After scrambling up Mount Schaffer on Thursday, I decided that a long hike followed by a scramble up Wiwaxy Peaks would be in order for Friday, October 1 2010.
I was hiking by around 07:30 on Friday. The air was crisp and cool but the sky was clear and I felt great after a pretty good sleep in the hut. Huts can be extremely noisy and cramped but stuffing my ears with TP combined with being pretty tired after a long day and a wake up time of 04:00 helped me sleep despite the snoring of Bob the artist beside me! :-)
My route for the day was to wander into the upper Opabin Plateau area, taking advantage of early morning light and the pools / lakes for photography. After wandering around and visiting Hungabee and Opabin Lakes I would traverse the Yukness Highline trail to Lake Oesa. After exploring that area for a while I would take the Wiwaxy highline trail to the Wiwaxy / Huber col and from there I would attempt Wiwaxy Peaks (the east side) as a scramble. After that it would be a quick hike back to Lake O'Hara and then to the EP hut. You can read about the first part of my day here.
[Nearing the Wiwaxy / Huber col with my destination looming above, after already hiking many kilometers through the Opabin Plateau and along the Lake O'Hara Alpine Circuit and the Yukness Ledge Route.]
[The East Peak of Wiwaxy doesn't look easy from the col!]
[A view back along my approach from Lake Oesa includes Glacier, Ringrose, Hungabee, Yukness and Biddle (L to R).]
[Looking down the north side of the col over the approach valley for the Lake O'Hara region with Cathedral rising on the left.]
[It's hard to believe but there's a scramble route through the Huber Ledges on the right, leading to the Huber Glacier and eventually up to the summit of Huber - looming many hundreds of meters above on the upper right. Wiwaxy East on the left.]
I started up the lower part of Wiwaxy, following a faint trail from the col. As I worked my way higher things unfolded just as I thought they would. An obvious trail led me upwards. After a moderate traverse on a narrow ledge I found myself on the face below the east tower, with cairns and a faint trail leading me further west, traversing under the east towers and towards the col between the two main Wiwaxy summit blocks. The traverse went around several ridges and under several promising looking gullies / chimneys. I went part way up one of the more solid looking chimneys but backed down after realizing I didn't really know where it ended up. I think that one would have gone but I kept going on my traverse, following the odd cairn and a faint trail.
[I start up loose terrain under the east tower.]
[Looking back at the Huber Ledges with Mount Huber looming impressively above. Many climbers get stranded on these black ledges and have to rappel or even be rescued if they're really lost. Kev Barton and I descended them 'blind' (i.e. we didn't ascend them before) in 2007 after climbing Victoria and Huber in a long 14 hour day.]
[Incredible views back over Lake Oesa and towards Yukness Mountain as I gain height. I previously took the Lake O'Hara Alpine Circuit route around the nose of Yukness from the Opabin Plateau on the right to Lake Oesa on the left. Click here for approximate route line.]
[Looking up loose terrain that must be ascended to the west of the east summit.]
Eventually the trail and cairns stopped. I wasn't at the col between summit blocks yet, but was pretty close. I decided to ascend here. I was between the 2nd and 3rd of the east towers (from the col between summit blocks). Since I wasn't sure which tower was the highest I first tried the 2nd one. It was not cairned on the top and was definitely not scrambling so I abandoned that thought. Next I decided to try the 3rd tower. It looked difficult from the base of the 2nd but as I explored closer I realized I could scramble up moderate ledges to the top. After some short (fun) scrambling I was on top of the 3rd tower and looking at the highest eastern-most tower of Wiwaxy with a large cairn on it. I carefully traversed into the col between the 3rd and 4th towers and scrambled up some more moderate terrain before finally standing on top of the highest tower of the east summit block. The west summit block looked to be exactly the same height as the east one (usually another summit around the same height looks taller but in this case it looked exactly the same height so it's either the same or lower). There was no register.
I couldn't believe how steep and intimidating the Huber Ledge route looked from the summit of Wiwaxy! I am still proud of the way I led through that difficult route as darkness settled in after my Victoria / Huber climb with Kevin Barton in 2007.
[Looking back over the west peak of Wiwaxy with Stephen in the bg.]
[Traversing to the main east summit - views are stunning.]
[Looking over the 3rd tower on my way to the highest (4th) one, Mount Biddle across the Opabin Valley, Mount Park just right of center.]
[A panorama near the east summit (on far right) showing the entire Huber Ledge traverse with Victoria - North Summit and Huber looming above. ++]
[An incredible summit panorama looking over the Huber col at left with Huber, Lefroy, Glacier, Ringrose, Hungabee, Yukness, Biddle, Park, Schaffer, Owen, Little Odaray, Odaray, West Wiwaxy and Mount Stephen from left to right. Lakes included in this view include Oesa, Lefroy, Yukness, O'Hara, Mary (L to R). ++]
[Gorgeous view of the three lakes, Oesa, Lefroy and Yukness all dumping into O'Hara at lower right with Yukness dwarfed by Ringrose, Hungabee and Biddle in the bg.]
[Cathedral Mountain is still one of my favorite trips of all time - the views and the climb are great.]
[Mount Niles in the foreground with the mighty Mount Balfour directly behind and Gordon to the left.]
[Slightly wider view than the previous shot showing the Niles Meadows approach (winter) to the Wapta Icefields with Niles at left and Daly at right. Balfour at distant left.]
[Looking over the West Peak of Wiwaxy which actually looks slightly lower to me, Stephen in the bg at left and Cathedral at right.]
[The approach valley to the Lake O'Hara region.]
After taking in the views for 30 minutes or so I decided not to keep Anthony waiting too long and headed back down my ascent route.Again, there are other routes to this summit but all of them appeared looser and less fun than mine. Plus I managed to bag two of the highest towers on the east summit block so I could claim Wiwaxy Peaks (plural)! :-)
[Steep and loose terrain down from the East summit of Wiwaxy.]
There was opportunity to shortcut to the descent trail from near the first cliff traverse but I decided I'd better go back to the Wiwaxy / Huber col to meet up with Anthony so he wouldn't worry about my safety. He was still waiting so I'm glad I did that. We returned to Lake O'Hara via the steep trail that I so fondly remembered from my Victoria / Huber trip! (OK - not so fondly after 12 hours in crampons!!)
[Looking down at the col as I descend.]
[Late afternoon sun as we descend the trail back down to Lake O'Hara.]
[Incredible late day lighting on Lefroy with Seven Vail Falls tumbling into Lake O'Hara at bottom.]
[An incredible sunset panorama from the shoreline of Lake O'Hara. From L to R, Wiwaxy, Huber, Victoria, Lefroy, Glacier, Yukness, Hungabee, Biddle. ++]
I highly recommend this scramble if you're in the region. The summit of Wiwaxy is the same height as Yukness and Schaffer and the scrambling is just as fun (maybe a touch more fun). It's not ascended nearly as often as those other two either. When I was talking with Caroline on Schaffer, she mentioned that there was no obvious scramble route up the east tower (the west is an alpine climb) - she had attempted and failed it only the week before. She was obviously wrong! If you don't mind some route-finding adventure go for it!