Mount Wilson

elevation: 3,260 m. height gain: 2,000 m.
area: Icefields Parkway,AB map 82 N/15-83 C/2
2010-May-01


Ref: Chic Scott's Summits and Icefields out of the bush
Almost out of the bush.
Ski mountaineering: RT 14.5; 9.25 up (including a 45 minute crevasse rescue). Finally, Mount Wilson!!! Fab and I attempted this objective 15 years ago from Rampart Creek; not a stellar experience... When I heard about the "direct route" in Chic Scott's recent edition, I knew we would choose this way on our next try. Well, the forecast and snow conditions were just perfect for this really long day trip. We psyched and prepared ourselves at the last minute despite feeling a little bit rundown; leaving Golden at 3 AM to allow an early start. We parked near a gravel flat, 700 meters from the highway junction, and started the plod towards the ascent gully with our skis on our packs. We soon encountered firm snow so we decided to put the skis on and weave through the trees. After about an hour, we reached the gully. Initially, the gully is a pleasant climb. It gets narrower and steeper in the left fork. We had to take our skis off at some point due to avalanche debris strewn about the slopes and a hard crust (we didn't have ski crampons). We arrived at the col already taxed. After a quick break, we got ready for a nervous descent on the steep north-facing slope. We came down conservatively and resumed climbing towards the glacier. The scenery is awesome. We skied on wind-pressed snow, fully enjoying the experience. Further, near the last rocks, we roped up and started the ascent on the glacier. Crevasses are easily circumvented and travel is fairly simple. With a steady, determined plod, we gained sight of the summit ridge and summit antenna. Eventually, we saw the long gentle rib meeting with the summit ridge, yes! We also noticed another group behind us. We continued to a saddle on the ridge and left our skis. From here, we expected the top would not take that long to attain. Excited, I started up the summit ridge avoiding the cornice. Shortly into the bootpack, I suddenly dropped. Eyes wide open, I realized I had fallen about 15 feet in a crevasse. My arms were pinned against my body as the falling debris buried me to my shoulders. Panic set in, worried of more snow coming down. I started to wiggle my feet and kick with my crampons, in little time I was out of the snow. The rope had cut deep into the crevasse's edge, I wasn't going anywhere. Communication was near impossible and I just wanted out of this icy, shady hole. I could see at the up most part of the slot, the cornice's snow layers, even sky... At the lower end of it, I would be able to walk out, once we got the rope free. Although I was standing on snow with an easy way out, I felt irrational. In the meantime, Fab set an anchor. After what seemed a long time, he appeared at the edge of the slot. We were able to get the rope free allowing me to see sunlight again. Very shaken, I greeted the other team of two, now taking their skis off. I had been on an ACC trip with the fellow. Jay and his lady friend Arianne had made good time to get here. They took the lead along the summit ridge and we soon stood by telemetry. We crouched in the lee of the cabin. Fab and I were ecstatic, it had been quite the experience to get here. I reflected on the rescue in a positive way in hopes of being more rehearsed if this was to happen again... I pray not... Returning was much faster but far from effortless. The crusty snow surface combined with very tired legs made the ski down less than great. Survival skiing and a good snow plow saved our knees. The last pitch before the climb to the col was actually fantastic, all twenty undemanding turns. We stopped in the sun and put the skins back on for the last climb. The ascent was manageable, we remained close to our tracks and didn't linger. We were not expecting a great ski in the gully either; in fact, we side slipped the whole upper part (even taking skis off for a short bit). Thankfully, the skiing got better near the fork and we got another set of good turns. Fab and I took a nice long break looking back at the ascent gully before entering the bush in knee deep mash potato snow. We followed Jay and Arianne's post-holes through the bush. With skis on my back, this was by far the worst part of the trip! The end of the trudge did come and we finally met up with the other team at the road. Jay was very nice and offered Fab a ride to our car, only 500 meters away. I will remember Mount Wilson for not only the stunning scenery and magnificent views but for the grueling effort it required, the experience gained and the blessings we received.

Note on the crevasse: This 10 feet wide crevasse runs perpendicular to the ridge crest, 138632. It is visible on Google Earth. Right after leaving the skis at the saddle, it is best to contour wide, climber's right, staying lower on the summit ridge.
ascent gully
Bottom of the ascent gully.
left fork
Taking the left fork in the ascent gully.
narrow and steep
The gully narrows and steepens.
carrying the skis
Avalanche debris and a hard crust made it difficult to keep the skis on.
nearing the col
Nearing the col.
wilson icefield
Wilson Icefield from the col.
steep slope
Looking back up towards the col.
heading for the glacier
Heading for the glacier.
perfect day
Perfect conditions for this very long outing.
looking back
Mount Murchison and the col in the foreground.
getting closer
Slowly getting closer.
near the summit ridge
Almost at the summit ridge.
south-eastern view
Another picture of the south-eastern view.
coming out of a slot
Shortly after leaving our skis, I fall 15 feet in a crevasse...
big slot
This bridged slot held my weight for several steps before collapsing.
at the top
At the top, Mount Erasmus to the south-west.
summit picture
Jay, Arianne and Fab.
summit ridge
The summit ridge.
eastern view
Eastern view along the North Saskatchewan River.
heli-pad is covered
The heli-pad (left) is fully covered in snow.
last look
Last glimpse, the summit is at the far left.
off the glacier
Off the glacier. Our route went climber's right of the crevasses.
back at the col
Back at the col, Saskatchewan Crossing is a nice sight!
at the col
Fab arriving at the col.
side slipping
Side slipping most of the way down.
lower gully
Skiing got better lower down the ascent gully.
dragging the skis
Fab drags his skis instead of putting them on his pack.
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