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Mt. Sir Douglas - East Ridge: 8/14/2013

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  • Mt. Sir Douglas - East Ridge: 8/14/2013

    We climbed the East Ridge of Sir Douglas on Aug 14 and descended via the West Ridge. We attempted a car-car ascent but missed it thanks to poor alpine start technique (ie laying in bed thinking about it) and nav errors on the way out (see below).

    The approach up to Robertson-Haig col is casual with mostly exposed blue ice walking on the glacier. We met another party there who had climbed the SE face the day prior (they summitted but experienced significant rockfall and lots of loose anchors). I would think cold fall weather might be better for this route. Hopefully the ascent party can post some conditions beta.

    The ridge climbing itself is actually not too bad. We took the first pitch up the left crack (as opposed to the ?very loose, foul gully?) as suggested in Selected Alpine. The rock was reasonable enough on the chimney sides but the first two pitches do have alot of loose debris in the bottom of the chimney, so watch the rockfall. After the gully you traverse up and rightwards to the ridge proper on quite loose but easy scrambling. Once on the ridge proper the positions are quite nice and the rock reasonable. There was one short compact headwall section that we bypassed on the left side of the ridge. At the final step the ?prominent crack? - appears to be the crack just right of the ridgeline.

    The descent was a whole other story. We took the West Ridge down. Neither of us had been on it before, nor been in the terrain on that side of Burstall Pass. I have no idea what Select is talking about regarding the ?short couloir? and the ?large couloir that splits the SW face?. There are gullys and couloirs everywhere, and all loaded with loose crap. The gullys seem to want to suck you down the SW face, which is not the way you would want to go IMO. We ended up finally finding some tat and followed intermittent stations down, each time we went down a gully, it seemed we needed to traverse back out to the ridge (skiers right). We ended up rapping alot (30m raps) as it was faster than downclimbing the very loose gullies. There was tat mostly where needed, at least enough to let us know we were headed the right way. Basically, we just tried to stick close to the ridge, and that worked out. There is bits of trail as you get lower on the ridge down to the col. Once on the glacier there was a large-ish ?shrund that was easily crossed on bridges. The lower glacier steepens quite a bit and is blue ice with melting out falling rubble. We stuck far skiers right on the edge which was still snow covered and much safer.

    From the bottom of the glacier the fun began. In fading light we tried to pick out the right way to go. We ended up finally loosing the light while side-hilling in the thick forest. We thrashed around in a circle for about an hour and then finally admitted defeat. I very comfy moss bivi led to morning and some cairns all of 10 min above where we were! The trail is quite indistinct, with only an occasional cairn. Basically the plan is to traverse around the spur that juts out west off of the long North ridge. We did this at about treeline level (occasional cairns) and it led around into a pretty rock strewn valley, where we picked up a trail on the scree on the south side. This led up to the back (east end) of the valley and ?South? Burstall Pass. (Note ?South? Burstall Pass is NOT marked on the map but ?Burstall Pass? is - that would be alot further!). It is a loooong way out off the west ridge!

    So if I were to ever do it again (I will not), I may decide to downclimb/rap the east ridge. It had lots of fixed anchors, almost every 30m, or within easy downclimbing. Some of the anchors would require beefing up so bring a hammer, pins, nuts and cord. Some sections would be really sketchy for rockfall with pulling ropes, especially the bottom two pitches. But, I think it would be faster and maybe safer than going down the west ridge.

  • #2
    Also the summit register is broken and it appears the rats have gotten away with the notebook and pencils. If anyone is heading up there and is so inclined all it needs is a cap to slip over the end of a standard 4" PVC pipe, paper and pencil. I suspect it will take many years to fill up a register!


    • #3
      Sounds like 'fun' Bryce! When we climbed SD in 2011 via the NW face (Anton posted a TR here: Sir Douglas NW face )

      we looked down the W ridge and it looked so crappy that we decided to just downclimb the NW face, and it was very quick if you have good conditions like we had (mostly styrofoam snow and a little bare ice).

      For anyone intent on climbing SD, I highly recommend the NW face for both up AND down if you have good conditions and are comfortable simul-climbing on alpine ice around 50 degrees. Get an early start and be off the steep part of the face before 10am and you should be okay with respect to rock fall. I think we got back to camp before 11 and did not see any significant rock fall. Though if it were all ice without the styrofoam snow, it probably would have felt more serious and taken us significantly longer.




      • #4
        We tried to follow the same couloir and gullies down the SW face of SD a few years back. May have been our rap stations you followed Bryce. I seem to recall we left some gear behind on the descent. If I were to climb the NW face again - I would definitely go back down that way as per JW's advice.


        • #5
          Dammit I wish I had looked closer at Antons TR before going. Your approach to the moraine over the hump rather than around looks much better. We did look at the ramp from up high, but wasn't positive it would go all the way up and over (and then down the other side). Obviously it does. Next time back there I would definitely use that way!