep slope to the west of the lake, and then back
again to camp.
Once back at camp, Robie and Mort used the satellite phone (one of air rescue
guys said ”’Global Star’ makes a good paper weight) to try to call out. After finally
being able to get a signal, calling the RCMP did not work so they called 9-1-1
and sent in our coordinates. In the meantime Val, Karen, and Walter helped
unsure that Lindsay was comfortable – and Lindsay told jokes and gave us some
riddle to think about.
After travelling back to camp and calling for help at 10:00, the wait began for help
to arrive. This consisted of Lindsay entertaining the group, plus periodic spottings
of the other folks up on Alava. At 13:00 we heard a helicopter coming in, landing
close to camp. The four air rescue people assessed Lindsay’s condition and said
they would be taking him to Gold River where he would travel by ambulance to
Campbell River for treatment. They also said that a RCMP helicopter would be a
few minutes behind them as it was unknown if the first would be able to land.
With Lindsay onboard they flew off toward Alava on their way to Gold River (we
miss you already, Lindsay).
With idle hands and much on our minds, the group split into two to keep busy for
the remainder of the day. Karen and Mort went rock climbing on Mt. Bate, while
Robie led Val and Walter up along Tlupana ridge. Heading north from camp up to
the ridge, it wasn’t long before Robie had everyone up to the top. Val and Walter
were eager to climb Thumb Peak, having been up The Thumb the day before. A
quick ascent to a stunning view of the Thumb was made, with a little time spent
at the top but a hasty trip back down to rejoin Robie.
With Val and Walter seven minutes overdue on their Thumb Peak trip, Robie had
gone on ahead. By the time the three had joined up again, Robie was found
bathing in a tarn henceforth known as Lake Robie.
The ridge route continued with a short detour to the north spur ridge. From there
the main ridge was rejoined and the way made to its highest point. A solid
attempt was made at fining a route down back to camp, but in the end the steps
were retraced to go back up the ridge and return to camp.
It was a long and unfortunately eventful day, and many were asleep at an early
hour. Lindsay is on everyone’s minds, and we wish him the best. [?]
Monday August 2
Rob, Rick, Frank, Ken and Walter climbed Mt. Bate. Rick led and belayed the
rest up in 2 rope chairs. Rappelled with double rope to snow. [?]
With Mort in the lead kicking steps for Karen and Val we headed up the Thumb
col with the goal of climbing Grattan. We quickly reached the saddle, crossed the
small ice field and reached the ridge. From here we stopped and assessed the
route up Grattan. We were all intimidated from this vantage point could not pick
out a route. We decided a closer look was required. Once under the mountain we
realized the rock was not as steep and had wonderful foot and hand holds. We
quickly changed into our climbing shoes and leaving our poles, ice axes and
boots behind scampered up to the summit in an hour. We spent an hour on top
eating a very early lunch and exploring the summit. We found a neat tunnel/cave
at one point. We delayed our departure as long as we could and then headed
We scrambled down to the first sling/rap station which we repositioned. We used
a double rope (the ½ way length was just a few feet above the ground) and
rapped down. Then we down climbed to the next station and did a single rope
rappel, then some more scrambling to the next station. We fortified this anchor a
bit more before using a double rope rappel.
A short scramble down and we were at our boots and poles/ice axes. We
changed footwear (oh what a relief getting out of those shoes) and slowly started
back to camp. We enjoyed the trip down taking in the views. We were worried
that if we arrived back in camp too early we would have to move the food tent.
We arrived back at 14:00 and the tent was in good shape although the melt is
happening quickly and more gravel is being exposed. [Val]
Tuesday August 3
Rob, Rick, Frank, Ken, Martin, Tony and Walter
We all trotted over to Grattan to examine the E Ridge. We climbed it on two
ropes taking a couple of hours up, but the rappels took about twice as long!
Great day ended by smoke from a forest fire to the North. [?]
We awoke to a very heavy dew on the tents, Today our goal was Mt. Bate and
the group participants were Mort, Karen, Val, Paul, Nicole, Cory.
We followed the snow benches on the SE face and had a pleasant 2 hour walk to
the base of the rocky outcropping with Mt. Bate above us. We broke into 2
groups with Nicole (on her first lead climb, (congrats Nicole!)) leading Paul and
Cory up a wide crack and Mort leading Val and Karen to the right of the other
group doing a face climb.
