Ernest Peak (Lyell III)


Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Friday, June 26, 2015 to Monday, June 29, 2015
Summit Elevation (m): 
Summit Elevation (ft): 
Elevation Gain (m): 
Round Trip Time: 
Total Distance (km): 
Difficulty Notes: 

Remote glacier travel with some bergschrund / serac fall hazards depending on the route and time of year.

Trip Report

After a gorgeous 8 hour approach via Icefall Brook / Canyon, we found ourselves at the small, tidy Lyell Hut around noon with many hours of beautiful sunny weather staring back at us. I think it was Ben who initially started musing that perhaps we should "go for Lyell 1, 2 and 3 (Rudolph, Edward and Ernest) today yet". Wait, what?! When I first overheard his murmured suggestion I thought I must be dreaming. I'd never heard of anyone doing the entire Lyell Hut approach on foot and then 3 of the 5 Lyells on the same day before. As we thought about it though, it started to make a bit of sense. The snow was still decent and this was the coolest day in the forecase. Why not take advantage? 


[The day goes nuclear as we descend to the Lyell hut after a 12km approach and 2,000 meters of height gain from the Valenciennes FSR. Rostrum Peak and Icefield Peak with Rostrum Tower in the bg.]


Sure enough! Within an hour we were headed away from our cozy hut and back down to the icefield below. Steven led us eastward around and then over the south ridge of Christian Peak (Lyell V) and then slowly down to the main Lyell Icefield leading up to the 5 Lyell peaks to the north. We had to avoid some holes, but most were obvious at this point. I was very glad we'd lugged the 'shoes up - there would have been seriously slow trudging in ankle deep snow without them. The day went nuclear-hot in the afternoon with an extremely intense sun baking the icefield and us along with it. It was impossible to escape the glare and over the next few days this would give me some eye issues. As we descended to the icefield below, I started feeling the approach and the 3.5 hours of sleep from the restless night on the Valenciennes FSR far below us now. The Lyells looked close at this point, but 2 hours later we were still slogging slowly up the icefield and I was now falling asleep while walking! I've had a similar experience while traversing to Mount Columbia - and I still ascended Columbia after that experience so I guess I was OK to ascend the Lyells at this point too. ;)


[I can't believe it, but we're heading back down the slope leading up to the hut. This slope became the bane of our existence when we had to ascend it each evening after a long day out! Lyell 5 can be accessed by the obvious icefield ahead, or by contouring either left or right around the ridge the hut is perched on.]

[Forbes rises over the cooking icefield - it was very hot already on day one and only got hotter each subsequent day]

[Mons Peak rises over our approach bench along the cliffs at lower right - approx route in red. Mons Hut is out of sight on the left somewhere and its access route can be seen where the cliff band deteriorates above the access ledge at center left of the photo - approx route in orange but others would work too.]

[We are 'only' on the icefield and already very high on Arras Mountain (R). Only 10 hours or so ago we were at its base on the Valenciennes FSR]

[We've already come up and down Lyell V's south ridge (L) and turned North. Now we're trudging towards the Lyells - it's MUCH further than you'd think based on this photo. Hours away at this point.]


Eventually we slowly passed Christian (V) and Walter (IV) and started gaining height on Ernest Peak (III). Looking over at the Edward (II) / Rudolph (I) col, it looked more crevassed than I expected. There were two 'schrunds and a steep ice fall off the southeast face of Edward where Corbett has a route line going straight up. I'm pretty sure that line would have to wait for a big snow year now - perhaps it is no longer feasible at all. We crossed the obvious 'schrund on Ernest on a pretty decent snow bridge although I thought maybe we should have taken a bit more care in this area. Steven, Ben and I have been on a lot of glaciers this past year and gotten pretty darn lucky with bridges / crevasses. On Forbes, Ben and Steven got even luckier considering how warm it was, and I think some level of personal caution might have been dulled due to all this good luck. It happens. The thing about mountains is that they don't necessarily reward good luck with more good luck. Luck and crossed fingers are not a good way to deal with snow bridges! ;)


[Looking back down the main Lyell Glacier at Mount Forbes (L). Our tracks come in from the right - in front of the visible bump on the lower right that is part of Division Ridge]

[Finally getting close enough to Ernest (L) and Edward (R) that they are looking like real peaks]

[The snow is getting a bit slushy as we head for the 'schrund crossing]

[Spectacular views back down the Lyell Glacier from the III / II col with Lyell IV and V on the right. You can see the south ridge of Christian Peak that we had to cross over from the hut, which is OOS behind Lyell IV/V. ++]


Once at the Ernest / Edward col we were treated to some pretty remarkable views to the north. The weather was perfect as we trudged towards the northeast slopes of Ernest. We could see a pretty large 'schrund breaking our ascent slope, and small bits of ice were showering down our route from a strong summit melt as we donned crampons and started up a snow slope towards the summit. Corbett mentions "steep snow" or a traverse around to climber's right and "possible crevasse issues" but again, I think conditions have changed a bit thanks to a warming trend in the Rockies over the past few years. To go climber's right (avoiding the immediate 'schrund issue) means going up and across an active ice fall tumbling straight down the north side of Ernest! There is no safe way around or up this ice fall. You could possibly tempt fate on the far right side and get across a gaping crevasse - but IMHO this is no safer than dealing with the obvious 'shrund near the col.


