Canada Part 1
Tom Livingstone approaching the north Face of Mt Kitchener
When Tom and I first saw a photo of Mt Kitchener, we both commented on how it looked like a 200 m Scottish grade VI. After some reading, we discovered it was actually 1200 m. Everything in Canada is bigger than it looks, from cars to massive trains, and even the pancakes.
Crossing the river on the way to Mt Kitchener. ©Tom Livingstone
After a week in Canada a decent weather window appeared. We drove up the Icefields Parkway for 2 hours and walked to the base of Mt Kitchener's north face. However, when we arrived at the bivi it felt very Scottish, the air thick with dampness and temperatures on Tom’s trusty watch showing +6 degrees C. With the rock on the face a thawing, glossy black colour, our positive ideas of it freezing overnight were ridiculously optimistic.
Running away from Mt Kitchener. ©Tom Livingstone
My eyes flicked open during the night as another avalanche made a crack followed by a whoosh. The sound echoed through the darkness and across the glacier, to where we were wrapped up in our bivi bags. At 3 am the snow was still slushy and we agreed it was too warm to climb. Plans shattered, we walked back to the car a few hours later in a subdued mode. Only negative thoughts raced through my mind: “we should have gone a day earlier, gone somewhere else or picked a rocky objective." We traversed back through wet snow, down a ridge, over boulder fields, down scree slopes, waded the river and then finally arrived back at the car.
Tom sorting gear in our mini van/house.
My eyes pop open as the second alarm goes off followed sharply by the third. Although its 4am our spirits are much higher than the previous day. We scramble around the car getting dressed, packing bags and eating food all at the same time. Head torches dash over the pine needles, which litter the soft trail. With light sacks and wearing trainers allowing us to easily reach Lake Annette, and on to the base of the Greenwood Jones on Mt Temple's north face.
Tom having done the first 300 m of scrambling. Only 1300 m to go.
Me bridging over a roof of choss. ©Tom Livingstone
About to unknowingly climb an E4, 5b pitch. We were off route at this point. ©Tom Livingstone
Tom free climbing the old aid pitch.
14 hours later, we stand in the darkness. Our harnesses, gear and helmets litter the ground as Tom and I both search for the last of our food. Sacks repacked, we stand up straight and start walking. “Now we can eat pancakes with maple syrup all day tomorrow.” Tom says happily. “Oh yeah eih, can’t wait eih!” I reply in my best Canadian, then give a loud “YAHOOOOO!” The sound echoes all around us from the top of Sentinel Pass. Music blares from our phones as we start zigzagging down the trail and through the woods. Half way down the track, we stop suddenly as we hear a large amount of rustling in the woods to our right. We make lots of noise and move quickly past the sounds. However, 25 m round the corner was the first running water we had seen for hours. Torn between running away from a bear or quenching our desperately dry mouths, we both quickly fill a bottle and keep walking. We talk loudly for the rest of the 6 mile walk back. Clacking poles together with the music at full volume, pretending we're not scared of the bears, but all the while jumping at even the smallest of sounds. The feeling of success while walking back compared to yesterday's depressions is sensational.
Fully content with our pancakes and waffles in Banff the next day.
Big faces, lakes, pointy mountains, and good sport climbing. Why don't all alpinists live here?
Read Tom's accounts of Canada so far here: http://www.tomlivingstone.co.uk/Tom_Livingstone/Blog/Entries/2015/9/13_The_Greatest_Summer_-_Part_VIII._Canada.html