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JeffreyW

[TR] Mount Edith Cavell - North Face (Chouinard/Beckey/Doody) - Attempt 09/22/2019

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Trip: Mount Edith Cavell - North Face (Chouinard/Beckey/Doody) - Attempt

Trip Date: 09/22/2019

Trip Report:

Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright, and Dane!

High Point: Bergshrund at the base of the wall, above the Angel Glacier

One of North America’s great mountain faces. The original North Face route on Mount Edith Cavell (near Jasper, Canada) takes the central line up the face to the summit. This was a Smash n Grab attempt from Seattle after watching weather and conditions for a month. I think we nailed it on both counts, which alone was a good lesson. We were joined by our friend Dane who has been climbing in the area for a month long trip and whom we met while climbing All Along the Watchtower this August. We got up to the base of the wall above the Angel Glacier bergshrund and were forced to turn around due to a crampon toe bail failure.  None of us had brought spare crampon toe bails (lesson!).  We're stoked to come back and try it again, now that we have the approach beta dialed. It was still a grand adventure!

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The typical style (which we followed) is to do the approach in a few hours by daylight to practice the routefinding on the complex 5.6 rock route up to the Angel Glacier to get around the hanging seracs. Then, come back to the car, sleep, and start over again at O-dark thirty to go for a car-to-car push in a day. This avoids bringing bivy gear up the wall. It was humbling and awesome just to get up to the base of the wall, stand on its bergshrund, and look up into the dimly moonlit vertical darkness with packs full of metal and desire.

On the attempt in the dark, it took 4.5hrs to get from the car to the bergshrund.  We had left two fixed ropes and top rope solo'd to avoid re-leading it.  If I came back with a single rope, I would fix the 60m single rope from above the chimney (leave an anchor) to get all the way to the bottom of the 5th class start, then re-lead the final 25m again in the dark.

The route is commonly climbed in July and August, which brings two hazards: 1) rock fall, and 2) a band of exposed, loose, unprotectable shale near the summit ridge.  By waiting until late August-October, the rock is more stable, and the band of shale is covered in snow and/or ice.  The downside is that snow on route makes the climbing mixed, and icy cracks can make it difficult to find protection.  By late September, the approach is still dry, 5.6 rock climbing (which we did in boots).  The wall, however, was all snow-over-rock, which makes the 5.7 rock on the wall a mixed experience in crampons and ice tools (instead of rock climbing with rock shoes in the summertime) .

This TR only describes the approach. 

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The original route took 3rd class terrain to the left of the Angel Glacier ice flow.  But hanging seracs now threaten much of the wall, and a new 5.6 approach route goes way right of the ice flow to gain the Angel Glacier.  This route is totally safe and stays well away from the hanging seracs.  The picture above is our high point along the Angel Glacier to the bergshrund, and the approximate North Face route is a dashed line (which we didn't get to do). 

We followed the hand-drawn topo on Mountain Project, and it was REALLY useful!  https://www.mountainproject.com/photo/107268014

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From the parking lot, cross the small stream and immediately gain the lateral moraine (shown above) which eventually leads up to the wall.  As you approach, take note of 25m tree rappel (above your head) shown in the topo which is an alternate descent to down climbing the 3rd/4th class approach.  Continue traversing on a 3rd class path for quite a ways, step across one stream from a waterfall, and continue until it forces you to start ascending up and right to a large ledge (shown in the topo).  This is the same ledge which leads to the optional tree rappel descent (this tree is easy to find and is all the way climber's right along this ledge).  The approach is left of a small waterfall and right of the larger waterfall (as shown in topo).  Below is a picture of the tree from which you can make a 25m rappel, if descending.

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From the large ledge, continue up 3rd/4th class terrain (unroped) and look up for two sets of double roofs.  The lower set is orange and you belay just below this.  The upper is black, and has and a white cord hanging from a pin just to the right of it.  This white cord is a crummy anchor, or (more likely) a redirect to the better anchor further right (one pin, one bolt).  There are two options for the start, if you take the easier option (right), you won't pass by this white cord at all.

Two pitches gain the upper 3rd/4th scramble.  Recommend making the 1st pitch a short, 20m pitch and stopping at the bolt anchor to avoid an awkward belay further up in the chimney.  The second pitch goes up a chimney (no actual chimney moves, nice feet and hands abound), and is a 60m rope stretcher with a short overhang section.  Both pitches are just left of the corner waterfall shown in the picture below.  The picture below also shows Priti and Dane on the big ledge (the same ledge where the tree rappel is).

We had twin ropes and fixed one long 60m rope from the top of pitch 2, then fixed a short 20m rappel from the bolt anchor.  This allowed us to top rope solo the route in the dark the next day with a micro traxion and skip having to re-lead it in the dark.  Watch out for snafflehounds in the summer!

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The picture above is looking up from where you first rope up.  

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Above is the bolt/piton anchor above the first pitch on a good ledge.  If you take the right variation on the first pitch, it leads directly (and obviously) to this anchor.

The second pitch looks a little different than what the topo describes (beware).  

