Mount Begbie

A prominent landmark near Revelstoke, British Columbia, Mount Begbie is a deservedly popular climb with an excellent approach trail, a great campsite, and a highly enjoyable route.  Zosia Zgolak and I were invited by Wendy Kadar for a very leisurely ascent of this mountain over the September 2017 long weekend, and joining us were Pierre Fournier, Michael Schoemaker, and Marta Wojnarowska.  Michael had already previously climbed Mount Begbie, but he was quite willing to repeat the ascent with the present company.

After arriving in Revelstoke and spending the previous night at the condo apartment of Wendy's boyfriend, Andrew Chinnick, we all grabbed a quick breakfast in town on the morning of 2 September 2017 before making the short drive to the Mount Begbie trailhead (west side of Highway 23 about 10 kilometres south of the junction with the Trans Canada Highway).  From the parking area, the generally well-maintained trail climbs a staggering 1300 metres over 7.7 kilometres to a beautifully situated campground (three wooden tent pads, outhouse, no bear poles) near tree line.  It took us about 5.5 hours to reach the campground at a fairly leisurely pace, and although we had a lot of daylight left when we arrived, we opted to rest and relax for the remainder of the day.

The crux ledge is clearly visible even from town.

Here is Mount Begbie as seen from Revelstoke.

Good-looking bunch! All ready to go at the trailhead are (L to R) Marta, Wendy, Zosia, Pierre and Michael.
I talk to the trees...but they don't listen to me! Much of the first day is spent hiking up through forest.
Looks like an easy scramble... A rare break in the trees allows this unobstructed view of Mount MacPherson.
Mother Nature's dandruff?

These tow-headed babies (western anemone seed heads) look like a field of cotton.

Anyone bring a deck of cards? The group relaxes after arriving at the campground (1992 metres).
Boy, a beer sure would taste great right now! Sonny takes a nap in the sun while Wendy pitches her tent in the background.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

And there are still mosquitoes and other annoying bugs here. Most unusual for this time of year. Wildflowers are still in bloom along the creek that runs by the campground.

Might have to come back in the winter for a ski ascent of Mount Mckenzie...

Here is a view of Columbia River from a viewpoint above the campground.  The town of Revelstoke is at left while the ski runs of Mount Mckenzie are at right.


Definitely need to come back and explore these two up close! Ghost Peak (left) and Mount Cartier are a couple of intriguing mountains southeast of Revelstoke.
At daybreak on 3 September 2017, we ate a quick breakfast before hiking up to the moraines and karst pavements below the glacier on the northeast side of Mount Begbie.  We eventually worked our way to the toe of the glacier near the end of Mount Begbie's north ridge. We donned climbing harnesses and crampons here but did not bother roping up to climb onto the glacier.  A couple other parties were ahead of us and had trudged up the west side of the glacier unroped, and we all felt pretty safe doing the same.  Following the other parties' footsteps, we walked about 300 metres up the glacier before crossing a moat to reach a ledge on the sheer eastern wall of the north ridge.  I have heard that, in years past, getting onto this ledge was sometimes very challenging depending on the amount of snow accumulation in the moat, but on this day, we had no issues.  This ledge is the key to gaining the crest of the north ridge above lower impassable cliff bands.

The initial stretch of about 50 metres along the ledge is quite exposed, and while some climbers have been known to traverse this section unroped, most parties choose to rope up and make use of the belay stations here.  In our group, Wendy led the initial traverse with Michael belaying her from behind.  Once she was safely across to the final belay station, she secured herself there, and the rest of us followed one by one with Michael being the last to traverse.  Beyond the final belay station, we left behind all our climbing gear and continued along the remainder of the ledge until it was feasible to scramble up the crest of the north ridge.  Most of the remainder of the ascent is easy to moderate scrambling over large blocks of rock with plenty of cairns to ease route-finding.  We enjoyed a trouble-free climb to the summit, and the only disappointing aspect was the build-up of wildfire smoke in the afternoon which obscured much of the distant views.

After taking an extended break at the top, we retraced our steps back down the north ridge and returned to the final belay station along the ledge to retrieve our climbing gear.  Wendy then set up a rappel with two joined ropes, and Michael was the first one to go over the edge and descend to the glacier.  A moat at the bottom of the rappel proved to be a bit problematic, but Michael, with his long legs, managed get a foothold on the glacier and avoid dropping down further.  Michael stayed at the bottom for all subsequent rappels to help each of us swing over to the edge of the moat.  This was only my second rappel I have ever done, and the length of the drop was admittedly a little intimidating to me.  The rappel was also mostly overhanging, and when I started spinning a bit out of control in midair, it took me a moment to collect myself before I remembered to keep passing the rope through my belay device.

Wendy was the last to rappel, and after she and Michael collected the ropes, we all donned our crampons to walk back down the glacier.  Descending the toe of the glacier was maybe the most unnerving part of the day as we cautiously front-pointed down a very steep snow slope with only our ice axes to prevent any involuntary slides.  Fortunately, everyone made it down safely, and once we were off the glacier, we removed our crampons and easily hiked back across the karst pavement and down to the campground.  Although we could have packed up and hiked out that same evening, we elected to relax and stay another night.
Not exactly an alpine start, but we got all day! The group begins hiking from the campground on the morning of the second day.
Some people camp among these last trees instead of the campground. Zosia gets her first clear view of Mount Begbie as she proceeds through the last trees.
That smoke in the valley is starting to creep up! Marta is barely visible at bottom right as she hikes up the moonscape beyond the last trees.

