Mount Bryce 3507 m
Canadian Rockies (click for map)
On the east ridge of Main peak, Mount Bryce
Mount Bryce is a big, spectacular peak south of Mount Columbia at the Western edge of Columbia Icefield in British Columbia. The five Lyell Peaks are in the same part of the Rockies too, as is Mount Alexandra. Two of Mount Bryce's three peaks are over 3353 m (11,000 ft). Mount Bryce has had fewer ascents than Mount Robson, partly due to access difficulties. Recent logging roads up Bush River have greatly simplified the approach but at the same time, since the road, a bit more Canadian wilderness has been lost. Still, you'll never meet a crowd on this mountain. Some years, no-one climbs it.
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Here is a helicopter view showing our ascent route from Rice Brook logging road to Bryce's south glacier. Handy picture for North face climbers to help find the (proper) easy way down too!
Approaching the bivouac site for Mount Bryce the first day, at a point near 7000 feet (2135 metres) just above treeline. It took less than 4 hours hiking from where we were able to park at that time. Forest fire smoke was unbelievably thick on this day: You could taste it.
This picture is a short way above our bivouac at the snout of the south glacier at GR779638, the most straightforward ascent route. Here, a helpful peasant identifies the mountain for us. We ascended the long snow/ice gully, which can actually be seen from Bush River North road, at a point just south of Bryce. The pinnacle at the top of this snow gully is also visible from the road.
Here is a view of the South glacier route which starts from the logging road in Rice Brook. West peak and middle peak shown. Photo was taken from South Rice Brook meadows. Anyone climbing the East ridge route or the North face should study this pic, it will be useful! If you descend this route, be sure to traverse around below the cliffs as shown and then head down an open washed out gully down to the road below. This avoids bushwhacking. You end up 20 minutes east of the roadside waterfall, which is the South glacier runoff.
Routes on Mount Bryce range from classic mountaineering like this to steep, icy north faces. Even with the advent of a logging road, getting there is still half the adventure. Risks include collisions with loaded logging trucks, porcupines eating your vehicles' radiator hoses and surprise meetings with cantankerous bears. And that's apart from the actual climb...Not at all like climbing in the Alps! (Where the hazard was incompetent parties.)
Near the top of the 40 degree ice gully we ascended the "dirt band." Here, fallen rocks were embedded and frozen into the ice, which quickly took any sharp edges off our crampons and axes. How did those rocks get there in the ice? We found that out on the descent: They fall from far above --- and frequently!
At the top of the gully, you pass the gendarme on its right side and are then below Bryce main peak south face. Middle peak is at right of photo here. We strolled across the glacier to the col between to climb both peaks.
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© All photos copyright by the author 1999.