Mons Peak

May 31, 2015

3085m

Lyell / Mons Icefields, AB/BC

Mons Peak isn’t a significant mountain by size comparing to its 11,000-foot neighbours (Lyells and Forbes), but situating at the heart of the connecting Lyell-Mons Icefields this peak guarantees to have magnificent views on a clear day. The ascent of its aesthetic summit pyramid is a steep snow climb approaching 50 degrees despite what’s suggested in Chic Scott’s Summits and Icefields book, and folks who approached Forbes from Glacier Lake side are all likely impressed by this pyramid-shaped mountain on the opposite side of Mons Icefield. All in all, it’s a worthwhile objective to climb even on its own as a 3-day trip, let along being combined with the 11,000ers nearby (then it’s a simple day-trip from camp). Ben and I managed to squeeze in this ascent on our Mount Forbes trip. Obviously Mons Peak was only our secondary objective so the approach and return is all written in my Mt. Forbes trip report.

Mons Peak ascent route

Mons Peak ascent route. GPX DL

This was the Day 2 of our trip. It rained on us overnight but the forecast was calling for “Okay” weather. We woke up at 2:30 am at the Mons Glacier bivy hoping for an ascent of Mt. Forbes, but unfortunately the sky was overcast, the clouds were low and the air temperature was ridiculously high so there’s no freeze at all. Here came the advantage of planing a spare day to climb an 11,000er. Instead of attempting it anyway (and possibly summitting in a white-out wasting one of the best panoramas the Rockies offers), we decided to sleep in and ascend Mons Peak instead. We were all very bagged from the long approach so didn’t wake up until 9 am in the morning. It was still cloudy outside and the clouds even got lowered so that Mons Peak was soaked in a white-out.

We were not super motivated in the morning. Mons Peak in the background soaked in clouds

We were not super motivated in the morning. Mons Peak in the background soaked in clouds

The morning was slow going but by 11 am we were already roping up ascending the lower Mons Glacier. I was on lead on my 25′ Lightning Ascents while Ben following behind on skis. The snow was surprisingly supportive on thick areas but on thin sections where the depth was about 0.5 m we sank all the way down to the ice. That was quite freaky and I had to probe carefully. The headwall had a lot of huge crevasses based on the summer photos and again, the snow was thin and isothermal on the convex roll. We could see sags and open crevasses nearby and it took us a good hour or so probing the holes. We discovered 3 crevasses but managed to make through this section without stepping in anything. Then we were on the way crossing the Icefield towards the distant Mons Peak’s N. Ridge.

Ben crossing Mons Icefield after negotiating the crevasses section

Ben crossing Mons Icefield after negotiating the crevasses section

Looking towards the remote Mons Icefield summits including Cambrai Mountain

Looking towards the remote Mons Icefield summits including Cambrai Mountain

A closed-up shot of Forbes' North Glacier which we'd ascend the following day

A closed-up shot of Forbes’ North Glacier which we’d ascend the following day

The Lyells were too shy to show up on this day

The Lyells were too shy to show up on this day

Division Mountain has two obvious summits that I'm not sure which is the true one...

Division Mountain has two obvious summits that I’m not sure which is the true one…

Thankfully the weather was lifting so we didn’t have to ascend in a white-out. Once hitting the base of the broad N. Ridge we had some disagreement with the micro-terrain, mainly because we were on different gears. Being on skis Ben would prefer less steep but traversing line but on snowshoes it’s very difficult to do steep traverses (especially given the hard base layer), but easier to ascend straight-up anything less than 35 degrees. The decision was made to ascend separately with me strapping crampons on kicking step straight up the 40-degree roll, while Ben doing a long detour traversing climbing right up a gentler slope. We topped out on the next flatter section at roughly the same time, and then it’s a slog putting one foot in front of another all the way to the base of the summit pyramid.

Here I kicked step up this steeper roll while Ben taking another route further climber's right

Here I kicked step up this steeper roll while Ben taking another route further climber’s right

A view from halfway up this steep roll

A view from halfway up this steep roll

On top of the roll, looking towards Ben contouring around

On top of the roll, looking towards Ben contouring around

Looking ahead towards the distant summit pyramid

Looking ahead towards the distant summit pyramid

Another view towards the summit.

Another view towards the summit.

Weather was lifting so we could see peaks in the BC Rockies

Weather was lifting so we could see peaks in the BC Rockies

The summit pyramid does not look easy...

The summit pyramid does not look easy…

Ben following up the gentle but foreshortened slope

Ben following up the gentle but foreshortened slope

At the base of the summit pyramid

At the base of the summit pyramid

Huge bergschrund....

Huge bergschrund….

