Mt. Victoria South Summit - SE Ridge (II)
Date Climbed: September 27, 2014
Mt. Victoria's SE Ridge route
3464m (11,365 ft)
Latitude 51.378333 Longitude -116.303333
Elevation gain: ~1,700m
Getting there (from Calgary):
Head down Highway 1 to Lake Louise, continuing west along the highway beyond. Keeping towards Yoho National Park (do not turn north on the Icefields Parkway), the large and popular turn off to Lake O'Hara is seen, and followed. Park at the Lake O'Hara trailhead.
*Note: Contact the ACC for reservations for the bus ride up, and for the Abbott's Pass hut well in advance of your trip (at least a week). The 8:30am bus is not usually as full, thus making it easier to get on it.
The hike in (to Abbott's Pass):
The hike starts directly at the Bus drop off, and heads around Lake O'Hara. Follow a great tourist trail for about 20 minutes where the trail will split off (there's a sign for Abbott's pass) - take the left fork and follow it to Lake Oesa. From Lake Oesa (60-90 min) follow a good trail through the scree slopes above that will lead you easily through rock bands and into the Abbott's Pass gully. A number of beaten down trails lead up from here, but you'll find one that's fairly obvious. Follow it, and the blue-yellow markers up to the top of the pass. Oddly, you can't see the hut until you're standing about 50ft away from it.
Gaining ridge top: Starting directly behind the outhouse, you reach a yellow rockband of good quality. A weakness starts on the right, then angles left where you can scramble (4th class) up on good rock to more of 3rd class scrambling terrain above. A number of cairns are visible as you move up the face, following a good system of ledges and semi-solid rock. Watch for loose rocks, although this has mostly been cleaned up due to the popularity of this route with guides. Head up to a 10m high rock wall of sorts, where you can scramble up to a good ledge at 3m, and circumvent it climbers right to a weakness. A piton with cord (2014) is here to protect it if needed.
Above the rock wall, and more scrambling terrain, you will cross a larger snowfield area, aiming for a rocky corner. Circumvent this corner on steep terrain (we roped up here) - serious 4th class scrambling leads to a great anchor point (cord and mallion) at about 45m - this will be a key piece on the way down as you'll rappel from here. More 4th class scrambling terrain leads to the top of the ridge above.
Ridge to Summit:
Walk across, reaching many many false small 'summit's that necessitate some down climbing on steeper ground. if the snow is good, then this is easy. if icy, this could be a problem. Reaching the sickle is fairly straightforward. the sickle itself is less intimidating than perhaps you've read on other reports. Snow slope down on this particular trip was easy heel-stepping, on perhaps 30-35 degree slope. the exposure on it was far less than we had all thought. Again - if icy, this would be a different story.
once beyond the sickle, scramble back up a good weakness to yet another ridge feature, and keep going, aiming towards the base of a rock wall. Traverse under it's base, and scramble up with slight difficulty to another ridge top. Again aiming for yet another (and last!) rock wall, find a gully system leading to it's top (large, easy to spot!) and scramble up to the crest. Following the rest of the ridge to the summit is straightforward, albeit slightly exposed at times. A "walk in the sky" description has been used in the past - this is the part that refers to it - it's pretty incredible if you have clear skies. If you're comfortable with a maximum of 1 meter for a walkway, then you'll be fine here until the top. Enjoy the views!
Descent the same way, using the rap station as mentioned in the "gaining ridge top" section above - If you have 2x 60m ropes, you can reach the main slopes below (with about 5m to spare). With 1x 60 ropes there's a secondary rap station right below you at 25m. Go straight down - you'll see it. Same color cord. This is the only/last rap station. No other rap stations on the decent which makes the decent bit fairly tricky at times. The exposure can also get to some folks if you aren't used to it. From this point onwards, you're scrambling down to the hut.
Car to Abbott's pass: 3-4hrs
Hut to Hut: 9-14hrs
hut to bus pick-up: 2-2.5hrs (last bus is at 6:30pm! Miss it and you're walking the 12km road back to the parking lot)