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Ascent of Mount Edith Cavell on 2016-08-04

Climber: Jan Triska

Others in Party:Greg Strauch
Date:Thursday, August 4, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Edith Cavell
    Location:Canada-Alberta
    Elevation:3362 m / 11033 ft

Ascent Trip Report

15 years after my first attempt at summiting this iconic Rockies peak, I was able to finally do it.
Good weather and relative absence of snow played key role in enabling a problem-free and relatively safe climb. Whereas in 2001, snow and even ice covered the upper sections of the West Ridge route and the summit block was very snowy, this time, there was no need to deal with snow and no crampons were necessary. Having said that, this was still a big day.

Day at a glance - get up at 6 am, at the Astoria River backcountry campsite (i.e. base camp). Pack up tent and belongings, make some coffe. Leave by 6:45am.
Hike towards the Verdant Creek and past it, to the start of the climbers' approach trail. Stash heavy items in the forest and proceed with light packs and ice axes. We started the ascent at 7:55am.
By 9:30am, we reached the end of vegetation and started to clamber across the scree cone. Later, we got onto the rock steps in the main cirque. Some enjoyable, mildly technical scrambling ensued. Further up, the rock and scree are very loose, rendering progress tedious.
By about 11:30 am, Greg and I top out on the low point of West Ridge. A quick break and more to eat/drink. Fantastic views open up towards the Throne Mountain and the more distant Ramparts area. Truly wild scenery.
We trudge across the West ridge...easy going, with occasional need to drop a bit below the ridge crest.
The summit block presented us with a challenge as the rocks were damp, slippery and often unstable. I traversed to the right, as recommended in the route guide. Ended up charging up and over the final summit ridge, where going got easier again.
The final bit was a ridge walk, not technical but with caution necessary since it is narrow and there was a sizeable cornice - best avoided - and an 800 m drop-off down the North face, with a glacier far below.
At around 1:30pm, I reached the summit. My partner Greg decided to not continue, having stopped about 100 m below the summit.
- Needless to say, lots of elation.
The down climb proved to be as physical exercise as the climb up, with much broken rock being a factor. It was a relief to finally reach the green and fairly flat expanses of Verdant Pass area, below the cirque.
With the descent, it proved to be a 9.5 hour day, and with the added hike-out (with our re-constituted heavy packs by then), as well as the morning's hike-in from camp, we logged an 11.5 hour day overall. In my books, this is approaching an 'epic'.

What else to say? This is a BIG mountain. Even the relatively straightforward West Ridge route will tire you out and the 1600 m elevation gain is one of the biggest in the Canadian Rockies. This isn't technical mountaineering but is it beyond a mere scramble. Good weather and visibility are probably the single most needed factor - and their absence could make this ascent dangerous or downright impossible. So, go in high season when it's dry and ice and snow-free.
Now, I would like to try the considerably steeper East Ridge route.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
View down the West Ridge of Mount Edith Cavell, with a sea of wild peaks all around (2016-08-04). Photo by Jan Triska.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1600 m / 5249 ft
    Route:West Ridge
    Trailhead:Verdant creek junction  1762 m / 5784 ft
    Grade/Class:Grade II
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
variable weather, some cloud
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:5 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:4 Hours 



Other Photos

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Mount Edith Cavell - overall view from Astoria River, showing the West Ridge route and south cirque (2016-08-04). Photo by Jan Triska.
Click here for larger-size photo.



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