Mount Clemenceau 3659m Canadian Rockies
Mount Clemenceau from Cummins ridge near Grassi hut.
(click to enlarge)
Mount Clemenceau is one of the most remote big peaks in the Canadian Rockies and only Mounts Robson, Columbia and North Twin are higher. Clemenceau sits amid vast icefields in British Columbia, 45 km WNW of better-known Columbia Icefield and northwest of Golden. Access to Clemenceau area is usually via helicopter from Golden and in 2000, I had the chance to go there with the Calgary Section of the Alpine Club of Canada. We stayed at the clubs' Lawrence Grassi Hut for a week in mid-August. Five different summits were climbed including Clemenceau and Tusk (3360 m). Click here for detailed trip report.
Upon our arrival, the first act was to carry the week's gear from the chopper down to the hut, 2 minutes away.
Crevasse on Tusk Glacier enroute to Mount Clemenceau from the hut. It took about 4 hours from Grassi hut to the base of the peak, much of it in the dark.
Here is a view of the lower part of Tiger Glacier on Mount Clemenceau showing the normal ascent route. This photo was taken on an ascent of Tusk Mountain 2 days later. the crevasses, seracs and small plateaus are much larger than what the picture leads you to believe, especially in a white-out on descent.
Our group of 4 roped up and ascending the Tiger Glacier. We awoke at 2:30 a.m. and left the hut by headlamp at 3:30 a.m. under a clear sky, but by 10 a.m. cloud started from to the west.
Kicking steps up a snowslope on the way up. Most of the ascent route is moderately angled except for a section of about 40 degrees for 150-200 feet. The key to the route is finding the right path through seracs lower down.
Looking up at a wall of seracs and wondering exactly where to go. We then stumbled across older tracks which led us through this obstacle without a problem.
More seracs on Tiger Glacier of Mount Clemenceau, with a beautiful view to the southwest.
James was getting a little tired at this point.
At about 11,000 ft the normal route ascends a glacial bench paralleling the summit ridge and then gains a final snow shoulder which leads directly to the corniced summit at 12,000 ft. Much cloud was drifting in around us at this point. I started thinking about my route-marking wands I'd left back at the hut...
Getting near the top of Clemenceau on the final slope above a high bench. Minutes later, we were enveloped in blowing snow which rapidly filled in our tracks.
(Sim Galloway photo) We saw little of the surroundings after all our hard effort and spent only minutes on top, rehydrating and gulping a hasty lunch. It had been a long plod (about 10 hours!) to reach the top and it was disheartening to be robbed of the much-anticipated summit view. On descent, we were forced to wait among seracs for bad weather to clear, eventually returning to the hut well past supper. Despite a tiring day and lack of views, we were elated to have summited nonetheless.
ACCESS: Parties have also reached Clemenceau from Golden via Sullivan River logging road which leads close to Tsar Mountain. From near Tsar, ascend north and go up over Apex Icefield east of Mount Somervell, descend to Clemenceau Glacier and continue around so as to camp on the glacier or a small meadow between Tusk and Clemenceau. A camp here would be significantly closer to both Clemenceau and Tusk than the hut is. Most of the entire approach travels over huge glaciers and, as you might expect, not many have done it. It is apparently a tough 2-3 day hike in over rugged terrain, which is why helicoptering (whether summer or winter) is the preferred way in.
Note: Our group flew in with Don McTighe and Alpine Helicopters based in Golden, B.C. Check the phonebook.
Read the entire detailed trip report here.
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© all photos copyright by the author 2000