Mount Goodsir, Center Peak

August 14, 2018


Ice River / Yoho National Park, BC

The center peak of Mt. Goodsir is not really a distinct peak by any measure but rather just a bump rising above the col between the North and South Towers. It doesn’t look like a summit, neither does it have an official name, nor enough prominence to qualify a “summit” but yet it’s included in the fabled list as a distinct 11,000er. For this sole reason I had to climb it even though I had a hundred reasons to not do this bump… Perhaps the only fact that makes Center Goodsir a little bit more legitimate to qualify an 11,000er is the difficulty in tagging this summit. It’s not a short detour from the North Tower nor the South Tower’s standard route. The climb involves 300 vertical meters of sustained and exposed 3rd-4th class climbing on choss that I felt the ascent of Center Goodsir is actually more sustained than on North Tower. The rock quality is better than the other two towers but in order to keep the climb within “4th class” grade one needs a lot of patience and some expert route-finding skills. It’s not as easy as you might think.

The Goodsirs via Ice River Approach

Earlier in the day Michel and I had climbed the North Tower but took longer than expected. We were running out of time to do the complete N-S Traverse of the Goodsirs so downgraded the objective to center peak only. This meant we would climb the central tower with a light pack and return to camp that evening, before climbing the South Tower by its standard route. The SW Face route on Center Peak wasn’t obvious so I again pulled the GPS out and followed Ben’s track. I had talked to Ben extensively before the trip and I knew his lines were solid and trustful. Michel took a line farther on climber’s left and our efficiency were about the same. Michel’s route is more technical but has more solid rocks, which I pretty much stayed on the lowest angled terrain. The texture of those rocks is down-sloping and the exposure is real. For pretty much the entire climb on central tower a mistake isn’t an option.

Crossing the glacier at North/Center col

Michel picking his way up the lower SW Face.

The terrain eases off a bit here…

Towerds the top 100 m the grade eased off but the trade off was the deteriorating rock quality. The “solid” rocks were replaced by some absolute garbage that broke upon a slight touch. At least the scrambling was mostly 3rd class at this point and the mental stress eased. I aimed farther climber’s left to gain the summit ridge as early as I could and then walked back right (south) overcoming some knife edges. Attaining the true summit involved some more detouring and exposure but again, nothing harder than 3rd class at this point. Asides the sight of the twin towers I found looking down the NE Face was just as intimidating. I bet the NE Face of Center Goodsir will never be climbed. It’s almost overhanging, for about one vertical mile dropping into Goodsir Creek.

Michel gaining the summit ridge

Further along the summit ridge.

Very careful work is needed…

Looking straight down the NE Face…

Me approaching the summit of Mt. Goodsir Center Peak. Photo by Michel B.

Me on the summit of Center Peak with South Tower behind. Photo by Michel B.

After some brief celebrating of my 50th 11,000er we started the descent. Time was getting on and we still had the south tower to do on the following day… Reversing the summit ridge required great care and descending the uppermost 100 vertical meters was mostly about managing loose rocks. Then into the “gully” feature on SW Face the grade became steeper and steeper. We had to pick up the fainted memories and think twice before making any move. Staying on route was very important and I think we did fairly well. Lower down we each down-climbed our own line and it wasn’t as hard as I thought. I brought rock shoes for these down-sloping rocks but never felt the need to use them. Once the scrambling was over we picked up the crampons and easily descended the dry glacier to the “high bivy” below North/Center col. The rest of the descent back to camp was easy going thank to the softened snow.

Descending this crack of choss immediately below the true summit

Then, reversing the summit ridge traverse

Down to the lower 4th class face. No mistake allowed

The North Tower of Mt. Goodsir

As you can see the terrain is very steep…

Off the Center Peak now, the ice walk was fun

Softened snow offered a fast way down. Our camp was a long ways below

In the end the climbs of North Tower and Center Peak took over 14 hours return from the “low camp”. Neither of us wanted to wake up at 4 am for a go at the south tower, but the alarm was set anyway. We did wake up, but we were too spent to tackle what’s supposed to be the most dangerous 11,000er. The new decision was to sleep in and we ended up sleeping in till past 10 am. That’s enough sleep but we ran out of time. The creative decision was to carry sleeping bags and stoves all the way up South Tower and sleep on the summit, if needed.