Banff Assiniboine Expedition I
August 13, 2002 – Return from Assiniboine
We got up with the sun the next morning and planned to let it rise high enough to warm the route down to the lake before we would leave. The route down the moraine was dry and we covered much of it on a convenient snowfield, which deposited us at the top of the rubble filled gully portion of the headwall route. We cussed and twisted our way down to the top of the angled snowfield where I put on crampons and broke out the axe to safely descend the still hard snow. Gary set up a rope and belayed Diana down to my location at the bottom and then we gathered gear and began the ledgy traverse along the highway. Route finding on the reverse came easy and outside of having to just take it slow due to the exposure, we made good time to the top of the last downclimb and walking trail below.
The good news was that we were headed for one of the Naiset Cabins and teatime at the lodge. The lodge serves a great afternoon tea and if you have just taken a good multi-day beating on Assiniboine, it is well worth waiting for. We found our Cabin, dumped our gear and played the rest of the day on the lazy side. Our cabin mates arrived later and turned out to be from Brooklyn, New York and they were a good conversational bunch. The final highlight of the evening was a successful attempt on the Vienna Sausage Challenge, an event that will from now on enjoy a place on our climbing expeditions. The goal of the challenge is to find another group with a member who would like to engage in the timed consumption of a 5 oz. can of Vienna Sausages. Try as we might, we could not come up with a willing participant, so in the name of entertainment, I went for a new record and managed to go from full can to empty can (you have to down the juice as well) in a new time of 18.4 seconds.
August 14, 2002 – Fly out and soak
The next day dawned sunny but the weather had been hinting at a change since the previous evening. The clouds came in right after sunup and the rain began to fall in earnest. We had an 11:30 helicopter ride out and after checking in at the lodge, were told to head for the landing pad, where we were #2 in line. We hauled our gear to the pad and waited while the clouds continued to drop and the rain fell without letup. The ranger lifted the radio to his ear and said “folks head for the lodge, chopper is grounded until this stuff clears a bit.” We took our place among the dry folks in the lodge but within 15 minutes were told that there was a flyable gap in the weather and we were back up on the pad in no time.
The chopper came in and after the gear was on board, we took our places for the ride out. We flew high where we could and down near treetops when the clouds would not allow otherwise. Down the valley, across the lake and then with a wide circular approach, we were back at Mount Shark, picking up our gear, as it was unloaded from the helicopter. We trudged to the truck and RV, parked 200 meters distant, and headed to Banff and the promise of good food and a soak in the hot springs.
August 15 –16 – Banff to Cheyenne
Gary and Diana stayed a few extra days around Calgary while I headed home, making a tourist stop here and there on the way. The weather reports were calling for snow in Banff the next day and more of the cold and wet weather we had experienced on the last day in Assiniboine. We discussed one more climb but I was warm, dry and ready to head south.
The Canada climbing trip was a great success for many reasons. We climbed again with Jim, who we had met in Bolivia and enjoyed climbing with the previous year. We also took the major step from using a guide on glaciers and almost no mixed alpine climbing experience to the formation of a confident group able to travel safely on relatively tame glaciers and handle a touch of lower end mixed alpine climbing.
The terrain was challenging and the rules were different from climbing in Colorado. A full day was re-defined to mean in excess of 14 hours and demanding an alpine start to finish before nightfall. The weather provided a challenging climbing environment whereas in Colorado, we would more than likely have just put off the climb for another day. The technical tools and methods were not new but we sure needed practice in their use as evidenced by our first two climbs. However, . . . experience came by doing and by Mount Hector, we had added efficiency to the climbing equation and our rope team had come together.
What about Assiniboine? We are going back, perhaps next year or maybe later, but let there be no doubt, we will take another shot at this magnificent peak.
In closing, thanks go to the major players, my wife Debbie who did not go along but did not object either, to Diana who was a great base camp manager, absolute climber on Assiniboine, and good all around sport, and finally to the Canadians: Daryl, Randy, Rob, Mike, Gary, Rod and Bert, each of whom were blast to climb with, eh.