[Off the shoes and trudging up Ernest Peak's east ridge under a BLAZING sun]


We carefully ascended near the gaping 'schrund and managed to tip toe over a pretty intimidating bridge. Again - I think we were a wee bit too casual with this hole. When I crossed after the other two guys, I probed the bridge and found my pole easily passed through most of it into the black hole beneath! I was super nervous about re-crossing it on descent. (We did use an ice ax boot belay on both ascent and descent to make us feel a bit better about it.)


[Ben finishes the delicate traverse over the 'schrund on Ernest Peak]

[The summit ridge on Lyell III]


Once on the summit ridge we were treated to spectacular views all around. The late afternoon sun gave us perfect lighting on the scary looking Walter Peak to the south and perfect lighting on the distant giants of the Columbia Icefield and closer ones such as Oppy and Mount Alexandra. It was interesting to note that we were now above the giant Rostrum and Icefall Peaks - which loomed over us many hours previous on our approach. The day was getting long as we snapped summit photos and returned delicately over the 'schrund before strapping back into the 'shoes for an easy ascent of Edward Peak.


[Awesome views as we approach the summit of Ernest Peak. Even Kinbasket Lake is visible far in the distance! ++]

[Lyells V and IV on the left, Lyell Creek leading to Kinbasket and Alexandra, Oppy and Farbus in the foreground at center. The Columbia Icefield peaks showing in the distance on the right. ++]

[Looking southeast over Lyells II and I and the icefield. Arctomys Creek at center and Forbes on the right. ++]

[Looking over our ascent tracks to the northeast at the magnificent summit of Mount Saskatchewan - a possible 11,000er?]

[Willerval Mountain has not been ascended often - probably only once in 1951 by the indefatigable pair of F.D. Ayres and A.E. Creswell. In September 2012, Eric Coulthard and I witnessed a good chunk of Willerval's east face collapse into the Amery Creek valley as we made our way along the 2nd ascents of Monchy and Hooge Peaks.]

[Looking past Edward Peak (Lyell II) towards Mounts Cline and Resolute with Wilson on the right in the far distance.]

[A tele shot looking over the Bush Arm of Kinbasket Lake at the bulk of Mount Sir Sandford on the right]

[Rostrum Peak on the L and Icefall Peak on the R look a bit smaller now that we're above them... A few hours ago they still looked pretty darn big!]

[Finally a good view of Mount Alexandra! This peak is hard to find a good view of since it's buried so far 'out there' between many other large mountains. It has the only approach that I've done so far that eclipses the Icefall Brook / Canyon approach to the Lyells. Tsar Mountain is in the background L and Clemenceau background R.]

[A gorgeous view over Farbus and Oppy towards Clemenceau, Bryce and King Edward]

[From R to L, South Twin, North Twin, Alberta, Stutfield and even lowly Castleguard show up]

[Rick Collier and his group became only the 2nd ascent party to summit the impressive bulk of Mount Erasmus in 2009. There is no easy way up this 10,712 foot beast...]

[In 2012, Eric C and I became only the 8th recorded party to summit Mount Amery and only the 2nd recorded on our grand traverse to Monchy and Hooge peaks from there.]

[An impressive panorama from the summit of Lyell III looking over Lyells I and II on the left and IV and V at center. Lyell Creek at the right. ++]

[I missed out on Forbes this year (again!!) but I'll get this beautiful peak one of these years! There's no rush for such a gorgeous summit I guess.]

[The impressive glacier falling away from beneath Lyell III and IV to the west]

[Leaving the summit of Ernest Peak as our shadows lengthen in the late day sun]

[Just before the steep down climb over the 'schrund to our left]

[It's a steep down climb to the 'schrund]

[A look back at our tracks up Lyell III from the III / II col]

[Our route line for the Lyells 1-3 from the Lyell Hut on the left. Note the crossing of Christian's south ridge to get from one side of the glacier (in BC) to the other side (in AB).]


(NOTE: Distance and height gains are for Lyells I, II and III from the Lyell Hut.)

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