June 27, 2015
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)…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.