East End of Wendell (reconnaissance)
What began as an investigation for an approach to Association Peak became a reconnaissance for a route up the East End of Wendell Mountain. The reconnaissance led to a successful summit bid the following weekend and is the best-late season scramble I've done.
Here's how it unfolded. A month ago, on our hike up Association Hill, I had noticed a trail that was worth investigating. I wanted to return to see if it led to Association Peak although eight-hours of daylight precluded an all-out attempt on the mountain.
After hiking up the boundary cutline, we crossed the south fork of Old Fort Creek and took the unknown trail. Basically, this trail is a continuation of the cutline. It was a surprisingly good trail, although it seemed to have many unnecessary twists and turns. It also gained 100 m only to lose it all at Old Fort Creek.
We didn't go all the way to the creek, however. After reaching a small marsh it seemed pointless to continue. We had followed the trail far enough to see where it ended.
From the marsh we had a clear view all around including the east end of Wendell Mountain. The entire end of the mountain appears guarded by huge cliffs but I noticed a break that required a closer look.
We turned around and headed back up the trail. After hiking a kilometer, and regaining 80 m, we left the trail and started up the wooded slope. In a short time we were at the base of a crumbling cliff band that runs below the towering cliffs. We could have ascended nearly anywhere but since we had no helmets and there were some snow patches, we spent time routefinding for the easiest way up.
Above the cliff band, steep rubble led to the base of the huge cliffs guarding the top. Leaving Dinah behind, I scrambled up a chimney to view the gully we had studied from the marsh. A sheer rock face barred the way up to the gully but on the left it appeared possible to continue on. However, we turned back at this point. We were running short of daylight and it wouldn't have been prudent to go on without helmets.
Even though we didn't get far, the way up looked promising and when we returned, we would waste no time routefinding on the lower slopes.
Looking at the break on the East End of Wendell from the marsh (mouse over)
Reaching the base of the cliff band
Negotiating the cliff band
Going up a gap
Association Hill on the right
I went right around this rock outcropping while...
... Dinah scrambled up on the left.
Above the rock band are towering cliffs
Near the base of the cliffs.
Association Peak and Hill. In the bottom right is the marsh where we stopped to study the route.
Dinah looks at the cliffs that guard the top.
Dinah waits on a rock outcropping while I go to check the gully (mouse over)
To reach the gully, I scrambled up this chimney (mouse over)
Steep rock bars the way to the gully that we saw from the marsh.
Working our way back through the lower cliff band
I wondered if there is a way up this section of the cliff band.
The trudge back up the cutline
East End of Wendell
Leaving Dinah at home to nurse a cold, I returned to finish the climb that we started the previous week.
Retracing our route I reached the chimney in about 2.5 hours. After the chimney the terrain became more complex but two gullies looked promising. I settled on ascending the one of the left. It rose steeply until it ended in a rock wall with a few breaks, only one of which looked good. A 2.5 m section of vertical rock provided some resistance but after that I was tramping up the gentle shoulder that leads to the high point on the east end. I looked forward to not only reaching the top, but also getting into the sun. I had been scrambling in the shade and longed to see sunshine.
The hike to the high point was pleasant enough. I pondered continuing to the East Peak and descending its SW slopes to CMC Valley, but I had little reason to revisit the East Peak.
Also I had wet my pants. I better explain. I had forgotten to blow back the water in the tube of my water bladder and the water had frozen. After drinking directly from the bladder I didn't secure the lid properly and nearly all the water had drained, soaking the bottom of my pack and the back of my pants. An extended trip without water and with wet spare clothing in my pack was out of the question.
I returned to the end of the ridge to where I had scrambled up. I started down only to realize it ended in a drop off; I had picked the wrong spot! I climbed back up and found the proper spot a few metres away.
After that, I encountered no difficulties and arrived back below the lower cliff band. By now, the water I had lost had frozen. My ass was ice, my bum numb. But I was only minutes away from the trail that led back to my car.
Now I'm looking forward to returning in the spring with a lighter pack (no winter gear) and bare hands to try other scrambling routes and to explore the cliffs. The traverse (exiting via the CMC Valley) would be a great way to do the East Peak of Wendell Mountain.
View of the cliff band and cliffs from the cutline
A glimpse of the cliffs from the trail (mouseover)
Heading to the cliff band
Terrain above the chimney.
I ascended the gully on the left.
Heading up the gully
Two rocks, about 3 m high, one with two legs, partially obscure Association Peak
View from the other side of the two-legged rock. I climbed up the break in the middle
Hiking to the false summit
Looking back to where I had scrambled up (on the left).
Approaching the false summit
Looking back at the false summit
On the East End. The East Peak of Wendell is only 650 m away and 150 m higher.
Parting shot of the East End of Wendell from Yamnuska. I reached the centre point.
Panorama from the high point I reached
82 O/3 Canmore
Nugara | Canada | Home