We had lots of time left after completing the summits of Warre and Vavasour so Kaycie and I decided to descend the south ridge of Vavasour towards Mount Leval. Kaycie had some large blisters and was done peak bagging so we also decided that she would stop on the ridge in a safe, wind-protected area to read her e-book while I continued down and then up to Leval on my own.
The south ridge of Vavasour was easy enough - at least at first. About half way down to the Leval col I sensed that the ridge ahead was more complex and difficult. We found a perfect spot for Kaycie to wait for me and agreed that if I wasn't back by 4:30-5pm Kaycie would hit the 911 button on my SPOT. It was 12:30 at the time, and I honestly thought 4 hours would be plenty of time to return. I didn't want to leave Kaycie alone, stranded on a mountain if something happened to me and wanted her to get help before dark if something were to happen so that's why we agreed on such a short time window. Giving myself only 4 hours to return from Leval was also a mistake on hindsight.
The whole day already, I was looking over at White Man Mountain, thinking how much sexier it looked than the insignificant and difficult looking summit of Leval. The problem was, I had absolutely zero beta on White Man due to a quick packing job and busy week. This was one time I should have done more homework on two levels - both for Leval and/or White Man... I could see massive summit cairns on the false (west) summit of Leval and another on the false (east) summit of White Man. This told me that the true summits were both difficult to attain since obviously most people weren't bothering with them! I didn't realize it at the time, but Calven Damen and Andrew Nugara had summited the east peak of White Man back in 2008 with stunning views. I would have done that peak instead of Leval if I'd done my homework and known about it.
I left Kaycie and continued down the south ridge of Vavasour on my own. Almost right away I began running into slight difficulties on the ridge (moderate scrambling) and started worrying about getting back by 4:30. I really didn't want Kaycie hitting that 911 button if I was fine! I started feeling rushed as I descended to the Leval col and started up to the false summit above. I traversed easy slopes, bypassing the false summit on climber's left so that I could refill my water bottle with fresh snow. When I popped out on the ridge to the main summit I knew that things weren't going to go as fast or as easy as I needed them to. The summit block looked very complex and vertical but I knew I had to give it a shot so I proceeded up the west ridge. Soon I ran into cliff bands and drop offs. I gave it my best effort and ended up just under the summit block on the west ridge before I completely ran out of options that weren't 5th class. I was feeling a bit bagged already at this point and was nervous about getting back to Kaycie in time, but I decided to give it one last "go" and back tracked before losing at least 100m down the south slopes beside the diagonal cliffs that were causing me headaches. I tried several times to break through the cliffs but ended up being thwarted by steep terrain each time. Finally I realized that I had to descend almost to tree line above Leman Lake before I'd have any hope of scrambling this pesky peak in a safe manner. I was disappointed at this juncture, because in my hasty reading of Rick's trip report I remembered reading the words, "relatively easy and safe". This was neither of those things. The words I missed were, "intricate route-finding along the WSW ridge of Leval" and "It was a good 2 hrs over to the summit of Leval" (from the col). I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry and reluctantly started trudging back up to the false, west summit of Leval. At least I'd get some views.
Ironically, upon arriving at the huge cairn, I found the only register of the day inside it. This is the first time I've found a register that admitted it was on top of the "false peak" of anything! (I didn't sign it... ;)) The views throughout my jaunt up and down Leval were still very nice. I especially enjoyed the views of Solderholm and Talon Peaks. After snapping photos from the false peak, I descended the northwest ridge before trudging back up Vavasour's south ridge to where Kaycie was enjoying a very relaxing afternoon with her e-book.
[Heading down to the Leval col, looking ahead to the NW ridge, the bowl that I traversed under the false summit (r) and the true summit to the left.]
[At the col, looking up at the NW ridge. I was initially going to ascend to the false summit but on reaching the ridge I traversed the bowl instead, to bypass any extra height gain and to fill up with fresh snow.]
[Looking ahead to the summit block and getting nervous. That doesn't look 'easy' or particularly 'safe'!]
[The terrain around the summit block is complex and 5th class when approached from the west ridge. I could not find a safe way through it.]
[I thought I could possibly descend a hundred meters and go up one of the obvious cracks in the cliff bands guarding a route up the south slopes to the summit. I tried several times to traverse over to the cracks with no success.]
[A pano from just off the ridge. Main summit of Leval on the left, Leman over the lake with the small pocket glacier and the false summit on the far right. At this point I realized I'd have to descend to tree line to avoid the cliff band guarding the summit. ++]
[More of Leman Lake with Sir Douglas in the background. ++]
[White Man Mountain from the false summit. The south slopes to the false summit look pretty reasonable from here.]
[Pano from the false summit showing the Royal Group in the distance at left, Sharkfin, Solderholm, White Man, Alcantara, Aye, Assiniboine and Vavasour among many others. ++]
[A stunning view of Sharkfin Peak]
[Sharkfin on the left, Soderholm on the right. Sharkfin is described as a scramble by Rick Collier - he did the first ascent in 1987.]
[Aye and Assiniboine over White Man Pass.]
[Vavasour from the descent ridge on Leval]
[Looking back at the summits of Leval from the Vavasour col.]
[A gorgeous tarn near White Man Mountain that drains to an impressive waterfall.]
[Descending back to our little piece of paradise!]
Our descent back to camp was quick and pleasant, other than a side-hill bash to get back under the summit of Vavasour and avoid reascending it. We had a great evening back at camp before turning in for the night and depproaching the next day.