After our ascent of Beehive Mountain, Wietse, Phil and I started a delightful traverse across brightly colored alpine meadows leading under towering cliffs to the west towards the NE shoulder of Mount Lyall. Beehive Mountain had gone much quicker and easier than we expected and despite thick smoke interfering somewhat with our views, we were feeling pretty pumped about our day so far. The temperatures were more mid-summer than late, and the fall colors on the vegetation in the meadows was absolutely stunning. The terrain was easy and open as we worked our way north towards a distant ridge that gives access to an easy scramble route up Lyall's NE face.
[Wietse and Phil are pretty tiny in the expansive alpine meadows SE of Mount Lyall - which looks much closer than it is. It would take us around 2 hours to traverse from Beehive to the NE shoulder of Lyall.]
[Looking back at Beehive Mountain - our first objective of the day.]
[Sticking to more open terrain on our way towards a now-looming Mount Lyall.]
In general the route was easy to discern, we followed our noses and the most open terrain down and across several dry stream beds before finally arriving at some very refreshing and welcome running water in Lyall Creek. Despite both Beehive Mountain and Mount Lyall being fairly easy scrambles, combining them into a day trip is a fairly ambitious project involving over 2100 meters of height gain and almost 25km of distance. Wietse and I had the added challenge of carrying overnight gear up and along a good portion of the route including the steep, hot grunt up the NE shoulder of Lyall to its crest.
[We managed to find open areas along Lyall Creek through the light forest.]
[Looking up a very dry Lyall Creek - thankfully it didn't stay this way!]
[Lyall Creek is flowing with clear, cold water. Man did that taste good!]
[The meadows were on absolute fire with fall colors in the vegetation.]
[Looking back at our approach and Beehive Mountain as we cross a boulder field on route to the NE shoulder of Lyall.]
[We will aim for the spot above Phil's head here to dump our heavy gear before veering left up Lyall.]
[Looking back at the lovely traverse from Beehive - note the boulder field.]
[Tons of sheep in the area.]
[Finishing off the approach to the shoulder.]
From the NE shoulder of Lyall, we could spot Lyall Tarn - our destination for a really promising looking bivy for the night. Once again, Wietse and I dropped our overnight gear on the shoulder of Lyall and followed Phil up towards the intimidating face looming above with only our light day packs. One advantage of dropping 3/4 of your pack weight half way up a mountain is that you feel completely unencumbered once the day pack is on your back! We felt extremely light on our feet despite all the height gain and distance we'd already come under a hot, smoky sky so far. At this point we were around 6 hours into our day.
[Phil contemplates life with Beehive Mountain looming in the distance.]
[Heading for the east face of Lyall from the NE shoulder.]
[Amazingly the smoke is clearing again! Lyall Tarn visible at left along with Mount Gass, O'Rourke, Farquhar and Etherington marching north along the Great Divide. ++]
[Wietse and I will bivy at this lovely tarn tonight.]
[Great views up the east face of Lyall with Beehive Mountain at left along the Great Divide rockwall. ++]
The east face of Mount Lyall isn't nearly as hard as it first looks from the shoulder. While Phil and I enjoyed some nice moderate scrambling right in the gully splitting the face, Wietse ascended straight up rubbly slopes on the north side. Eventually Phil and I deviated out of the gully and onto a ridge to climber's left which we easily ascended on firm(ish) rubble to the summit. It was a huge relief to realize that Mount Lyall's slopes are MUCH firmer and therefore pleasant to ascend than Beehive's nasty scree slope! Roughly 7 hours after leaving the Oldman River Road we were standing on our second summit of the day - very relieved to note that the smoke had cleared off substantially during our traverse from Beehive Mountain.
[Starting up the east face of Lyall.]
[Phil and I enjoyed some fun moderate terrain up small slabs and cliffs while Wietse was on terrain to the right of us here.]
[Phil traverses a ledge on the east face with a great view of Beehive Mountain.]
[It's a gorgeous afternoon up here and I think Phil is glad he didn't go home after just Beehive Mountain.]
