Mount Evan-Thomas August 13, 2004

Mountain height:   3,090 m (10,135 feet)
Elevation gain:      1,500 m
Ascent time:       
Descent time:     

Scrambling and climbing with Kevin Barton.

Mount Evan-Thomas is so close to being a simple moderate-difficult scramble. Only two short sections, where rappelling down rockbands is required, prevent this. The route we chose goes up to the Grizzly Peak/Evan-Thomas saddle, ascents a rubble slope up to a narrow ridge, traverses the ridge (where the rappels are required), and finally ascends the summit block.

Having inspected this route on two previous occasions (too much snow both times), I decided it time to bring in a heavy-hitter: enter “Old School, Hard Man want to be” Kevin Barton. Kevin has a great deal of multi-pitch traditional climbing experience and was also interested in ascending the highest peak in the Opal Range. I was more than happy about having someone along with his experience.

We left early and took a healthy array of climbing gear, as we didn’t know to expect in terms of protection required and difficulty of the climbing. The weather was perfect, although quite hot, and after a pleasant ascent around and up Grizzly Peak , we enjoyed a long break at the very scenic Grizzly/Evan-Thomas saddle. The only unpleasantness comes next, when you have to ascend a very foreshortened rubble slope up to the ridge – it takes more time and effort than you may think, so be patient.

Upon reaching the fairly narrow ridge, we put on our helmets and harnesses, but decided to wait to rope up. Negotiating the ridge was very enjoyable. It was, at times, a little exposed, but nothing too alarming. We eventually reached a drop-off (a consistent feature of the vertically-tilted strata of most of the mountains in the Opal Range ) and after exploring several potential routes, decided to set up a rappel station and get around the drop-off by going down to the right and around and up. Kevin set up a solid anchor with a sling around a large rock-horn and rappelled down. I followed and we scrambled up steep terrain back to the ridge.

Continuing on, we came to another drop-off and again Kevin set up a rappel station with a cordelette and piton back-up. This rockband was not as steep as the first, which was actually overhanging, and we rappelled directly down it. After that, the terrain along the ridge and up the summit block looked far more manageable and so we un-roped and started scrambling up. To our surprise, the summit block involved only moderate scrambling and was very enjoyable to ascend. Suddenly, we were at the summit and after a congratulatory hand-shake and a quick wave down to a couple of parties far below on Grizzly Peak , we sat down to sign the register and enjoy an outstanding summit panorama. I spotted about 20 scrambles from Kane’s book (there was a great view of the west slopes of Mount Romulus and of Fisher Peak), a frightening and intimidating look at striking Mount Packenham and the connecting ridge to Evan-Thomas, immediately south, as well as 11,000 footer’s Assiniboine, King George, Joffre, and Mount Harrison, far to the south. We were also surprised to find that we were the first people to sign the register in two years – very odd for a mountain that is the highest in its range, over 10,000 feet, has outstanding scenery, and is easy to ascend.

Downclimbing the summit block was relatively easy, although some scree-covered slabs required a little extra care. At the second drop–off we rappelled we decided to upclimb it unroped and found it to be quite easy. In retrospect, it may have been possible to downclimb this one, although I’ll freely admit, personally I wouldn’t do it – if you slipped, you would be unlikely to survive the ensuing fall. 

The first rappel proved to be far more difficult. It was overhanging and the only potential route up was very exposed on the north side. Kevin climbed about halfway up, but was unable to find a good place to put protection. He then tried the left side of the overhang, where the terrain was steep, but not overhanging. Kevin made it up to the sling and belayed me up. That short, but steep upclimb was definitely the crux for me, and I was certainly glad to have Kevin belaying me. 

The remainder of the descent was easy, although I had run out of water at the summit and was now quite dehydrated. We arrived back at the car, drove to the Fortress Junction gas station, where Kevin treated me to a Gatorade, a Jones Soda, and 1 L of spring water – I downed them all right away! Overall, an outstanding day, on a fantastic mountain, with great company – who could ask for anything more?     

Interesting scenery, as we head up towards the Grizzly/Evan-Thomas saddle


At the Grizzly/Evan-Thomas saddle, with the south end of Opal Ridge to the left and The Wedge to the right; the upper part of the north peak of Mount Kidd can also be seen  


The ridge and the summit block of Mount Evan-Thomas


Kevin, negotiating the narrow ridge


Approaching the summit block; just a scramble from here to the top; we took the obvious gully just left of centre 


Wispy clouds and the summit block


Kevin, signing the summit register, with Mount Assiniboine dominating in the distance


The summit view to the northeast; the prominent peak just right of center is Fisher Peak


A great view of the west slopes of Mount Romulus


Looking to the north; striking Mount Packenham dominates the foreground


Looking to the northwest at Mount Galatea (left of centre) and The Tower (right of centre)


Kevin, with the ridge and summit block, as seen on descent


Looking back at the scenic, grassy slopes in front of Mount Packenham

OTHER TRIPS