Alpine Club of Canada

Gazette Summer 2018

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6 The Alpine Club of Canada Gazette Summer 2018 by lynn martel On their first attempt to climb Jeannette Peak, Lonnie Dupre and Pascale Marceau climbed to within 120 metres of the summit, then stopped. eir day had already served up several sobering reminders of the dangers inher‑ ent to mountaineering, including Dupre's leg breaking through a cornice, and navigating rotten snow wells and around exposed rock outcrops. Straight ahead along the peak's north ridge, at 2,950 metres' elevation they faced a steep slope that dropped precipitously to either side, with the west‑facing snow slope being of uncertain stability. Beyond that rose a technical rock pitch. Aware that some friends had recently been caught in an avalanche, which they thankfully survived, weighed on their decision making. "In the brisk wind, we assessed the crux and decided to bail," Dupre said. "We were just 400 vertical feet from the summit. With the avalanche risk still high in our minds, we were worried that the slope would slide." From their high camp tucked in a col at 2,760 metres, they set off again, drop‑ ping below their camp to a snow ramp that connected to the summit glacier. "Armed with snow picket anchors, Lonnie headed out on belay, but ultim‑ ately we called it on this approach too," Marceau said. "e avalanche risk was simply not worth the consequence ‑ heavy wind slab resting on polar facets with a cliff at the bottom." Packing up camp, they descended to the lower valley where the helicopter had dropped them off. Such are the challen‑ ges of attempting to be first to climb a mountain with little information available and no previous attempts. "Aside from two sentences on Bivouac.com, and with nothing in alpine journals or on Google searches, we had to explore, in the greatest sense of the word, our own potential routes for this peak," Dupre said. "Exciting!" Guarded by steep avalanche prone slopes on all sides, the stand‑alone peak rises 1,657 metres from the valley floor south east of Valemount, BC, in the Selwyn Range on the west flank of the Canadian Rockies. Horseshoe shaped with a plateau glacier capping its Members score Rockies first ascent 3,089‑metre summit, Jeannette's westward reaching long arms form two knife‑edged ridges. Marceau and Dupre first learned of the mountain while researching unclimbed peaks in BC. Within a week of deciding to make it their next objective – and following extensive research and route‑planning using Google Earth and topographic maps ‑ they boarded a heli‑ copter from Valemount. "at moment when we were dropped off and the chopper flew away, was price‑ less!" Dupre said. "What a special feeling to know that we may be among the few, if any, to ever be in this high mountain valley. e stillness and the reality of the task at hand really hits you." ey had investigated the feasibility of approaching the remote peak using a combination of skiing and snowmobiles, but avalanche‑prone slopes followed by thick bushwhacking up a narrow valley led them to decide that flying to a close‑as‑ possible landing spot was their best option. As they have on previous trips, the couple purchased carbon credits through carbon‑ fund.org to offset their flights. Returning to their landing spot where they had stashed some extra food and fuel, they were greeted with a surprise – wolverine tracks. ankfully, the Rockies' most elusive critter had not clawed into their food supply. e following day they made their third attempt, via a snow slope leading to the west ridge. On heightened alert for snowpack stability, they hugged a rock band to avoid steeper avalanche‑prone slopes. at decision exposed them to overhead cornice hazards, but fortunately, the cool north aspect had not yet weak‑ ened the cornices. Finally cresting the last steep slope, they reached the glacier. Alas, the summit was a long, long ways away, via a steep, exposed ridge walk. "It was noon and a forecasted storm was clearly rolling in," Dupre said. "Lighting was flat – not great for navigating cre‑ vasses. We'd gone fast and light, hoping for good weather that was not to be." Without sufficient energy or food to sit out a storm, they hot‑footed it back to their landing spot to be flown out later that day. From left, Vern Stice, Pascale Marceau and Lonnie Dupre are all smiles after their first ascent of Jeannette Peak. photo: lonnie Dupre

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