Trip Report: The Viennese Clark Traverse
Jul 13, 2021
For the second year in a row, Neil, Sam, and I embarked on an ambitious Canada Day climb. This time, we chose the Viennese-Clarke Traverse, a stunning alpine scramble between two impressive peaks in the Chehalis range.
After finishing my last day at Kardium on the 31st, the three of us drove to the trailhead and hiked for half an hour to our campsite.
We set our alarms for sunrise to maximize daylight. It’s a long route, and we could see that there was significantly more snow on the descent than anticipated. None of us had axes. We packed our stove and prepared to spend a long night in the alpine.
There are two possible approaches. We chose the longer but more scenic one, which starts right off the bat with the so-called “Stairmaster to Heaven”, a thousand-meter boulder field to gain the ridge.
This is followed by a short section of bushwhacking to reach the alpine.
Once above treeline, we were rewarded with several kilometres of stunning alpine scrambling, albeit with limited visibility.
Unfortunately, we were moving slow and Neil was feeling sick. This only got progressively worse. Eventually, he decided that it would be unwise for him to continue. We talked for some time, and made a plan: Sam and I would summit Viennese together and then backtrack to descend the standard approach with Neil.
Viennese is an impressive peak: not prominent, but menacing. It was not obvious which way to go from the col, so I embarked on an expedition into the mist and found my way. In the end, I ended up squeezing up through a big chockestone and pulling a few face moves to gain the summit.
The descent was miserable. I put away my camera and we descended almost 2000m of unmarked, alder-ridden, steep muck to reach our campsite.
Partway down, after having thrashed our way down an eroded creek for over an hour, I reached in my pocket only to realize that my phone was missing. I had dropped it. I backtracked and scoured the creek bed for over an hour, but there was no hope—I was looking for a needle in a haystack.
Dismayed, knees hurting, we descended back to our campsite.
In total, it was a 15 hr day with ~2500m of cumulative elevation gain/loss. We did not complete the traverse yet we were thrilled to have had a great adventure in a surreal landscape.
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