Elevation gain: 1600 m
Ascent time: 8:15
Descent time: 4:20
Mountaineering with Mark.
Move over Edith Cavell,
there’s a new number one! Up to
this date, if I had to pick one ascent as my favourite, over the past
seven years, it would have been the
east ridge of Edith Cavell. We completed that trip on August 14, 2005.
October 12, 2008 the honour of “Best of the Best”
now goes to
After failing to make the summit of Cathedral the previous day, we spent the night in Field and then got a nice and early 6:30 am start. The forecast was for sunny skies all day and that seemed to be the case as innumerable stars filled the heavens. With daylight, however, came cloud cover. We thought it to be morning cloud that would quickly “burn-off” in the later hours of the morning. That was not the case and the weather continued to worsen as we arrived at the hanging valley. Needless to say, this was extremely disappointing, especially given that we had the chance to make the summit in perfect weather, 24 hours earlier. There were more than a few eloquent expletives, expressing our frame-of-mind, uttered throughout the ascent.
We slowed down our pace in hopes that the weather would improve, but when the cloud ceiling dropped below 3000 metres and it started to lightly snow, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would have to return another day with better weather. Being denied a perfect summit view on this mountain was simply unacceptable. Nevertheless, we did decide to continue on to the base of the north ridge to check out the remainder of the ascent.
Even in the dismal weather conditions, this was a scenic and enjoyable ascent; the aesthetic curves of snow and glacier contrasting wonderfully with the craggy profile of Cathedral Crags. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see anything beyond the confines of the mountain itself.
At the base of the north ridge, we took an extended break to debate the issue of whether to continue to the summit or turn around. On the one hand, if we did complete the ascent, we might find it difficult to make a return trip on a perfect weather day, given that there are so many other objectives of interest. On the other hand, we had just spent two consecutive days on this mountain and it would seem a real shame to not make the summit that was now so close. The stunning beauty of the north ridge itself also was starting to push us in the direction of continuing. Eventually we decided to attempt to complete the ascent, even though reaching the summit in the dismal weather would probably elicit yet another barrage of abuse language in light of the unexpectedly awful weather.
Though the ridge looked very intimidating from a distance, its grade appeared much more user-friendly close up. Mark led the entire ascent. There were certainly a few sections where you wouldn’t want to slip or start an avalanche, but they were short-lived and generally the ascent was fun and not unnerving.
Just before we reached the summit, a totally amazing event occurred: the skies cleared. This wasn’t your standard “patch of blue appears and then slowly expands”. The low-lying clouds that blanketed the entire area literally disappeared in what seemed like an instant. It was unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Usually you can see the clouds dissipating, but in this case they simply weren’t there anymore. The experience was astounding! This did elicit some abuse language, but only in a positive sense of complete awe and amazement. As expected the views were utterly phenomenal in every direction.
We hurried up to the summit to enjoy
quite probably the
best summit panorama we’ve ever seen. The Waputik and Wapta
Icefields to the
north were stunning; Mounts Stephen, Vaux, and The Goodsirs to the west
stunning. The best view was to the south and southeast, where stood the
Our summit stay was long and immeasurably gratifying - perhaps in large part due to the emotional roller-coaster we had been on the past 24 hours: failing to make the summit in perfect weather the previous day, doing the overwhelming majority of the return trip in miserable weather conditions, and then being greeted at the summit by great weather and a phenomenal panorama.
The descent was as enjoyable as the summit stay. We had to stop every ten seconds to photograph the unbelievable scenery we had missed on the way up. The craggy form of Cathedral Crags was truly a sight to behold. Even much lower down the mountain, innumerable photo opportunities presented themselves, as late day sun lit up Huber, Hungabee, and Biddle. We finished the trip by headlamp, tired but in great spirits. What a day!
Perhaps this trip is more of a sentimental "Best of the Best" than anything else, but I can't remember enjoying a day in the mountains as much as I enjoyed this one.
Just the weather we were expecting! (heavy sarcasm)
More of the same garbage weather
At least the layers of rock above were interesting to look at
The occassional patch of blue would appear and then inevitably give way to more cloud
Finally, on the glacier
The beautiful north ridge/summit block of Cathedral; even in this sucky weather it’s gorgeous!
Looking back to the Crag
Mark prepares to lead the
Typical views on the ascent
Mark manages a smile (in between profanities)
More of Mark’s lead
Approaching the summit
An interesting effect, as the Sun tries to make an appearance
Looking back at the ascent ; the line of gray cloud seemed to indicate that the weather wouldn’t change
Mark nearing the summit
Looking back again; this and the above photo were taken only minutes apart
Mark rushes towards the summit, as the weather clears
Arriving at the summit, in much better spirits
The view towards
A close-up of Stephen
Mark at the summit (Victoria and Hungabee seem to be creating their own weather)
Hungabee (right); Ringrose (left)
The continuation of the ridge provided a scenic foreground
The view to the southeast
Looking south west towards
Mount Des Poilus to the north
Getting ready to
Getting ready to descend
Hands down one of the best mountain scenes we've ever laid eyes on
Same as above
A closer look
Shadows start to further improve the
Mark descends the ridge
Descending curvaceous snow slopes
Kind of an odd photo
More terrific views
That cool cliff-band again; Hungabee and Biddle in the
Hungabee is finally cloud-free
Perhaps the best view of Cathedral Crags throughout the day
This one wasn't too shabby either
Several 11,000 er's and one that's
close (Biddle at
the far right)
Looking back at the summit block
Mark on a shapely arete of snow
Mark sits on the arÍte to take in the gorgeous view for the last time
Same as above
Same as above
Same as above
The Sun disappears below the horizon
Back on easy snow slopes
More decent scenery on descent
Huber and Hungabee again
A final look at Hungabee