Mt Victoria is probably my first real alpine climb (at least one where I actually touched the summit!). I joined a large group of hikers with a plan of taking over the Abbot Pass hut, and if the planets aligned, make a summit attempt on Mt. Victoria with a small group who were keen to try.
A perfect fall was setting things up perfectly to make the attempt. We met at the Lake O’Hara parking lot, ready to make the trek to the hut.
The hut itself is an absolute stunner of a hike. Taking the bus in cuts off the first 12 km or so, and then a 3-4 hour hike up a decent trail ending in a bit of a shooting gallery to the hut. Passing Lake Oesa was a highlight for certain, the endless hand-crafted steps leading to the huber ledges are truly an experience to be had.
Arriving at the hut late in the evening, we were treated to a magnificent sunset and alpenglow while we ate dinner. A hint of the glorious day that was to follow.
The following morning we got up around 3:30am. After breakfast, we geared up and started ascending the rubbly slopes above the Abbot Hut. A few simple route finding challenges spit us out on the beginning of the ridge, and some of the more horrific choss i’ve ever experienced. The weather, however, was absolutely fantastic. The warm alpenglow covered the increasing number of peaks we could see as we gained elevation, slowly fading into a stunning morning in the sunshine with no clouds or wind to be seen.
Fortunately, the choss soon faded into more snow, ice and slightly better rock (for the Rockies anyways), and one of the more stunning views i’ve ever witnessed on all sides. I suppose there is a reason this route is such a classic. I high ridgewalk, much higher than almost every peak within sight, with a few notable exceptions dominating the skyline to the south and west.
The sicle pitch was certainly a bit terrifying. At that point in my climbing career, I didn’t have any ice climbing experience, and only a few months of rock climbing experience. My crampons were not very high quality, and my ice axe was dull as a banana, making for a somewhat terrifying descent to the bottom.
Fortunately the rest of the climb went without incident, and the stunning high ridge walk starting at the famous “limestone pony” pitch was an incredible experience that I will not soon forget.
After some summit pictures and lunch, we turned around and descended the ridge into the fading light, reaching the hut late in the afternoon. The weather slowly changed into the evening, marking a switch from sunshine and clear skies to rain and clouds… foreshadowing quite an epic that a party experienced the next day when a climber slipped on descent from the summit and managed to self arrest, requiring a rescue that took many hours to enact. Wild.
Overall, Mt. Victoria was one of my favorite all time alpine climbs. A stunning, beautiful peak that stands as one of the more ideally situated viewpoints in the entire south rockies. A worthwhile climb for anyone up for the challenge.
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