On Friday, July 06 2007, JW, Wietse and I decided to escape the madness that is Calgary on Stampede Parade day and bag another peak instead. We chose Galatea because we thought we could still get lucky with a good glissade and I've wanted to scramble that mountain for 3 years already.
We left Calgary nice and early and started up the trail to Chester Lake at around 0730. None of us was feeling very motivated and it was hard to get going for some reason this day. There was one other party ahead of us on the trail but we quickly caught and passed by them. They had tons of heavy looking video and sound equipment and the sound guy actually dashed off into the trees as we approached. We weren't sure what they were up to but continued on past them with a quick "hello".
Once at Chester Lake I led the other guys to a cool waterfall before regaining the main trail around the elephant rocks. The alpine meadows were beautiful and peaceful in the morning sun and the wind was actually very warm already in the morning! We were sure that the heat and lack of motivation would likely kill us on this scramble! The route looked very steep from the valley but as we approached closer we could see the route shaping up. We could also see that crampons would not be required so we ditched the extra weight and headed up a snow slope to the plunging waterfall at the base of the mountain.
[Galatea from the Chester Lake area]
[Wietse hikes up to Chester Lake on the wide summer trail.]
[Tons of Glacier Lily's in the meadows around Chester Lake, Gusty is the dramatic peak at center.]
[A nice waterfall just off the trail to the Elephant Rocks]
[A narrower trail to the alpine bowl between Galatea and Gusty.]
[Looking back at Mount Chester and its reflection in a small tarn along the trail.]
[An incredible view across the Spray Lakes Road of the Haig Icefield peaks including Sir Douglas, Robertson, French, Murray and Smith Dorrien.
[Beautiful morning lighting on our ascend route which is just right of center and dramatically foreshortened thanks to the wide angle lens here.]
[Glancing back at Wietse and JW. Note all the snow!]
[Getting closer to the scramble - ascend the snow patch in the foreground and stick climber's right of the waterfall on rock.]
From this point on I basically tried to find as much solid rock as I possibly could. I thought for sure that JW and Wietse would catch up to me and pass me but I guess they must have had about as little energy as I did because they never did! :-) Every ten steps was a breather while I tried to find more solid rock.
[The terrain is huge here, note JW and Wietse below me with our approach valley and even the Chester Lake meadows visible in the distance.]
[You don't want to get off route as the terrain becomes technical very quickly. Note the gorgeous valley and distant peaks.]
[The view of the final slopes to the summit - it's still further than it appears - the "small cliff bands" aren't that small when you approach them.]
Finally I made the summit ridge and began the traverse over to the summit cairn. The traverse had some exposure but really nothing too bad - certainly not difficult compared to Arethusa 2 days ago! Galatea was probably the easiest, difficult mountain I've done so far. Only the descent would prove to be a bit tricky.
[Can you spot the other two guys? Me neither! :) There are at least 3 ponds and lakes in this photo including Chester Lake.
[The ascent slope is bloody huge!]
[The only difficult scrambling is the exposed and loose summit ridge.]
[Looking off the summit ridge towards South Kidd (C) and Bogart (L).]
[The cliff on the ridge that you have to traverse to climbers left to overcome.]
JW and Wietse joined me on the summit and we enjoyed about half an hour taking in the awesome views and enjoying the cool wind. Yes - the wind at the top was actually strong enough to be fairly chilly which was a life-saver after the heat of the lower slopes.
[One of the best summit panoramas I've had the pleasure of enjoying in Kananaskis Country over the years. This is looking SE to NW. ++]
[Summit views to the east and south over Fortress, Gusty and Chester towards Elk Pass and the Haig Icefield. ++]
[Looking over The Tower at Bogart and Sparrowhawk (C) with Kidd South at right and Wind in the far distance.]
[JW comes up the summit ridge, Gusty's west face looming behind him.]
[A wider shot of JW on the summit ridge.]
[A great view of Mount Joffre and Marlborough looming way over Chester at bottom left.]
[A spectacular perspective on Mount Sir Douglas - an 11,000er that I wouldn't climb for another 8 years after Galatea. Mount Prince Albert in the distant background.]
[Mount Bogart on the right and Wind Mountain on the left.]
[Looking over The Tower towards the striking form of Mount Engadine - another difficult scramble in the area.]
[The mighty Mount Assiniboine rises almost impossibly steep from this angle with tiny Lorrette only a small point on the ridge to the left. I climbed both of these 11,000ers only 5 years after Galatea - I never thought I'd be able to accomplish that!]
[Mount Eon and Aye are very high on my "to-do" list.]
[The summit of Mount Birdwood on the left]
[That is Mount Ball in the far distance on the right!]
[Mount Lougheed I (L) and Sparrowhawk (R)]
[Looking over South Kidd towards Mount Allan.]
[Mount King George is another 11,000er I would climb in later years - one of my favorites.]
[Wietse navigates the tricky summit ridge.]
[I can't get enough of this view over Spray Lakes road, including Chester Lake at lower left.]
[Slightly wider view towards Mounts Eon, Aye and Assiniboine (L to R)]
[Looking over Gusty and Fortress]
[Summit group shot]
[It doesn't get any better than this!]
Eventually it was time to head down. We took out the axes and traversed back along the ridge to a steep snow slope. This was the most difficult part of the scramble. The slope was quite steep and the snow was surprisingly firm considering the very warm temperature. Only the first 4-6 inches were soft, the rest was hard. This meant that you would pick up speed a bit too quickly and slowing back down was a bit of a problem. It was good self-arrest practice but the run out wasn't very pleasant so there was a few panicky moments in there! JW and Wietse both cut up their hands pretty good - I was glad for the thick winter gloves I still had in my back pack.
[Leaving the summit, traversing back along the narrowing ridge.]
[JW carefully traverses a snow slope which steepens dramatically out of this photo at lower left.]
Once done the steep bit, the rest of the descent back to the Galatea Valley was uneventful on easy-angled snow slopes that we could just boot-ski and plunge step down. Once in the valley the heat came back with a vengeance and thoughts of swimming in the lake came up. On the way down the valley we came on the film crew videotaping something - still not sure what! We passed them again and came down to one of the small ponds below the head-wall. There was snow coming right down to the pond but that didn't stop us from stripping to our underwear and going in!! That was COOOOLLLLLD!!! You wouldn't survive long in that! We dried off in the hot sun and kept going to Chester Lake. Once at Chester Lake there were quite a few more people (10-15) but again, that didn't stop JW and I from stripping down and jumping back in! Chester Lake was balmy compared to the last lake and we could actually swim a bit. JW is cold blooded or something because he lasted a lot longer than me. :-)
[Time to relax now that we're finally off the face. Note Wietse in the distance.]
[JW with Sir Douglas in the bg.]
[Delightful swim in a COLD tarn on the way back.]
[JW on an elephant rock]
[Beautiful meadows around Chester Lake, Chester Mountain to the left.]
After all the swimming fun it was time to head back to the truck. The walk back was very hot but after the refreshing lakes it wasn't too bad. A very good view after a slog to the summit - I recommend this mountain very highly as it has one of the best views in K Country. Just be careful if you're glissading the upper snow slopes - they are deceptively steep and should be treated with respect and caution.