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Several first ascents in The Waddington Range with Simeon Warner. August 2006.
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View on the flight in.
Hanging out at basecamp.
Tellot Dome and Serra 3-5 from basecamp.
Chaos: Quality rock in the Waddington Range.
Chaos: Simeon on the summit.
Chaos: Simeon traversing the summit ridge with the Serras behind.
Chaos: The Serras from Chaos Peak.
Couplet Towers, East Ridge
Back and basecamp - emergency repairs to the espresso gizmo.
Serra Three, Buszowski-Kippan Integrale
Ann Rynd becomes mandatory basecamp reading.
Mount Shand, The Madness of King George
Unicorn Peak, Southwest Ridge

"Fat Camp" in The Waddington

Simeon flew into SeaTac on Saturday evening. We hit up Safeway for two weeks worth of food and the nearest Mexican joint for some last minute carbo loading. This was a key phase of the trip, getting Simeon out of Seattle and away from women and alcohol.

Sunday morning we left Redmond first thing and drove with only a few brief stops; Cache Creek for lunch and Williams Lake for beer and last minute food. Twelve hours later we were at Bluff Lake and White Saddle Helicopters' hangar. We were too late to fly that evening so there was nothing to do but provide a bit of tech support for White Saddle's PC, which wasn't sending email, and to drink a last bottle of wine before trying to get some sleep.

We flew to the Radiant Glacier first thing Monday morning in perfect weather. Doing anything but climbing seemed out of the question so we left our gear in a pile where we'd unloaded it, grabbed a rope and some gear and headed off to climb Chaos Peak (2720m). Of course we got the scale of the place wrong and everything but the forty five minute scramble up the South Ridge took longer than we thought. The summit presented plenty of opportunities for sitting around and taking in the view of the north side of the Serra peaks, Tiedemann and Asperity.

What with all the driving and flying followed by actually climbing something Tuesday seemed like a rest day. We spent the day getting our basecamp together and testing important pieces of equipment like the espresso making gizmo. Most of the morning was spent sitting around looking at the Buszowski-Kippan on the north face of Serra Three and drinking coffee. Joe Buszowski and Bob Kippan climbed the B-K in 1981 getting above the Tellot Dome-Serra Three Col before bad weather forced them to retreat. An ascent made all the more impressive by the fact that they then walked out afterwards. The line seemed pretty safe although the lower section was somewhat serac threatened. Climbing the B-K and completing it to the summit of Serra Three was high on our list. We decided to give it a go and spend the afternoon getting ready for an early start.

Simeon and I don't really have a great track record with alpine starts. In fact we're right up there with Sleeping Beauty when it comes to getting up early… we suck, and we're a lot less easy on the eye. Wednesday morning was a prime example. After sleeping through not one but four alarms we woke up to find warmer temps than the morning before. The north face of Serra Three was quiet, but not quiet enough so we hastily changed our plans and headed off to have a go at the Couplet Towers (2970m). The guidebook said it was unclimbed, although this seemed doubtful given its location right above basecamp. Either way it would be an adventure.

The east ridge of the Couplet Towers proved a fun day out, lots of 4th class climbing and some easy snow slopes on the lower ridge followed by 5th class and some short sections of 5.7 on the upper ridge. There were a couple of harder moves and some very loose rock just below the summit but we found ways to avoid these on the way down. Again the summit gave good views of the cirque and we could see the B-K from the side, which made is seem a bit less intimidating. We descended the ridge and got back to basecamp early evening.

Another go at the B-K seemed in order. We spent the following day applying the Twight packing algorithm leaving lots behind as "The Waddington is so much warmer than The Elias Range". Well that was the theory anyway – food is so overrated. The next morning found us sitting below the north face of Serra Three waiting for it to get light enough for us to work out where the hell we were. Obviously there was a bit of over compensation going on here but when climbing under seracs early is good. Eventually we could see the schrund and Simeon took the first pitch up and leftwards to a stance above the crevasse. I led on further leftwards under the serac and then up onto the main face above.

After that it all started to blur. We reached the top of the lower ice face by about pitch six and traversed right through mixed ground onto the second face. Somewhere around pitch eight we discovered what a rock sounds like moving at terminal velocity. Above us the ice ended and the walls of Tellot Dome seemed to arch above. Simeon had just left the belay, a couple of small edges kicked into the ice. I was perched on the ledge hanging from two screws.The rock come out of nowhere, free falling from the headwall above. None of the usual clattering just a whirring like a passing express train. It sliced through the space between us. Simeon hurried off up the pitch – keen to get higher and out of the line of fire. Later, both being physicists in previous lives, we figured that a couple of pounds of rock moving at terminal velocity has pretty much the same kinetic energy as a bullet.

