Willingdon, Mount

elevation: 3,373 m. height gain: 2,380 m. (includes height loss)
area: Icefields Parkway,AB map 82 N/9-N/16
2014-Aug-09


Ref: Bill Corbett's 11000ers of the Canadian Rockies

Approach via Mosquito Pass, GR:524255.
Exit via Quartzite Col, GR:476281.
wet and gloomy
Gloomy, rainy weather as we hike along Mosquito Creek.
Scramble: RT 8.5; 4.5 up (from Devon Lakes). Mount Willingdon is a lofty objective which is fairly easy to attain; the long approach to Devon Lakes and the crux rockband before the top offer the only challenges. When Jay told me he was heading there for a couple of days with Arianne and some friends, we were quick to jump on board. Fabrice was on vacation and my employer owed me a random day off; with a decent forecast, things were lining up. We booked a spot for our hounds at Christine's Call of the Wild and started planning accordingly. We would leave friday after taking the dogs to the kennel and meet Jay at Devon Lakes. Saturday, we would attempt Willingdon and head out early on sunday to make the pick up time at the kennel; other than saturday, it was a tight schedule!

Approach (7.75 hours): I took saturday off and worked a half day on friday. While I worked, Fab brought the dogs to Christine. When I arrived at home, he was still at the kennel; I gathered our stuff and made sure we could leave quickly, we had a long hike ahead of us. The weather forecast for friday was dismal; with 60 % chance of thunderstorms, we were prepared for rain. We drove off in the rain; umm, déjà vu (Molar Mountain). We left the trailhead at 12:30 with our raingear on, we decided a simple garbage bag would do the job. The cloud cover was low and surrounding mountains were partially obscured. As we made our way towards Mosquito Creek Campground, we started reconsidering our plan of going through Quartzite Col; reduced visibility and eminent thunderstorms were obvious factors. We chose to continue on the nice trail and go through North Molar Pass instead; we knew Jay's party had chosen this route. We met two joggers along the way, I asked them if they had seen our friends who had left a couple of hours earlier. They informed us that they were ahead and planning a shortcut through Mosquito Pass. I couldn't believe it, that information was quite valuable; what were the odds of them knowing so much. Fab looked at the map and it was evident where the shortcut is; we chose to go that way. Further along, we left the trail and travelled in alpine meadows towards a tarn. The clouds darkened and started closing up again, it looked like thunderstorms. Our pace became hasty as we circumvented the tarn towards the pass; it was raining by now and the wind picked up. We didn't really know where to aim on the pass for a favorable descent into the Pipestone Valley. As we neared the crest, we heard rumbling nearby; we felt exposed. Once crested, we started heading south to the next saddle until we found one that gave way to a possible descent. We continued on lichen-covered blocky rock to the low point of the pass where we found a decent way down into Pipestone. Just as we rejoined the popular trail, the sky cleared up for a short while. The trek to Pipestone Pass is pleasant, we enjoyed the gradual ascent and sunny breaks but as we reached the pass, another thunderstorm rolled overhead. We reached Devon Lakes at 8:30 PM, our friends were there. After setting up the tarp and making supper, it started drizzling again. We retired early hoping the next days would be sunny as promised.

Ascent: We woke as the sun beamed down around us; today was a casual day, we had all day to ascend Willingdon and return to camp. Fab and I liked that, a mellow pace was welcome; we left shortly after 10 AM. We hiked to the ridge and easy scrambling along the ridge led us to BART (big ass rock thing). We followed a trail, that's a testament of this ascent's popularity. The sky had gotten hazy, it almost looked like it could rain but as we neared the upper mountain, the clouds dissipated. We had lunch on a broad scree saddle next to BART before continuing on the path to the crux rockband. The ledge leading to the short crux is wide. The crux itself is toughest when cresting the rockband on loose rubble and downsloping slab; factoring the exposure, I climbed on belay. A piton and some nuts make up an anchor, two ropes span this section but Jay brought his own short rope. The final scree slope quickly took us to the cairn. We hung out for a while and enjoyed the view on this fine summer day. On descent, we rappelled the crux and carried on to the saddle where we had lunch earlier; we sat down for more food and a rock chucking session. Back at camp, we hung out watching the sunset and the full moon rising; good times.

