July 22-24, 2019
Mountaineering lists can be treacherous things. They often start out as a wishlist of peaks and routes, but can morph into a demanding voice that won’t leave you alone. They can be as short as a post-it note or a long scroll of optimism.
In September 2009, Chuck Young and I completed ascents of all the summits which create the Lake Louise amphitheater. We noticed at that point there weren’t too many summits left for the Moraine Lake amphitheater, so that became our next list. In July, we completed our tour of the Moraine Lake summits. Mount Tuzo had the honour of being the last peak our boots stood upon, and it seems likely that that was because it was the hardest one to access!
Everyone we talked to didn’t know a whole lot about Tuzo, except the peaks in the area are renowned for crappy Rockies rubble. The most certain route plods up Prospector’s Valley to Kaufmann Lake, then up the scree slope. From the Neil Colgan Hut (NC), there is a route that runs around the south side of Mount Allen and traverses the mindless scree on the west side to reach Tuzo’s SE ridge. When we were at NC a few years ago, I noticed an enormous prominent gendarme perched on the N edge of Allen. Maybe, just maybe, there was a ledge that would run along there. The only way to find out was to go ‘put our noses against it’.
At 0605 on July 22, Mike Dodge, Chuck and I reached the Moraine Parking Lot Zoo, but we didn’t get a parking spot until 0635! We reached the hut via the Perren route and spent a lazy afternoon before bedding down early. Starting at 0530 we didn’t need crampons and within 1 hour covered the glacier to reach the low point (552827) in the S ridge of Mount Perren. After some discussion we climbed up the broken ground and ledges of Allen’s NE ridge, but were unable to find a ‘magical’ ledge which would lead towards the gendarme; another party might have better success.
Pushing upwards until the light coloured rock band at the top of the snowfields barred progress, sharply to NW towards the SE ridge of Tuzo (which is clearly visible).
Slinging a large block, we put on crampons and did two 60m rappels down a snow couloir to a rocky promontory. The snow was still in quite good condition but some icy spots were showing through. From here we belayed each other to complete a slightly descending traverse to regain the NW ridge of Allen(543828). Our ice screws were very welcome as was the third ice tool we had brought along!
From here the route was fairly straight forward. We descended the ridge to the Allen-Tuzo col, and then up the SE ridge to Tuzo. Although the SE ridge looks like there are some significant gendarmes and rock steps, all of these can be passed fairly easily on the SW side. We gained the summit(538837) at 1300 and found that we were the first party to make a register entry since 2015.
After sunning ourselves for a bit, we retraced our steps. Down the SE ridge of Tuzo, partial ascent of NW ridge of Allen, climb the snow couloir, down the NE ridge of Allen and link to S ridge of Perren, and return to the hut. Fourteen hour trip, from hut to hut. We were anticipating the weather might breakdown, and were grateful to be inside for the wild thunderstorm with strong winds, driving rain, thunder and lightning overnight!
Mt Allen showing snow gully we descendedWe descended the Perren route to Moraine Lake the following day.
This route is so apparent (once you look down the snow couloir) that it seems likely to have been used before, but I haven’t seen any documentation so far. We did not see any slings or pitons either. The couloir is a potentially dangerous place. Soft snow will catch some rocks, but that’s not a certainty. If all the snow has melted, you would need to use a great deal of caution if using this couloir route.
Allan Main, Chuck Young, Mike Dodge