I've always found steep alpine ice to be a bit of a workout. By pitch ten things were starting to hurt and we weren't even close. The goal was to get to the base of the hanging glacier so that there wouldn't be much that could fall off on us after that. We'd made steady progress thus far and ground out the last seven pitches to just level with the bottom of the hanging glacier.

Being huge fans of a good night's sleep we were keen to find a bivvi spot. The route wasn't cooperating; we'd not passed a single comfy looking site for the Bibler since leaving the ground. Pitch seventeen, Simeon traversed onto the lowermost tip of the glacier crossing a huge crevasse in the process. The glacier didn't seem that promising but after some lively debate we decided it was probably as good as it was going to get. An hour or so of digging gave us a snowy platform just big enough for the tent. This turned out to be the only bivvi site we found on the face below the col.

The first order of business was to re-hydrate as both of us had finished our water a while back. I had the stove running on a shovel blade inside the tent with the pot balanced on it as per MSR's directions. Suddenly Simeon muttered something about "needing a container" and then dived for the door. Thankfully the stove drowned out most of the heaving noises coming from outside. I tried to focus on trying not to burn the tent down and be grateful that it wasn't now liberally painted with vomit.

We spent the rest of the evening drinking but skipped eating given Simeon's general feeling of unwellness. We contemplated what a pain in the butt rapping back down would be. Luckily the following morning Simeon felt better and we figured continuing would be a lot easier than going down. Originally we had hoped to link the B-K with The Hose, a direct line up the north face of Serra Three. The glacier was heavily crevassed and it seemed hard to believe we'd be able to cross it and climb directly up the start of The Hose, rather than traversing in from higher on the B-K.

In the end we opted to continue up the existing line and left the glacier for the line of the B-K. The route continued upward before traversing below the rock walls of Tellot Dome to reach the final couloir leading to the Tellot Dome-Serra Three Col. The climbing in the couloir near the rock turned out to be pretty good; plastic ice and good rock gear and some better belay stances. Even so after thirteen pitches we were still pretty tired.

The slope abruptly ended with the "flat" of the col. We pretty much threw out packs down a few feet over the lip and had a tent platform dug in a few minutes. The final pitches to the summit of Serra Three looked stellar in the evening light. Finishing the route at the col simply wouldn't have been doing it justice. Simeon was feeling a lot better and didn't attempt to redecorate the tent again so we were in good shape.

The following morning we left most of the gear and climbed light. It made a nice change to not be lugging a piglet up the last five or six pitches. The Northeast face lived up to expectations providing entertaining climbing with some steeper sections just below the summit followed by a rather unnerving unconsolidated, mushy final snow slope. We hung out on the summit and opted so skip the weird rock finger a few feet higher fifty feet away in favor of more gaping time and a head start on rappelling back to the tent.

We packed up our gear and descended to the Shand-McCormick Col via the saddle between the Tellot Spires and Eaglehead Peak. The glacier travel was pretty straightforward until we got to McCormick. The guidebook said the descent would take about half an hour and it looked pretty promising until we looked over the edge and discovered a severely melted out slope. With an ugly looking schrund at the base and a headwall that looked like about 70° we opted to rap. I guess that's what happens when you discuss "what's for dinner?" prematurely.

Six or so raps, including an awkward one over a huge overhanging schrund, and a bit of hiking got us to the Unicorn Col and within sight of the tent. We pushed on and just made the tent before nightfall. Serious eating got postponed until the following morning but we still didn't get to sleep until 1am.

After a day or so to recuperate we headed up to the Unicorn Col for a few more routes. We climbed a new route on Shand, The Madness of 'King' George (400m, D 50° WI3) on the east face of Mount Shand (3095m) and the Southwest Ridge (200m, D- 5.7) of Unicorn Peak (2909m).

On Shand we'd originally intended on doing the Gerbolet Couloir but that seemed like more of the same after the B-K so we picked another interesting looking line on the east face just left of the Shand-McCormick Col. The couloir narrowed to thin runnels of ice and looked like it might present some interesting mixed climbing. It didn't disappoint. The lower couloir we straightforward neve climbing but the upper sections were interesting climbing often on ribbons of ice no more than a meter or so wide.

The Southwest Ridge on Unicorn was supposed to be climbing in the sun on easy rock, how hard can it be right? A BCMC party had tried the same route but failed low down. After the first easy pitch we had stalled briefly at the same blank slab. Eventually I tension traversed over to a crack system and climbed that to the next set of ledges. The top of the hard climbing was maybe a rope length away. I sat on the ledge and paid the rope out to Simeon as he climbed the arête above. The rope stopped, eventually I looked up and ask for a progress report. Simeon was stuck below an overhanging offwidth crack with no prospect of getting up it.

