Climbed the NW Ridge Integral of Macdonald yesterday with fellow guide, Larry Shiu. Overall the route is in good condition, except for the near the summit bloc where recent storms have rimed and iced up the rock (see photos). We descended the Herdman couloir and found great travel on snow almost the whole way down to the valley bottom. More details below.
For the approach, we crossed the river easily via a large fallen spruce tree. Finding the spruce tree is easy as it is adjacent to the Howitzer artillery platform located a few hundred meters (roughly) west of the 1st (or west-most) snowshed. The rest of the approach was relatively straightforward; up the avalanche path, and the cross over to the prominent notch, as described in the Rogers Pass Alpine Guide book. Crampons and an ice axe were used to ascend the avalanche path in the morning (and on descent).
The lower 2/3 of the ridge is practically snow free, with the odd snow-patch on a flat spot here and there. The upper ridge, past promenade ledge, is where the rock gradually became more ice/snow covered and is where our pace slowed. Great care was needed moving around, placing pro, and route finding. With some warmer weather the upper ridge would likely only take a few days to lose the majority of the ice in the cracks. For the upper route to dry up considerably we are probably still a week or two away (weather dependant).
We initially planned to carry on to the Sir D traverse but with the current snowy conditions and slower travel, this would have taken longer than we'd have liked. So, after summiting we altered the plans and set our sights on the Herdman couloir and the car. Descending the ridge we made x4 (25-30m) raps before gaining the top of the Herdman couloir. One final rap into the couloir and it was mostly snow the whole way down to the valley bottom. Another fun day in the mountains!
Check out the photos for more conditions insights and view of the Sir D traverse and Tupper's south flanks.
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