Mount King Edward trip report
This was my third try at Mt King Edward, each attempt having taken advantage of a new logging road up Bush River NW of Golden B.C. On my first try in 1986, We discovered that the last weekend in July was still a bit early for the route. Not all the snow had melted off the east side of the upper mountain, and since it is essentially a traverse across some ice followed by rock, the slushy snow proved an impediment to our club trip of 6.
My second try on the Labour day weekend 1990 was fraught with bad weather. We sat in our tent at the edge of the glacier and barely even saw the peak.
On September 1991, Andy and I left Calgary at about 6 am and drove to Golden, then northwest to Donald and onto the Bush River road along Kinbasket (McNaughton) Lake(again!). By noon we had reached the last driveable part of BUSH NORTH road at about km 125. The road ends in a clearcut at km 126 but fallen trees blocked it at a switchback, so we set off on foot from there at 12:30 pm. We took time to nail up a crude "TRAIL" sign to a stump in the last clearcut and we were soon following a faint drainage through semi-open forest, marked by our flagging from years earlier. After that, we gained a gentle ridge above treeline, strolling north through meadows towards our peak. It was a spectacular day in a spectacular place: The north face of Mt Bryce to our south, Mt Columbia to our east and King Ed straight ahead. Numerous mysterious glaciated peaks dotted the horizon in all directions. In 4.5 hours, we reached a very nice camp spot near the edge of the glacier, on level, fine scree with a small stream not far away and here we set up camp.
At 4:50 we rose next morn, and were off by 5:25. It rained at the edge of the glacier, but we found a rock overhang on the west side of a rock "Ship's prow" that juts out towards the peak and huddled there to wait and see. I hated the thought of being defeated again! At 7: 45 the weather improved and we roped up and headed straight across the glacier to the southeast corner of the mountain in about 1' 15". There were many crevasses but they proved no problem to a couple of honed dudes like us.
We took 2 ice tools and several screws as we were thinking of climbing the east ice face, which had not yet been done at that time. As we drew close to the peak though, it became evident that the glacier rose a little more steeply to reach the base of the ice face and was much more broken up than expected with many crevasses visible. Realizing the consequences of one of us going in a hole way up here, we opted for the easier to reach (and climb!) south slopes of rock and rubble instead.
We tackled the southeast corner of the mountain and were able to scramble up the cliffs, but decided it would be too steep to scramble down. I knew (and we could see) that easier terrain lay to our left, (west) over slabs. We would descend that way.
Above the rockband at the S.E. corner of the peak we grovelled up scree, scrambled a short 3 m rockband at about halfway up, and then tramped up to the summit block. The summit is encircled by a steep rockband but I knew from the first trip that we should traverse to the east side and find a gully through this band. So we did.
On the east side, just around the corner, we found snow so we short-roped and moved together, facing in, searching for a good way up. We passed a narrow-ish gully at less than a rope-length from the corner, but I remembered this one had been full of steep loose rubble before. We went about 150' further where the terrain opened up with a short snow gully above and a clear view to the ice face and east-side glacier a few hundred feet below. I put in screws and belayed Andy over to here; He led a half-rope up to a big block. I led above this, a bit more than one rope length up rock and a runnel of ice to a chimney. This was done in crampons. The chimney then led to loose rock & scree at the base of the final summit ridge. Andy did not relish climbing rock in plastic boots and crampons, but I have no idea why not.
A 15 minute walk led to the cairn on top. The book was wet but revealled few ascents since the seventies when it had been placed by an ACC camp. The weather failed to clear enough to grant the fabulous panorama which we so richly deserved, but we did get some glimpses towards Tsar Mountain, another 11,000-er. After our lunch of sausage, bread, cheese and gorp* we headed back down at 2 pm.
I lowered Andy down the route, he placed pro' ( a couple of pins and a chock, I think) as he went and clipped the 9 mm rope in. When I was out of rope we moved together with running belays until back around onto easy south slopes again. Most of this was done with crampons on. As daylight is noticeably shorter at this time of year in the Rockies, we hurriedly unroped and bashed down scree to find an easy way back onto the glacier. Sections of the easy slabs we had spied now had water flowing over them, so we had to gain a little height to go detour above them and get further right before descending to the glacier. Much as we hated to, we ended up leaving 2 pins to rap down to the glacier but time was of the essence now; it was 5:40 pm.
As quickly as possible we, geared up for the glacier, roping and donning crampons, scurrying towards the Ship's Prow of rock and our camp below it. The crossing took a mere 45 minutes and as we went, it was evident that shadows were lengthening rapidly.
Just as darkness fell (THUMP!!) we trudged into camp. The immediate order was to get a big pot of soup on, this one a hearty concoction of Minute rice and Lipton chicken noodle soup base. Simple fare like this always tastes so delicious after a good days' climbing, far better than the best restaurant meal after a day of relaxing. We slurped it noisily and discussed our 12 hour day with a great feeling of satisfaction over both the food and the climb.
The following day dawned clear; we slept in till 9 a.m. and over breakfast of oatmeal, admired the fine snow peaks known as the Chessboard Group to our southwest. Off by 11:30, we lazily strolled across the extensive meadows leading south towards treeline. There we found our flagging, improving on it as we went. The sky was cloudless and the night's frost had considerably reduced the fly count. By 2:30 we were back at the van, and sipping cold beer, carefully stashed in a nearby creek: The clear liquid tasted like nectar itself, and you can't always say that for Coors Lite!
At 5pm, we were scarfing down Teen burgers at one of Golden's better-known restaurants. By 8 pm , we were parting ways, back again in the city of Calgary, so far removed form those big beloved mountains (but closer to jobs which provided a company van and money to buy gear so we could play in those same beloved mountains!) So my attempts on Mount King Edward had ended on a happy note with a good friend, just as one hopes.
* Good Old Raisins & Peanuts.
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