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Ascent of Mount Assiniboine on 2017-08-29

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Rob Woodall -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Mount Assiniboine
    Location:Canada-Alberta/British Columbia
    Elevation:3616 m / 11864 ft

Ascent Trip Report

Summary:

We climbed Assiniboine from the BC side, since we were based in Invermere and didn’t fancy the long drive to Alberta and the long hike in from there (or the expensive helicopter ride). We took only a day and half—we hiked to the Hind Hut the afternoon of the first day, and the next day climbed the peak in the morning and hiked out in the afternoon.

The approach hike is not terribly long, but it is a climber’s route with a couple of sections of ugly, steep, and loose scree/talus/hardpan, plus a glacier to traverse (easy in late season). We took 6.5 hours up to the hut, but only 4.5 down.

We found the north ridge summit climb to be a fun scramble on mostly good rock, and we didn’t use our rope on the way up. We did rappel 4 times going down, but could have downclimbed most of it if we had to. We thought that the rating of YDS 5.5 was a bit inflated—these days, most experienced climbers would call it 4th class. We took 7:20 hours round-trip hut-summit-hut, which seemed about typical for most fit parties. Routefinding can be tricky, but we were luckily to have a guide on the mountain near us, plus a GPS track to follow.

Overall, I thought it was a very enjoyable climb—a scenic and exciting route with fun scrambling to the airy summit of an iconic and impressive peak. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 28:

Rob and I slept in a bit this morning at the Invermere Hostel after our epic failed attempt on Mount Farnham the day before. We had breakfast and I was a bit indecisive about what to do today—part of me was tried and wanted to head for home, but Assiniboine had been my #1 priority for this trip, and I had a willing and capable climbing partner, plus good weather. So I tried to call up the Hind Hut management, and on the second try got through and made a reservation for us this very evening. I told Rob, and we started getting ready for the trip.

I also made a new reservation at our Invermere hostel for the day after tomorrow, and told them that I would leave my car in its spot for another two days, and we got our gear together, including sleeping bags for the hut, plus a rope and climbing gear. By about 10:30 AM Rob was once again driving us to another dusty BC trailhead.

It was not far to Radium and then north on Route 93, and the gravel Settlers Road was a wide, very well graded road—the only issue was that fast-moving dump trucks from a large magnesium mine (and their dust plumes) had to be avoided. When the mine was in sight, we turned right on a narrow, overgrown track that led to the trailhead in about 4 km. The last bridge on this road has some disintegrating planks and I jumped out to help Rob cross it carefully with hand signals. The trailhead had rolls of chicken wire to protect the car that we installed.

We started hiking at 1:30 PM, right at the hottest part of the day. The approach to the Hind Hut took us 6.5 hours, until 8 PM. The first part was good trail through forest to Assiniboine Lake, and then some cross-country uphill on small gravelly moraines beyond the lake. The route then became a steep uphill slog on miserable loose scree/talus as it passed right of a giant square block. The trails that existed were best for downhill scree skiing, so getting uphill was an exercise in finding anything remotely solid to step on. Above this was some dry, dusty hardpan that was most unpleasant.

The top of this slope was a moraine crest, and a faint trail reappeared briefly to lead us up though a more gentle landscape of rocky talus and rushing, braided brooks. We could see the toe of a glacier ahead and aimed for that—right before the ice the ground was a deep muddy mess so we put on our crampons a little before the glacier.

It was late August in a dry year, so we didn’t rope up to travel up this (apparently unnamed) glacier. There were some small crevasses, easily visible and easily avoided. I had crampon trouble again, unable to get my left one tight on my light hiking boot. But it was still easy going.

The glacier ended at another ugly-looking slope of scree, hardpan, and very loose talus. It was, again, very annoying, and any line that used solid rock features was best. This was a short section, thankfully, and we were soon at the Sturdee-Strom col. We could see the hut a short ways below, the awesome pyramid of Assiniboine above us to the right, and a solo camper in his tent right at the col. We chatted briefly (we had seen his car, parked just before the sketchy bridge) before heading down.

A short scree ski on a river or rocks took us down to an easy snowfield and a short traverse to the Hind Hut, where we arrived right at 8 PM. There were 4 people there—a guide and his client who had hiked up as we had today, plus two women who has been at the hut all day. They were all watching 2 men descend Assiniboine’s summit cone, shouting directions to them. These poor guys were in same group as the 2 women, and coincidentally most of that party was, like me, from Seattle.

I was very thirsty (having run out of water on the glacier) so after some pleasantries I got my water filled up from a bucket at the hut, and the guide showed me the source waterfall (which I later used untreated). Eventually the 2 men from the peak returned after a 15+ hour summit day, apparently marred by routefinding errors and lots of rope usage. This had Rob and I worried about our fitness and preparation for our climb the next day.

