Dan Millar and I scrambled up Mount Arethusa (2912
metres) on 14 July 2001. At the start, we bushwhacked alongside the
outlet creek for awhile before stumbling upon a good trail leading up to
the meadows below the cirque. Near the highway, this trail actually
has a huge sign beside it, but it is camouflaged by the trees and easy
to miss. Dan flagged the trailhead on our way out. At the cirque,
we plodded up the requisite tedious scree slope and gained the col overlooking
Burns Lake before continuing north along the ridge towards the summit.
Not far along the ridge, we came upon an exposed 5-metre chimney that had
to be downclimbed--the crux of the ascent. Despite dry conditions,
the chimney still required some focus and attention as many of the hand/footholds
are downsloping and slippery. Other than one steep drop-off which
required a short backtrack, the rest of the ridge presents few problems,
and despite the seemingly endless number of false summits, we eventually
made it to the true summit. We had lunch here while watching numerous
parties scrambling up nearby Mount Rae.
For our return, we foolishly chose to go
down Alan Kane's optional descent route. As we worked our way down,
it became increasingly clear that this route was out of shape. The
alarmingly steep gully was choked with ice and snow with meltwater running
underneath--a most dangerous situation. Unfortunately, once we were
committed to the gully, there was really no turning back. Our ice
axes proved to be invaluable as we descended long stretches of crumbling
snow and ice. On a few occasions, the snow broke under my feet, and
I was only saved from a nasty slide when my backpack wedged itself between
rock and snow. There were also many spots where I was literally dangling
my feet in the air. After what seemed like an eternity, we eventually
reached the safety of the scree slope at the bottom of the gully.
In retrospect, we were extremely lucky to get down unscathed. A slip
on the steep slabs or rock/icefall in the gully may have resulted in more
serious or even tragic consequences.
Dan pauses after downclimbing the
crux (the cleft at right).
Dan stands atop a false summit.
Mount Rae is at right.
The terrain seen here is typical of
much of the ridge leading to the summit.
The Summit of Mount Arethusa
This is the harrowing descent gully.
Note the gaping hole in the snow at bottom right. The photo does
not do justice to the steepness of the gully.
Dan carefully works his way
down the smooth slabs.