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[TR] Mt Colonel Foster - Express Way 1200 m 5.8 (I


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Trip: Mt Colonel Foster - Express Way 1200 m 5.8 (IV) ***


Date: 7/14/2007


Trip Report:

Mount Colonel Foster is located in Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island. It's 1200 m East Face offers some of the longest alpine routes on the island. Several buttresses and couloirs host a bunch of summer and winter routes. The best guide available is Island Alpine by Phil Stone.


Expressway is a direct start to the Cataract Arete route:



200 m of slab up to 5.8 (depending on snow etc.) gains a right trending ramp. Followed ramp for approx. 300 m until a large headwall is clearly visible on the left. This right facing headwall is clearly visible from the glacier. Here, head up left to below a large roof (5.7) and traverse out under the roof at exposed 5.8. This is all unprotected and there is a lot of loose rock. Step up after the traverse and gain easier ground (low 5th). Head up the notch for approx 150 m to gain the cataract arete. Follow crest up to glacier.


We hiked up the Elk River Trail (ERT) to Foster Lake (lake at base of East Face) on Fri night. We started out at 6 pm and reached a bivi at 10 pm. The original plan was to climb Into the Mystic (1200 m, 23 p, 5.9, V). We got up Sat morning at 3 am. No visibility.



Reset alarm for 4:30. Same thing. Then woke up at 7 to blue skies. Having not enough time for ITM, we decided to climb Expressway instead which is supposed to be quicker with mostly 4th and low 5th once on the "Cataract Arete".


We stared the approach at 7:30 and started climbing at 8 am.

The climb started with some dirty slab off the glacier.



Some parts were still wet due to the waterfall that comes off the upper glacier and some patches of snow. Having no other information than the guide book and some general info on the East Face, we carried 60 double ropes, and a full rock rack up to 2 inch. We also had axes, crampons and boots for the upper glacier and the descent and bivi gear (down jackets and a trap) for one night.


The first 600 m of the route were completely unprotected up to 5.8. Some slab that had a lot of loose stuff collected. Then more broken up face climbing at the traverse. We soloed the whole section because ther was virtually no gear. If there was gear, then the climbing was trivial.


The Exposure on this section was right in our faces with rocks buzzing by our heads and climbing several hundred meters off the deck.



The section in the above picture is kind of a gully that collected a lot of loose stuff. After some nerve wrecking climbing with heavy packs, we gained the Cataract arete and were blown away by this classic feature:



Solid rock and incredible airy climbing above Foster Lake. Mostly scrambling with some 5th class steps above nothingness. There was a neat "au cheval" section towards the top:



Then we gained the upper glacier around 1 pm.



We gained the Summit Ridge at 2 pm with weather deteriorating quickly. We headed up a few low 5th steps towards the Main Summit. The vis was low and a few rain drops fell and the weather did not look encouraging. We turned around at the last step to the main summit. Then headed south along the summit traverse to descend and gained the South Summit opn the way.



We descended the South Gullies by downclimbing and with one rappel onto steep snow in the lower gullies and downclimbed the snow onto the South Col.




Camp was reached at 8 pm, resulting in about a 12 h return trip. We started hiking out and bivied beside the trail at 1 am. Hiked the last couple km the next morning and had a couple Lucky Lagers at the car.


I would personally rate the route 5.8 X as it is largely unprotected and very exposed due to loose rock. The Cataract Arete is amazing. Some of the funnest scrambling I have done.


Cheers, Jan

Edited by JanD
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Nice work Jan,

My wife and I made an attempt some 20 years ago, going up by your descent route. We didn't bring anything but an ice axe in the way of gear and we also backed off the main peak not far from the top, mostly cause we wanted to live.


Rambler Pk. and Golden Hinde




Elkhorn Mtn. and Landslide Lake



Also, the lake below the east face is known as Landslide Lake from an event that occurred in 1946 the scars of which are still quite visable today.



Landslide Lake And Mt. Colonel Foster





Edited by k.rose
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yeah G-Spotter, that is what I heard as well about the Cataract route.

Apparently the first party on Expressway protected one pitch, the crux traverse. In 60 m they put 2 pieces in... I can't imagine that that was very solid pro either.


Treetoad: There was no snow on the trail. All the way up to Foster Lake (the frozen Lake at the base of the colonel) there were only a few avies to cross. The trail is as easy as it gets on Van Isle.


K.rose: Wow, cool pics. I tried to climb into the sadistic on Elkhorn mid last week. The weather crapped out though. We attempted to solo the Southridge instead for a quicker climb (that is the prominent right hand ridge in your picture of Elkhorn). Again, we got almost to the summit and then the weather crapped out. Started raining and we got the hell off that mountain as we had a few hundred meters of low 5th to downclimb.


Feck: Mt Cain is pretty cool, eh? If the snow is good, it is so awesome. I had one awesome weekend there in Feb. I like the relaxed atmosphere of Cain.


Cheers, Jan

Edited by JanD
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  • 3 years later...

Haha, i just read this. Nice report. I like the line "The trail is as easy as it get on Van Isle"... that's probably true, but the scamper around Landslide Lake was no give away.


I would also emphasis the X in Jan's rating for the first half. Although if it was dryer it would have helped. One of the best days of my life.

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