After finding a summit register on top of Hooge Peak we were re-energized to find another on Monchy. In the words of the original ascent party;
These two summits are really two points on one long ridge and should not be considered two separate summits. [Journal reference CAJ 32-16]
But they are, so who am I to argue? Sometimes you spend 3 days getting one summit, other times you get 6 in one day. It doesn't really matter in the end but I'm not going to forgo claiming a summit just because there's another one right nearby that's easily accessible. Especially in this case since they're not so easily accessible!
[Eric comes down Hooge Peak on the traverse to Monchy Mountain. ++]
[Crazy views towards Bryce (L) and Columbia (R)]
[Looking into the Amery Creek valley from the traverse to Monchy. Mount Amery on the right.]
[The Saskatchewan Meadows approach, and Clemenceau, King Edward, the mighty Mount Columbia (L), tiny Castleguard in the foreground and the always impressive South and North Twin in the background.]
Alas, when we summitted Monchy we couldn't find a cairn or a register anywhere. We searched for quite a while under the snow and on the scree slope but the cairn was gone and the register with it. This is a very exposed summit which must get hammered by all kinds of nasty weather so it's actually quite amazing that Hooge's cairn / register were intact. We built a cairn of our own and placed the extra register we'd taken from Amery in it.
[Looking towards Kitchener, Snow Dome, Androlumbia, Andromeda and Athabasca.]
[Mount Saskatchewan on the left and Willerval in the foreground with it's newly bared east face!]
[The impressive north face of the Lyells.]
[Alexandra is one of my favorite 11,000ers (L). Bryce is still unclimbed by me, as is Clemenceau and King Edward. Columbia (R) is another favorite. ++]
[Farbus at center is very rarely climbed, Oppy at right is even less often ascended.]
[Alexandra and her impressive glacier - apparently it is possible to climb from this side, via the obvious ramp (huge crevasses!)]
[Vern on the summit of Monchy Mountain]
[Eric writes a new register for Monchy Mountain. ++]
[The Lyell Icefield brings back great memories.]
[The impressive Ridge's Creek valley which drains the Lyell Icefield is far below us. ++]
After enjoying the views in every direction we turned back for the long trudge back to the bivy. Good thing the weather was perfect and the views were great, because that's all we ran on for the next 4 hours! The trudge back across the icefield was a lot of work - even though technically easy. My legs didn't have the energy and the lactic acid would build up the second I began any uphill work - no matter how gentle or small the hill was! We took our time and plodded around the ridge towards Amery at a pretty benign pace. By the time we trudged back up the final high point beneath the south summit ridge of Amery we realized that our dream of getting out on the 2nd day wasn't going to happen - we'd be bivying one more night...
[Looking waaayyy down a steep gully to the cwm on the way back.]
[Walking back in our footsteps along the ridge.]
[We avoided as much glacier as possible due to hidden crevasses with the fresh snow.]
[Impressive icefall off the Monchy icefield.]
[Even more impressive drop into the Amery Creek valley.]
[Eric enjoying the views.]
[Still a long way back to Amery.]
[Finally back at the Amery col - our bivy is across this small glacier on the far shoulder. ++]
[Re-crossing the Amery Glacier]
We trudged across the Amery glacier to our bivy (I stepped in a crevasse part way across - so be forewarned, they do exist!) for a round trip time of just over 10 hours for the trip. We were moving steadily all day and both of us don't require as much food as most on these types of trips (fat reserves for me! :-)) so I would expect most parties would need at least 16+ hours to bag Amery, Monchy and Hooge via our route from the SE Amery valley where Rick bivied. I think if you want to bag these summits via our route, you're going to have to bivy somewhere high in order to do it.
By 16:30 we were leaving the SE shoulder of Amery and heading back down the mountain. The way up didn't seem so bad, but due to our heavy packs and tired bodies the way down was more difficult than I expected. It took time and energy to slowly pick our way down the gullies and couloirs because everything cliffs out from above. It's easier to climb up the small cliff bands because you can spot the breaks from below. There's so many of these cliff bands we couldn't possible cairn our ascent route on the way up either.
At one point I was so sick of marginal hand / foot holds and the big pack getting in the way of my downclimbing in the amphitheater that I nearly commited the dumbest act of my climbing career. I got frustrated and decided to drop my pack down the small band and climb after it. Eric watched in disbelief as I threw my pack down. It didn't drop and stop - of course! It started to careen down the amphitheater. Arg!!! I felt pretty stupid as I watched all my gear (including my camera!!) bounce down the mountain. Thank GOODNESS it somehow came to rest about 100 feet lower with nothing broken. I'm such an idiot... ;-) I didn't repeat that mistake even though the down climbing remained somewhat tedious all the way down the amphitheater.
[The scree slope / crumbly cliff bands above the amphitheater just below the upper mountain.]
[Eric makes his way down the theater above me.]
[The theater is steeper in some sections than others. With a big pack it was a PITA working our way through all the cliff bands on the way down.]
[Some sections are very loose too.]
[The amphitheater is big!]
One back at the hidden couloir we again took our time and slowly negotiated the steep downclimbs with heavy, unwieldy packs. The scrambling sections on Amery would certainly be much easier with day packs. Finally we broke out of the couloir and started down the long scree / cement slope to the upper SE Amery Creek valley below.
[Looking down the hidden couloir.]
[Down climbing the steep couloir.]
[The scree slope is hard - not nice to run down.]
The sun was starting to set as we took off (or 'stumbled') down the SE Amery Creek. We really wanted to make the nice bivy that the Thompson party used, near the small lake about half way down the approach valley. We didn't like the fact that the temps were so warm all night (4 degrees at 10,500 feet when we woke up) because this meant the melting wouldn't slow down enough to have a big effect on the water levels in the Alexandra and Saskatchewan rivers for our crossing the next morning. These rivers are big enough - they don't need a strong melt cycle to make them bigger!! The thrash through the deadfall, over boulders and scree and up and down along the creek was tiring after walking 30km already this day but we managed to find some energy and made the bivy site just as darkness moved in.
[We start the long trudge down SE Amery Creek - looking back where we came from.]
[Fall colors and a nice stream start off our descent.]
[Beautiful fall colors]
[A calm, beautiful lake to camp nearby on exit]
It never felt so good to just sit and eat. It felt really, really good - what a day it'd been! The temps stayed very warm all night again and we decided to take off at first light to catch the lowest river levels possible. By 07:00 there was enough light to start our bushwhacking again and off we went! We both had more energy than I though possible - I actually felt enough energy to spend a few more days out - I felt really good. We made it to our river crossing gear in about 2.5 hours from the lake and geared up for the crossings.
The crossings went very well, we managed to find the slowest (shallowest) braids to cross and managed to keep the water under waist deep for the most part and usually knee deep. I think some tourists taking photos from the highway must have wondered what the heck we were up to as we finally gained the road and the parking lot.
[The stream isn't exactly easy to walk down.]
[The route is directed high above the creek before rejoining it near the Alexandra River junction at the end.]
[Amery on the upper left as we arrive back at the river flats. Saskatchewan in the far distance left of center and Coleman on the right. ++]
[Eric crosses the last of the river flats with Amery rising on the right. ++]
Mount Amery, Monchy and Hooge was a special trip for me. It was the very best that the Canadian Rockies has to offer and has only been matched by a few trips since - trips like Alexandra, Fortress, Catacombs and possibly Recondite, Stewart and other lesser traveled areas of the Rockies' back country. Amery will never be popular since it's almost certainly below the 'magical' 11,000 foot mark and is simply too much work for most people to bother with. Which is exactly how I hope it remains.