In spite of a tough approach the day before and just ascending Stutfield Peak in very windy conditions, TJ, JW, Ferenc and I decided we might as well take advantage of the clear conditions and bag Stutfield NE Peak while we were in the vicinity anyway. ;-)
The Stutfields or "Stuts" are not technical summits by any stretch of the imagination. What makes them difficult is the fact that they are in the middle of nowhere with a very lengthy approach, are often very icy or windblown and are known for their generous number of crevasses where people least expect them. In our case, we got kind of lucky. Sure, our weather wasn't optimal but we had no ice, only some very hard wind-pack and very good snow coverage, i.e. very few open crevasses. We picked the perfect conditions for these peaks.
As we headed to the col between the two Stuts I was reminded of the other reason the Stuts are a bit of work to attain. You basically have to climb 3 11000er's to get the two summits;
Descend from camp to the North Twin / Stutfield col.
Descend to the Stuts col.
Ascend Stutfield NE Peak.
Descend to the Stuts col.
Descend to the North Twin / Stutfield col.
Ascend back to camp.
Arg. It's as tiring as it sounds, especially in high winds with little food in your stomach! My lesson on this particular day was that if I was to be successful for the rest of the weekend I had to somehow figure a way to eat more food when we got back to camp.
[Woolley and Diadem.]
[Cromwell is considered a "baby" 11000er. I did it three years later and skied off the summit.]
[You can barely see JW skiing ahead of me towards the Stuts col with Stutfield NE in the background (right). In the Centre of the photo is Mount Cromwell. ++]
[TJ and JW ski up Stutfield NE with Stutfield Peak, North Twin and Twins Tower poking up behind them]
[Nearing the summit of Stutfield NE looking back at Stutfield with Columbia, North Twin, Twins Tower and Alberta behind. ++]
The ascent of Stutfield NE went easily, but again Ferenc seemed to be lagging a bit as we neared the summit. A huge cornice prevented us from peering over the edge but the views were gorgeous nonetheless. We stayed unroped for the remainder of the trip back to camp which allowed us a couple of nice ski runs down each peak. Obviously we stayed in our approach tracks for safety reasons.
[On the summit of Stutfield NE]
[Summit panorama including Clemenceau, Alberta and Woolley / Diadem. ++]
[Summit panorama showing Columbia, North and Twins Tower and Stutfield Peak. ++]
[TJ skis down the west face of Stutfield NE Peak]
On the way back I stuck behind the group. Sometimes I like to take my time on the way back from a climb because there's no pressure and in this case it was early afternoon and we had a ton of time to whittle away until evening.
[Panorama from the re-ascent of Stutfield Peak with Mount Cromwell in the background. ++]
[Up and down, Up and down! All at over 11000 feet - good times! Re-ascending Stutfield Peak after skiing Stutfield Peak NE]
[Gorgeous views of Mount Kitchener from the re-ascent of Stutfield Peak. As you can see there is nothing technical about the ski ascent of the west slopes other than not falling in a crevasse of course!]
[Taking skins off before the run down Stutfield Peak.]
[TJ looks ready to rock 'n roll North and Twins Tower!! This image shows that despite appearances it was cold in the wind - note he's wearing his down jacket and full Gore-Tex.]
[Panorama from the descent of Stutfield Peak. Our camp is just to the left of the bump in front of Mount Columbia. ++]
[GULP. That's for tomorrow boyz!! Yeah!! Psyched.]
[JW skis down Stutfield Peak]
[Scoping out the route for tomorrow on North Twin and Twins Tower. ++]
[Skiing towards camp (on the right) with Hwy #93 to the left and Kitchener in the center. ++]
Back at camp JW, TJ and I started to worry out loud about Ferenc as we all felt he wasn't eating enough and he seemed to be coughing a lot. The three of us set about keeping ourselves occupied for the hours of daylight remaining. TJ and I spend a lot of time building up the walls around our tents. JW and I dug out a nice biffy and the three of us sat around swapping stories, eating as much as possible and trying to stay reasonably warm in the strong wind that just wouldn't give up and die down.
[A major part of winter camping, especially on windy and exposed ice fields is digging in a good camp.]
[Back at camp. Note the wall - it kept getting larger and larger as we got more and more bored at camp ;-). The wind was relentless and the tent flapped like crazy even behind the 6 foot high wall!]
[Cooking in your tent is usually not a great idea but due to the relentless wind we didn't have much choice and tried to keep the ventilation as open as possible.]
[A view from my sleeping matt. We are drying out our ski boot liners and boiling water. Down hut booties are a key piece of equipment out here - it gives your feet a break from sweaty liners and tight ski boots.]
[TJ looks out from camp.]
[Note that the wall is higher already then on the pic a few photos ago! ;)]
TJ was the water champion of the trip. He faithfully kept the stove going for hours each day, melting snow and boiling water for us to stay hydrated and eat our meals. Because we cooked in a tent we used FAR less fuel than expected and we ended up carrying over half of it out again!
[JW eating supper. You never really get a break from the cold up there - but thankfully we had big down jackets!!]
[Panorama from camp looking east towards hwy #93, Stuts on the left and Kitchener on the right. It was weird to be up there in gale force winds and cold, knowing that down in the valley people were walking around in t-shirts and shorts! So close, yet so far away!]
As evening drew in around us we noticed another group slowly approaching. When they finally got close we recognized Raf - the crazy Pol (!) as one of them. Raf came over for a quick chat and mentioned that he was going for Twins Tower on Saturday - his last peak on the Columbia ice fields. We told him we'd be joining him and as he skied off to set up camp with his rope team we set about eating supper and preparing for the next day.
[Raff, Adam and Jay set up their camp about 200m away from us.]
[An evening panorama from camp showing Raff's party, Snowdome, Forbes, the Lyells, Bryce and Columbia from left to right. ++]
[Vern eating supper.]
The whole time we were bustling around camp, Ferenc was in the other tent - he only came out very briefly to eat a little supper and urinate. When I asked him how he was doing I only got a "not good" and an unhappy look - this was certainly not the Ferenc I had skied Columbia and Castleguard with earlier in the year! He was obviously not feeling great. We turned in for the night, excited to try North Twin and especially Twin's Tower the next day.