Mount Stephen was undoubtedly the highlight of my scrambles this year. Towering over Field, BC, it means climbing nearly two kilometres up! Because of the technical nature of the climb and the elevation, it requires good conditions. August provides the best opportunity to complete the summit, but even then, snow and bad weather often cause parties to turn around before reaching the top.
When we tried it last year – on the exact same day, August 25 – we aborted after ascending 1700 m because of ice and snow. A week later, after hot weather miraculously melted the snow and ice, another party made an attempt but turned back because of a sudden storm. I heard of two other failed attempts last year.
But on my second attempt the conditions were excellent. Mild weather had melted the ice and snow leaving the ascent route dry. The temperatures were well above normal. It was so calm and mild, that even on the summit we were comfortable in shorts and T-shirts. I climbed the building on the top and took a panorama.
After we began our descent, however, the weather turned and a thunderstorm moved through. Fortunately it passed quickly and little rain fell, but I was more concerned with the lightning strikes that were occurring. (A few weeks earlier, a fossil hunter in this area was struck and killed by lightning). On this trip, in the electrified air, my GPS receiver began buzzing. I hastened my descent until my GPS quieted. An hour later, I heard a crash and turned to see a cloud of smoke coming from a rock face several hundred metres away and watched rocks tumbled down. I assume it was a lightning strike. Soon after that, the skies cleared and the sun came out
Mount Stephen seen from Mount Burgess
Fossils seen from the trail
On the shoulder: Above are gullies that take you to the scree slope
Ascending one of the gullies
Trudging up talus to the summit block. The large rocks were loose so we wore helmets. Good
thing too. A rock turned under my foot and I spun upside-down and landed on my head.
My helmet saved me from any injury.
This photos shows the steepness of the slope
After the talus, the terrain becomes more interesting
A year ago near this point, just before the gully, we turned back (mouse over)
Looking up the gully full of ice
Going up along the gully: at the top, cross over and climb the rock face
Ascending some ledges
Starting up the face to the ridge after crossing above the gully
We climbed up cracks and ledges to the top of a ridge. An exciting climb
that's easier than it looks.
The summit hut can be seen above us
After the crux we hiked below the ridge crest to the summit
Spectacular basin on the south side
Gert, Dinah, Wayne and I on the summit. Gert brought rope and an ice axe but never used them.
Coming down from the ridge
82 N/8 Lake Louise
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