Arctomys Peak

June 27, 2015

2789m

Lyell/Mons Icefields, AB

Arctomys Peak is merely a small bump on the eastern edge of Lyell Icefield. This peak itself is an uninteresting objective by just looking at the maps and folks who ascended it (including Rick Collier’s group many years ago) usually did it as a short detour from their long approach to The Lyells via Glacier Lake. However, after finishing the ascent I have to say it’s far better than expected and the summit offers superb view down towards the deep Arctomys Creek – the rarely-seen Valley of Lakes. It also gives an unobstructed view of the East Lyell Glacier – a steep icefall plunging thousands of meters from Lyell I down to the head of Arctomys Creek.

Vern, Ben and I ascended it on the second day of our Lyell Icefield peak-bagging trip. On the first day we did the approach via the rim of Icefall Brook from the BC side and then climbed Lyell III, Lyell II and then Lyell I, and earlier in this day we ascended Lyell V. Looking down towards Arctomys Peak didn’t really generate much interest from any of us but since we had the entire day ahead we had to make use of it. Obviously we didn’t approach the Lyells via Glacier Lake so to get to Arctomys Peak we had to cross the entire length of this icefield while losing more than 500 vertical meters of height. (That explains why it didn’t generate too much interest in the group)…

Ascent route of Arctomys Peak from Lyell Hut

Ascent route of Arctomys Peak from Lyell Hut

We figured it’s probably 2 hours of march across the icefield and we were right. It’s bloody long and mundane especially with the sun beating down on full force. Thankfully we had the snowshoes otherwise this peak would not happen. An hour later we came to the “edge” of a steep roll and looking ahead we got to see a massive drop of height as well as some huge crevasses. We originally thought it’s possible to stay more-or-less on the connecting ridge but apparently that’s not going to work. So more height loss. At this point we all started to wonder why the hack we decided to punish ourselves… In the end we had to slog all the way back up the Icefield and back to the hut…

Typical scenery from Lyell Icefield

Typical scenery from Lyell Icefield

Descending from the broad shoulder of Lyell V

Descending from the broad shoulder of Lyell V

The 5 Lyells sticking out like 5 fingers

The 5 Lyells sticking out like 5 fingers

Ben and Vern checking out the next stage

Ben and Vern checking out the next stage

Arctomys Peak is the low point in the foreground

Arctomys Peak is the low point in the foreground

But since we came all the way to here there’s no way to easily give it up just because it’s “longer than we thought”.. So down we went. The crevasses weren’t as bad as appeared and eventually we managed to get down to the snow bowl, crossed it and ditched technical gears once hitting scree. The ascent appeared to be nothing but a scree slog but as usual, the view was foreshortening and we still had a long way to go. At least the views were improving as we got closer to the false summit.

Dropping hundreds of meters down the glacier...

Dropping hundreds of meters down the glacier…

Not there yet. More height loss....

Not there yet. More height loss….

Looking back at Vern marching across the low bowl

Looking back at Vern marching across the low bowl

Finally hitting rock. It's an easy scramble

Finally hitting rock. It’s an easy scramble

Ben ascending the easy scree

Ben ascending the easy scree

Panorama from near the false summit. Click to view large size.

Panorama from near the false summit. Click to view large size.

Lyells I, II and III

Lyells I, II and III

Division Mountain and South-east Lyell Glacier

Division Mountain and South-east Lyell Glacier

Near the false summit

Near the false summit

From the false summit to the true summit we were treated with a few “WOW” moments. We firstly saw the East Lyell Glacier plunging down, and then the steep N. Face of Arctomys, then the stretch of Valley of Lakes and eventually we were surprised to see a big glacial lake at the head of that valley. It’s a spectacular sight and I bet not many people have seen this. There’s a huge cairn on the summit though but no register. Due to the incredible views we decided to take a long break on top before slogging back across the glacier.

The traverse along summit ridge was nice and easy

The traverse along summit ridge was nice and easy

Panorama from the summit ridge. True summit ahead. Click to view large size.

Panorama from the summit ridge. True summit ahead. Click to view large size.

Looking down Valley of Lakes

Looking down Valley of Lakes

Vern down-climbing an optional step

Vern down-climbing an optional step

Partial summit panorama. Click to view large size.

Partial summit panorama. Click to view large size.

Partial summit panorama. Click to view large size.

Partial summit panorama. Click to view large size.

The flat Amery/Hooge/Monchy massive.

The flat Amery/Hooge/Monchy massive.

Sullivan Peak - a low bump on Mt. Erasmus massive

Sullivan Peak – a low bump on Mt. Erasmus massive

And here's the summit of Mt. Erasmus

And here’s the summit of Mt. Erasmus

The glacial lake at the head of Arctomys Creek (Valley of Lakes)

The glacial lake at the head of Arctomys Creek (Valley of Lakes)

East Lyell Glacier plunges near 2000 vertical meters down

East Lyell Glacier plunges near 2000 vertical meters down

An interesting lake in this valley

An interesting lake in this valley

Mt. Forbes sticking out like a white tooth

Mt. Forbes sticking out like a white tooth

Mt. Outram

Mt. Outram

From L to R: Kaufmann, Epaulette, Chephren, White Pyramid, Howse

From L to R: Kaufmann, Epaulette, Chephren, White Pyramid, Howse

South-east Lyell Glacier plunges from the icefield down to Glacier Lake valley

South-east Lyell Glacier plunges from the icefield down to Glacier Lake valley

More of the icefall on South-east Lyell Glacier

More of the icefall on South-east Lyell Glacier

Me on the summit of Arctomys Peak

Me on the summit of Arctomys Peak

Descending the peak was fast and uneventful but once the downhill was over we had to realize there’s more than 500 vertical meters to slog back up on snowshoes, under the 30+ degree sun… Oh well… It wasn’t too terrible though as we could maintain a reasonably fast pace up and across the icefield. Once getting closer to Lyell V we had another bulk of height gain to deal with followed by a short descent down the BC side, but then there’s another roll to slog back up near the hut. Eventually we made back, late and semi-exhausted.

Vern and Ben starting the long slog back

Vern and Ben starting the long slog back

Ben with the impressive icefalls behind

Ben with the impressive icefalls behind

Vern descending from the false summit

Vern descending from the false summit

Marching back across the low snow bowl...

Marching back across the low snow bowl…

Looking ahead to the massive elevation regain

Looking ahead to the massive elevation regain

Back on the icefield proper now, looking back

Back on the icefield proper now, looking back

Mons Peak

Mons Peak

A lot of crevasses on Lyell Icefield

A lot of crevasses on Lyell Icefield

Over the broad shoulder of Lyell V now, looking towards the Hut and Lens Mountain

Over the broad shoulder of Lyell V now, looking towards the Hut and Lens Mountain

Back to Lyell Hut - our home...

Back to Lyell Hut – our home…

A view at dusk

A view at dusk

After some obligatory “hut things” and a few sunset pictures we went to bed. The decision was simple for the 3rd day.. Given our field observation we figured our chance of success on Lyell IV’s North Ridge would be less than 5%… That meant it’s not worth to even bother with it. So we decided to sleep in again and ascend Farbus Mountain.

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