Exit (7.5 hours): Our plan was to leave camp early so we could be at the kennel before 5 PM. We headed out towards Quartzite Col under a sunny sky and reached the boulder field below the col in good time. Climbing the steep slope that follows is tedious; luckily, we found a trail. Higher up, we decided to put on our crampons and ascend the steep snow slope; a scree slope, further climber's left, appeared to be an alternative. The grade increased as we ascended the snow slope; I made sure to plunge my axe in deep. I was glad to reach dry ground, we had lunch at the col and celebrated the fact that it was all downhill from here. We followed faint trails to the meadow below, travelling wasn't bad. Lower down, along the creek, we encountered bits of trail and light bushwhacking. We were thrilled to step on the Mosquito Creek trail. We took a 20 minute break before racing back down to the car. It took us 7.5 hours to return via Quartzite, shaving only 15 minutes off our approach time from Mosquito Pass... We made it to the kennel with 15 minutes to spare! This was an awesome trip start to end; wouldn't change any of it!
staying on the trail
We forego Quartzite Col to stay on the trail.
mosquito pass shortcut
Leaving North Molar Pass Trail for the Mosquito Pass shortcut (center).
alpine meadow
Lovely trekking in the alpine meadow.
fireweed
Stunning patch of Fireweed.
more storms
Towards Mosquito Creek, more dark clouds are heading our way.
route up and over
The arrow indicates where we found a decent way down from the pass.
looking back
Looking back at the tarn and Molar Pass (right of center).
descent from mosquito pass
Descent from Mosquito Pass.
on pipestone trail
On Pipestone Trail, quite chilled from the thunderstorm.
sun comes out
The sun makes an appearance and warms up our bones.
pipestone pass
Pipestone Pass and Devon Mountain.
another storm
Another storm rolls in as we hike over the pass.
clearwater pass
Mount Willingdon from Clearwater Pass.
nearing devon lakes
Nearing Devon Lakes.
alpine breakfast
Alpine breakfast basking in the sun before we head out.
casual pace
Casually hiking to the ascent ridge.
making our way
Making our way towards BART.
discernable trail
A trail is discernable on the blocky ridge.
pleasant
Pleasant way up.
easy scrambling
Easy scrambling along the ridge.
nearing bart
Nearing the Big Ass Rock Thing.
below bart
Traversing below BART.
the objective
The objective.
crux ahead
The crux rockband ahead.
wide ledge
Climbing on the wide ledge.
on the ledge
Devon Lakes below.
crux
Jay, Arianne and Scott at the crux.
top of the crux
Fabrice at the top of the crux.
last bit
Last short bit before the summit.
summit shot
Scott, Jay, Arianne and Fabrice at the cairn.
eastern view
Eastern view with Crown in the foreground.
enjoying the sights
Enjoying the sights.
leaving the top
Leaving the top.
rappelling
Rappelling the crux.
down the ledge
Stepping down the ledge.
last glimpse
Last glimpse.
around bart
Going around BART.
backtracking
Backtraking on the west ridge.
devon lakes
Fantastic view of Devon Lakes.
rising moon
The full moon is rising.
leaving devon lakes
Leaving Devon Lakes.
aiming for the col
Aiming for Quartzite Col.
route up quartzite
A steep talus slope leads to an upper basin and final pitch.
small brook
A small brook to cross.
talus slope
There's a crude trail on the talus slope.
boulder field
Looking down the boulder field.
upper basin
At the upper basin with the snow ascent ahead; a scree alternative apparently exists climber's left.
steep snow slope
The grade gets steep.
looking back
Looking back.
almost there
At the col.
quartzite col
Yippee, done with the height gain!
down to the meadow
Back down to the meadow below.
way over quartzite
One of the easier way over is where the beige rock meets the grey rock (arrow); another scree option apparently exists a little higher climber's right.
following the drainage
Following the drainage back to Mosquito Creek trail.
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