Matt's Diary: Day 8
Lake Louise is eerily quiet in the absence of its usual tourist population as we zoom past at 5am on our approach to Victoria (1750m, ). The trail is easy, and before we know it, we are at the tea house (2100m ), with great views of the Mitre, Mt. Lefroy and Victoria's North and South summits. We are to be aiming for Mt. Victoria North Summit via Northeast Ridge (3388m). However, by virtue of a collective navigational cock-up, we end up off route. A quick consultation with the map reveals that we have inadvertanly wandered into an area known as the "Death Trap" . Hmmm. "No worries", says Steph, "We can join the South Summit route via Abbot Hut". Abbot Hut  looms on the horizon on a col which suggests a route directly through the Death Trap. Oh well. Nervously, we head on our way. The glacier is strewn with dead climbers... Not really, but it does contain a helluva lot of fallen rocks and some very large and very fresh looking chunks of ice form the upper Vic glacier, teetering 1000m higher on the cliffs above. Steph briskly navigates a safe route, and before we know it, we are out of the Death Trap, and into another one...
The upper part of the glacier is split by huge crevasses and a mighty b-schrund. Though seemingly impassable at first, way over to the left side Steph finds a tenuous link, which he bridges with a stunning, off-balance ice climbing lead [Steph notes, Matt is being kind here; there was surely nothing elegant in my lead]. We arrive at the hut  at 9:30am, 2 hours from the bottom of the glacier in the Death Trap, and at 2925m, some 700m higher. We must nearly be there right? Wrong.
After 1/2 hour out of the wind in the amazing Swiss-style hut, we climb easily up the rocks to the ridge. At 3150m and about 1hr from the hut, it seems we are almost there, but the ridge is infinitely long and almost as sharp! We climb carefully over exposed rocky sections, and pitch out some 55° ice at the Sickle. After many, many false summits we finally reach the top (3464m ) at 1:15pm and eat cheese sandwiches. The view down to Lake Louise and of the surrounding mtns is brilliant, and Matt snaps a 360. We ponder how many of the thousands of tourists at Lake Louise are looking up at us right now.
The ridge isn't any shorter on the way back, and we get a nasty surprise when we try to avoid the steep ice at the sickle by following footsteps onto the large but stable-looking cornice to its left. The whole thing makes a loud cracking noise, and Matt hastily leads back towards solid rock. We didn't want to be around when that thing went off!
Back at the hut (5pm?) we assume the role of hardcore adventurers as we describe our exploits, now 12 hours in the making. The assembled company seem nervous at the prospect of climbing the Vic tomorrow, and our stories of cracking cornices don't help. Anyway, we are not out of the woods yet, and know we have to get back through the Death Trap before we reach safety. The massive crevasses are no less tricky in descent, and in fact the crux harder due to snow which is too hard for snow stakes and too soft for ice screws. With a lot of swearing, ice axe hammering and bending of Matt's snow stake, we finally set anchors and clear the Death Trap parts I and II. We later find this route described in the guidebook "Selected Alpine Climbs in the CA Rockies" as "Difficult if not impassible". Well, there you go.
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