After an approach to the des Poilus glacier and an ascent of Yoho Peak, I found myself oversleeping my alarm on Sunday, August 14 - our planned ascent day for Mount Des Poilus. The moon was so bright as I emerged from my bivy sack, that I was casting a shadow! The full moon would only make our ascent of the glacier easier.
[The long exposure makes 04:00 look like mid afternoon! Except for the stars...]
Raf and Alan were getting up too, and soon the water was boiling for breakfast. It was very warm, around 8 degrees at camp as we roped up and set off up the glacier by 04:30.
Raf set an excellent pace on the approach and we stuck generally to the center of the glacier until we arrived at the neve. Raf again set a nice pace up the steepening snow slope - sticking mostly to right (climber's) of center. We weren't seeing any big holes and still hadn't come across the trail we spotted the day before from Yoho Peak.
[Already quite high, still using head lamps at this point but what a view!]
At the first bit of complex terrain we spotted the tracks and moved slightly left to gain them. The snow was quite firm and the crampons were biting beautifully. (Any warmer and we would have been dealing with slushy conditions though.) As we ascended higher, daylight began breaking over the Wapta and Mount Hector to the east. We stopped often for photos during the next 30 minutes.
[Dawn breaks over the glacier and Yoho Peak behind us. ++]
[Alan takes in the wonderful views.]
[A steep roll on the glacier.]
[Incredible early morning scenery. ++]
[Sunrise over Mount Hector]
[Wider shot of Hector. ++]
[Collie, Hector, Balfour and Yoho (R to L) in early morning lighting. ++]
We crossed the 'schrund no problem (very filled in - could hardly tell it was a 'schrund!) and beat our way up steepish slopes on a staircase of kicked steps to the final summit ridge on relatively firm snow. We could see how soft the snow had been for the two climbers we spotted the day before, they didn't even bother with crampons near the top of the route - probably due to balling issues.
[Steeper upper slopes.]
[Almost above Arete now. ++]
[Raf is enjoying himself!]
[The steepest roll just before we were off snow and on rock to the summit.]
[Higher than Arete (R) and way higher than Yoho (L)]
We took the crampons and rope off for the final 100 vertical meters since it looked to be nothing more than scrambling on blocky, rocky terrain. This was indeed the case and at 07:30, exactly 3 hours from camp we were on the summit of des Poilus with a great panorama in all directions. After posing for Alan (never go out with a professional photog!! :-)) and snapping our own shots for 30 minutes, we got tired of the cool breeze and began the descent while the snow pack was still stable.
[Alan comes up the rubble behind me.]
[Loose boulders near the summit. Hungabee, Biddle and Stephen in the bg (L to R).]
[Amazing summit panorama looking south and west. ++]
[Another killer view to the north and west off the summit. ++]
[Goodsir Towers over the Presidents Col.]
[Looking over Amiskwi Lodge]
[Great shot of Mummery and the Mummery Glacier.]
Our exit went without incident and soon we were trudging across the ice and rivers of melt water on the main glacier again. We were back at camp at 10:30 for a round trip time of 6 hours - including 30 minutes on the summit and taking our time on the way up and down.
[Heading back down.]
[Crossing a pink Des Poilus Glacier back to the bivy site.]
[Exploring the edge of the glacier near our bivy site.]
[Hiking back out.]
[On the glacial flats again.]
[Last glimpse of Des Poilus over Twin Falls Creek.]
[Gorgeous Twin Falls Creek]
Raf and I both commented repeatedly that this ascent reminded us of our tramp up the President and Vice Presidentin 2008. As a matter of fact, we found des Poilus an easier ascent than the Presidents - probably due to a heavy snow pack and great conditions, not to mention a good track on the upper mountain. There are some huge crevasses on the des Poilus glacier and this trip should not be taken lightly if you don't know where they are (generally more to climber's left) but if you have great conditions this is a highly recommended peak which will give stunning views both at the summit and on the approach.
The trudge out to the parking lot was a bit mind-numbing but still beautiful and wrapped up a great weekend with fun company and lots of laughs.