We arrived on a ledge and Mort led up to the summit, belaying Karen and Val.
This group descended and waited on the ledge while the other group of Nicole
(leading), Paul and Cory climbed to the summit. We rapped down and leisurely
headed back to camp having crossed one more peak off our list.
This evening we smell smoke and a haze settled over the mountains and camp.
We also had word from Lindsay. His thumb was popped back in and a titanium
pin put through he fracture then casted up. The doctor does not think there was
any nerve or tendon damage done, of course he was thinking of hiking back in to
camp if he could find a ride to the trail head. [?]
Wednesday August 4
The Peter Lake Circuit
Under a red, smoky sunrise, Walter, Val, Mort and Karen set off to complete their
interrupted climb of Mt. Alava. Snow conditions had changed a lot in 3 days. The
traversing slopes above the small lakes leading to the col were steeper and icier
than earlier in the week. As we neared the enlarged rock fields at the bottom of
the col to Peter Lake, we heard the crack of an avalanche let go and looked up to
see large snow chunks rolling down the middle 2/3 of the approach col to Alava.
Right over the route. This was at 8 in the morning as we sat on the rocks and
guessed which section would go next.
Val and Karen had a memory of Lindsay telling them that there was a regular
route around the east side of Peter Lake which would lead to the east ridge of
Alava and the summit. Mort and Walter took their word for it and the foursome
started scrambling along the lake shore bluffs. Before long we were spread eagle
in a kilometre long traverse of steep cliffs above the lake. With screeching gulls
The exercise came to an end at the top of a smooth, angular ledge that ended at
what Mort now calls “Terror Wall”. He needed an emergency roped belay to
come down from that spot and it was clear we had to go down to the lake or back
the way we came. Val slipped on her rock shoes and scampered down a few
ledges to the lake shore rocks. The rest of us (slightly shaken and wearing boots)
rapped down to where she had picked out a spot onto the snowfield and over to
the boulder run out.
A speedy walk let to “first lunch” at 12:30 in a beautiful meadow.
From the meadow, Walter, Mort and Karen took the high road over rounded
bluffs around the end of the lake to the outflow. Val accused us of lacking
“adventurous spirit” and opted to do a little bootless lake hiking. It looked like a
shallow, underwater edge would run all the way along the shore to the grassy
outflow. But before the end, she was bootless, sockless and bottomless and
scampering up from the lake onto the bluffs. After composing and clothing herself
she followed the high route to join us for the wade across the stream.
From this point it was an easy 600 metre hike up the beautiful rock ridge. Views
would have stretched in all directions except for the smoke which obscured
everywhere equally. All we could enjoy was the fantastic, braided waterfall out of
Peter Lake and the clean shape of the “Thumb” that gave Thumb Peak its name.
A short trod across a snowfield let to a careful climb up a rocky gulley. All four of
us stood on top by 3:30pm.
The vertical-ness of Alava South looked like too much for our tired group. We
decided instead to start the unknown descent down the ramps to a safe spot to
cross that blasted gulley. There hadn’t been a single snowflake roll down it since
the morning’s release.
In less than two hours we easily skipped down the rock buttresses to less than
100 feet above the lake. Singly we made quick runs across the gulley and then
walked steadily across the rock fall fields and ice berg calving self.
After a quick snack on the last boulder field, Mort made sure we were over the
col and back to camp in less than 45 minutes.
A long trip just short of 12 hours with a long story to tell and write. [?]
Rick, Rob, Ken, Paul, Cory, Nicole
Rick, Rob and Ken set off for “The Thumb” whilst shortly behind Paul, Cory and
Nicole were headed for Grattan. They decided to join our group and we climbed
the thumb arete as two ropes – up and down. Nice day. [?]
According to legend or rather the ‘99 article brought in about the first ascent, the
day started out just as it should. Robbie legged it out of camp in earnest and
made his way up the col with the rest of us in hot pursuit.
Though Rick and Ken had left before Paul, Nicole and myself, Robbie was up the
col and out of sight towards Thumb before anybody had a chance to catch him.
