Association Peak attempt – April 17, 2006

Mountain height:       2,362 m (7,747 feet)
Elevation gain:           approx. 1,400 m
Roundtrip time:

Scrambling with Kevin.

It’s a real shame that Association Peak is a “Bush-bashin’, scree-sloggin’, knee-twistin’, tendon-snappin’, ankle-breakin’, life-drainin’, energy-zappin’, back-breakin’, kill me now so I don’t have to do the return trip” scramble – because other than that, it’s a pretty nice trip.

I had seen a potential route up the south face of the mountain from the summit of Wendell’s East Peak the day before. Kevin was also interested in trying, what we thought would be a long, but not unreasonable ascent. Upon gaining the east ridge of Yamnuska, for the second time in as many days, we started a 200 vertical metre descent through medium bush. We came across several well-used trails along the way, but neither was heading in the right direction, so we continued bushwhacking, more or less in a straight line towards the peak. This seemed to take forever and required numerous elevation losses and gains, only to lose it again. About 3 hours into the hike, we had gained about 600 m of elevation, but were only 200 m higher than the point from which we started.

Shortly after, we finally set foot on the base of the mountain and broke treeline to a wonderful view of the north face on Wendell Mountain and its East Peak. For the next 3 hours, we would endure some of the most vicious side-sloping I’d ever encountered. We were on the south ridge of the mountain and had to traverse to the middle of the south face, where on obvious scramble route was visible. The scree and rubble were absolutely hideous, the grade fairly steep at times, and therefore our progress was painfully slow. Add to that, the fact that I had done a fairly long day on the East Peak of Wendell Mountain the previous day and Kevin had done a 23 km run less than 12 hours before, and we were both in less than peak physical condition for completing the long and grueling ascent.

About 7.5 hours in the trip, we had to abandon the attempt. The summit was still about 2 hours away and by the time we reached it, we both would have been too physically exhausted to make it back. We did, however, decide to return to the south ridge and ascend as far as we could. Maybe by some miracle there would be a weakness through the daunting rockband below the summit. This was definitely a worthwhile diversion, as the rock scenery was terrific, as were the views of many of the unnamed peaks in the area. Of course, the rubble still sucked the life out of us. Not surprisingly, the summit was guarded by an impressive vertical band of rock and about 100 vertical metres from the summit, we turned around to start the most unappealing return trip.

Fortunately, we had spotted a noticeable trail running south along the east side of the mountain and after a tedious rubble descent, with more endless side-sloping, and then a rapid and lengthy traverse of the south side of the peak, we found the trail and a longer but much easier return route. This route eliminated all the bushwhacking and though the return trip was long and required a 270 m elevation gain back to the east ridge of Yamnuska, it was considerably easier than our ascent route.

I’m sure that had we made the summit, we would have found the register to be quite barren, as this turned out to be a very long and exhausting trip. The scenery made it worthwhile, however, the rubble and scree were a nightmare that provided an ascent that was the polar opposite of aesthetically-pleasing – but then this is the Rockies !

I swore all the way down that I’d never try this mountain again, but now that I know what to expect (ie. endless hours of sheer misery) it might not be so bad giving it another go.  

Looking west from the slopes of Yamnuska's east ridge


Association Peak


The north side of the East Peak of Wendell Mountain


Looking up to the south ridge of Association


Kevin on easy scree slopes below the south ridge


Wendell Mountain's true summit to the right of centre


Kevin rounds the south end of the peak; Wendell to the left and an unnamed peak to the right


A western outlier of Association  


A rockband  on the south ridge


Kevin comes around the corner to see the ascent route some distance away (centre)


The summit; unfortunately the ascent traverses way over to the left and then goes up the left skyline 


Interesting rock, with the summit behind


A zoomed-in photo of an icefall in the ascent gully


Kevin heads towards the upper slopes of the south ridge


A very rectangular block of rock


On the south ridge, looking south; Yamnuska is just visible behind the East Peak of Wendell, at the far left


The upper section of the south ridge


Same as above


Approaching the summit block 


Kevin eyes the summit block; not ascendable without a significant amount of climbing gear (and a much bigger set of balls in my case)


Me and the summit block