Once we descended from Christian Peak and looped back to our traverse tracks from the day before, we decided to give Arctomys Peak a try. I think we all underestimated the amount of effort required to get all the way over to the eastern edge of the Lyell Icefield from the south ridge of Christian Peak, never mind the effort to then descend 400 vertical meters, cross another small icefield and then re-ascend to the summit of Arctomys. Now reverse it all the way back to the Lyell Hut!! Sometimes we are just suckers for punishment.
[It's a long bloody way from Christian to Arctomys - and a LOT of height loss / gains too!]
As we labored across the Lyell Icefield, further and further from our cozy hut, under a blazing and relentless fireball overhead we engaged in vigorous debates about if we should continue or not. It was a bit comical. At different times, different people were motivated to keep going. Steven initially suggested we try for Arctomys. Then, while he and Ben started leaning away from the effort, I encouraged them to try it. Then I started backing off once I saw the incredible amount of height loss we had to do and Steven was back encouraging us to continue. Ben was right in the middle - sort of wishing he wasn't there and sort of wishing we'd get to the summit already! :) Eventually we arrived on the eastern edge of the Lyell Glacier and found ourselves negotiating some sagging bridges to a small icefield leading to the lower west ridge of Arctomys. It was funny, standing at the same height as the peak, looking across all that elevation loss / gain and wondering why the hell we were doing this?!
[After descending to the main Lyell Glacier, we can't even SEE Arctomys anymore! It's far beyond the distant rise...]
[Cresting the rise on the eastern edge of the Lyell Glacier, Arctomys is finally visible again, and below us at this point. Don't think Ben is wearing his jacket because it's cold - he's trying to shelter his skin from the relentless fireball above us!]
[Ben and I really wanted to turn around at this point. We figured we already got a great view so why not? Steven thankfully pushed us onwards... ;) There's at least 400 vertical meters of loss and regain at this point. Note that we are higher than Arctomys at this point. ++]
[Losing hundreds of meters of height into the baking hot bowl just west of Arctomys ascent ridge. The sun was focused here and there was no wind - it was relentless and we were all sick of the heat and sun already at this point.]
It felt good to take the 'shoes off for the west ridge ascent of Arctomys, but it also felt bad. It felt good because 'shoes are heavy and somewhat unbalanced, but it felt bad because we were so far from the hut and truly committed to this diminutive peak and I was wondering WHY? Well - I soon found out. There is a very good reason to scramble Arctomys Peak, if you have the opportunity. The view from it's summit ridge is probably among the top 10 I've had on any mountain, anywhere in the Rockies. It was that good! As we slowly gained height on the ridge, we glimpsed views into the Arctomys Creek valley far below on the north side of the peak.
[Working our way up the rubbly west ridge of Arctomys, looking back at Ben and the Lyell Glacier. Accessing the Lyells from Glacier Lake is via slopes on the left, working through the cliff bands somewhere just below us here and then upwards. Doesn't look that pleasant to be honest!]
[The views are improving, but guess what? Even more height gain / loss once we're on the west ridge! That was a theme for our weekend. You could never count on simply climbing and descending. Everything involved long traverses and many hundreds of meters of height gain / loss in each direction.]
The views improved until we could see the incredible plunge of the Lyell Glacier hundreds of meters down to Arctomys Lake with a crashing waterfall and a thin ribbon of water wandering off down the green valley far below, accumulating in many distant, sparkling lakes along the way. Honestly, I've seen some good views in my hundreds of summits, but Arctomys was extra impressive. We spent almost an hour at the windless summit, enjoying the sublime views in all directions and catching a few moments of shuteye in the very hot sun. Even the westerly winds were warm on the summit.
[Now we're talking! VIEWS. Still not at the summit but Arctomys Creek is a lovely paradise far below. ++]
[Looking down the Valley of Lakes and past Arctomys' summit at right.]
[Ben is now glad we push on to this diminutive peak with its grand views.]
[The Lyell Glacier plunges hundreds of meters to Arctomys Lake in a series of impressive waterfalls]
[Stunning views of Arctomys Lake.]
[Probably my favorite view from the entire weekend is this one, looking north off the summit of Arctomys at the Lyell Glacier draining into Arctomys Lake and Creek before running off down a lush valley (Valley of Lakes) towards 10's of sparkling lakes in the far distance beneath the brooding hulks of Erasmus and Amery. Not many people are even aware this valley exists and it's very rarely visited as there are no official trails through it. ++]
[Ben sits at the summit with the lush Valley of Lakes and Arctomys Creek running towards hwy #93 behind him.]
[The views of the Lyell Icefield are also very impressive, leading towards Mount Forbes on the left. Lyell Meadows are obvious beneath Arctomys. ++]
[A shot over the Lyell Meadows and the impressive ice fall from the Lyell Glacier towards Mount Forbes. The original access route for the Lyell Glacier was right up this ice fall when it was much less broken! The long route from Glacier Lake is now up broken moraines in the foreground and through chossy cliffs out of sight to the right.]
[Looking straight down off Arctomys' summit]
[A gorgeous head-on view of the mighty 11,851 ft Mount Forbes - which I would climb in 2016, in perfect conditions.]
[An incredible view of the 5 Lyells. From L to R, Christian, Walter, Ernest, Edward and Rudolph. ++]
[The amount of vertical relief between the summit of Edward Peak and Arctomys Lake is around 1800 meters or 6,000 feet!]
After our break on the summit we all agreed that doing Arctomys was a great idea. The experience was much better than we expected it to be and this gem of a peak probably doesn't see very many visitors either - it's way out there and doesn't look impressive from below. The views that its summit offers, are not obvious when looking down on it from the Lyell Glacier. Of course, now we had a long, hot slog across the icefield to the Lyell Hut ahead of us. And it was a long slog! My eyes were so irritated by the glare that I wore my gaiters under my cap as huge peripheral blockers - it worked surprisingly well. Finally, after ascending the icefield, ascending up and then down the south ridge of Christian Peak and then reascending to the Lyell Hut we were finished another long day with incredible views. We could spot smoke from a new forest fire just west of our area from the hut and knew that the next day would be another scorcher with no over night freeze. Our chances of summiting Walter Peak were extremely thin and we started thinking about other options for our last day.
[Steven tackles "the crux" on Arctomys' west ridge - a moderate low cliff band]
[Starting the long 'shoe back up the Lyell Glacier!]
[Hours later we are now descending the south ridge of Christian Peak to the bowl under the Lyell Hut which is on the rock shoulder above Steven's head. From this bowl we have to ascend back up to the hut.]
[Another nice sunset - this one 'helped' by forest fires starting to the west. ++]
NOTE: Distances and elevation gains are from the Lyell Hut.