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Start up a chimney (shown above) for 20m to a scrambling section.

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Then cross right on easy terrain under large orange roofs (don't keep going up a ramp straight up, shown above).  Then a short overhanging move with good feet and hands (5.6) to a large ledge with a 2-pin anchor (may require a few meters of simul-climbing to reach this anchor).  You can add in a good black Totem to this anchor to back it up.  From this ledge, you can unrope.  You are not yet on the large ledge shown in the topo which crosses the waterfall; this is still above you.  Continue straight up from the anchor on easy 4th/low-5th until you find the large ledge.  Cross back right across the waterfall and continue to a large left-facing corner.  Easy ledges take you well up the corner system until you can exit right on easy 3rd class steps.  Don't leave the corner too early!  

Pass through a patch of small trees, then across a grassy patch to look up and see a large, obvious notch (easy to pick out in moonlight).  Continue up scree slopes to this notch.  Once at the notch, the topo recommends descending 15m, then ascending a gully.  We did this, and we do not recommend!!!  Loose, hard, and scary.  Instead continue up a right-facing corner straight up from the notch; this looks difficult, but there are good feet to stem.  Once above the corner, traverse way left to get onto the Angel Glacier.  Whew!

Water plan: Here you will find an optional bivy site and running water.  Allegedly there is also running water at the East Ridge col.  You can start from the car with just half a liter of water, fill up a couple liters at the bivy site, then fill again at the East Ridge notch (maybe).  

The Angel Glacier is heavily crevassed near the seracs (obviously) so you can make a wide sweep to get away from the edge.  It gets a little steep when you approach the wall, but not too bad.  Some reports mention that it gets tricky to cross the bergshrund in summertime.

The East Ridge (recommended) is way shorter and takes you straight back to your car.  This is the descent recommended to us by the Smileys.  The West Ridge is much longer, with complex routefinding on easy 3rd class terrain, and forces you to walk back up the road to get back to your car.  The East Ridge is mostly 3rd/4th but stays mainly on the ridgeline (shouldn't be too hard to find your way in the dark) and has a crux 5.2/5.3 section that some parties rappel.  This 5.2/5.3 section is located just above the shoulder, halfway up the ridge.  Below is the easy descent from the East Ridge col which takes you along the lateral moraine to a trail and back to the trailhead.

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Gear Notes:
Pickets for the summit snow field, 4 screws (various sizes), rack to #3, nuts, 2 KB's, 2 ice tools each

Approach Notes:
Read above

Edited by JeffreyW
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Your TRs always have such incredible beta.  The attention to detail and annotation is impressive.  Thanks and good luck next time!

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I have a trip report typed up from my July 25,2016 ascent of Edith Cavell Northface via (Chouinard/Beckey/Doody route). I don't have as much beta from the approach buttress but the upper face I have it in spades as I lead the whole route. 

 

My route Beta 
 
Here's all the info I read. pictures of the line.  I found the beta to approach through the lower buttress to the top of the angel glacier not to be completely accurate or we found an easier way because we did it at 6am? Nevertheless we did not rope up for that section.  Glacier was easy to navigate with minimal crevasses.  We gained the rock almost directly below the crux buttress over a bergshrund (short down climb) but easy.  Picked our way up through the rock from there, left then back right. Attached Topo of the crux buttress I found accurate except we had a tough time deciding what the hanging slab was? There is one up and right (beside #2) on the topo but it was too high to be the one in the topo. I climbed a pillar to the left of the corner on the topo. I started in the left but the rock was beyond horrible so I went up the middle rather then traverse it to the right (as topo shows). This made 1-2 moves that was not 5.7- see pic called pitch 1 probably 5.9 - partner agreed) the rest of the route was the grade (5.7 or easier). Dug out a dirty pin about 35 metre after it backed off on a ledge (pin on the left) cut right to what we identified as the blocky ledges and stayed left of all the roofs (see pic with line).  Straight forward from there found 4-5 pins along the buttress and a fixed hex all gear anchors on the crux buttress. After that your still only half way up. Go straight up picking your way through snowy/icy blocks, quartzite steps and ice - did locate the odd pin here and there but mostly gear belays again.  Eventually you'll find one lone pin were the rock gets really steep. cut right there couple more rope lengths will bring get you to the upper snow/ice field.  deep powder but screws if you dig.  Bypass the shale band on the left and we passed the cornice on the far left as well. I labelled the pictures according to this imperfect but accurate description of our day on route. 
 
We used a Standard rack
.3-3 cams 4 pins (two KB, angle (which is on route still used as part of an anchor) lost arrow placed once then removed. 6 screws, 70m 9mm rope a small stove and emergency blanket and tarp.Good luck!!
 
