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Mount Colonel Foster:
Second Ascent of Southwest Summit August 1966

From the Canadian Alpine Journal Volume 50, 1967.
By Ralph Hutchinson

Second Ascent of Mount Colonel Foster

The first ascent of the South [West] Peak of Mt. Colonel Foster in Strathcona Park, Vancouver Island, was made in 1957 by a party that climbed a couloir up the west face. On joining the summit ridge, which runs north and south, they said a route looked feasible from the south if the descend could be made from the subsidiary summit to the south.

On August 1, 1966, six climbers from the Island Mountain Ramblers' camp on the ridge that divides the watershed of the Elk River and the Wolf River, set off to traverse the subsidiary summit to the south (known in this article as the East Peak) and climb the ridge route to the main South Peak. By 11:15 a.m. all members of the party were on the summit of the East Peak after an interesting and pleasant grade 3 rock climb. The weather was beautiful and for half an hour the party considered the route off to the north which looked both exposed and difficult.

The ridge to the South Peak from the East Peak is obvious in that there is only one practical route. After rappelling 25 feet to an insecure stance, three of the party, Ron Facer, Mike Hanry, and I proceeded gingerly along the knife-edge ridge. This is spectacularly exposed and dips to a notch where a gully joins the ridge before rising up to the South Summit. The rock was firm and provided good holds and good grade 4 climbing.

At the point where the ridge ended, there were alternative routes; one was northerly up the rock face which was probed by Ron Facer. The alternative route led down to the west in the gully for 200 feet, and then by a traverse to the north joined a branch of the same gully. This latter route was chosen and led up, first under a colossal chock stone and then onto a point on the ridge to the south of the summit. From there an easy scramble took us onto the pinnacle that forms the summit tower. It was now 2 p.m. and we dug into the cairn and found the 1957 record in excellent condition. Our ambition had not been sated and as the centre peak on the ridge is almost as high as the South Peak, we investigated the route along the ridge off to the north. We were now some distance from the campsite and did not have any bivouac equipment so we felt no more than mild curiosity to see if the ridge would go; on finding difficult climbing ahead, we retraced our steps and rejoined our friends, Mike Walsh, Ray Paine, and Bob Tustin.

Mount Colonel Foster has a remarkably dramatic east face. This forms an arc around a lake at 3000 feet and the face rises to the summit ridge at 7000 feet in an uninterrupted sweep. There are several small couloirs up the face and towards its southerly side are two snowfields perched somewhat precariously on the rock. The three of us who had been to the South Summit decided to make a bid for the centre peak by traversing between the two snowfields. If that could be achieved, then the ridge could be gained from the top of the upper snowfield without too much difficulty, and lead to the base of the centre peak. The Bitterlich [Ulf and Adolf] brothers had tried this route in 1955 although we did not know this at the time. We were able to gain the top of the first snowfield without untoward difficulty although the climbing was interesting and exposed. From there we made several false leads in our endeavours to get over to the second snowfield. Some hours later the attempt was abandoned after some extremely difficult leads had been made by Ron Facer. At this point it is most difficult to see the route as parts of the mountain overhang and the mountain is very broken up partly as a result of the strata and partly as a result of a large earthquake about 20 years ago. The earthquake had its advantages as there is very little loose rock on the east face of the mountain.

The route chosen across the east face is feasible and when mastered will provide a varied and excellent ascent to the unclimbed centre peak.










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