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Trip Report -- Bivy #67
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brutusofwyde


Aug 24, 2003, 8:29 AM
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Trip Report -- Bivy #67
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Unplanned Bivy #67

“Run Rabbit run
Dig that hole, forget the sun,
And when at last the work is done
Don't sit down it's time to dig another one
For long you live and high you fly
But only if you ride the tide
And balanced on the biggest wave
You race towards an early grave”

– “Breathe”
Pink Floyd 1973


Mount Assiniboine in the Canadian Rockies is the virtual twin of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. Although Assiniboine at just under 12,000 feet above sea level stands slightly shorter than the Matterhorn, what it lacks in altitude is more than equaled by its location at a far more inhospitable northern latitude. In normal years it is not uncommon for parties to retreat before ever coming to grips with the exposed, double-corniced summit ridge.

Ironically, it was injuries and lack of physical conditioning which brought Em and I to Mt. Assiniboine in August of 2003: Surgery and a shoulder injury on my part rendered me incapable of rock climbing at a high technical standard; Em was just recovering from a severe finger tendon injury and also was seeking a more moderate level than our usual summer menu. Thus the classic North Ridge route, at 5.5, was one of several goals which made the list of options for our excursion.

During repeated climbing trips to Canada over the past half-decade, we have discovered that it is a good idea to have in mind a wide list of climbing objectives. This allows us to take advantage of the best conditions and weather patterns, and has often netted us incredible climbs in “gift” conditions. Thus it was that, as the unusually dry summer of 2003 ravaged the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta with wildfires and smoke, we found ourselves atop the Telepherique on Sulphur Mountain in Banff, peering through the haze at the distant pinnacle of Assiniboine, finding the North Ridge of the mountain completely bare of snow.

Later, as we soaked at a hot springs and discussed plans, we agreed that our objective was clear, and we discarded other options in favor of the long trip into the Assiniboine Provincial Park to attempt this most beautiful of mountains.

Several telephone calls later, we had determined that the helicopter into Assiniboine Lodge only flew on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, had made reservations for one night’s stay at the Naiset Cabins near Assiniboine Lodge, and reserved three nights’ lodging at the RC Hind Hut, at 9,000 feet an excellent high camp for our attempt. Since we would be heading in on Monday, we resigned ourselves to making the 17-mile approach to Assiniboine Lodge on foot. (Although the Dougherty guide calls this approach 20km, signs at the Naiset Cabins confirmed the distance was considerably longer.)

Monday evening, blistered, footsore and exhausted, we stumbled into the Assiniboine Lodge. Although it was well after teatime, the incredible staff at the lodge catered to us, offering lemonade, beer and wine, and even complimentary slices of fresh baked chocolate cake with caramel sauce!

Tuesday, after a crack-of-noon start, we threaded our way up “Gmoser’s Highway,” a complex series of 3rd and 4th class ledges leading to the Hind Hut.

As the evening alpenglow caressed the summit pyramid with golden light, we met our fellow hut-mates: several Aussies, and some French-Canadians who had summitted that day, and a pair of fellow Californians who looked vaguely familiar. Soon we realized that we knew this pair, aerobic monsters who had done the entire approach to the Hind Hut from the car in one day!

Shortly after dinner, Em and I retired to the upper bunks of the hut, using our earplugs (required equipment for hut living!) to assure a comfortable and quiet night’s sleep.

Summit Day –
Em and I climb carefully up dry rock in warm sunshine. The rack and rope stay in the packs. Careful route finding brings us to the top just before noon. So seldom do we encounter such perfect conditions on Canadian peaks that we revel in the paradise of a hot noonday lunch, lingering long and even napping, before beginning the descent.

Little did we realize that the most difficult part of the climb was yet to come. Easing down the rubble-covered ledges of the peak required painstaking care. As the afternoon wore on, Em began feeling the effects of dehydration and the high altitude. We opted to rappel numerous times rather than downclimb the steeper sections. A route-finding error on my part near the bottom of the ridge cost us two more rappels down overhanging cliffs before we could unrope. But finally the interminable talus slog back to the Hind Hut was finished, and at long last we collapsed into the plush comfort of sleeping bags, after a hearty dinner.

Postscript:

We descended from the Hind Hut two days later, to catch the Friday morning helicopter flight out from Assiniboine Lodge. Upon reaching the trailhead, we found that the entire backcountry was now closed due to the wildfires. Other, more far-reaching news, was that the eastern seaboard of the United States had experienced their worst power blackout in history.

A day later, as a result of the far-reaching impacts of the New York blackout, we were stranded with hundreds of other travelers at the Vancouver Airport when a delayed Air Canada flight caused us to miss our connecting flight. The ensuing bivy, atop mounds of gear, was lumpy and uncomfortable, but warmer than any other unplanned bivouac we had ever experienced.


roughster


Aug 24, 2003, 8:36 AM
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Re: Trip Report -- Bivy #67 [In reply to]
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Great report Brutus! Keep'em coming!


cologman


Aug 24, 2003, 9:04 AM
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Re: Trip Report -- Bivy #67 [In reply to]
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Nice climb & TR. Mount Assiniboine has long been a goal of mine. Beautiful Peak!


epic_ed


Aug 24, 2003, 10:31 PM
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Was wondering where you've been. Figures. Actually out doing something fun. :mrgreen:

Excellent report, as always.


mungeclimber


Aug 25, 2003, 11:00 PM
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mmmm, perfect summit.


passthepitonspete


Aug 29, 2003, 2:43 PM
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Bee-UTEY.


poiboi


Aug 29, 2003, 3:53 PM
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Sounds like fun, in some very odd way...


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