Cloud Nine – IV M5+ WI2
Cirrus Mountain – North Face – 12 pitches
FA – M.Perreault & R.Schnell, Sept. 2012
This first ascent was done early in the fall after a dry summer in a single push from the road over 23h30. Needless to say, this climb should be enjoyed as a 3 day adventure. One of the first ascentionists climbed the Elzinga-Patterson route the previous October (2011) and noticed a large decline in ice on the upper part of the mountain. Hopefully these are seasonal variations and not a long term loss of ice. Once past two harder pitches of climbing near the beginning, the route maintains an enjoyable moderate grade and a shaded aspect most of the day. In perfect conditions these two pitches would be climbed on dry rock, and the grade would be tamer. There shall never be bolts on this alpine route!
Driving north past the Weeping Wall for 2.2km, park at a small pull-out on the West side of the road. Cross the road. Walk along the ditch for about 100m, passing a small drainage pipe along the way, reaching a second culvert, which has an old manmade rockwall built along it. From this point follow an excellent, well flagged trail (2011). You should not encounter any difficulties unless you miss the trail, in which case you will quickly end up bush-wacking. This trail eventually leads into an intermittent stream bed. If this stream is flowing well, it is a great indication that the route might not be in its best condition. Follow the stream bed passing occasional flagging. Once the view ahead opens up a bit, pay close attention for multiple flagging tape indicating a change in direction. From here traverse 20m jumping over a small stream, then angling up and right, once again finding an excellent, well flagged trail. Follow this meandering trail until a large open alpine meadow is reached. Looking across the meadow, follow its southern edge and well-spaced flagging, shortly emerging in the main drainage near a junction of 2 streams; nearly at treeline. Follow the left side of the creek emerging from the South, following a combination of flagging and cairns, shortly reaching an excellent bivy site on level ground, complete with a campground sign (missing September 2012) and nearby to water. Enjoy the breathtaking views and the mountain goats who seem to regularly frequent the nearby cliffs to the north on the unnamed peak. Road to bivy: 3 hours
The landslide debris between the bivy and the glacier seems discouraging at first, but navigates quite well. Head in the direction of the creek, soon following the edge of the water, where gravel has accumulated to provide quick travel. Higher up, the glacier has receded into 2 independent glaciers. It is possible to access the route from either glacier, however the right-hand one offers faster navigation thru fewer crevasses with a dark alpine approach. Follow the high point ridge-like feature of the glacier, gaining elevation and eventually traversing up left along steep cliffs until the snow ends. A short distance of miserable loose scree brings you to the edge of the other glacier, where the ridge is followed a short distance until the start of the route is in view.
P1: Staying on the ridge crest, climb a short rocky step (5.4) and then scramble to the base of the route. Traverse across a short snow slope and make an ice belay near the corner.
P2: Climb easy mixed ground into an intimidating steep corner. Climb the corner past several difficulties (M5+) to a height of 35-40m. Here you will find a great horizontal finger-sized crack in good rock and a small foot platform for a semi-hanging belay below a small roof feature.
P3: Climb up over the belay, clipping a fixed nut before starting the traverse. Begin by traversing horizontally, and then going up and right, following the best features (M4). Protecting this pitch is a little challenging, but it is possible to find good gear placements. Top-out on a large flat ledge and belay from a large block.
P4-P5-P6: Climb up and right following easy terrain. P6 involves a traverse to the bottom of an ice couloir, where an ice belay is easily set-up off to the side.
P7-P8: Climb 120m of moderate angle alpine ice with a narrow section of WI 2. Belay at a Y in the top of the gully.
P9: Unless the right hand fork is snow/ice filled, take the left-hand fork climbing snow with underlying ice, following a short snow arête at the top to a rock belay on level ground.
P10-P11: These two pitches follow the Elzinga-Patterson route. From the rock belay, traverse right on snow covered unsecure rock, protecting mainly with pitons while managing rope drag carefully, and then angle up along steep cliffs until you run out of rope. Belay from ice. Climb another pitch of ice, slightly trending up and right staying below the rock.
P12: This pitch leaves the Elzinga-Patterson route. Traverse up and right aiming for the base of the rock. Go around the corner and body belay using good terrain features. Scramble the north ridge for 100m to the summit of Cirrus Mountain.
From the summit, walk down / downclimb snow slopes for approximately 200m until it is possible to easily traverse a short distance below steep cliffs to a short snow gully. Downclimb this gully. The col should now be into view. Gain 100m of elevation to the col. Note: Do not descend all the way to the glacier. There is a large bergshrund and unnecessary loss of elevation. From the col, descend steep snow slopes until you reach the glacier, quickly regaining your uptrack. This descent requires good snow conditions, otherwise would require several rappels from ice. It is possible to follow the ridge all the way to the col, avoiding the need to regain elevation, however this descent involves exposed downclimbing, 2 rappels (one of which is hairy), is more time consuming and is not recommended.