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