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JeffreyW

[TR] Mount Waddington - Bravo Glacier, SE Chimney, Angel Glacier 7/5/2016

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Bravo/Angel Glacier, SE Chimney Direct, TD- (V), 50deg snow, 5.8 (all ice/mixed, ~M3-4 AI2-3)

Scribe/Photos/Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright

 

After several weeks of indecision for our summer climbing trip, trying to follow good weather but only finding unstable weather everywhere, we finally decided to head out to the Waddington Range in central British Columbia. Mike King, the illustrious pilot for White Saddle Air is very accommodating and was able to get us out there at the last minute.

 

At 13,186ft tall, Mount Waddington is the highest peak in British Columbia and a Beckey 100, what's not to love? The technical climbing lies in the final 900ft on the mountain's Summit Tower above 12,300ft, which requires some amount of acclimatization.

 

We were optimistic and set our sights on the Waddington Traverse, a classic, intense enchainment of the area's most foreboding summits (Waddington, Combatant, Tiedemann, Asperity, and the Serras). With marginal weather in the forecast, we scoped out our bail options along the traverse and decided to go for as long as the weather would allow us. In the end, the weather was so terrible that we summitted Mount Waddington on July 5th and traded additional peaks for wet, stormy, miserable festering for several days on the remainder of our trip.

 

The stoke was high on July 1 when we got off of work on Friday, so we decided to drive the 11hours to Tatla Lake (in the boonies of central BC) over Friday night. White Saddle Air was promptly able to get us out onto the Tiedemann Glacier near Rainy Knob which sits at the base of the Bravo Glacier on the South side of Mount Waddington.

 

The goal was to climb the Bravo Glacier to the summit pyramid of Mount Waddington, climb the SE Chimney to the summit (the 'standard route'), then descend the Angel Glacier to the Waddington-Combatant Col, an aesthetic carryover/traverse of the great mountain. The first two days (July 3-4) were extremely low visibility with a thick overcast that would occasionally let up. So we effectively navigated for two days on a complicated glacier via the arrow on our Suunto watch (pre-recorded tracks) and the iPhone Topo Maps+ app as a backup. July is still early season for the Waddington massif, and the glacier travel is notorious on the Bravo and Angel glaciers even in early season.

 

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View of Tiedman Glacier (middle), and Bravo Glacier with Rainy Knob (left)

 

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Above Rainy Knob

 

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Navigating the Bravo Glacier in low vis

 

Lots of wallowing and sketchy, circuitous crevasse crossings brought us to the giant looming cirque of steep snow and rock above the Bravo Glacier, called The Cauldron. The notorious bergshrund crossing to mount the steep snow passage was relatively easy thanks to our early season arrival. About 100m of 50deg snow takes you up to the southeast ridge of the mountain. Above The Cauldron, we set up our first camp in the Bravo Col just behind Bravo Peak: exposed, windy, but flat.

 

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The Cauldron and the steep snow passage to the southeast ridge

 

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Camp 1 at the Bravo Col

 

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High up on the SE Ridge above Bravo Peak

 

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View across the Tiedeamann (left to right): Combatant, Tiedemann, Asperity, Serras 1-5

 

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Bravo Peak/Bravo Col (left) and Spearman Peak/Spearman Saddle (right)

 

After a windy first night that made us feel like we were in the Star Wars trash compactor scene, we woke to thick clouds, low visibility, and variable winds. Since we only had half of our glacier slogging behind us, we figured we would make the most of a crummy day and shave off some of our summit day elevation by plodding up icefall and glaciers with only our watch to guide us through the thick haze. We could barely even see our feet on the ground. The going was slow, but we shaved quite a bit of elevation off our summit day and set up our second camp at the Spearman Saddle, another notable flat spot on the southeast ridge. We called back to White Saddle on the radio and got a report that the following day would finally be a good weather day, so we boiled lots of water, got lots of sleep and set ourselves up for a summit push the next day.