Eventually I joined Simeon and the crack succumbed to combined tactics. Simeon graciously letting me stand all over him to reach the chock stone at the top of the crack. There was some muttering from Simeon about "personal space" here, something to do with me standing in his groin. The remainder of the climbing to where the angle eased went pretty quickly and from there we soloed or moved together to the summit. We rapped the route and got back to the tent. I managed to bonk really badly on the descent and Simeon had to force feed me bars and tea before we could get back to the bivvi and descend to basecamp.

We flew out the following morning a few pounds lighter. As a supposed consolation prize for an abandoned trip to the Elias Range in May this was better than we had any right to expect.

Summary and Notes

Ascents by Ade Miller and Simeon Warner during a two week trip to the Radiant Glacier in August 2006:

Couplet Towers, E Ridge, 2970m (500m, AD 5.7). 16th Aug, FRA?

Climb the snow spur and then scramble up 4th class rock and more short snowfields to reach the steeper climbing on the lower N summit. Climb some 5th class sections with some shorter steeper steps to maybe 5.7. To ascend the N summit stay low and to the right of the ridge until past the top and then climb up from the south side. Descend to the right to reach the notch between the peaks, there is no need to rap. Climb the loose wall from the notch to an obvious ledge system. Traverse left to the shoulder and then follow the narrow ledge around left until it broadens. Continue to the south side of the summit and climb easy cracks to the top. Reverse the route to descend with a couple of raps on the steeper sections. 12½ hours round trip.

Chris Barner and Paul Rydeen climbed the N Ridge a few years previously. The E Ridge has been rappelled and maybe climbed previously by an unknown party.

Serra Three, Buszowski-Kippan Integrale - finishing up NE face, 3642m (1250m, ED1 60°). 18-20th Aug, 2nd ascent, first complete ascent to main summit.

The route pretty much still follows the line as shown in Don Serl's guide and is relatively free from objective hazard. Cross the schrund by heading left under the overhanging serac on the far side but move back below the rocks after a pitch or so. 17p lead to a camp on the very left hand tip of the hanging glacier at half height. 13p to the Tellot Dome-Serra Three Col. A remaining 5p lead to the summit of Serra Three. Skipping the rock finger true summit we rappelled directly to the col. 3 days round trip. The original ascentionists were forced to descend from just above the col due to bad weather.

Linking with The Hose on the right hand side of Serra Three's north face is possible, and was our original intent. Climbing the hanging glacier is not feasible, it is massively crevassed with huge ice cliffs and a schrund below The Hose. Climbers would have to traverse six or more pitches to reach the base of The Hose from the bottom of the final couloir below the Tellot Dome-Serra Three Col. We opted so skip the weird rock finger a few feet higher fifty feet away in favor of a head start on rappelling back to the tent.

We descended over the Tellot Spires-Eaglehead Col and then down to the Shand-McCormick Col. Descending this late season is a lot more involved than the guide implies. The upper headwall is 60°+ on the McCormick side and the schrund was nearly 10m high with a 1-2m overhang on it. The Shand side looked less icy but still sports a large schrund.

Mount Shand, The Madness of 'King' George Couloir, 3095m (400m, D 50° WI3). 24th Aug, FA.

The couloir immediately left of the Shand-McCormick Col, see top photo on p435. The upper half of the couloir had a lot less snow than in the picture, much of the ice climbing being on ribbons no more than a meter wide. Cross the schrund and climb 150m of 40° neve before the couloir narrows and steepens. Three pitches of 50° ice and a half pitch of WI3 leads to the summit ridge. The ridge is 4th class with some awkward down climbing to cross the final notch to the summit. We descended the SW Face route (PD). 6 hours to summit from Unicorn Col.

Unicorn Peak, SW Ridge, 2909m (200m, D- 5.7). 25th Aug, FA.

Ascend scree to the foot of "the fin". Bypass the fin on the left via easy cracks for half a pitch to a notch below a blank slab. Tension traverse into a crack system on the far side of the slab and climb this for another half pitch to a stance below a blocky arête. Climb another half rope length to a heinous overhanging off-width. Use "combined tactics" to surmount the crack and climb another half pitch to the top of the ridge. Another hour with some exposed 5th class got us to the summit. Either descend the route, two raps, or (easier) descent the SE Gully or SE Face routes. 6 hours round trip from Unicorn Col.

Further details can be found on www.bivouac.com and in Don Serl's excellent guidebook.

The Waddington Guide: Alpine Climbs in one of the World's Great Ranges, Don Serl, Elaho Publishing www.elaho.ca.