Mount Brock

August 23, 2010

Mountain height:         2902 m
Total elevation gain:   1200 m
Ascent time:                6:30
Descent time:              4:00                      

Climbing with Kevin.

After hearing Ferenc’s riveting account of his day and night on Mount Brock, I quickly took it off my “to-do” list, some time ago. Ferenc and climbing extraordinaire Dow Williams had ascended the Southwest Pillar and then descended the south ridge, as described in Selected Alpine Climbs. They were benighted on the mountain when the ascent turned out to be more difficult than described and the descent far from trivial. Kevin and I had no intention of doing that route (although Kevin may return to do it in the future), but we found an excellent route description of a near scramble route by Orvel Miskiw. The ascent went exactly as he described.

As usual, it was a sheer delight to be back among peaks of the magnificent Opal Range. Almost without exception, every trip to the area has been utterly captivating. Whether it’s the vast slopes of grassy meadows, or the striking upthrusts of slabby limestone above those slopes, or the idyllic streams bisecting the valleys, or the terrifyingly serrated and narrow connecting ridges between peaks, it’s all good in the Opal Range!

We hiked easily up King Creek and then to the Brock/Blane col. Kevin’s recent ascent of Blane was very helpful in getting us there via the fastest and easiest route. Along the way the uplifts of rock were fantastic, but bad lighting due to cloudy and potentially stormy skies took some of the thunder out of those views (pun intended). A strong and unusually cold wind for August ensured we would reach the col wearing almost all our layers of clothing.   

The route from the col seemed very obvious thanks to Orvel’s description – a long scree ramp paralleling the south ridge on the east side of the mountain. We ascended that ramp to a point only 70 vertical metres from the summit. From there, as suggested, we took out the rope and put on the rock shoes. The terrain didn’t look too bad, however, it was deceivingly steep in places and the finesse of rock shoes was definitely appreciated. Kevin led the pitch, deftly placing some good protection, and soon we were at the sub-peak, a few vertical metres and not many horizontal ones from the true summit.  

Downclimbing to the gap between the sub-peak and the summit looked a little tricky so we took an easy, but circuitous route around a large rib of rock to the gap, and then contemplated the last few metres to the summit. As Orvel’s outlines in detail, the crux ascent is a short, vertical wall with an excellent crack for protection and/or handholds just above your head. Kevin again stepped up to the plate and climbed the step with ease. After belaying me up we walked to the summit, a short distance away.  

Of course, the summit view was somewhat marred by the unwelcome cloudy skies, but at least the cloud level obscured only the tallest of peaks in the area (ie. Joffre, Assiniboine). Mount Blane’s NW ridge looked pretty darn intense to the south, with Hood and Packenham holding their own to the north.

The two necessary rappels to get down from the summit were a little time-consuming, but after that, it was an easy and wonderfully scenic hike back to the car. The skies finally cleared to reveal the incredibly beautiful terrain all around us.

A very, very rewarding day.

The first look at Brock (left of centre)

Mount Blane from near the Blane/Brock col

Brock from the col; the ascent route goes up the obvious scree slopes, right of the south ridge

Kevin makes his way up the scree

Kevin is all smiles as we start up steeper terrain towards the false summit

Higher up; just scrambling at this point

A very beautiful, unnamed peak to the east

Out comes the rope

Kevin getting ready to ascend the crux

Kevin at the summit, with Hood, Packenham, and Evan-Thomas behind

The first page of the summit register

The summit view to the east and southeast

Looking west to the other false summit; 
those who took the Pillar route would reach this summit at some point

The south end of Opal Ridge is visible, with Grizzly Peak in the shade at the far, lower left

Romulus and Remus

Kevin starts the descent

Kevin on the first rappel

The false summit at the left

The scary looking northwest ridge of Mount Blane

Kevin coils the rope after the second rappel

Scrambling back down the the scree slopes

More views to the southeast

The aforementioned peaks to the north

Kevin descends the scree

Looking down to the north fork of King Creek from near the col

Kevin at the col; the south ridge descent route looks pretty daunting from this vantage point

Clear sky arrives as we descend

The severely tilted strata of the rock, characteristic of the Opal Range

More terrific scenery on descent

Same as above

A last look at Brock