In his trip report, Eric mentions that he side-hilled on the east side of Two O'Clock Peak before reaching the far ridge and then backtracking back up to the summit on blocky terrain. He also mentions that it might work better to access the summit directly from the Landslide col. Mike and I were about to find out as we slowly and painfully worked our way down the huge (and freaking loose) boulders and rocks down from the summit of Landslide Peak.
[Note: This trip report is part of a loop traverse that started with Mount Ernest Ross and continued from there over four more unofficial summits including Bridge Peak, Landslide Peak, Two O'Clock Peak and Two O'Clock Ridge. Total distance for the day was around 25km and total height gain around 2600 meters. It took us a total of 15 hours to complete the traverse with some snow on route.]
As I balanced my way delicately down to the Two O'Clock col, I was hyper-aware of the dangers of a boulder tipping over on either of my legs and doing some serious damage. The scrambling was easy here, but the boulders were so loose that it felt hazardous just being anywhere close to them. I was reminded of Ryan Titchener from Jasper, who touched a boulder in the Bugaboos last summer and ended up crushed and badly injured when it rolled over him. Many of the boulders on the Landslide Traverse are potential candidates for similar accidents. They haven't been touched by enough creatures to be any kind of solid yet.
Once I finally reached the col I hunkered down behind a small rock outcrop on some comfortable scree and finally took out my stove and started boiling some water to make a nice cup of coffee. Mike joined me shortly and we spent a few minutes relaxing out of the wind, drinking and eating in preparation for the next energy-busting section of the traverse. We had a few choices in front of us at this juncture, but none of them were easy. The obvious choice was to try summiting Two O'Clock peak directly from the Landslide col. The ridge wasn't going to be a scramble, but we hoped to tuck around the NW to a wide gully with a series of ledges and hopefully some way up and through obvious cliff bands. The snow patches we could see were pretty big and a wee bit concerning - again given our choice of footwear and no crampon options. Another option was descending into the valley under the north face of Two O'Clock Peak before ascending the northeast ridge to the summit - the route Eric took. This option involved a lot of elevation loss and potentially soft snow in the valley bottom. I worried that it would sap us of so much energy we wouldn't even bother with Two O'Clock Peak if we tried that route!
[Descending colorful scree and rock towards the Two O'Clock Peak col from Landslide Peak's SE ridge.]
[Looking back up the SE ridge of Landslide Peak from the col.]
[Looking up at Two O'Clock Peak's NW Ridge and face. Click for our approximate route in red and my desired route in green.]
[A brilliantly colored rock pinnacle lower down the NW face of Two O'Clock Peak.]
We agreed to try the NW gully / face route. I had some prime snow gullies scoped out from the descent of Landslide Peak that I hoped would make things easier. We started up the first large gully but soon I was backing off. The snow was very hard (almost ice in spots) and the exit on rocks didn't look very easy with large boulders dangling loosely on the slope above and rockfall obvious all around me on the snow. We proceeded to lose over 100m of elevation down towards Landslide Lake before contouring left (south) and then back east up the SW face of the mountain. It was painful and very slow on horrendously loose boulders and rocks that kept threatening to roll, fall, or slide with us all the way down cliffs below. We grunted ever upwards, content in the knowledge that this was our last major objective of the day. My legs were feeling tired but better than expected thanks to the coffee I just drank - that was a brilliant idea on hindsight.
[Starting our ascent of Two O'Clock Peak. I was hoping to shortcut through the problematic cliffs on the NW face using the obvious snow at center. This didn't work as the snow was ice hard and the exit to the rocks above was very manky.]
[Looking back up the SE ridge of Landslide - very interesting rocks and colors here.]
[We were used to losing significant height by this point but that doesn't mean we liked it. The terrain was so loose here that we'd start rock slides periodically.]
[Arg. I'm going to feel this 400m vertical... Very loose terrain on the NW gully / face of Two O'Clock Peak. The wide couloir marked.]
[Finally approaching the access couloir on the NW face that gave us easy access to the summit slopes. Here's hoping that our approach shoes can kick proper steps in the snow!]
Eventually I reached a large patch of snow and began kicking steps up it towards a shallow couloir that dumped out just under the summit. Again, thanks to the coffee, I managed to kick steps up the steepening snow slope fairly quickly despite the many hours we'd already been traversing. The weather was also improving a bit again compared to on Landslide which also helped lighten the mood. Damping the mood slightly, for me, were my blackened toes (from the previous trip) which didn't take too kindly to me kicking steps with my approach shoes in firm snow! Finally we exited the snow and started up more loose rock before the summit was visible. PHEW. That was another 400m vertical gained from our low point on the NW face of Two O'Clock Peak! The day was starting to feel pretty long by the time we finally stood on the surprisingly lofty summit of Two O'Clock Peak and took in the remainder of our route - which looked pretty long yet.
[Looking back at Mike and Landslide Peak from the shallow couloir. Mount Hensley at left.]
[Looking up the shallow couloir to its exit above.]
[Mike on the snow slope with Landslide in the distance.]
[Mike enters the bottom of the couloir below me.]
[The rubble never seems to end! We stuck to the left of the snow patches and had a direct line to the summit from here. Very loose terrain.]
[We are nearing the summit here, grunting up the last few loose boulders before the top. Thankfully the weather is improving temporarily for us.]
[Finally at the fourth summit of the day - 11 long hours from the car! It took approximately 2.5 hours from Landslide Peak to the summit of Two O'Clock Peak but that includes a 30 minute break at the col. Mount Hensley and Cline at left with Landslide at center and Bridge / Elliot in the distant right. ++]
[Looking east from the summit with Landslide, Bridge and Ernest Ross at left, Two O'Clock Ridge at lower center and Whirlpool Ridge at right. ++]
[Whirlpool Ridge with Peskett and Loudon in the distance beyond.]
[Afternoon shadows on Allstones, Abraham, Elliot and Bridge.]
[Ernest Ross looks tiny at lower center with William Booth beyond.]
[The Murchison massif is huge from any angle - including this one.]
[A nice panorama looking up the Siffleur River Valley at left and towards Whirlpool Ridge and the Siffleur Wilderness beyond. ++]
[Our entire traverse loop is visible from the summit of Two O'Clock Peak. Click for approximate route line. ++]
[We though we were done with boulder hopping but as we start our descent to Two O'Clock Ridge we clearly are NOT.]
It was at this point that my left knee decided that between the 53km and 2400m of height gain a few days previous (with a heavy pack) and this currently much longer day than originally planned, it was going on strike! Every time I lifted my left leg, the knee threatened to pop out and was hurting when I swung it forward. Oh well. Time to suck it up and keep going towards Two O'Clock Ridge.