Mount Alcantara

August 25, 2011

Mountain height:    3020 m
Elevation gain:       1680 m
Ascent time:           5:50

Descent time:        3:15
Scrambling with Raff.
One of the millions of aspects I love about going to the mountains with my brother, Mark, is that we are both very flexible and will change plans on a whim. Sometimes we will drive to mountains without an objective in mind, choosing something when we arrive. Fortunately, this is also a quality that I admire about Raff.
An attempt of Mount Alcantara was as unplanned as unplanned gets. I just happened to mention the peak in passing as we drove back to Invermere after an incredible day on Mount Nelson. Raff said, “Do you want to try it?”, I said, “Okay”, and less than 12 hours later we were gearing up near a creek, due west of the mountain. Fortunately, in the interim I had managed to get my hands on Rick Collier’s route description on Bivouac and so we wouldn’t be attacking the peak blindly.
The route starts with a healthy stint of what Collier describes as “moderately nasty” bushwhacking and his chosen adjectives are bang-on!  Not knowing if the north or south side of the creek would offer at least amount of resistance, we picked the south side and in retrospect chose incorrectly. The bush was VERY nasty and route-finding around rockbands and other obstacles (i.e. even denser bush than what we were tackling) time-consuming and circuitous.  Several hours in, we conceded our error and crossed to the other side. Travel from then on was far easier.
Since we were not going to bivy at the unnamed lake, as Rick and company did in order to ascend Brussilof in addition to Alcantara, we took a more direct line up the southwest face. This route (probably slightly west of Collier’s) put us in a terrific dry, water-worn drainage that was heaps of fun to ascend – solid, step-like rock with minimal scree. I was also very pleasantly surprised to discover that Alcantara is quite a colourful mountain in its own right – lots of reds, oranges, and beiges to complement the more common, gray limestone. 
Nearing the advertised summit elevation of 2840 m, we were surprised to discover the mountain offered at least another 100 m of gain to the top. We crossed over to the ridge to find another gully (the one described by Collier) leading more directly to the summit. Instead of going into the gully, we stayed on the ridge enjoying terrific views of the Eon, Aye, Assiniboine trio. The full extent of the view, however, was not realized until we reached the summit  – a summit that Raff and I both confirmed to be around 3020 m – 180 m higher than described. Though perhaps slightly inferior to the view from nearby Eon, Alcantara’s panorama was still absolutely magnificent and worth every second of the bushwhacking tribulations.  Of course, the giants Assiniboine, Sir Douglas, Joffre, and King George commanded much of our attention, but closer peaks like Red Man Mountain, Aurora, Byng, King Albert, Back, Craddock, and a ton of unnamed outliers were equally interesting.  The sea of peaks to the northeast, east and southeast was simply phenomenal.
After a wonderfully long summit stay we descended most of Collier’s route, enjoying more colourful rock scenery and terrific views of Brussilof. Lower down, traversing over to our ascent route seemed like a good idea, in light of the disappearing light – it was and clear skies granted us more amazing views of Brussilof and an impressive waterfall cascading down the headwall. We finished the descent by headlamp, crashing down through the thick brush on the north side of the creek with somewhat reckless abandon.  
A totally awesome mountain and trip!

The first unnamed lake

Raff approaches one of innumerable obstacles on the south side of the creek

Pleasant views of Mount Brussilof, but clear skies would have been nice

Same as above

The ascent gullies of Alcantara

A random red argillite boulder shows up

The distnictive layers of Brussilof

Argillite and limestone living together in perfect harmony

More cool argillite

More random, cool, red argilllite

Same as above

An interesting outcrop of rock

A closer look

More vibrant colours

The ridge we went up (left) and the summit (right)

Looking south towards Brussilof

Mount Brussilof

The Aye, Assiniboine, Eon trio; obviously Eon dominates in the foreground

A closer look

Raff takes the final few steps to the summit

The west face of Sir Douglas

Joffre and Abruzzi at the right

A close-up of Sir Douglas

A close-up of Joffre

Raff and the summit view to the southeast; the big peak in the distant centre is King George

Same as above

Probably not a good time to be ascending the southwest face of Assiniboine

A partial summit panorama, looking east

Tons of cool outliers

Another view to the east; Mount Birdwood in the distant centre

Looking down the descent route

Colourful rock layers on Alcantara

Brussilof in better light and clearer skies

Same as above