Next Step Women’s Alpine Camp 2011
30th Jul 2011Posted in: Blog 0
Next Step Women’s Alpine Camp 2011

We just returned from a fabulous week in the mountains with 4 keen and aspiring alpinists.  Wasn’t the worlds best weather but somehow we managed to get quite a bit done!  Starting in the Icefields, we spent a bit of time in the cook shelter going over skills as the weather decided which way it would turn.  As luck would have it, we managed to get out by noon and make our way to the Athabasca north glacier to really practice some skills.  Some cramponing, ice anchors, glacier travel and ice pitching was put into practice and as we left we felt ready to take on A2 the next day.

A great meal along with a good but short sleep had us waking up to rain.  It is always hard to motivate at 4:30am…but even harder to motivate when it is raining outside!!  After 15 minutes of humming and hahing..we finally got up.  As we hiked to the glacier the weather was still pretty iffy…but by the time we actually roped up and started pitching out the ice tongue, the clouds started to break!  The girls led their own ropes up the tongue and as it finally benched out we got into glacier travel mode.  The travel was pretty good and we had amazing views on the top of A2 along with watching a car sized cornice failure off the nearby ridge of Athabasca.

As we headed back down the glacier the bridges were starting to sag and we had one exciting poke through.  Back to the col, we decided to bag another peak and scrambled up Boundary as well!

That night we had to decide what we would do with our next day.  With no overnight freezing we knew we couldn’t try any of the technical routes on Athabasca or Andromeda, and we knew these women needed a more challenging route then the aa col.  We decided to head back towards Banff the next morning.

Another alpine start had us on the road by 6:30 and at the Mt Edith parking by 9am.  So far the weather was holding…we knew this was a bit of a late start for the peak, but so long as the weather held, we felt we could do it!  The hike up went quickly and soon we were pitching out the big gash on the south peak.  great leading by the ladies despite the small hail storm on pitch 2! My memory of the anchors was seriously challenged though, as we really couldn’t find the last one.  As we crested the ridge the skies released but only long enough to expose an amazing rainbow…pretty cool to be above a rainbow!

A long descent got us back to the trail where we had some great wildlife sightings…one good sized black bear and an amazing rack from an elk.  That night we had a late night chicken curry at the Castle campground, and enjoyed the memories from a big day.  That night Susan joined us as well for the final two days, so it was great to have the whole great finally!

Sarah holding antlers after Mt Edith

Ahhhh, what a great sleep in…and much needed!  We awoke at 7:30 and prepared packing for our journey up to the castle hut.  Once the legs started moving, they remembered the previous days but also found their rhythm pretty quickly.  The group broke into teams of 2 and Jenna and Robyn got their first trad leads on!  Everyone enjoyed the cool approach up the hut and were treated by sunny skies by the time we hit the hut.

Jenna doing first lead on Castle Mountain hut approach


As we sat out and enjoyed our views some bolts on the prow right outside the hut were discovered.  Sure enough there was a set of anchors at the top that I could not possibly ignore…and soon brave Susan and then Claire were being lowered down to try the climb. What an amazing setting.  We felt like a bunch of paparazzi shooting non stop as it looked so spectacular!

Claire Ellick climbing below Castle hut with Kirsten Knechtel belaying

We still managed to squeeze in some skills, gear placement and anchor building and most importantly got in a few rounds of my new favorite game…bananagrams!  Thanks Jenna:) Somehow we all made it work in that little hut and had a great meal and then packed ourselves in for a nights sleep.

bananagrams in Castle Hut, Claire Ellick, Jenna Nodding Robyn Duncan

The weather man was right…the next morning was cold, wet and well…slightly miserable!  There was snow on our little doorstep, but we were up there, so of course we had to try!  As we approached Eisenhower we had moments of views, and moments of hope.  The crew broke into 2’s again and started up the dragons back.  Of course climbing in boots on slippery wet and cold limestone adds a whole new dimension to the day.  Every did so well, whether leading or following, just being out there in those conditions and the eeryness of the fog surrounding us.  It was a cool place to be…but also very very cold.  After a pitch on the tower itself we opted to head down.  Everyone was wearing all their layers and we were psyched with how far we had come!

sonja findlater on the dragons back, Eisenhower

A fine burger at Eddies in Banff, had us saying our goodbyes in different directions. Thanks again crew for all your positive attitudes, willingness to learn and try lots of new things.  Good luck Jenna in your triathlon, Robyn for your trip to the Bugs, Claire for sending those sport projects, and Sonja and Susan for Aberdeen or the Bugs or wherever you girls get to!! Thanks again Sonja for being the best camp manager in the world:)

Off to the next camp…Rogers Pass here we come:)


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