September 12-13, 2021
Casey Matsuda, Vanessa Volkman and myself took off early morning in an attempt to summit Elkhorn via the Southwest Couloir. Planning to hike in and summit in our first day, we took off early from the trailhead about one hour before sunrise. We made the crossing over the the Elkhorn trail at daybreak and made very good time making it up to the ridge.
The forecast was for sun throughout the day however, cool temps and shade in the forest, as well as rain the day before made the underbrush very cold and wet. After about 10 minutes into the main trail after leave the ETR we were extremely wet and cold. Taking breaks for snacks and food quickly lowered our body temperatures and we decided that moving on would be the best option for staying warm. Pushing up to the ridge in almost one straight shot brought us to the large boulder field before the ridge where we got some much needed sunlight and a much needed lunch break.
After regaining our warmth and energy we pushed on the the climbers camp. Upon arriving, Vanessa took a seat not feeling the greatest and decided that she would not like to make a summit attempt. After some discussion, we decided that we would each leave Vanessa with some snacks and an extra puffy which we had packed while Case and I would make a summit attempt.
We agreed on a 3:30PM turnaround time and took off on our way. After making the base of scree fields below the route, we starting climbing what we thought was the entrance to gully. We climbed some third/fourth class moves which led into a very steep left trending gully that finished into a slabby trad route which we did not have the gear to complete. We decided we must have taken a wrong turn and backed down the gully to the base.
From here we went over one gully to the right and started climbing. Referring to the guide book we tried looking for the chock stone which we were unable to clearly identify. We climbed a ways up the gully until we reached a point where without climbing gear, the difficulty was once again coming to a point where our best course of action was the safely back down and re-evaluate.
At this point we had burned too much time. It was about 2:15 and we had spent hours looking for the start to a route which we had thought would be easy to find. My first alpine trip in Strathcona park was a summit of Elkhorn and the route I climbed to the summit was the route we were attempting. I was very surprised and disappointed I could not remember the beta of this climb. Realizing we would not summit for our turnaround time, we decided to pull the plug and safety head back to Vanessa who was feeling much better.
The rest of the trip was spent enjoying some beautiful views, as well as bouldering on some large rocks along the ridge! I’m wondering if I should go back to the this same route next time in order to cement the beta into my mind, or try something new and exciting. Only time will tell!
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