American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Canadian Rockies, Mount Fay, East Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985

Mount Fay, East Face. In early March, after waiting for the sun to leave the east face of Mount Fay, Barry Blanchard, David Cheesmond and I began climbing, expecting to spend one night on the face. After gaining height quickly, at the top of the first snowfield we met a nearly vertical pitch of very thin ice. Barry did a fine job. I started the next pitch, mostly a vertical to overhanging pillar of water-ice. After flaming out, I belayed Barry past me and he finished the pitch in the dark. We coasted a way up the next snowfield and made a cave. Although the morning dawned clear, clouds were moving in. When we had got up the snowfield, we climbed more pitches of moderately difficult ice. It began to snow very heavily. While on a vertical pitch, an avalanche, possibly from a cornice high above, roared over us. It missed me but struck Barry on the shoulder, which caused him great pain for the rest of the day. Not wanting to stay in such a place, we climbed fast to the top of the next snowfield. Here, we went up a chimney that offered difficult (5.8) mixed climbing. Barry dug a cave at the base of the chimney while Dave and I fixed rope in it. We were low on food and fuel. After our second night on the face, breakfast was simply a hot drink. We looked for a quick way to finish the face. Directly up was a headwall with lots of slow aid. We decided to traverse right, gain a large snowfield and try to exit out of its upper right side. It was still snowing heavily. To reach the snowfield, we had to climb many pitches of delicate mixed traversing. Barry had to resort to aid for 80 feet at one point. It was starting to get dark as we reached the far edge of the snowfield. Barry did a superb job in the dark on the next pitch, but we still had at least one more difficult pitch before we could top out. Once more, we dug in. We used no fuel that night, saving it for a cup of hot water in the morning. Our only food was a two-ounce bag of Smarties. The next day we hurried to the top of Barry’s pitch and Dave led the final, mixed pitch to the top of the face. We were met by very high winds on the other side. We forgot all about going to the summit and began the long descent down, around and back to Lake Louise.

Carl Tobin

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