I just came back from a second failed attempt at Mt Field with the usual suspects. We definitely made some classic mistakes though not in the safety department. Above: The route starts at the TransCanada and follows the summer road up to Takakkaw falls before going straight up Mt Field. After 5 km trailbreaking through fresh snow we headed through the trees up our (incorrect) ascent gully. Perhaps it was because I was already tired (left at 5:30 am!) and overheating, but I followed the lead right up the incorrect gully and didn’t even notice! It’s always difficult to be vigilant about the route when following. This may seem hard to understand but it’s particularly tricky in the winter when it’s tempting to just look at your skis so you don’t fall over.
Above: Yoho valley in background as we slowly climb off course. We were all in t-shirts to keep cool from working so hard climbing in these conditions.
Above: Switchbacking our way up through the treeline. After leading for a while, I fall to the back to get the advantage of a more packed path. By the time its my turn again though, I’m still pretty tired! A short time after this picture was taken, we found ourselves beneath a very steep wall that blocked our way. From snow stability tests we did along the way, we determined that the steeper slope wasn’t stable. Our tests earlier in the day were showing us that the load layer became unstable at angles greater than 40 degrees. A dead end. My instincts told me to veer climbers left. I mentioned this a couple of times but being tired, I didn’t insist on it when it wasn’t received well.
At the dead end, we decided it was unsafe to continue and that we should descend. At least what made it so hard to go up made it amazing on the way down. Waist deep snow and really steep terrain made the run down to the valley incredible. Back down in the valley, we could look up and see where we had gone wrong. My instincts were correct to continue left which would have avoided the dangerous wall and placed us where we should have been all along! When you aren’t 100% sure of something, it makes it difficult to champion your opinion which would have been useful in this instant. At least we had a good debrief in the valley about the mistakes we made and how to improve for next time and what things we should do differently. It does mean that a third attempt on this mountain is in the works. Next year.
Above: we took some short cuts down the Takakkaw falls summer road on our way back to the highway. A nice bit of excitement on the long trudge back to the cars. As fun as the descent was, we were all a little disappointed not to summit especially since this was our 2nd attempt this year on Mt Field.
Hugo catches some sleep as we make the long trudge down the summer road back to our cars. We found it pretty easy to obey the posted speed limit!