 

The third day (July 5), we woke up to blue skies, calm winds and our first view of the summit after two days of slogging up a glacier in overcast conditions. To our surprise, the summit pyramid was covered in rime ice and snow. This is supposed to be up to 11 pitches of up to 5.7! Don Serl says of this route in his guidebook, "When rimed, all bets are off!" But for us, it just looked like fun ice and mixed climbing with good practice for Cerro Torre. The route starts with "3-4 pitches" of class 3-4 on a rock ramp below one of Waddington's sub-peaks called The Tooth. Of course, this was all snow and ice.

 

The bergshrund beneath the ramp was completely open, except for a thin, chandelier step of ice to gain the snow ramp (maybe AI2-3, 20m). Most parties don't come here with 2 tools per person, but it was necessary in these conditions. It also looked like the ice step could be bypassed by taking a mixed gully climber's left then traverse back right to get back into the snow ramp.

 

Thick clouds would still come and go, covering the entire Summit Pyramid in a grey veil, so we sat at the base for an hour waiting to get a good view of the route and making sure the weather was going to grant us passage. At the late hour of 1:00PM, we started climbing the ramp, crossed "the notch" between The Tooth and the Summit Tower, and climbed a blocky, low-angle ridge to the base of the SE Chimney all in 2 simul-pitches.

 

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View of SE Chimney route

 

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Open bergshrund beneath the ramp: start in the thin vertical ice on the left to gain the ramp

 

The SE Chimney is about 60m of "5.7", which was then pasted clusters of rime ice and snow. Two crux chock stones provide entertainment in the chimney so we each took one of these clean leads.

 

Jeff took the first chockstone lead which had a stuck rope in the thin ice spilling over the precarious block. Chipping away a few inches of the rope from the thin ice and girth hitching a runner to the exposed rope seemed like a bomber way to protect this part! Several stem moves against the chimney walls, two good tool sticks, some quick breaths and a pull up on two tools got you on top of the chockstone and up to someone's bomber 1-piton anchor.

 

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First chockstone pitch: climb as a stem chimney with thin ice

 

Priti took the lead on the 2nd chockstone which is an icy, tight squeeze and mostly a psychological challenge: grasping for picks above the hole with your crampons dangling mid-air and kicking in vain for any purchase.

 

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Second chockstone pitch (icy squeeze)

 

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Top of the chimney above the second chockstone and just below the Chimney Direct pitch

 

Above the chimney there are several options, and we took the fun, obvious Chimney Direct as opposed to circuitous, easy snow ramps (also, we just couldn't find the "easy snow ramps"). The Direct Finish is 20m of 5.8 (felt like M3-4 as a mixed pitch) with 3 bomber pitons which can be used as aid.

 

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The Chimney Direct short pitch with 3 bomber pitons for aid (5.8-ish clean without rime)

 

Above is just two 60m pitches up easy snow to the summit (rope drag forces you to pitch it out). Sure, we had fun, but we were so ready to get the funk out of there. So we snapped a few pics and started the rappels. Honestly, we had a few moments where we considered bailing early because it was so dang cold, it was so late, and we were so exhausted, but we had no legitimate excuse with clear skies, no wind, and no precip. The fear of quickly oncoming nightfall should never be an excuse to bail!

 

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Snow slopes above the chimney near the summit

 

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Summit Smiles!

 

The Chimney can easily be rappelled as one 60m rappel (starting at the base of the Chimney Direct anchor) with minimal risk of rope stuckage. The rest of the low-angle rappels proved to be much more difficult. Most parties rappel the "Wadd Hose" (Harvard Notch Direct), but we were worried our 60m double ropes wouldn't make it over the gigantic bergshrund under the Wadd Hose, so we rapped the 3-4 class ramps below...all...night...long. Folks, a little tip, never rap anything lower than 5th class, instead just downclimb it. At the time, rappelling felt natural because 3-4 class terrain in mixed conditions in the dark feels really hard! We definitely wished we had taken the normal Wadd Hose rap route, and instead shenanigans ensued filled with stuck ropes galore. We pulled down our last rap at the bottom of the bergshrund just as the sun was rising on a new day. It was a long cold night, but at least the weather held out!

