Mount Des Poilus has been on my radar for quite some time. Originally it was always a ski objective but lately I'd also been looking at it as a possible summer peak.
After reading Andrew Nugara's one day ascent of Yoho Peak and a separate (impressive!!) one day climb of Mount Des Poilus I had the brilliant idea to combine the two with a bivy to eliminate two REALLY long day trips and a repeat of the somewhat tedious approach.
When Raf indicated that he was also interested in Des Poilus as a summer trip, I told him of my plan to spend 1.5 days near the Des Poilus glacier and combining Yoho and Des Poilus into one trip. He loved the idea. On August 13 & 14 2011 we were joined by Alan Fortune for this little adventure.
We didn't start too early on Saturday, thinking that Yoho Peak is a pretty tame objective. I was surprised to learn (in the parking lot) that nobody had done a ton of research on the route and given a web site failure on Nugara's site we were left with a bit of guesswork regarding the best place to bivy and even the best approach for Waterfall Valley and Yoho Peak! Ah well, what's life without some guesswork right? ;-) We decided that we would approach Waterfall valley via the Twin Falls / Whaleback Ridge route. This worked well. The only issue with this approach is the height and distance loss from the top of the Twin Falls approach trail to Twin Falls. Basically you end up doubling back and losing height when in theory you could bushwhack straight into waterfall valley from the top of the hike - this isn't recommended though - the trail is much easier and keep impacts to flora at a minimum.
[We start off down the well maintained Yoho Valley trail in perfect weather.]
[Thundering Point Lace Falls]
[My favorite small flower - the Twin Flower]
[The trail gets tighter after the Little Yoho River junction.]
[Getting further above the Twin Falls Creek before it joins the Yoho River.]
[A great little falls on Twin Falls Creek.]
[A very steep grunt on a great trail running up beside Twin Falls.]
[Looking down Twin Falls and the Yoho Valley.]
[Raf on top of Twin Falls.]
[Alan near the precipice of Twin Falls. People have slipped and died from this point.]
After taking some photographs and a pleasant journey down memory lane with Alan at the top of Twin Falls (he remembers when there was free, random camping up there!) we struck out up waterfall valley. The trail into the valley runs up beside the stream running over Twin Falls on climber's right. Soon we were passing another impressive falls, after which the stream we were beside calmed down a bit (the main torrent being further west, out of sight from the trail).
[The Twin Falls Creek]
[The trail continues to be obvious and in great condition as it runs up Waterfall Valley.]
[Waterfall Valley is sublime hiking.]
[The trail is much less defined higher up as we approach tree line - this is looking back down valley.]
[Near tree line - Des Poilus visible at top right now.]
[We left the trail soon after this but it's not worth it - stick to the trail until "Des Poilus Tarn" under the glacier.]
Eventually the trail topped out on a small rise and we descended through thinning trees to a tarn sitting underneath the south ridge of Yoho Peak. On ascent we decided to 'shortcut' to the des Poilus glacier and left the trail to climber's right. I think you should try to stick to the trail - it's easier and more level. The trail continues from the tarn on climber's left - going up yellow karst pavement and sticking to the gully system trending slowly to climber's right and into the des Poilus region. Soon we could see our main objective, which appeared glorious in the afternoon sunshine!
A nice surprise was the rather large glacial lake at the toe of the des Poilus glacier that is not marked on any map that I've seen. We were very tempted to set up our bivy on a nice bench above this lake, but logic dictated that we should try to camp closer to the glacier and to our objectives. Logic won over our desire to drop the packs and we continued past the lake on a well-defined trail. The trail quickly became quite rough as we cut across a cliff band and dropped down to the glacier. We managed to find an excellent bivy, literally about as far up and as close to the glacier as you could possibly be without being on it! This meant we could crampon and rope up right from camp the following morning and wouldn't have to negotiate loose, rocky terrain at 03:00 with head lamps.
[Trudging towards Des Poilus]
[Alan with Des Poilus getting closer now.]
[Des Poilus looms over the glacier and Des Poilus Tarn.]
[The gorgeous and unexpected view of "Des Poilus Tarn". Tempting to bivy here already but you should keep going as the terrain gets tricky just ahead. ++]
[Raf and Alan resist the temptation to bivy here already and we head off for the glacier. ++]
[Getting closer to the Des Poilus Glacier with our mountain looming at upper left.]
[Figuring out the route - we came from the left and are going to the right on a pretty great trail beaten into the scree which is horribly loose. ++]
[More traversing above the lake / glacier. ++]
After setting up camp (and after Raf demonstrated his love for glaciers - don't ask...) and having a bite to eat we set off for Yoho Peak. Loose, blocky terrain led to the Collie / Yoho col. From there we ascended easy slopes to a great summit panorama of the Yoho and Wapta area including our main objective - Mont Des Poilus. We were delighted to see tracks on the upper slopes - route finding would not be a problem anymore. We also spotted two figures far below on the glacier, slowly making their way down. We were surprised how late they were on the mountain considering the very warm temperatures but quite happy that we would most likely have a 'staircase' to the summit the following day.
[We have left the bivy site and are heading for the Yoho / Collie col and Yoho Peak which is above is to the right, out of sight.]
[Near the col and the site of the new Guy Hut. Yoho Peak on the left, Des Poilus on the right our bivy site at bottom center somewhere. ++]
[Great evening lighting as we make the col.]
[Raf ascends the ridge on Yoho Peak with dramatic lighting on Des Poilus in the background.]
[What a view!]
[Collie on the left, Habel and Rhondda at center, Thompson at distant right.]
[Great lighting on Stephen, Vice President, President (L to R). ++]
[An incredible late afternoon summit panorama from Yoho Peak. ++]
[Looking SE towards Temple, Victoria, Huber, Hungabee, Biddle and Cathedral (L to R).]
[Mount Thompson is an unpleasant grunt, but does have great views.]
[Lush green valleys with soaring ice fields and glacier capped peaks including Victoria and Hungabee.]
[Mount Temple looms over Aberdeen]
[Late day shadows over the Des Poilus Glacier as we descend back to camp.]
After a delicious cup of coffee and supper, Raf and Alan got into Raf's bivy-sized tent (!!) and I snuggled into my bivy sack under a clear sky. I slept wonderfully with a cool breeze coming off the glacier and the sound of a nearby stream. I slept so soundly that I didn't hear my 03:10 alarm! (see Mount Des Poilus for the second part of this trip).