American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, British Columbia, Mt. Bryce

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1956

Mt. Bryce. On July 23, 1955, Richard Irvin and Fred Ayres made the third ascent of the main peak of Mt. Bryce. Our route was via the south glacier and southeast face, the same as that used in 1937 by the second- ascent party consisting of Lillian Gest and Kate Gardiner, with the guides Christian Häsler and Edward Feuz, Jr. We started from the vicinity of the Saskatchewan Hut and back-packed via the Saskatchewan Glacier, Castleguard Meadows and Thompson Pass to a campsite at about 5,600 feet on the dim, very dim North Rice Brook trail (see Boundary Sheet 21). Scarcely anything remains of this trail except the blazes, but the hiker is well advised to follow them. They serve as route markers and help to avoid some of the worst of the down timber. In contrast, the trail (not shown on Sheet 21) from the southern limits of Castleguard Meadows down to the crossing (ford) of the swift Castleguard River at 5,600 feet is in excellent condition. From here on, the trail, still in fair shape, follows the dashed red line shown on the map past Watchman and Cinema Lakes, becoming more vague as Thompson Pass is approached.

To reach the lower end of the South Glacier from North Rice Brook requires considerable bushwhacking, whatever the route. Certainly our attempt to conserve altitude by turning diagonally up the mountain from the 5,500-foot level on North Rice Brook proved futile. Rough terrain and alder slides cost us much in up-and-down climbing. Once on the south Glacier, the climber can gain 3,000 feet of elevation without much trouble, provided the snow is in good condition. The long upper section of the glacier leads to a distinctive col with a gendarme rising in its center. From here the route turns westward up the southeast face, a final thousand feet of stepped-back limestone cliffs, partly covered by snow and ice. The summit is a long narrow ridge capped with a snow cornice, but having a ribbon of bare rock facing to the west.

After descending the upper southeast face, we looked across a nearly level glacier bench to the unclimbed middle peak of Bryce, hardly more than half a mile away. However, it was 5:00 P.M., and threatening storm-clouds were approaching from the south. We decided against the attempt and continued the descent, arriving at our North Rice Brook camp about 9:30.

Fred D. Ayres

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