 

Note: The Wadd Hose (Harvard Notch Direct) route is OUT! The bergshrund is fully open and detached. If you're going to rap the Wadd Hose, then aim to exit the climber's left side of the bergshrund (narrowest and least overhanging on its left side).

 

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The Wadd Hose (standard rappel route from the Notch) is completely out for climbing; if rappelling, rappel climber's left

 

The fourth day was equally beautiful, and we set up the Direkt 2 for a nap bivy under the Summit Tower before descending the Angel Glacier via the Firey Route. Around 4:00PM we headed along the base of the Summit Tower up a steep snow/ice couloir ("The Stroll") to gain the upper portion of the Angel Glacier. This couloir actually proved to be one of the cruxes of the whole route: steep, sustained ice.

 

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Heading up "The Stroll" to gain the top of the Angel Glacier

 

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"The Stroll" up to the NW Summit

 

Descending the Angel Glacier was a long, fun exercise in knee-deep plunge-steeping. The Angel Glacier angles sharply in a heinous maze of sketchy seracs and pencil thin snow ramps and bridges. This is the most dangerous portion of the whole trip with seracs ripping down at all hours of the day. Clouds kept rolling in and reducing our visibility to nil. So we would batton down the hatches and open bivy until we could catch a glimpse of the one sketchy line down this death trap, take a picture of the maze, memorize our route (which turns, which bridges, etc), hold our breaths and gun it down to the Waddington-Combatant Col. The Angel Glacier requires really good visibility to get around the seracs (going up or down).

 

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Descending the Angel Glacier

 

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Gnarly serac descent down to the Col from the Angel Glacier

 

We had 4 more days in our trip to attempt the Traverse or at least climb Combatant via the mega-classic Rock route Skywalk, but instead our luck ran out and we festered 3 nights/2 days in a terrible snow storm and got an early ride out. Our little Direkt 2 tent barely held up, but was a trooper for sure. A few nights, we didn't sleep at all because we were propping up the poles and walls (even with lots of guylines). The Waddington-Combatant Col is and exposed place to bivy, subject to high winds, but safe from ice/rock fall.

 

On the seventh day (July 9), the ceiling lifted just enough to get the chopper up to the high Col where we had our pathetic bivouac on this gigantic, football field wind tunnel. The views out were stunning! It was quite an adventure.

 

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Looking down the Waddington-Combatant Col at the rappels

 

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View of stormy Combatant from the Col

 

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Waddington-Combatant Col

 

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Campsite at the Wadd-Combatant Col (Bravo Peak to the right)

 

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Aerial View of Bravo Peak and North Face of Mount Waddington

 

Gear Notes:

-Standard Rack, 2 KB's, 2 ice screws, 1 picket

-2 ice tools + vertical mono-point crampons (per person)

-Double Ropes (due to the high likelihood of stuck ropes)

-Suunto GPS watch with pre-recorded tracks (clutch!)

-Topo Maps+ app with maps downloaded

-1 hiking pole for lead glacial slogging

-Didn't bring snowshoes or skis, but we were wallowing knee deep about 40% of the time. Snowshoes could be useful if doing glacier routes.

-White Saddle Air provided us with a complimentary radio. It was quite heavy, but in the end, we were SO GLAD that we had it. It was invaluable to call back and get weather updates every day and also change our pickup location when weather prevented us from getting to our originally intended pickup spot. Highly recommend taking their radio

Edited by JeffreyW

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:rawk::rocken:

 

That sounds equal parts awesome and awful. Nice work guys

Edited by Devin27

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Wow, sounds like quite the adventure. Dunno if I would have wanted to be going through that glacier with zero visibility like that! I like this quote...

 

"The fear of quickly oncoming nightfall should never be an excuse to bail!"

 

Sounds like a sound philosophy! Can't wait to see the pictures.

 

Edited by ilias

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Waddington has been on my list for years, but ...... it sounds like the glacier travel is getting bad, even early in the season. And that summmit, yikes.

