Mt Wardle North Tooth – North Ridge
It is now July 11th two months after Tobias and myself climbed the northern Mt Wardle tooth via the north ridge. Tobias asked me to write a trip report this evening and if any of you know me, you know that my memory is not the greatest. So here is what I remember from our May 7-8th, 2016 trip (attempt #2) of the Mt Wardle North Tooth. This was our second time into the valley. Attempt #1, which happened in January was a reminder that carrying heavy loads on skis through rough terrain makes for SLOW travel.
Attempt #2. We drove out Friday evening from Calgary hoping to get a glimpse of the route that evening. We stopped off in the “Pizza District” (AKA Bowness Rd.) to grab the dinner and breakfast necessary for such a trip. When we arrived in front of Mt Wardle on Highway 93 South we saw how much snow remained and it looked like way less than expected on the approach, but a nice snow ramp was still in. Which we thought meant easy travel up most of the way and we could bypass some rock. We continued on to Radium, to sort out and distribute our gear and to spend the night at the Misty River Lodge, which was not busy at that time of year. We saw one other person staying in the hostel in addition to the couple that was running the place. Both Tobias and myself remarked in spite of the excitement for the upcoming adventure, we had not had a good night sleep like that in a while. As the first day would be just getting to a bivy site there was no need to get an alpine start. After watching three bears and a moose beside the road we arrived at the parking lot/trial head. We grabbed our packs and headed into the bush at either 2:47am (photo time stamp) or 10:37am (spot text message). We followed the creek on the North side of Mt Wardle(Wardle Creek). After a couple of hours we stopped at a nice stream crossing our path. There we took a break and finally Tobias remembered to turn on his GPS to track our route up to the bivouac spot. We continued on for another couple of hours, finding intermittent trails ranging from really good game trails to blow down dead fall. At the base of the avi slide path coming down the north face of Mt. Wardle we took another break at the creek before the final push of the day up the snow covered avalanche path to the bivy. Initially we were thinking of bivying climbers right of the bowl below the ridge. But we decided to explore higher up finally setteling on a spot just wide enough for the tent on the ridge. I called the non-airy side and Tobias enjoyed the side with a view and a few small gaps in the ground going down the ridge to the snow field. We enjoyed great views and an even better dinner from the bivy and relaxed that night. The next day would be the climb to the summit and back to the car.
There was some discussion which route we would take, the snow gully or the ridge. The initial plan was to take the right or middle snow gully directly up to the head wall, but after feeling how soft the snow was, we ended up deciding to climb up the north-ridge.
We got up at 6 am and after taking the obligatory sun-rise pictures, having breakfast and sorting the last few pieces of gear out we were on the move by 7:30 am. The day started with scrambeling without being roped up as no reliable gear protection was available on the somewhat loose rock until we reached the first real pitch about two thirds up the route. Tobias lead up the pitch with sparse protection and awkward climbing. It felt like old school 5.9. After this first pitch we unroped again as there was more scrambling upto low 5th class terrain. There was a memorable gendarme type feature which was negotiated with extreme caution as it looked and felt more like a big pile of vertical gravel than real rock. The gendarme was definetly both interesting and engaging. This was climbed to the top and then carefully skirted on the climbers left and down climbed back to the ridge. We encountered a snow gully on the ridge but the snow was too soft so we stuck with the less then solid (AKA Sh*tty) rock again. We continued to scramble until the base of the final summit headwall. This is where the rope came out for another three pitches of technical rock climbing on quite a bit better rock than before, but still loose and with sparse protection. The first pitch of the headwall followed a left leaning ramp to its end and up a crack (5.7) to a gear belay. The weather turned from a mix of sun and clouds to graupel and snow during this pitch. The next pitch follows the right faceing corner crack, then heads out right until under an overhang, nogotiate the overhang on its right side (crux, 10a/b) and then follows the crack to a semi hanging belay off gear. Right when Tobias climbed through the overhanging section, the graupel shower went even worse which made for pretty cold hands and a bit of swearing on his end. The final pitch starts steep off the belay (5.8/9) always trending left and getting easier until the summit was reached and the weather turned slightly better again. After reaching the summit (Yeah! First Ascent!) we took photos and had a short time to reflect on the moment before it was time to move again, and drop down into the unknown. There were several rappels which started off with a slung rock off of the north side of the summit. We rappelled down the head wall which we had just come up aiming for the snow gully directly below. We had 50m half ropes and we rappelled down to a small ledge placed a 2 pin station and rapped down to the base of the headwall. We traversed skiers left along the base of the head wall and found a chock stone and backed it up with a pin and continued to rappel down the snow gully. Staying on skiers right of the snow we set another two pin station on this rappel had a stuck rope which Tobias freed in short order while I was setting up the next 2 pin station. We rappelled across the snow slope to a ledge. Once on the ledge Tobias introduced me to the figure 9 knot which was threaded through a thin tunnel thread in the rock providing a more even load distribution compared to just threading the cord through the tunnel. Although it looked pretty solid we decided to back this up with a 3/8 x 2in bolt as there was no natural crack close by to drive a pin in. After about 20min of hand drilling a 2” wedge anchoer was placed and we rappelled down the snow gully skiers right to one last 2 pin rappel. From there we scrambled down and treading skiers right to the bowl where we then headed back toward the ridge to climb up to our bivy site.
We took a few minutes to relax at the bivouac before packing up and heading down the slide path which made for great glacading/sliding. The slog back through the dead fall back to the car was uneventful but exhausting as we trended too far up-hill several times and had to back track towards the creek. We returned to the car by 10pm absolutly bagged, but satisfied having completed a journey that was started in January.