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Climbing Conditions

Climbing Conditions


It’s been quite a wet month in the mountains in July. I’ve been out a lot guiding and personal climbing since the Canada day long weekend. I’ve visited a lot of different alpine areas in mainly the Rockies but also the Bugs a few times.

Yesterday I climbed the Silverhorn on Athabasca with no freeze. A wet super saturated snowpack has been the flavour of the month. Bringing home soaked boots ever day. Athabasca yesterday gave me the urge to speak out about conditions. People have been talking about the wet July we have had, some of us alpine guides (I’m sure there are others) have been questioning our professions. Rain, wrong weather forecasts and thunder and lighting have plagued me this month. What occurred to me yesterday and the 25 days i’ve been out this month is. It’ warm every night. The lack of a freeze. Since Canada Day long weekend. Mainly below 10,000ft. It’s been what? 26 or so days now since the Rockies has had the chance to freeze together???

Yesterday on Athabasca and what motivated me to write this document is the fact of how active I noticed the mountains and glaciers becoming. They are in a transitional state for now. I witnesses one very large serac’s calving. Something you would see on a TV glacier nature documentary. Off the back of the A/A col (south side ), another very large recent serac debris pile (sz 3) over on the Dome glacier towards the south slopes of Kitchener. and a lot of other serac collapsing sounds in the distance. I also saw and heard numerous ugly, dirty avalanches coming off Andromeda practice slopes, large dirty slides coming off the typical A/A ascent route. And maybe it’s just me and I have been working way to much, but is the serac that threatens the Mnt Columbia approach looking like it is leaning, just a little bit more in the unfavourable direction of down?

Also coming down the A/A col lower trail yesterday, again i noticed another section of the rubble moraine had pulled out, wiping out a piece of the trail. This is happening due to the perma ice melting and lubricating the rocks underneath the ground surface. Not so big but a good indication of what is happening due to a lack of a freeze.

Yesterday this all was happening during overcast skies. I’m thankful the sun wasn’t out..

The snow pack itself consists of unconsolidated, rain soaked, very wet grains. Through out the entire snowpack. Crevasse bridging is starting to become weak in areas at all elevations. I fell into several hidden holes to my waist yesterday on the way to the Silverhorn and also having a look at the Ramp route. Which i decided not to engage in for a descent. I will talk about that in a second. Anyway back to the snowpack, there is still a considerable amount of HS from last winter that is hanging around above 2900m. 1-2m. Mainly post holing conditions and again hidden slots. I’ve used the technique of visiting the same trails numerous times this month to avoid a 6 hour post holing session. And ya i’ve asked myself, should i even be on this mountain today? To bad we have to work a living….

Yesterday on the Silverhorn route was actually fantastic in the am, 1-2 feet of semi frozen snow over the ice. Making for great steps and good ice belays when needed. I ended up tractor pulling most of the way up except for a few steeper steps. We summited around 9:30am. We being client and me. I’ve attempted Silverhorn twice this week. Both times i’ve had the side ways angle of the Ramp route and again maybe it’s just me but.. It looks like the Ramp itself has changed in the past year?? It looks just a little bit steeper on the upper exit area. And the lower crevasse’s look bigger and meaner. After we summited i did decide to have a look at that option as a descent down. I ended up backing off the thing after trying several ways to get into it. It did feel steeper. Snow conditions are also playing a factor. i would deem this route out of condition. So i took the A/A descent option down, having to do a lot of point release avalanche control to get into the lower dry rocky hiking terrain. With several natural avalanche’s happening over on the Andromeda practice slopes, loose wet happening from the A/A col proper, while i was ski cutting my slope, again i did ask myself, why am i here?? Oh ya, need to make a living, right.

Well to make a long story short. It’s warm. It’s not freezing at night. There hasn’t been a freeze for 3 weeks now. The mountains are in transition again. Heads up.

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These observations and opinions are those of the person who submitted them. The ACMG and its members take no responsibility for errors, omissions, or lapses in continuity. Conditions differ greatly over time and space due to the variable nature of mountain weather and terrain. Application of this information provides no guarantee of increased safety. Do not use the Mountain Conditions Report as the sole factor in planning trips or making decisions in the field.