September 6-7, 2014
Icefield Parkway (North), AB
This was our last objective in this past weekend after successfully bagging Little Alberta, Mount Woolley and Diadem Peak. Compared to the 11,000ers, Mushroom Peak rarely draws much attention to climbers. My first time seeing this peak was from a road trip. I took a bunch of photos from Sunwapta River and was amazed by its impressive north face. Indeed, at 3210 m elevation it’s not a small summit. Our original plan was to bag it on the 3rd day’s morning but during our Woolley/Diadem’s climb we changed the plan. Instead of down-climbing the couloir and descending the maze of crevasses we decided to do a high-line traverse around the south side of Diadem Peak, crossing a glacier followed by descending Mushroom’s scramble route (thank to Eric’s exploration in this area years ago). Of course it made natural sense to slog another 500 m to bag Mushroom Peak on this day, oh well.
We had little clue how bad the glacier between Mushroom and Diadem was. We knew it was crevassed due to earlier observation from Woolley Shoulder but not much in details. It was a bit of gamble but given the condition this was probably the safest choice. Just like the previous glaciers, there was a thin layer of snow. Beneath the snow was glacial ice so we felt comfortable soloing. The start didn’t look bad but soon we entered a field of crevasses, just like earlier in the day. This maze was slightly easier to negotiate but still, required very high level of mental concentration especially for the leader (me). I had to probe each step forward. Fighting with fatigue at this time of the day was hard and on a few occasions I had to stop, taking a few deep breathes and re-focus, resisting the temptation to just “walk forward”. Near the end of this traverse crevasses started to become smaller but it was here I probed through the surface a few times. A great remind the edges are not usually the safest place!
Off the snow, the pressure was finally off. Looking up the gigantic pile of garbage scree none of us was high on motivation, but since we were peak-baggers we had to tag the summit. We ditched all unnecessary gears including Ben’s backpack and proceeded upwards. The scree on Mushroom Peak was absolutely horrible for going up (coming down would be a different story). Ben went more-or-less straight up but Vern and I trended climber’s left to the ridge. One reason was to increase variety on the ascent, and we were right. Peering over the edge revealed a big wow moment – I was looking straight down the north face! Literally, straight down.. I wonder if this face had ever been climbed. The summit was easily attained from this side. The actual summit was on a cool rock mushroom and the register was burnt probably due to lightning strike.
Descending was fast and furious. In about half an hour we were down most of the slope. It wasn’t as great as Yamuska’s scree run but better and longer than most other scree runs I’d done. Soon we were back to the edge of glacier, grabbing the gears and starting the scrambler’s descent route, blindly. Not totally blindly though as we still had Eric’s route drawing, but it looked totally different from above. We basically searched our own route down and at a few places scrambling was quite tricky especially a gully near the seracs with water running in it. Lower down we came across a cairn to indicate at least someone had been here before. We then found a nice little ledge to traverse skier’s left and eventually exited to the scree/moraine below. From here back to camp was easy, but sloggy. We made back just before head-lamp time and it was time for a well deserved dinner. Two days in a roll of more than 2000 m height was was surely taxing. We also had new neighbours and they went to bed already.
The next morning I was hoping to sleep in but Ben and Vern woke me up early, at about 7 am. I guess waking up at 7 am seemed natural to them but for me, mmm. I wasn’t quite happy to drag myself out of the sleeping bag. The objective for the last day was a mere 2.5-hour hike-out so how bad could it be… Descending the moraine and then the boulder field was very hard on my knees and I could feel the elevation (didn’t remember gaining that much on the approach). Back to the stream/creek Ben and I stayed on trail for as much as we could while Vern followed the more open creek bed. Either way worked fine and soon we were on the way down the steep waterfall section near the entrance of this valley. Back to the river flats, the last obstacle was Sunwapta River – easily crossed.
Overall, this was a super duper successful trip. We attained all objectives proposed in this area and still managed to finish half a day ahead of schedule. The views from these 4 summits were surely one of my favourites to date and the climbs, though wasn’t at the greatest condition, provided a great wrapping-up for snow climbing in this season. I’ll sure be back here to further explore the Black Hole, scrambling Warwick and in the not-too-long future (hopefully), to climb the main objective namely Mt. Alberta…