The hut was pleasant enough for the 8 of us there, with a propane stove, plates and utensils, and foam mattresses on two huge plywood bunk shelves. Rob and I made our simple dehydrated meals, got our gear together, and socialized a bit with the others. We would be on the mountain tomorrow with the guide and his client, and also the solo guy from the col. Many of the Seattle group slept outside on this warm night, so I had the entire top shelf to myself, but I had trouble sleeping due to the warmth and a stuffed head.

I stupidly had lost my headlamp, which made organizing in the dark hut a bit difficult, and all Rob had was a backup mini flashlight. Happily, one of the Seattle climbers loaned me a headlamp, which was helpful the next day.

Tuesday, August 29:

Rob and I woke up at about 4 AM, ate, got organized, and were hiking at about 5:20 AM, using our lights. The guide and client were a bit ahead, and for our entire ascent it was very handy to be able to look up and have an idea of where to be heading. We also had a GPS track that was helpful, too. The first part of the hike was some minor ups and downs over large blocky talus, and then an unpleasant climb up loose scree before a good climber’s path led steadily uphill on easy slopes. We put away our lights pretty soon, and it was not long before we reached the distinct base of the summit cone, a steep gully where the scrambling began.

We found the initial gully easy going on pretty good rock, and then followed faint scree paths and occasional rocky ribs uphill. It remained easy until the first obstacle, the “red band”, which we surmounted with no difficulties using a cleft with good holds. Above that we followed a more distinct ridge, often very close to the daunting east face, with increasing exposure and some tricky moves that to us seemed like Class 4.

Rob and I were in a pretty good groove on this climb. We never stopped to take a big rest, we never felt the need to break out the rope, and we were having a fun time scrambling up the solid rock. We were being very careful, of course—testing holds, trying not to pull on stuff—but overall I felt like I was in a good state of flow. The guide ahead was short-roping his client, and we were gaining on them a bit.

I could tell we were getting close, and soon our North Ridge leveled out and revealed the gentle but airy ridge traverse the led up to the true summit ahead. We crossed this sidewalk in the sky and by 10:20 AM we joined the guide and client at the summit. The weather was theoretically perfect, but smoke from forest fires made the view very hazy and the sunshine quite filtered, so we could not see very much. A cold wind made us put on all our clothing, but after some photos and a check of the register (lots of random papers filled with junk) we left to take our main rest at a sheltered place near the top of the north ridge.

We wanted to give the guide and client some space, so we hung out a while, eating and resting, up top before departing, quite a bit after them. For the descent, the park management had placed four nice new rappel anchors—we used an unofficial anchor of cords right off the summit ridge, and then the first three of the official ones. Our first rappel was short and descended a small icy gully; the second was a moderate one; the third was down a very short semi-loose gully feature, and the our third was quite long and partly free-hanging, maxing out our 50 meter rope (on gentle ground, though). In between was some interesting and occasionally nerve-wracking downclimbing, but nothing that troubled me unduly.

Below our last rappel we followed rock slabs and braided scree paths downhill to the “red band”, and we could not locate the official rappel station. Rob finally found it, but I found our ascent gully, which looked easy, so we just downclimbed that with no issues. Below that the downclimbing was easier and we followed more paths and rocky bits, and saw the solo camper guy, slowly heading uphill. The final gully, which had seemed very steep in the morning, was now trivial for us.

We then hiked down the easy ridge, where we encountered a young, fast-moving couple I thought might be German, but we later found out were Swiss—they had hiked up from the BC trailhead this morning, taking 4 hours to the hut, and were now summit bound. Impressive.

Rob and I then skied down the loose talus field, and we were back at the hut at 12:40 PM, just a few minutes after the guide and client—we gained on them during the last stretch. We were happy to have done the summit climb with enough time to head down this afternoon. So we spent a lazy hour and a half at the hut, getting packed up, eating, refilling water bottles, and socializing. The party of 4 from Seattle had been resting all day, and I thanked the one guy for the loaner headlamp. We also chatted a bit more with the guide (Paul), and I got his card for possible future reference.

We hiked down from the hut to the car in 4.5 hours, from 2:20 PM to 6:50 PM. This was 2 hours faster than our uphill time, helped by being able to ski/skate/slip/side down the two sections of miserable hardpan/scree with gravity on our side. These were the short drop from the col to the glacier, and the stretch from the high morainal brook zone down to the lake, past the giant square block. On the other sections we made good time, too. It was a very smoky day, with a distinct odor of charred wood in the air that bothered me a bit.

We were back at the Invermere Hostel by 9 PM, quite tired after doing a major peak like Assiniboine in a day and a half. The Dairy Queen next door was the only restaurant open and within walking distance, so our celebration meal was some burgers.

Now I really was tired, and the next day I did drive home, very glad that my 10 days in BC with Rob ended on a high note. My thanks to him for a productive and enjoyable trip!
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2455 m / 8058 ft
    Extra Gain:139 m / 459 ft
    Distance:30.6 km / 19 mi
    Route:N Ridge from BC Side
    Trailhead:Assiniboine Ck TH  1439 m / 4724 ft
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Ski Poles, Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Overcast
Smoky
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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