I think they got off to a real alpine start!

Another party can be seen on the glacier approaching the start of the crux ledge.


Can you spot the three people on the glacier near the start of the ledge? The group approaches the toe of the glacier.
No need to rope up? No problem; I'll just follow along from behind! After donning crampons, the group climbs onto the glacier.  A couple on the distant snow patch are climbing without crampons.
I'm feeling strangely aroused looking at this... The group climbs past a small crevasse.
The couple that climbed onto the glacier without crampons are just ahead of us. The group makes its way across the glacier to the start of the ledge somewhere to the right.
I was surprised that we almost caught up to these guys after seeing them from far below.  A party of three ahead of the group is already traversing along the ledge.
This transition apparently can be tricky in some years depending on the accumulation of winter snow. The group approaches the edge of the glacier to reach the start of the ledge.
This spot is potentially dangerous if the snow in the moat collapses. Marta and Zosia climb over the lip of the glacier into a moat.  Note the beginnings of a crevasse at bottom left.
Be careful. Some of the big rocks here are loose and easy to roll. Pierre carefully descends into the moat between the rock face and the glacier.  Note the other climbers ahead on the ledge.
She's at probably the most awkward spot of the entire ledge. Wendy leads the way on the ledge traverse.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Somebody from the first group ahead of us inadvertently left their ice axe here. Marta took it across to the far side for them. Michael belays Wendy on her traverse while the other group members wait for their turn.
It's intimidating even when roped up! Zosia watches Pierre negotiate the most awkward spot along the ledge.
Nice butt! It is Zosia's turn to traverse the ledge.
You know, a fixed chain  la Yamnuska would probably save everyone the hassle of hauling ropes up here... Wendy watches as Sonny arrives at the end of the technical part of the traverse.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Again, anybody bring a deck of cards? Pierre and Marta wait patiently on the other side for the rest of the group to complete the traverse.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

The toe of the glacier and the karst pavement beyond look weird from this perspective. Leaving all the climbing gear behind, the group continues along the rest of the ledge which is now substantially wider.
Lotsa hands-on scrambling starting from here! The group leaves the ledge and begins scrambling up the crest of the north ridge.
If desired, you can easily find more challenging lines off-route! The route is well-marked and never more than moderately difficult on the north ridge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Can you spot Pierre in this photo? How about Zosia? The summit block can be partially seen from this vantage point along the north ridge.

So much more fun than scree bashing!

Scrambling from bottom to top are Marta, Wendy, Zosia, Pierre and Michael.


Mostly off-trail hiking at this point... The terrain begins to flatten out on the final stretch to the summit.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

The others need to invest in some brighter clothing! From here, Marta and her yellow pants are easier to spot than the others further up the ridge.

Congrats, everyone!

From L to R, Sonny, Wendy, Zosia, Marta, Pierre and Michael gather on the summit of Mount Begbie (2722 metres).


That darn wildfire smoke! In this view to the southwest, Davis Peak is barely visible behind the unnamed pointy peak at left.  Revelation Lake can be seen toward the bottom right.
Definitely worth some further exploration in the future... Most notable beyond Mount Begbie's lower west summit are Mount Tilley (pointy peak left of centre) and Mount English (distant left).
Revelstoke is unfortunately obscured by smoke. Here is the summit view of Mount Begbie's north ridge and the glacier below.
Apparently, some paragliders use the east summit as a launch point! Mount Begbie's east summit is adorned with some telecommunications equipment.
Maybe someday I'll be able to afford to visit the Blanket Glacier Chalet... Blanket Glacier is barely visible to the south.
Told you once before, and I won't tell you no more, get down, get down, get down... Marta follows the others down the north ridge.
Not as exposed as it seems in this photo! Pierre down-climbs one of the steeper sections of the north ridge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Simply sublime. This is the hanging glacier below Mount Begbie's west summit.
It helps to be tall with long legs here! Michael begins his rappel off the ledge.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Pierre's belay device was a bit too tight to his body making it hard to feed the rope through with his hands. Wendy and Zosia watch as Pierre lays back over the edge.
Looking like a real pro! Zosia is rappelling with a Prusik loop as a backup.
Shit, that's high! Michael waits below as Marta begins her rappel.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Momma told me there would be days like this... Sonny starts spinning in midair during his rappel.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Not sure if I wanna get more into technical climbing. I already have so many hang-ups as it is! Sonny finally rights himself and resumes his descent.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

She makes it look so easy! Wendy is the last to rappel down.
Sketchiest part of the day right here! Marta, Zosia and Michael back their way down the steep snow at the toe of the glacier.
Back on easy street!

The group aims for a large cairn on their way back to the campground.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... Pierre takes a well-deserved nap at the campground.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

The next morning (4 September 2017), we all enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before packing up camp and hiking out.  The descent through the forest was long but uneventful, and it took us less than three hours to make it back to the trailhead.  We concluded this trip with a nice lunch at a pub in Revelstoke before embarking on the long drive home.

Big thanks go out to Wendy and Michael for their technical expertise on the mountain and to Andrew for accommodating all of us in his condo apartment.
I hear a burger calling my name from town... Revelstoke is once again visible from the campground on the morning of the third (last) day.
Refreshing, isn't it? A short spur trail leads to this interesting waterfall not far below the campground.
A wonderful climb with a wonderful group! Total Distance:  22.1 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  49 hours 33 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  2043 metres

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