The summit pyramid appeared to be very steep even when getting close to the base, and apparently being threatened by a big cornice on the summit, as well as a gigantic bergschrund below. The ascending line after crossing the bergschrund on the extreme climber’s left side was a traversing line towards right avoiding rocks, and the majority of it would be subjected to both the cornice and the ‘schrund, but oh well.. We were glad to have brought 2 axes for this objective. After ditching the backpacks and ropes I took the lead, kicking in step after step. The terrain was a sustained 45-50 degree slope but thankfully the snow condition was reasonable. So after a while I reached the cornice, traversed underneath it, broke through a steeper roll and topped out on the summit. Ben followed shortly after and the views were fantastic despite the cloudy skies. One view this peak offers but Mt. Forbes does not is the expansive vistas into the BC Rockies including the Icefall Brook and Valenciennes River valley and the jagged peaks nearby.

This side angled picture shows the slope angle. Here isn't the steepest part even.

This side angled picture shows the slope angle. Here isn’t the steepest part even.

Ben starting the summit push

Ben starting the summit push

Ben ascending the steepest section

Ben ascending the steepest section

Summit Panorama from Mons Peak. Click to view large size.

Summit Panorama from Mons Peak. Click to view large size.

Ben ascending onto the summit

Ben ascending onto the summit

A view looking down at Icefall Brook and the associated logging roads

A view looking down at Icefall Brook and the associated logging roads

The super sexy Arras Mountain. The obvious banana shaped couloir has been ski'd earlier this year

The super sexy Arras Mountain. The obvious banana shaped couloir has been ski’d earlier this year

Mt. Alan Campbell and some remote peaks on the west side of Freshfield Icefield

Mt. Alan Campbell and some remote peaks on the west side of Freshfield Icefield

On the far left are jagged peaks on Freshfield Icefield

On the far left are jagged peaks on Freshfield Icefield

Bush Mountain is a big one. From L to R: Rostrum Peak, Bush Peak, Icefall Peak

Bush Mountain is a big one. From L to R: Rostrum Peak, Bush Peak, Icefall Peak

Mt. Erasmus is a very difficult climb.

Mt. Erasmus is a very difficult climb.

Looking deeply into the front country we could see Saskatchewan River Crossing

Looking deeply into the front country we could see Saskatchewan River Crossing

The mighty Mt. Forbes

The mighty Mt. Forbes

The peak in front of Forbes is unofficially known as Rosita

The peak in front of Forbes is unofficially known as Rosita

Cambrai Mountain and Messines Mountain

Cambrai Mountain and Messines Mountain

Icefall Peak is also regularly ski'd from Icefall Lodge

Icefall Peak is also regularly ski’d from Icefall Lodge

Impressive Icefalls on Lyell Icefield

Impressive Icefalls on Lyell Icefield

Me on the summit of Mons Peak

Me on the summit of Mons Peak

After carefully down-climbing the summit pyramid we got to enjoy some fast return. The surface snow was getting a little bit slushy at this time of the day so wasn’t the greatest for skiing, but was perfect for snowshoeing as I could slide forward for every step. But even that, it was faster for skiing.. Lower down I decided to use Ben’s gentler roll and the side-hilling turned out not as bad as I was expecting but mainly because of the softer snow. Had it hardened up it would be very twisty on my ankles. Down the Mons Icefield headwall the snow bridges had become even weaker but after some probing I managed to step across the suspicious bridges one after another (while Ben just skied right over them). The rest of the descent back to camp was uneventful.

Carefully down-climbing

Carefully down-climbing

A closer look at Ben down-climbing

A closer look at Ben down-climbing

Looking back at our tracks on the summit pyramid

Looking back at our tracks on the summit pyramid

The Lyells were clearly up but not enough to see the summits

The Lyells were clearly up but not enough to see the summits

Time to ski

Time to ski

Ben making turns with Forbes as a back-ground

Ben making turns with Forbes as a back-ground

More skiing

More skiing

Panorama view from Mons Icefield. Click to view large size.

Panorama view from Mons Icefield. Click to view large size.

Ben patiently waited for me before the crevassed section

Ben patiently waited for me before the crevassed section

One of the bigger open crevasses...

One of the bigger open crevasses…

Terrain was thin and snow was not in the greatest conditions

Terrain was thin and snow was not in the greatest conditions

Lots of care was required to descend this headwall

Lots of care was required to descend this headwall

Looking back at our objective from camp

Looking back at our objective from camp

Our round trip time was about 6.5 hours from camp on a leisurely pace so it was a relatively relaxing day for us. I even managed to squeeze in another nap before dinner time and at the same time weather kept improving. Ben got the newest weather forecast via his Delorme inReach and there was good news for us. Both the night and the following day was supposed to be clear so we were really expecting a successful summit bid on Mt. Forbes.

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