Morning look after my partner arrived..on our approach to the lower 4th & 5th class rock shared with the Angel Glacier tongue. 
Blue skies looked promising, but sadly that changed. Starting in this light made finding our way up the lower rock buttress easier which we solo'd. Some/few 5th class moves here and there. 
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Jeremy climbing on the approach,4th with the odd 5th class move, rock to the glacier flats. 
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Looking at the Face from where we topped out on the lower rock buttress. Well right of the dangerous Angel Glacier tongue ice fall. 
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Leading across the Angel glacier flats. Minimal crevasses throughout. The crevasses present were easily stepped over. 
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Me past the bergshrund climbing up to the start of the lower 4th class rock which leads to the base of the crux buttress. 
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Jeremy following the bergshrund traverse with short couple step down-climb mixed in. 
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TOPO of the crux buttress sent to me from friends who climbed the face 2 weeks-ish prior 
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Me on pitch 1 showing were the 5.9 move/s are located. I started on the left side of this pillar, but found the rock horrible and any protection worse then suspect. Hence why I traversed onto the rock pillar's face and climbed it directly. This is what led me to the 5.9 move/s. Those moves can be avoided if you stay on the chossy quartzite rock on climbers left. 
As shown on the topo stay, 20-30 meters, left of the Buttress Prow unlike what Selected Alpine Climbs states. 
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Found a pin in the rock here as marked. I
marked out the rest of the route we took labelled very similar to TOPO attached. FYI this is where the rock fall happens from the large overhanging bowl above. Be aware and don't linger here!!
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As the weather completely deteriorated causing rocks to fly, I got my partner out of that area with a short 2nd pitch. Jeremy following that short pitch 2. 
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Jeremy getting closer to the belay after the short pitch 2 to avoid the falling rocks!!
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Evidence of deterioration in the weather!!!
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Jeremy about to meet me at the belay of our 3rd pitch up the crux buttress. 
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Weather created avalanches to fall over Northface East summit direct route. 
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Looking up at the roof, shown on TOPO. This was the belay stands top of our pitch 3. I found cracks to protect the corners I climbed left of the roof throughout. 
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Me gearing below the start of our 4th pitch (ie roof pitch on topo). 
 
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Picture extracted from my gopro showing my line on our pitch 4 - staying left of the roof. 
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Rainbow showed Jeremy and I a sign of promise!!!
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Found a fixed hex in the corner, which I backed up with 2 pieces on this prominent ledge. Top of our pitch 4. There was also a damaged rope lying on this ledge that was oddly coiled!?!
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Me with the eerie looking dark sky and Northface looming behind. pic credit
Jeremy Regoto 
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This corner was our pitch 5 that finishes the crux buttress lead directly from the ledge with the old coiled rope and fixed corner hex. 
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Snowy & ice covered 4th with some easy 5th class after the buttress for a couple hundred meters. This picture of me traversing to obtain the upper ice field. Suggest stay up the middle of the snowy/iced covered rocks or you'll have to traverse like I did avoiding unprotect-able overhanging rock. There was a fixed pin at this belay stands hence why I stopped and belayed Jeremy up here. 
Sun is starting to set before we got onto the upper ice field!!
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View from West ridge descent of the point to access upper snow/ice field. I had to traverse away from overhanging rock to this point - (mentioned and shown in previous picture). 
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Jeremy following on the upper ice field after the odd steep rock step or snow chocked chimney to the start it off. This picture is obviously well after sunset and after midnight. 
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Jeremy topping out at 4:02am
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Me digging out my 2nd ice tool used as a deadman anchor to belay Jeremy. 
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Because we topped out so early in the morning. We decided to get some quick shut eye and wait for sunrise before we went down the west ridge to the west bowl. Small stove was excellent to have as we melted snow for a drink, boiled water and fought for the Nalgene hot water bottle for warmth 😂. 
 
 
Tyler R Davidson

 

image.jpeg

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Some misc ramblings. I remember from doing the route in late August of 97. We rambled up to the Angel Glacier that afternoon, mostly solo, think we used the rope in a couple of places. Had a nice bivy and watched a couple of others top out in the dark. During the night the face to the right lighted up with rock fall. In the morning we crossed the glacier, no cracks that I remember. The bergshrund was interesting as I literally burrowed a hole through it. The lower slopes were straightforward. The pillar my partner John lead as he swapped out his boots for rock slippers. His secret weapon.

Some where above I lost my lead head so John lead for a while but then bonked as it got dark. I remember coming around a corner and here he was both tools in marginal névé and a  couple of crappy nuts for a belay. My turn. Mean while it was now pissing sideways with snow and all I could see above me was a huge ass cornice. I resigned myself to having to tunnel my way through it. I told John to just talk to me as lead out. I as I went up I found some good pro, that was a relief. Finally, I made my way up to the cornice and found that if I went to the right I could by pass it. And much to my surprise I walked right up to the summit.

It was now a full on gale, we bivied in the rocks and unfortunately John dropped his bivy sac so I took the outside. In the morning we headed down the west side. It was casual. I remember getting down into a nice meadow to take a break and failing asleep on my pack. I woke when I rolled off of it and into the mud. When we got to the road we snagged a ride back to the parking lot by a couple of climbers. Oddly enough I gave them the picks from my tools as they had broken a couple. I might have a few pictures but need to did through the archive.

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