[Views off the east face across the ridge towards Beehive Mountain are very respectable now that the smoke has started to clear off a bit. ++]
[There are options for the east face of Lyall. Phil and I are on the south "ridge" of the face, while Wietse is barely visible across the center of the face on its north "ridge".]
[Enjoying a very pleasant summit with great views south towards Beehive and Tornado now.]
[Looking north up the High Rock Range towards Mount Gass, O'Rourke, Farquhar and others. ++]
[Views south include Beehive, Gould Dome and Tornado. ++]
[Mount O'Rourke with the Courcelette Peaks in the far distance.]
[Mount Gass looks easy via the south slopes (red line) - the only question is how to get there from the east side of the Divide? We'll figure that out tomorrow, hopefully. There was another much more direct route that tempted us - marked in yellow here.]
[Tornado Mountain looms at left with Gould Dome to its left. Note the huge boulder pile at center bottom - a clear indication of how rubbly these south Rockies peaks are and also that glaciers dominated this landscape not too long ago.]
[Looking north over O'Rourke and Pierce towards Courcelette and Cornwell in the far distance.]
While Phil hurried back down the face to the shoulder and his planned exit via the GDT and Soda Creek Trail, Wietse and I lingered on the summit of Mount Lyall for a while longer. We were in no hurry as our planned bivy was pretty much right under the NE shoulder of Lyall and we were left with plenty of daylight to get there. I traversed a bit along the summit ridge, trying to get photos of lesser known peaks along the High Rock Range including our planned peak for the next day, Mount Gass, which was immediately north of our summit.
[Wietse on the summit of Mount Lyall with pretty good views to the north. ++]
Eventually we decided to start a slow descent back down the east face to the shoulder below, following Wietse's line of ascent. The descent was easy even in my approach shoes, my ankles only taking a few sharp rocks. We could spot Phil descending the shoulder far below before disappearing into the trees. The late afternoon lighting was gorgeous across the huge NE shoulder as we worked our way down to our packs and from there to the shimmering tarn below. Despite appearances to the contrary on some maps, our bivy tarn is about 3x bigger than the named, "Memory Lake" to the north which is why I'm calling it, "Lyall Tarn".
[Great late day lighting as we descend the east face of Mount Lyall.]
[More great lighting as we descend, looking north along the Great Divide and over Lyall Tarn and the NE shoulder with its fall coat. ++]
[One of my favorite photos from the whole trip is of Beehive Mountain in late day lighting with brilliant alpine meadows and a sharp east face in deep shadow. ++]
[More late day lighting looking east over the NE shoulder and towards the Highwood Range including peaks such as Thrift, Thunder, Lightning and others at center and left, with Beehive at right. ++]
[Looking north along the Great Divide and over the Lyall Tarn along the expansive NE shoulder. ++]
We arrived at the lake after a short bushwhack off the NE shoulder, just as it was plunged into early evening shadows. The weather remained warm and windless as we set up camp and explored the area around the tarn, noting much evidence of previous camps and even a great trail leading north from the lake towards the Great Divide Trail. We even managed a small, warm fire which was a delightful way to end a long, tiring day of hiking and scrambling. I read my e-book beneath the looming face of Lyall which looked to hold a very small glacier - a semipermanent source of water for this area but one that won't last much longer. By 21:30 we were in the tent under a very still, dark sky and both of us enjoyed a deep sleep beneath the stars until the next morning.
[Descending easy slopes to the tarn.]
[Interesting rock formations in the forest above the tarn.]
[The tranquil Lyall Tarn with Mount Lyall's NE face looming high above. It's hard to see against the gray rock, but there's a small hanging glacier, or at least permanent snow patch, hanging off the NE face of Lyall providing fresh running water to this area. It won't last much longer, I'm sure. ++]
[Looking over the lake and our little bivy (R) with our next objective - Mount Gass - off in the distance at left. ++]
[One more view of the tarn with Mount Lyall rising at right.]
(We found out on return that Phil made it back to his SUV within about 10 hours - putting this two peak day into a reasonable day trip realm for fit, experienced parties and highly recommended as a fall objective due to the number of larches on the route.)