The North Towers of Mount Saskatchewan II 

October 2, 2016

Mountain height:    2890 m
Elevation gain:       1270 m
Ascent time:           5:30
Descent time:         3:50

Solo scramble

Last chance! After waiting patiently for much of the summer (and in complete vain) for a perfect weather day to return to attempt the true summit of the North Towers, this was it – and summer was long gone! I knew that part if not all of the trip would be snowy, but how much snow was anyone’s guess.   

 To my surprise, the entire approach was snow-free and I was able to make good progress up the stunning valley. My original plan was to ascend Mount Saskatchewan Junior first and then continue to the North Towers, as Mark and I had done in May of 2009. However, gaining the upper plateau below both objectives, I opted to take a more direct route to The North Towers. This involved some fairly steep scree slopes with a short section of very steep snow, but I had crampons and an ice axe and was soon at the Junior/North Towers col.

 The ascent from here was remarkably similar to our May, 2009 trip – in other words, intensely scenic! I almost forgot how totally awesome the view of “Totally Awesome View Mountain” was (a very appropriate name, given to the peak to the west by Eric Coulthard). And that is just the proverbial drop in the bucket. Mountains of the Columbia Icefields from this vantage point look fantastic. Peaks in every other direction also fit that description, especially given the perfect weather conditions.

Admittedly, I experienced some degree of anticipation and trepidation upon reaching the summit ridge. Snow and a scary looking cornice had stopped progress for Mark and I back in 2009 and I feared, with all the recent snow, I would succumb to the same fate. Fortunately, although the ridge was quite snowy, it looked far less intimidating than our previous look and with crampons and an ice axe, I felt I could safely traverse the short distance to the summit. Instead of staying on the ridge, I traversed below it, on the right side (the left side won’t work, because the mountain doesn’t have a left side!!). With snow, the route did feel exposed in places and I proceeded quite slowly.

Reaching the small summit was magnificent! The view in every direction was phenomenal and without question one of the best panoramas I’ve ever experienced in the mountains. Although Mark and I had had seen almost all of the view, the small part that was missing (the continuation of the ridge to the south Tower) was outstanding. Thankfully, Steven Song (bless his heart!) had already verified this to be the true summit, sparing me a “really” scary looking traverse over to another summit to the short, a short distance away.

For return, I did stay on the ridge, being extra careful about the snow of the left side. There was definitely some concern as to whether rock existed beneath the snow. The remainder of the descent was super easy, compared to the miserable time Mark and I had in 2009, where we actually considered a forced bivouac in the snowy valley. I managed to make it from summit to car in less than 4 hours, 2.67 hours less than our previous descent time.

A “Totally Awesome” day with “Totally Awesome” views!     

A great view of Howse Peak on the drive 

Part of Parker Ridge reflected in the North Saskatchewan River

Big Bend Peak is snowy, but the valley is snow-free

The southeast side of Big Bend

The three major peaks of the valley. The North Towers (left),
Mount Saskatchewan Junior (small, pointy mountain, just right of centre), and Big Bend (far right)

Interesting clean slabs of rock

A good imitation of Waterton!

Some big crevasses on the glacier that spills down from the col.
I ascended the route alongside the glacier earlier in the summer - it's really steep!

Castleguard Mountain - good memories!

Mount Andromeda - really good memories!!!!

Mount Bryce in the distance - no memories yet

The north ridge ascent route

The north ridge (left) and Totally Awesome View Mountain (right)

There is a weakness in the middle of this rockband

Totally Awesome View Mountain

Mount Bryce

Castleguard and Totally Awesome.......

The summit (right), other highpoints aling the ridge and massive Mount Saskatchewan in the backgorund

The summit ridge, where Mark and I stopped in 2009

At the summit, looking to the other highpoints and the south Tower

The awesome summit view to the north

Back at the col, looking towards Mount Saskatchewan Junior

Spine Peak makes an appearance

The interesting profile of Spine Peak