July 4, 2015
Yoho – Lake O’Hara, BC
Mt. Huber is one of the 7 11,000ers in Lake Louise/O’Hara group. It’s the lowest among those by elevation but looks equally impressive when viewing from Lake O’Hara. It appears like a giant towering rock buttress in front of the jagged ridge of Mt. Victoria. The standard route up this mountain involves Class 4 scrambling on Huber Ledges, a short glacier crossing and then steep snow climbing on the upper mountain. Ferenc, Ben and I climbed it together with the nearby main summit of Mt. Victoria in 1 day, car to car without the scheduled bus shuffle.
After coming down the W. Face of Victoria we immediately focused on our next objective. The snow was getting slushy in the afternoon and the slope on Mt. Huber appeared to be steep and thin. We had two sets of tracks to follow with one leading straight up the glacial ice. It’s apparent we’d take the other set of tracks but that involved crossing a very sagged bergschrund on questionable snow. I actually took out the probe and the snow depth appeared to be fairly thick, so despite the slushy condition we all crossed that bridge with no incidence. After that things started to get a little bit interesting as the snow depth dramatically decreased. There’s at least one section we actually had to front-point on the ice (covered by a thin layer of slush), but thankfully condition improved higher up.
The terrain never got overly steep and soon we stood on the top. Some weather was starting to move in at this point but the views were still great. This is a great vantage point for the W. Face route on Mt. Victoria but it’s nearly impossible to pick out the exact like we took… Due to the concern with weather and conditions we didn’t linger any longer than necessary and immediately started the down-climb.
Normally for this slope we would have just plunged down since it’s not very steep (40 degree ish at Max), but given the thin slushy snow we opted to down-climb facing inwards so less chance of making a mistake. Re-crossing the ‘schrund was a bit interesting. I think we all had a few knee+ deep post-holing on the schrund but nobody broke it through. Shortly after we were back to the glacier. Thank to the condition again we lost our tracks and I led the group descending too far down and had to backtrack after putting one foot into a hidden crevasse. We reversed the line and Ben excellent led us back on track using his GPS and soon we were off the upper glacier. Down-climbing the rock step (with crampons and ropes still on), and then crossing the lower glacier we were back to the dry ground.
Coming down the Huber Ledges we paid close attention to route-finding. We managed to stay on the path for most of the way so it went by pretty fast. At the crux Ben and I figured might as well just use that 2-bolt anchor for a 20-meter rappel. We brought two 30-meter ropes so that’s long enough. Ferenc forgot his belay device but on the upside he searched around and managed to find a less troublesome route than the one we took with some zig-zagging on narrow ledges. In fact he got down much faster than Ben and I did. The rest of the descent back to Lake O’Hara went uneventful. After a well-deserved dinner break at the campground (lots of mosquitoes) we started the long trudge back to the parking lot. My feet was giving me some blister troubles. Normally I would have just sucked it up and deal with that later but considering I have another 4-day trip coming up with virtually no break in between I had to figure out a way so that the blisters wouldn’t get worse. We tried a few methods and eventually found the correct one. I put on Ferenc’s running shoes on my right foot and problem (sort of) solved.
Back to the parking lot our round trip time was 19 hours. That was a wee bit slower than expected but we did take a lot of longish breaks on various parts of the trip. We took our time on the descent too as there’s no point to rush. We wouldn’t have caught up the 4:30 pm bus regardless. Now I’ve successfully bagged North Victoria, Mt. Lefroy, Mt. Victoria and Mt. Huber, the 4 big snow-and-ice Lake Louise classics all on my first try. Great climbs indeed and now I’m looking forward to the two rock 11,000ers nearby.. And then the next trip…