Saturday, September 26, 2015

Devil's Head Scramble

Due to a questionable forecast in the rockies, we took the opportunity to go into the Ghost for our first summer visit! We got Alan on board with promises of scrambling and got an early start from town Friday afternoon. There were plenty of people already camping along the road on the way to the big hill and it was hot and sunny! We had no issue driving into the North Ghost with Kyle's new truck and found a great spot to camp just after the 37 km marker.
Truckasaurus in the Ghost 
Alan scopes out the river crossing
It was nice to set up camp during daylight and actually have a chance to enjoy our campsite. There was already a great fire pit with some benches and a wind break set up, and the boys went nuts with the chainsaw on one of the many downed trees.
Car camping in the Ghost
Kyle tidies up the danger trees
So much firewood, so much excitement!
We had a slow start on Saturday morning, probably because the weather wasn't so nice. It was high overcast but quite windy and cool. Kyle had printed off some info about the Devil's Head scramble but the route description and the topo map didn't match up. This lead to lots of discussion (arguing) about where we were supposed to start up out of the river valley. We finally decided to follow the topo map and ignore the route info, which turned out to be the correct way (or at least, one correct way). We had to cross the river twice to get to the trailhead at the Valley of the Birds (marked with a cairn and and obvious waterfall ~10m high). The boys both had rubber boots but I only had flipflops and it was so cold that I wanted to throw up. I was so jealous.
Morning river crossing - a shocking way to wake up
Valley of the Birds - trail starts up the scree on the opposite bank
We left our river crossing footwear at the cairn at the bottom of the Valley of the Birds. Alan and I started up the scree but Kyle called us over towards the trees where he had found an obvious trail. We were able to follow this trail (marked with pink flagging tape) for most of the hike. The trail rose quickly out of the valley, before slightly easing off in the forest. It was still hard going, straight up to the ridge-top 500m above with little respite. This was the "trudge" part of the day.
500m of elevation gain VERY quickly
As we got above the treeline and crested the ridge, the wind that had felt relatively strong all morning hit us with full force! We had been sheltered by the mountain and now we were exposed to the full brunt of the weather. It was almost enough to get us to turn back, especially when we saw how far away the Devil's Head actually was. Since it was early in the day, we made the decision to continue on, after making adjustments to make sure nothing would blow away.
Alan in the wind
Our first good view of Devils Head - its so far away!
Lots of ridge ahead
The wind got worse and worse as we moved across the ridge. At times, it was hard to walk because my legs were being blow off course when I took a step. I was worried that my hood, which was flapping like mad in the wind, would rip off my jacket. There was no talking (it was too hard to speak over the wind) and we just focused on fighting the wind. 
Gloomy weather on the ridgetop
Devil's Head in the distance, spooky!
As we moved around the horseshoe shaped ridge, the Devil's Head blocked some of the wind and we were able to stop for some photos and actually enjoy the view a bit more. It is a really cool area, with huge limestone faces rising out of the valley and straight out of the prairies, strange hoodoo formations in the gullies, and the backs of mountains we would normally see from the trans-canada.
Hoodoos in the valley below
Devils Head is like a mini Yamnuska face! Flat prairies in the background
Crazy clouds moving in as we traverse under the Devil's Head
As we crossed under the Devil's Head, some nasty weather rolled in and it started to rain. We found the gully on the back side of the mountain and started scrambling up. It was loose scree and slippery with snow and water. Unfortunately we went up the wrong gully (climbers right) early on and had to backtrack to the correct one. At this point Alan was no longer interested in continuing up, so he started heading back to camp. Kyle and I continued up the left gully, which was more like a system of chimneys that moved up and right. We had to stay close together because there was so much loose rock. There was some scrambing/climbing involved and the cold, wet rock made my hands numb almost instantly. We got to a point just below the top where we were faced with a gully full of snow which we think was the crux of the route. We were both cold and wet and it was getting late (it had taken us 6 hours to get to that point). We chose to turn around without summiting, since it would have been a bit sketchy with the snow, and we would have had to rappel down which is time consuming. No summit for us (2nd rejection in a week!).
Snow and rain scrambling made it slow going
It was really fun coming down the chimney's and significantly easier than going up. We were back and the base of the Devil's Head in about 20 mins. Alan had an hour head start on us and we hurried to see if we could catch up, but we didn't see him until we got back to camp where he had a fire going and hot water ready, what a guy!
Down the gully
Down climbing Devil's Head
The sun came out as we got to the bottom! Amazing hoodoos above
It took just under 3 hours to make the trip back to camp, and we still had plenty of light to make dinner and hang out at the campsite. The wind had died significantly, making the ridge walk way more fun and quite a bit quicker than it had been that morning. The river crossings on the way back were also much more enjoyable as I was able to give my sore feet a bit of an ice bath!
Rain behind Devil's Head
Clear skies on the way home, and less wind too
Crossing the river to get home
Sunday morning, we walked up to STD wall (above where we were camping) and did a few of the sport routes in the sunshine. It was another day of strange weather as it was sunny and hot, but we were getting rained on from the wind blowing rain onto us from distant clouds.
View of the Ghost Wilderness Area (North) from STD wall
Alan figuring out the slab 
Moss house in the forest near our campsite

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