 

I may still have to go in there though, if only to give it a shot.

 

Would love to see your photos!

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Timeline I wrote while festering:

 

2nd July, Sat: Drove up to White Saddle AS. Weather bad, wait for tomorrow to fly.

 

3rd Sun: Flew out to Tiedemann Glacier via helicopter, departing @ 8:20, arriving on glacier @ 9:00. Over shot Rainy Knob a bit (make sure to point it out to your pilot) Hiked 1 mile back down glacier to Rainy Knob. Steep snow up to knob. Crevasse traversing in spotty, windy, snowy weather. Spotty visibility. A couple hard crossings above Rainy Knob -> Cauldron. Up steep ice section, bergschrund no problem. Then Wallowing, then rock, thin ice. Wallow + crawl up col. Camp @ Bravo Col.

 

4th Mon: My boots soaked. Weather windy & very snowy. Left around noon for Spearman Saddle. Very poor vis. camped at Saddle in rain/snow. Called White Saddle AS for weather.

 

5th Tues: Woke to good weather. Packed up and left by 6. Easy snow to bergschrund. Left one pack @ base. Tricky ice start over 'schrund. Simul in 2p, to Notch and beyond into chimney. Jeff led first pitch, tricky ice stemming + rock, fixed rope. I led squeeze chimney, like being birthed, upwards, with no motherly help. Continued up corner, on edges, no pro. Jeff followed, hauling pack. I led straight up the Chimney Direct, 3 pitons. Then led easy snow 2p to top. Beautiful weather!!! Simul rapped to Notch, so easy. Descended our route up. Not a good idea, w/o down climbing. Set up camp and slept. Weather still good.

 

6th Wed: Slept until 14:30. Weather good: Sunny, no wind, clouds in valley, but none high. Packed up to descend Angel Glacier -> Firey Route. Traversed over schrund on Stroll, icey in spots, good to have crampons and tools. Up couloir, ridge, down Angel Glacier, so easy, wallowy. Descended into clouds, whiteout, couldn't see way down. Easily found the one bridge over the first crevasse. Traversed in whiteout. Waited. Finally got vis. Found the one bridge over the 2nd crevasse. There were more gaps than ground. Tricky. Traverse to bridge to 3rd section. Kept going skiier's right to cross bridge to ice fall debris field. Traverse right down snow slope. Mostly home free! Hiking until midnight to Combatant Col. On & off vis. Would be very hard with no vis.

 

7th Thurs: Exhausted & socked in. Sleeping and hygiene. Called for weather. Supposed to stay bad.

 

....... bad storm that night.

 

8th Friday: Weather still bad. Went to look at rap stations for Combatant Col. Seemed ok descent, but would like better weather, continue to wait. Festering.

 

9th Sat: Weather lifted enough to see into the valley. Clouds still close at 3300m. Got a lift out, by heli @ 7:30. Flew around the mountains for pics. Drove back to Seattle.

 

Of course all the photos we have were taken when the weather was BETTER THAN USUAL. ;)

Edited by Priti

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You have some awesome pics on your TR's. What camera do you use?

 

Thanks Jeffrey, glad you like the photos! I don't use anything special, mostly a Canon Rebel T1i or sometimes a Canon S120 P&S. The real key is to shoot RAW and post-process in Lightroom to make them pop. The eye is much more discerning that the crappy sensors on my cameras and the photos need a little work to match what ones eye renders. The new Sony sensors (in high end Nikons as well) are much better (more than twice the dynamic range!) and hopefully I can upgrade in the next couple years.

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Wow the Tooth seems tougher to climb then when I was up there last! And to think all this is just off I90! :laf:

 

Just kidding....AWESOME photos...thank you for sharing!

 

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Man it looks like an awesome trip with some really cool climbing!! And to think you had the whole place to yourself :) Congrats on the trip, and really nice pictures! Apparently I need to put this area on my future climbing list.

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Outstanding! :tup: :tup: Terrible weather forced us to bail on Waddington due to avalanche concerns. Amazing photos, I love the gloomy feel.

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