Christian Peak (Lyell V)

June 27, 2015

3390m

Lyell/Mons Icefields, AB/BC

Christian Peak, or commonly known as Lyell V, is the lowest peak among the 5 11,000ers on Mt. Lyell massive but is more interesting than some of the higher neighbours. The easiest route up is a steep snow climb via the south ridge/slopes with one tricky bergschrund crossing, while the more-challenging north ridge offers an exposed way up for folks doing the Lyell IV-V traverse. Ben, Vern and I climbed it on the second day of our Lyell Icefield peak-bagging trip, after successfully ascending Lyell III, Lyell II and then Lyell I on the previous day.

Our original plan was actually to ascend Lyell IV via “Collier’s west bowl bypass” and then the south ridge over a couple rock/snow pinnacles near the summit (which is also the original ascent route) but didn’t turn out well. To access the west bowl of Lyell IV we picked a more-or-less direct line from the Hut passing a few gigantic crevasses. Once around the SW shoulder of Lyell V we got to see some really massive holes, with one nearly spanning across the entire slope. There were more large crevasses and saggings further along the route too, along with areas exposed to serac/cornice fail. The objective hazard was too high for Ben and Vern’s like so we didn’t go further. In retrospect the “broken tower traverse” would very likely not going to work anyway given the shitty snow conditions. So we re-directed our attention to the closer Lyell V. To get to its base from the SW side we still have to cross a few massive holes on saggings.

Cockscomb Mountain in the morning

Cockscomb Mountain in the morning

Lens Mountain

Lens Mountain

Bush Mountain

Bush Mountain

The massive holes on the western side of Lyell Icefield

The massive holes on the western side of Lyell Icefield

Contouring around to the west bowl beneath Lyell IV

Contouring around to the west bowl beneath Lyell IV

Oh here comes the crevasse maze. This one can suck in your house...

Oh here comes the crevasse maze. This one can suck in your house…

Lyell IV from the west side

Lyell IV from the west side

Shortly after we decided to just go for Lyell V

Shortly after we decided to just go for Lyell V

Cresting the SW Ridge of Lyell V

Cresting the SW Ridge of Lyell V

We crossed over to the normal south slope ascent route and then ditched our snowshoes. As observed earlier there’s a massive bergschrund about midway up the slope. Trip reports from earlier years did not mention this so that’s definitely a sign of glacial recession. Crossing this ‘schrund on a 40-degree slope with deteriorating snow condition was no trivial neither, and even after that the knee-deep post-holing snow combined with the 40-degree convex roll did generate a few thoughtful moments. But we all made through, and shortly after we arrived at the false summit. The true summit was only 20 meters away but required a tight balance on a very exposed snow arete. Normally it’s an easy move for us but on this day the right side had already turned a bit slushy making some questionable holds.

Lyell V looks much more impressive from this rarely seen angle

Lyell V looks much more impressive from this rarely seen angle

We had to cross a few more sags to access the normal ascent route

We had to cross a few more sags to access the normal ascent route

Here's the normal south ridge route, looking upwards

Here’s the normal south ridge route, looking upwards

Tricky bergschrund to negotiate

Tricky bergschrund to negotiate

Ahead is the true summit

Ahead is the true summit

Ben and Vern ascending onto the false summit after a 40-degree snow climb

Ben and Vern ascending onto the false summit after a 40-degree snow climb

Vern balancing over to the true summit

Vern balancing over to the true summit

Summit Panorama from Lyell V, my 32nd 11,000er. Click to view large size.

Summit Panorama from Lyell V, my 32nd 11,000er. Click to view large size.

Rostrum Peak

Rostrum Peak

Icefall Peak

Icefall Peak

Behind Kemmel Mountain are giants in Selkirks including Iconoclast Mountain

Behind Kemmel Mountain are giants in Selkirks including Iconoclast Mountain

Mt. Sir Sandford

Mt. Sir Sandford

Adament Mountain

Adament Mountain

Tsar Mountain on the left skyline

Tsar Mountain on the left skyline

Mt. Clemenceau rises behind Mt. Alexandra

Mt. Clemenceau rises behind Mt. Alexandra

Mt. Bryce

Mt. Bryce

Mt. Columbia

Mt. Columbia

The Twins

The Twins

Snow Dome and part of Lyell IV's south ridge

Snow Dome and part of Lyell IV’s south ridge

The super crevassed bowl beneath Lyell V and Lyell IV

The super crevassed bowl beneath Lyell V and Lyell IV

Mt. Amery

Mt. Amery

Mt. Forbes

Mt. Forbes

Despite the bad snow we still wanted to try the traverse over to Lyell IV. It’s overall the hardest summit in this area so there’s no way to easily give it up. We unroped and then I immediately led the way down around a few large cornices and rock steps. Soon I got to see the committing terrain ahead. After a short, but sketchy down climb on shitty snow I came to a knife-edge part. The only two options would be au-cheval or hand-traverse given the conditions and the terrain ahead would only get harder. The conclusion was simple – this route was not in shape yet… So we went back to the summit of Lyell V and then focused on getting down that steep slope before it got any worse.

Me trying the ridge traverse towards Lyell IV. It didn't work... Photo by Ben

Me trying the ridge traverse towards Lyell IV. It didn’t work… Photo by Ben

The descent was not too bad but did require some careful footwork thank to the slushy snow. Back across the ‘schrund, snowshoes on we then leisurely plunged down the southern slopes all the way until we joined our tracks from the previous day. Now it’s time to make another decision…

Vern walking off the south slopes of Lyell V

Vern walking off the south slopes of Lyell V

I really like the deep blue sky

I really like the deep blue sky

Expansive views!!

Expansive views!!

Snowshoeing down the south slopes

Snowshoeing down the south slopes

Continuing down

Continuing down

Looking back at Lyell V's summit pyramid

Looking back at Lyell V’s summit pyramid

After failing the “Collier’s west bowl bypass” and then the Lyell V-IV traverse we only have 1 option left to attempt Lyell IV, that was, via the more technical N. Ridge from Lyell III/IV col. That’s the recommended as well as the aesthetic line so we all “sort of” agreed to give it a try by waking up at 2:30 am the next morning. In my mind I wasn’t totally counting on that as based on the conditions that route could only be worse and with the 30+ degree temperature the snow condition could only get worse as well. There’d be guaranteed no freeze at all and the upper ridge was still entirely snow covered making some 50+ degree snow climbing on thin areas, not even mentioning one of us must had the balls to lead that crux mixed climbing pitch. Ben was keen on just going back to Lyell Hut for a short day but Vern and I (the peak-baggers) figured that’d be too many hours sitting around doing nothing so we preferred a long traverse to Arctomys Peak. I wasn’t so sure neither as I probably should give my feet a bit more rest but since they were doing good so far I couldn’t complain on it. The conclusion in the end – Arctomys Peak would be our next destination.

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