When we arrived at the top of the col, it was to find Robbie resting, back against
the rock playing a game of marbles with rocks. After a quick rest and a chat
about old days and past ascents with our two legends, Rick and Rob, we packed
up and headed for the original route up the well-named Thumb. Rob led a simulclimb with Ken in the middle and Rick at the end. Paul followed up the
tremendously clean and nicely exposed 4th class arête. Unfortunately Nicole was
sporting a newly aggravated old wrist injury which forced her to stay behind. I
cleaned Paul’s placement with as much haste as I could manage. The climb did
offer enough time to marvel at the headspace of Paul given it was his first ever
lead. At the top of the arête I secured and again let Paul take the lead across the
narrow blade on approach to the last pitch before the summit.
A short scramble up a mossy and heathery gulley lead to the very unstable
summit. The views here were fantastic and as from every other summit point,
offered another amazing perspective on this whole sanctuary. The descent down
was the most difficult for me. It seemed like every foot placement slipped until I
lost my head and my confidence. Needless to say I was happy to lie down. We
then tied our two ropes together and down climbed as a 5 member team on 100
metres of rope. Rob mentioned to keep the rope tight so we wouldn’t feel more
than a little jerk if one were to fall. He then took a peek at Rick on the end and
mentioned that there already was a little jerk on the rope.
We arrived back at the top of the col by 1pm, dropped our bags and put our feet
up to enjoy the sun. The flies were a swarm and difficult to get used to. We all
thought there must have been a dead animal near by but then noticed Rob with
his shoes off. Once we realized there was more flies than blue sock showing we
backed away and got ready to depart. Poor Rob. Rather I feel particularly bad for
whomever is driving home with him. Ken stayed up on the ridge to take photos of
the flowers, a habitat we had gotten used to. Nicole and I descended last and
enjoyed the friendly and picturesque sight camp provided. [Cory]
Thursday August 5
Karen had a camp day.
Mort climbed up Thumb Peak to scout a possible ridge traverse route. He was
back for lunch. We wore the “yellow gloves” after lunch. [?]
Ken went to Tlupana Ridge to take pictures of the Hedysarum occidentale and
watched the Bate group coming off. [Ken]
After the previous day up Alava and back, everyone was quite tired and a rest
day was definitely in the works. After a nice relaxing sleep-in, Val spent the day
in camp enjoying the weather and updating the summer camp log book. Walter
took the morning to head out with a camera and got some great flower shorts
around the lake and up onto the rocks. After a leisurely lunch and a 2pm “Alpine
Club start” Val and Walter went for a small hike/climb down to the lake below the
basin. The climb was somewhat wet, definitely mossy in parts, and not
The lake is rather… unassuming, with quite a few flowers. There was a deer and
bambi down by the lake, and much lounging and sunning on the rocks. The route
up was along the stream, with much boulder jumping and dodgy snow dodging.
We were back in camp early enough for a siesta before the evening fiesta. [?]
Cory, Paul and Nicole headed up to the top of the ridge to climb Thumb peak. It
was slow going, but the view from the top was great. The smoke in the valleys is
on the way out. We hung around at the top for a bit and saw some snow falling
off around the base of Grattan before wandering back down. Spent the afternoon
dozing off and the evening playing puzzle games in the dome tent with most of
the club. “Black magic” and “crossed/uncrossed” had plenty of stumped for a
Friday August 6
Cory, Paul and Nicole set out early (7:30) for a chance to tick off the last peak on
our list, Mt. Grattan. We beat the heat up the snow gulley to gain the ridge in just
over a half-hour. Crossed the snow high up and traversed the wide ridge to the
base of the mountain. Even from close up it looked quite imposing. We climbed
up without the use of rope, although we found some sections a little unnerving
(mainly the 2nd pitch) Our route stayed mostly to the right until we reached the
part where it levelled out. Along the top traverse we stayed mostly left (and found
Shelob’s Cave!) to the summit, shrouded with loose rock. We didn’t hang around
at the top too long due to it’s resemblance to a blasting site.. We had lunch at the
top of the first rappel, and got some great shots of Mort and Karen traversing
between the Thumb and Thumb Peak.
The rappels went quickly and smoothly and we were back in camp in time for a
late lunch! [?]
7:10Am start for Karen and Mort on an attempt to link the Thumb to Thumb Peak
via the south to north ridge. Climbed the Thumb standard route from south. Set a
rappel about 10 metres up the last pitch on the north edge. One rope rappel to a
notch between the Thumb and the serrated section of the Thumb to Thumb
ridge. Short pitch up and down serrations to sling belay on last spike. Down
Climb to base of serrations. 45 metre roped scramble along the ridge with a
couple of sling runners. Belayed at large block in large notch of eroded dyke.
