20170722: Superhero Saturday (Wapta Mountain, Yoho N.P.)

17.7km, 8.5 hrs, 1400m elevation gain

It was a half sigh, half groan that escaped from Ben as he made his way up the rock. It was something between “gah!” and “argh.”

“Don’t come this way,” he called down from his position above, holding a rock with his leg to keep it from falling towards me. I was feeling really calm; he probably thought I didn’t understand, but I did, so I moved out of the way albeit maybe too leisurely for his comfort. “I don’t know how you would have avoided being hit,” he later said, calmly too, but with an expression that implied consequence.

When Bert asked if I wanted to join Mike and Ben and him on Wapta, I hemmed and hawed a bit. I was tired, not in a super cheery mood, and was antsy to spend my time getting in a rare run while my back was feeling good, instead of slogging up scree and a so-called climber’s scramble.

But I’m glad I joined; it was good company. Plus, despite the light rain, we enjoyed special views of major tourist attractions like Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake (#1 of 18 things to do in Yoho, according to Tripadvisor). Considering that the Wapta approach trail enters the Burgess Shale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for “exceptional preservation” of “the world’s first complex marine ecosystems”, we didn’t see many fossils underfoot.

Strangely it was the rubble and the snow that made this summit day most interesting for me rather than the crux of the scramble. I’m still processing things mentally, and it was most apparent today. After reaching the ridge we made our way across the base of the summit block; I’m still nervous on snow traverses, though in a way it was good to be “forced” to do it. I find myself thinking too much about falling and I become tense and my confidence wanes quickly. The crux itself had many good holds – some loose blocks we’d avoid on the way down – and from there it was a fun steep short jaunt to the top.

It’s not really my style to pose, except ironically 😉 but since Bert was taking forever snapping a summit photo I crossed my wrists in mock Wonder Woman. Ben was doing Green Lantern, and Mike kinda just put his hand on his hip. Whatever makes you feel like a superhero, Mike!

Wapta Mountain
View of The President and Vice President, reminding me of a collapsed cake…
Wapta Mountain
Ascent gully off Burgess Trail
Wapta Mountain
Summit panorama
Wapta Mountain
Heading down from the summit

Mike’s trip report:
“I went up Wapta with a strong group. It’s good to go, but you will need to cross some easy snow, with safe runouts. We got by without axes, but consider bringing one if there has been a freeze.

You can improvise quite a bit enroute to the summit block. The easiest line should be moderate scrambling, but it might be good to add some spice as a warm-up for the crux.

We ascended the first gully from the Burgess Pass trail. The second might be more direct, but ours worked fine. There is difficult scrambling in the gully, but the bail out to the right is easier. The gulley lead us to the grey band. We needed to traverse hard right to find a weakness. The weakness consists of two steep scree ramps separated by a rib. We scrambled the rib to avoid too much bashing.

Above this rib, there is another cliff, but the weakness should be visible, just right of center. Moderate scrambling.

The third and final rock band before the summit (cream coloured) can be breached from the left or right side. We went left to avoid snow.

A scree bash lead us to the summit block. We climbed left of the block, thinking it would be less toilsome. It wasn’t.

We traversed in front of the block to the far right end, then rounded the corner and traversed some more to find the crux pitch.

The crux starts with a 5 meter crack/chimney that is rated low fifth. It FEELS like climbing too. Exiting the chimney was the toughest move for me. I went right to lower angled terrain and found some cord that had been used for an anchor. Once I cleared the anchor, the worst was over. Rubbly ledges to the ridge.

The ridge starts as low-end difficult. Easy, but very exposed. It soon eases to a hike to the summit.

We returned the same way. I found the downclimb challenging, but my partners handled it with ease.”

Great day. The crux is as tough as Smuts, but not sustained.”

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