St. Nicolas Peak

April 8, 2012

2970m

Wapta Icefield, AB/BC

St. Nicolas Peak is a striking peak viewing from Bow Hut. It’s not particularly big compared to many other objectives on the Wapta, but is one of the ‘sexiests’ on the Icefield. The ascent is relatively straightforward but it not a walk-up. Near the summit there’s a moderate to difficult scrambling section with considerable exposure. I did it as the second objective of my first trip up Wapta Icefield.

Mt. Gordon and St. Nicolas Peak snowshoe/ski ascent route

Mt. Gordon and St. Nicolas Peak snowshoe/ski ascent route

It was still early after finishing Mount Gordon, I re-joined mom on the Wapta Icefield, and soon we found ourselves following three skiers towards St. Nicolas/Olive col. This side of the slog was not as foreshortened as the never-ending slope on Mt. Gordon. St. Nicolas Peak appeared to be a serious ascent from the col. Mom couldn’t handle any exposure, so she decided to wait for me at the col. I solo’d the rest of the ridge from the col. The terrain got steeper and steeper (I mean, steep towards each side) as I moved towards the summit, and the final block looked scarier and scarier as well. Bypassing several false bumps on slightly climber’s right side, I could manage to snowshoe all the way to the base of the last bit, the crux. Some people would appreciate the protection of a rope for the crux. It’s a shear drop to your left and very steep snow slope to your right. There’s absolutely no room for error. If you want to do it without a rope just like I did, you gotta have some winter difficult scramble experience. And don’t forget, you have to down climb it. After the crux, I was just a couple steps from the summit.

The west of St. Nick surely looks a bit different from the classic view. I was still on my way crossing the massive icefield coming down from Gordon.

The west of St. Nick surely looks a bit different from the classic view. I was still on my way crossing the massive icefield coming down from Gordon.

Following my up-tracks, and this is the typical view. BIG view!

Following my up-tracks, and this is the typical view. BIG view!

A closer look at the west face of St. Nick

A closer look at the west face of St. Nick

Looking back. Wow I love the Wapta that I'll go back sooner than later!

Looking back. Wow I love the Wapta that I’ll go back sooner than later!

We followed a group of skiers. Olive in the background.

We followed a group of skiers. Olive in the background.

Me on St. Nick/Olive col

Me on St. Nick/Olive col

A wide shot from the first bump on the summit ridge. You can see the false summit and true summit on right.

A wide shot from the first bump on the summit ridge. You can see the false summit and true summit on right.

Looking back towards Olive

Looking back towards Olive

Getting closer

Getting closer

This shot gives a better perspective of the right side. An avalanche will send you straight down to Bow Hut.

This shot gives a better perspective of the right side. An avalanche will send you straight down to Bow Hut.

From false summit, the true peak looks intimidating!

From false summit, the true peak looks intimidating!

This is the crux!

This is the crux!

After the crux, the summit is only 10 seconds away!

After the crux, the summit is only 10 seconds away!

Shear drop-off on the west side.

Shear drop-off on the west side.

Looking back towards Olive

Looking back towards Olive

Down-climbing the crux was definitely scarier than coming up, but it didn’t impose too much of a problem to me. Downhill snowshoeing from the col to Bow Hut was fast. We re-filled our water bottles in the Hut. The rest of the day back to parking lot was a pure slog and seemed to drag on forever.

The summit block, with my tracks now

The summit block, with my tracks now

More of my tracks.

More of my tracks.

Another wide shot of Wapta Icefield

Another wide shot of Wapta Icefield

An obligatory shot of Hector

An obligatory shot of Hector

Oh yeah baby.

Oh yeah baby.

Now I got you!

Now I got you!

More of St. Nick from the descent

More of St. Nick from the descent

Time to walk down the head-wall

Time to walk down the head-wall

Vulture Peak from the exit of glacier. Didn't take photos from the rest of the de-proach since my camera was running out of space.

Vulture Peak from the exit of glacier. Didn’t take photos from the rest of the de-proach since my camera was running out of space.

I got a couple big blisters on my foot…. Too BAD. I still have lots of energy though, and the weather on Monday looked to be promising, but I had to go back home…

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