Ridge then blocked by near vertical wall. Down climbed rappelled 30 metre down
gulley towards the east. Loose rock, not enjoyable. Climbed out of gulley and up
Thumb Peak in two roped pitches and a scramble up east side of peak.
All climbing mid 5th class or less.
Route could be reversed from north to south if a rappel was set above near
vertical wall. The climb up from the serrations to the first rappel would again be
1st recorded Thumb enchainment – “All Thumbs traverse” we arrived at summit of
Thumb Peak at 1:00Pm. Enjoyed summit snacks then scrambled back down to
camp through a few spits of rain. Back at camp around 3:00Pm. [?]
It was a fairly lazy last day for Walter, the last out of bed in an attempt to wait for
it to warm up before getting out. Ken, Martin, and Tony were in camp watching
the adventure up on the Thumb, and everyone else was out on trips. I was
tempted to spend another day around camp, but kept thinking about the ridge to
the north of Tlupana Ridge. It was a half hour climb up to the col east of Thumb
Peak, on rapidly melting out snow slopes and rock. From the col it was east to
the top of the ridge, then NNW to head onto the ridge. It was more route finding
through rotten snow to get down to the low point on the ridge. From there it was
just following the ridge as a scramble up and down.
All along the ridge there were great views of all the major peaks of the week:
Bate, Thumb, Alava, and Grattan. It was also a great vantage point for the view
of people on Thumb as well as someone going up a snow slope on Alava.
I took the ridge out to the peak at GR805326, had some lunch and made the
return trip back. When getting close to Tlupana Ridge, I cut across to the Thumb
col rather than climb to the ridge summit. From there it was a longer than usual
hike down to camp due to the lack of good snow. [?]
Alava South and South Point on Alava Ridge
Rick, Frank, Val, Rob
Set off at 8am traversing hard snow around a side of Shangri-La lake. Clear and
cool ambitions prevailed as we dropped down to Peter Lake. Lots of the glacier /
snowfield below Bate had calved off into the lake leaving a big bite out of the
snout. We each ambled in different routes over the talus or up the couloir to
reach the large bowl that sits between Bate and Alava South when we finally
came out of shade and into the sun. Val and Rob angled right onto the rock
buttress leading up to Alava South while Frank and Rick went straight for the
obvious couloir leading up to the wide gap between Alava south and the high
point to the south. Rick and Frank got to the top of their couloirs a little faster
than Val and I made it up our buttress, but our route led directly up onto Alava
South which we reached at 1100. We all did that peak and then ambled over to
the South point for lunch. We then dropped down to the col on the ridge to Bate
and then back to the large snow bowl and over the tedious rock fall. A little light
rain hit us on the way back – followed by a beer or two at camp. [Robie]
Ken went to the lower lake outlet. It’ll be tough coming up thru the canyon with a
full pack. Found mist maiden. [Ken]
Saturday August 7
The storm roared thru and everything was wet!
Week 3 Participants (L to R): Paul Barrette, Nicole Barrette, Cory Milne,
Valerie Wootton, Mort Allingham, Karen Hoover, Rob Macdonald, Tony
Vaughn, Martin Smith, Frank Wille, Rick Eppler, Ken Wong, Walter Moar.
Missing: Lindsay Elms
Appendix A: Notes on the Local Peaks
Follow the E bench for an hour, then curve up the SE flank to the final rock
traverse. Start between the main tower and the one to its right.
45 metres 5.4: Chimney with a block about 7m up. Angle L above chimney to
blocks/horns, then right up to large terrace with rap slings.
10 metres 5.6: Delicate moves up right hand edge then left up slab to summit
piton. Room for 2-3 only.
Rap off pin to large ledge. Rap tatt there allows a 60 metre rope (30 metre rap) to
just reach bottom of chimney. Make sure ends of rope are tied and equal length.
Please take up “new” summit register and container on table in some tent.
Over col and down to Peter Lake. Traverse right up into long couloir that has
cornice at top. Climb up and across to first tongue of snow to exit right. Up rock.
Back on snow, angle up right for 400-500 metres, scramble rocks to upper
terrace, then diagonal left up snow slopes to Alava’s upper snowfield on south
side above cornice. Final 50 metres to rock on S side of peak to a notch.
