Mount Hector Trip Report (#21618)
- Signed By: Michel Beauchemin
- Date submitted: March 14, 2009
- Number of People Encountered:0-10 people
- Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Decided to do that trip the previous day with my friends Eliel Bureau-Lafontaine and Dugie Reiley after scrolling through the "The 11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies" by Bill Corbett. Thought it would be a nice introduction to glacier travel and alpine climbing for Dugie who had just bought all the necessary gear two days before.
Left Golden at 6:15 and got to the parking lot at 7:30. Got our gear on and left at 8:00. The first weather observations were not very promising as the sky was overcasted and it was snowing S-1. We had visibility to about 2900m, the rest was deep in the clouds. The Lake Louise weather forecast was calling for a mix of sun and clouds...
The very first bit of the ascent was shallow and crusty as it has been cooked a few days earlier. The trail braking was very easy as the area seemed to have been quite busy in the last few days and there was a good up track. As soon as we passed treeline, the wind picked up.
Apart from the wind that was getting stronger and stronger, everything went fairly well until we reached the glacier itself and realized we couldn't see much but the cliffs of Little Hector to our right. We roped up and decided to follow that cliff for as long as we could see it... Temperature was -19C.
We passed about five crevasses along the way to the shoulder that connects Little Hector and Mount Hector itself. There were probably way more but the visibility was so low that we couldn't see any further than 25 meters away. Once on the shoulder, all we could see was a bit of scree on the western edge of the shoulder. The wind was absolutely horrible with gusts over 75 km/hr. We put our down jackets, balaclava and goggles on and suddenly felt like new men...
We followed that shoulder until we could see the lower part of the last steep slopes with the rock faces to the right. That slope was quite icy and we decided to leave the skis next to a small scree and go with crampons for the rest. We traversed left, and then right, and then went straight up to reach the saddle just below the summit. It was about 3:00pm.
We then debated for a few minutes as conditions were very marginal and came to the conclusion of giving a try at the final scramble. Using crampons and ice axe wasn't even a question as the snow was extremely shallow with lots of bare ice. We free ascended the first little part where lies the crux and were quite happy to find two anchors in solid rock. Just above that first step, the shallow snow/ice slope was quite fast. We then climb the last little bit of rock and found the summit cairn just next to it. It was 4:00pm.
After shaking hands, signing the summit register and taking a few pictures, we finally started going down. We used to anchors as a rappeling station to go down the crux and get back on the saddle. We then walked straight down following the rock faces to our left until we reached the skis.
We decided to ski down without rope even if the visiblity was about nul. We were going extremely slow! At one point along the shoulder, we started to see the cliffs of Little Hector and we briefly saw a big dip on the glacier to our right. We remembered that feature from the way up and skied down unto the glacier just below that dip.
Once again, except for the cliffs to our left, everything was absolutely white. We zigzaged slowly in between the crevasses we remembered from a few hours earlier. The snow was as bad as can be on the lower part of the glacier with breakable crust and extremely slabby conditions. We stayed quite a ways from the avalanche slopes to the left.
Once off the glacier, the visibility was much better as we could see lots of moraines and screes. The snow was extremely shallow and we made quite a few core shots on our skis until we reached tree line. Then we stayed as far left as possible below the two waterfalls as this was the only powdery snow to be found. Got back to the car at 8:00pm after exactly twelve nerve racking hours.
In resume, Dugie loved his introduction to glacier travel and alpine climbing! Me and Eliel were glad we stayed calm at all time and decided to keep going reassessing the conditions along the way. Thanks to Bill Corbett's book and it's very helpfull pictures! We all three had the worst skiing experience ever (whiteout through crevassed area, breakable crust and slabs, shallow snow with plenty of rocks underneath...) but more important than anything, we will always remember the day we made it to the summit of Mount Hector! :)