Another weekend, another couple days to get rowdy! I felt rested after the road lines of last weekend, and was ready to go on a big overnight push again. I had seen King Edward from Bryce two weeks prior, besides being a gorgeous face and an 11’er, it had a line that was currently filled in right off the summit. So when Ian, my go-to for these overnight excursions said he had some time to ski something, my mind went right to this.
After deadfall stopped our momentum on Bryce and subsequently hurt my back and seemingly everything in my upper body from carrying a huge pack so far, I was dead set on getting a chainsaw to drive as far as possible. We were meant to pick up a chainsaw the morning we left, but Ian’s buddy ended up sleeping in or something. Whatever. Pile all the crap in the truck and make tracks. Steven Song had noted in his mountaineering ascent of Bryce last week, that the snag that stopped the truck last time had been cleared prior to his ascent. So we cruised past that and past the turn-off for Bryce, now things were tense; would there be more large deadfall? Luckily, there was none and we made it to the river crossing of one of the arms of Bush River without incident.
We knew from previous reports that the bridge was out, I was kind of hoping that I could possibly ford it in my big old Ford, but it was far too deep and swift. There wasn’t much for foot crossings around either, the river was running larger than I felt like trying to wade across. There was a precariously placed log from the old bridge that would certainly be undermined and swept downstream sooner or later, so we gave it a nudge with some leverage and sped up the process. It fell perfectly, and wedged between boulders on either bank. After a few trips, we had the packs and bikes across to the other side.
We discovered on the far side that the deadfall was so dense and frequent, that it wouldn’t be worth clearing it, even with the proper tools. We pushed the bikes up most of the way until the alder thickets on the deactivated road became too much. After a bit of walking, we hit snow at 1500m, going from bare road to supportive, continuous snow with very little in-between. There are a series of benches on an uphill slant heading toward King Edward in the trees, very useful as you can climb in the right direction without any energy-intensive sidehilling. We followed one, and it proved valuable.
After we broke into the alpine, there was lots of undulating terrain that couldn’t make up its mind. The plan had been to camp pretty much right under the face, but it was getting late and we were going so slow that it was just time to call it. Because of this, the campsite was able to get the last dying light and warmth, which sure does go a long way psychologically after such a draining day.
I woke up feeling like I’d just had the best sleep I’ve had in weeks. For some reason it was pretty bright though, after shaking off the drowsiness I pulled out the phone and saw it was almost two hours past when I set the alarm, which my stellar sleep was just too strong for apparently. We scrambled out of bed and skipped the morning pleasantries to head up to the base of the east face.
The thing I noticed most about the face, once getting up close and personal, was how planar it was. There were almost no concavities for chutes, and only convexities around rare rock outcroppings. Which was good, as the sun was already out and the snow was feeling a bit warm. We dumped most of the gear, and crossed the scrund on a big sluff that had bridged it well, then wrapped up the rope and hucked it over the scrund as well. Light is right. Ian tried to lead for a bit, but I wouldn’t let him, I was just really in my element, pounding out steps in a way I haven’t been able to do since having real employment. The snow went from questionable on the lower pitch to soon-to-be-perfect corn after 50m, I was really concerned that after all the suffering of the approach we might have to can the attempt due to the late wake up call.
In unexpectedly quick time we topped out, for me it was a slightly different view from Bryce, but for Ian it was all new, expanding hugely on the views from summits at Chatter. The weather was brilliant though, and I couldn’t help but grab another thousand pictures of the surrounding amphitheater. The pitch off the summit was very steep, I worked my way to real turns gingerly, not knowing how deep I would penetrate and how much sluff would result. After the careful turns came some fun turns, which triggered more sluff than I intended further down the face. After it finally stopped I cranked some big turns, eating up half of the vert in four turns, whew! Then I skied the rest until I was close to the scrund, and traversed across to where the rope was before hucking and grabbing the rope, that way not covering the rope in sluff. Then more fun skiing on the glacier back to camp.
After packing up camp it was time to go back down. The alpine was more intensive to get out of that I thought, the undulation of the terrain made good traverse lines hard, and the short steep east aspects we had to traverse on the good traverse lines were the least supportive of all, sapping our momentum. Still, it didn’t take long and we got to the trees, where we found better support. Before long we were back where the snow ran out. After not much walking we got to the bikes, alright some more fun! The road was a good time on mountain bikes. heavy, tall, wide (skis and boots) pack or no. We had to stop a couple times to let the brakes cool, but I was surprised how well the bike bowled over all the loose round rocks and fallen trees. It was certainly a lot faster than the way up. I was worried that in the heat of the day before that our bridge may have been floated up out of position and down the river. Fortunately, it was still there and still a great asset as the river was running even higher.