Traverse on ledge (thin) about 10 metres above top of W snowfield, then angle
up left – one 5.4 left step-over. Scramble to top 100 metres.
Climb snow chute to left of Thumb to col, then traverse to foot of Grattan (1
hour). Scramble to heather ledge below small dark overhang.
50 metre 5.4: Move left onto red rock and climb 30 metres to ledge. Angle right
on red rock to cedar ledge.
55 metre 5.4: (Scramble up left 5metres) then climb ridge crest on red rocks to
broad ledge. Thin protection on upper part, but easy grade 5.2.
50 metres 5.4: (Scramble to start of rock). Climb small overhang by stepping up
let, then angle up right to finish on broad ledge with tap slings.
Scramble to summit 300 metres. One short delicate slab of 4 metres, or chimney
on its left.
Thumb Peak and Ridge
The ridge is best climbed SE to NW.
Descend river valley 25 minutes, then angle up snow slopes and heather to ridge
top. Superb views 300 metres to S along ridge.
Then come back, squeezing past snow patch at narrow spot, and then up and
over 3 separate peaks. First one taken on right. Next on left (S side) to reach
top. Final one up snow slope on N side. Very varied route and highly
recommended. Finish at Thumb Peak col.
Thumb Peak has a lower rock spur on E side that makes superb class 4
scrambling. Higher up angle higher onto snow to summit.
Peter Lake to Thumb Col:
Descend Shangri-La col to near Peter Lake, then angle across exposed heather
ledges to SW ridge of Thumb. Follow up on red rock and superb views – steep
hiking and a few scrambling spots. Finish at top of snow couloir that descends
back to camp, below Thumb. Recommended.
Appendix B: Suggestions for Improvements
Have each week responsible for flying out and/or disposing of its own waste,
and have a better plan for its disposal in place.
Rig up a tarp (or net) over the cargo load, tucked down the side of the net, to
prevent anything from falling out.
Bring along a VHF radio to communicate with the helicopter company in case
of bad weather.
I'll wade in with more detail later, but I'd add that we could purchase a set of
plastic shipping containers (2 or 3 sizes, e.g.) suitable for the
cooking/communal material; I saw some at RONA that would do the job and
were only about $7 apiece. This would prevent sodden, motley-sized
cardboard boxes becoming a problem, they would be easily recycled rather
than chucked, and if stacked they could provide dry surfaces on which to
place things. As it was, a knife point sticking through one of the cardboard
boxes almost wounded Val while we were packing gear out. We could look
into sizes favorable for fitting into helicopters.
The only thing that popped to mind apart from the points you’ve made was
the idea of some sort of shower area (if the area could support it
environmentally that is). This is really only four poles and tarp, people could
bring their own shower bags?
I think we need to consider the numbers the rope leaders had from time to
time. We should attempt to get those numbers down more. I had six people
on two occasions, which worked OK for what we were doing. Had terrain
been anymore technical, or presented any surprises, it would have been a
different story. Not being professionals, my preference would have been to
have seen this down to 1 leader to 2 or 3 participants maximum.
The idea of doing the pre-camp refresher training turned out to be something
that was time well spent. I had several occasions in which we had to do a
group rappel and this really helped me as a leader. People otherwise were
relatively well prepared for what they signed up for.
Pack out your own! Read "How to shit in the woods": an environmentally
sound approach to a lost art By Kathleen Meyer
id=xTA72GxFjasC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false, Chapter 3&4.
I think those and Robie's suggestion about the storage containers are good if
a similar camp is planned. What I would add, although I suspect someone
else may do so too, is acquiring some form of rack for the ropes, etc. It could
be made of ABS piping which is light weight and could be friction fitted on site
although some portion would best be glued together permanently. I also
wonder about getting something as a floor in the big tent, possibly just
cardboard, but a tarp might work too.
We need a better waste management system. I've asked the ACC to provide
us with the proceedings of the recent "Exit Strategies" conference in Golden,
Colorado http://www.americanalpineclub.org/exitstrategies so that we can get
some ideas. We need an alternative to plastic bags.
For waste management, you might also want to contact BC Parks, they have
"outhouses" set up in the Bugaboos, and all the waste is flown out via
helicopter. They might have some suggestions (or they might even have done
some research on the matter).
Just a couple of thoughts/ideas:
flagging to identify baggage, 1 colour per week
stove platform to protect tables
consider supports for stools and tables to prevent sinking into the snow
a solar shower