Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Kiwetinok Peak

This is the second day of our backpacking trip to Little Yoho. Andrea and her group went for Kiwetinok to Pollinger to McArthur, while Mike and I went for all 4. We grouped together for the first three though. Normally, doing steep snow climb in August requires early start, like 5AM. But we decided to wake up at 7... Anyway, if we woke up 1 hour later, we would probably fail Kiwetinok due to snow condition...

For those of you who haven't done these peaks yet, I highly suggest you to go Little Yoho in good weather day, not just because of the climbing, but also because of the views. This is one of the areas that can easily take your breathe away, so don't miss the views. Just look at the location, the west boundary of Wapta Icefield! For photographers, I suggest you do the traverse this way: Kiwetinok - Pollinger - McArthur - Kerr. Do Kiwetinok in the morning and Kerr in evening, so that you can get completely different views from these two mountains. That's exactly what we got.

Andrea's group started the day by doing a river fording. I tend to avoid these type of stuffs for as much as I can, so I hiked back to Stanley Mitchell Hut and used the bridge to cross Little Yoho River. This way I added 0.7km distance though. We regrouped and started the trudge to Kiwetinok Pass on a well defined trail, on a slow pace. Apart from several creek crossings, there's no difficulty on this trail. On normal pace you can get to the pass in 1 hour. At the pass, the clear water in Kiwetinok Lake provided good photographing opportunity.

I had the peak in my mind so I didn't take any break at the lake, but started the ascent towards the high col (Kiwetinok - Pollinger col) immediately. By using the snow, I could almost completely avoid the tedious rubble, which was a bonus. I would suggest you taking out your ice axe if you're not confident on snow. The snow was in good condition and I could kick firm steps, so I didn't bother using ice axe, and I felt my poles can give more balance. Snow got harder higher up, we trended more towards climber's right according to Kane's suggestion. From the col, I got the first head-on view of Freshfield Icefield.

The slope on Kiwetinok didn't look as bad as I thought. I took out my ice axe and helmet, and soon started the step-kicking. Andrea and Mike followed me behind, but the other 3 decided to stay below. The climb started easy, but got steeper soon as we gaining elevation. Based on Kane's photo, I knew there should be permanent ice underneath. So later in the season crampons will be required. For us, the snow was deep enough. To gain the rock ledge above, I had to traverse left. Coming up and down this part is the crux of the entire weekend. Even though the slope wasn't as steep as the giant NE face of Mt Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the run-out zone was much worse. An uncontrolled glissade would dump us to the rocks and cliffs below... I had to double check every step before moving to the next. We took our time here and three of us got to the rock safely.

From here to the summit, it was a matter of route-finding. Kane only mentions traversing climber's left upon reaching a rotten band of shale. That's obviously vague. I cannot tell the exact line we took. We first ascended straight up beside the snow, on steep ledges and slabs. Upon reaching a band that looks like the one Kane talks about, we traversed left. This band was loose and very exposed. A slip would end up with a fall, which would be really hurt... Further left, I bumped onto a very wet and slippery section. I had to fingers-down to help balance, while slowly backtrack for about 1.5m to safer ground. I told Andrea and Mike that we had to break through the rock band above now. We took slightly different lines from here up, but we all got to the summit without incidence. The highlight of the view was towards the distant Purcells and Selkirks, including the Bugaboos, Sir Donald, and Sir Sanford.

Due to the concern about snow condition, we didn't linger any longer, but started heading down soon. We had fresh memory of our ascending line, so we managed to retrace our steps down almost exactly, to the snow slope. Again, the terrain was very loose, and I carelessly dislodged a soccer ball sized rock, and watched it tumbled down the snow slope, then the cliff bands below... This is an example of doing an uncontrolled slide... Oh well... The snow got softer but was still okay to descend. I just had to kick further in to be sure. The next 10min was very awkward, as we were facing inwards while doing diagonal traverse. While I got to a safer position, I set a glissade which quickly brought me down to the col. Andrea and Mike followed me behind. We all enjoyed the glide though. Now the toughest part of the trip is over!! I could take a long breathe as I knew our trip to Little Yoho would be a success! We bumped into 3 mountaineers who traversed from Isolated Peak via Glacier des Poilus. They could recognize me though. They are Wietse, Kevin Papke, and Steve. After discussing about the condition on Kiwetinok, they decided to give it a miss due to the snow condition. Kevin talked about the plan on Saturday to Fisher Peak which caught my interest. After saying goodbye to them, we started the trudge towards Pollinger.

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Photos taken by Steven