Kings Couloir 600m Grade: III ***** (five star) Photos at the end of this text below

Location: Northwest Face (climbers left at the "Y"), Mt. Belanger (3120m)

Date climbed: July 24th, 2004

Climbing team: Dave Marra (Jasper), Dana Ruddy (Jasper), Tom Schnugg (Mill
Valley, CA

 

 

 

Description:
This stately couloir is well deserving of the 'tour de couloir' status
in the Canadian rockies. 600 meters and aesthetic. The route
should be a year round option given its northwest aspect, although
bergshrund, the crux and the exit features are sure to morph throughout
the year.

Time to climb route: 4 - 8 hours (depending on speed and efficiency)

Approach:
From roadside at approximate 1250m, the approach is the same as the for the
North
Face of Belanger. It comprises approximately 24km and 1000m elevation gain
to the Fryatt Hut. From the Fryatt Hut, follow the same approach to the
North Face of Belanger route. From the base of the North Face route,
continue northwest onto the col. Walk up the col toward Belanger peak to
gain the glacier at the highest possible elevation. A short, steep descent
from the ridge on talus brings you to the edge of the northwest glacier
proper and avoids a north face pocket glacier.. Rope up here and proceed to
the base of the couloir, approximately 200 meters glacier travel distance.

Descent: normal descent route for North Face

Sun exposure: none

Height of route: 600m (including 50m aesthetic scramble to summit)

Rack: Ice screws only

------------------------------------------------------------------------
--

Strategy:

While the start from Fryatt Hut is certainly doable, you may choose to
cut your approach time and effort and bivy up high, closer to the base
of the North Face route. There are plenty of spots to choose from and
in the summer, a river runs along the approach route, starting from the
base of the north face. Keep in mind, however, that you'll not be able
to escape the summer mosquitoes. They are in abundance even at this
elevation.

The route faces northwest and receives no sun. The high degree of
aesthetics of this climb also mean significant objective hazards
including rock fall from both sides of the narrow couloir, potential
sloughing of snow, ice crust or loose rocks from high on the route
itself. The first 5 to 7 pitches consist of straightforward, 55 degree
ice. Treat the route with respect: caution crossing the bergshrund
later in the year and take note that the couloir is "Y" shaped, and the
climbers right couloir is hidden - potentially full of surprise. The
crux comes shortly after entering the upper section (climbers left) of
the "Y": 5 meters of vertical ice through a more narrow gully. Take
caution climbing later in the summer as this section may be more rock
than ice. Once above the crux, you are on the upper slope - 3 - 5
pitches, gradually getting steeper. While there was no cornice feature
during our climb, inspect beforehand to determine best exit onto snow
ridge. The ridge consisted of a fairly wide, low angled snow ramp
leading up to a 5 meter, 4th class rock climb to the snow summit
plateau. Royal 360 deg. views await you at the summit.

Retreat:
Rap from the ice route at any time.

**************************************************

As for our adventure, we chose to cut a few km's off the approach by
ferrying across the Athabasca River approx. 7 km south of the trailhead in a
canoe. Had to make a couple trips given the size of the canoe and the load
we three were carrying. The Fryatt Hut was booked by a private party so we
bivied up high in the meadows below the North Face route. We slept for 4
hours and got an alpine start, completed the route and then walked out that
day. I think the whole adventure took 31 hours for the 50 km approach in
addition to the climb and descent. We descended by rapping the route as we
were planning to climb the unclimbed NW rock ridge after this couloir.
Unfortunately, our proposed descent route from this ridge (snow slopes)
looked a bit too dodgy given the warm weather that afternoon and we decided
to leave it for another day.