Lyell-Mons Ski Traverse: April 14-21, 2012

Trip report

Thursday: The Sip ‘n Dip Lounge in Great Falls, Montana

An amusing place to have a beer.


Saturday: Into the murk

Will we make it to the Mons area? (Photo by Kyle Williams)


Nope. This will have to do. (Photo by Kyle Williams)



Preceding photo by Harvey Brauer. Next two by Kyle Williams.



Sunday, Clear: to La Clytte

Icefall Lodge with the sauna building at right. The high area of snow above is the Zen Glacier.


Guide Pierre Hungr (his web page is


We had plenty of fresh snow to enjoy. Here we climb to Keffi Col (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


The Portal and La Clytte Mountain. Espresso Ridge on left. We turned right here for Keffi Col and the main La Clytte glacier. The Groove Tube ski run is the prominent line at right. Pierre, Kim, and Ben (Photo by Kyle Williams)


The alpine terrain in the area is huge. (Photo by Harvery Brauer)


Elke after the steep descent off Keffi Col. After this we went to La Clytte but visibility declined. A nice picture from high on Mons of the La Clytte ski run is in the last-day section. We did ski from the high plateau of La Clytte, something that we failed to do on two previous trips due to dangerous avalanche conditions, and also a dangerous injury-causing avalanche.


Monday, Cloudy: Diamond Glacier seracs and crevasses

Stan at the entry to the crevasse slide on the Diamond Glacier cute little loop that we descended with skins on. (Photo by Kyle Williams)


The route. (Photo by Kyle Williams)


Elke passes through the neat crevasse on the Diamond Glacier below Icefall Peak.


And Ben, who got going too fast at bottom!



Looking back. (Photo by Kyle Williams)


Tuesday, Cloudy and snowy: over Crampon Col to the Lyell Hut

We skied into the col, which is rare as it typically requires booting.


Kim approaching Crampon Col (Photo by Harvery Brauer)


Finally, after several trips here, I get to the back side of Crampon Col (the name stems from a pair of old crampons found up here byLarry Dolecki). (Photo by Kyle Williams)


A view taken two days later from the Lyell Hut showing our tracks as we left Crampon Col. (Photo by Kyle Williams)


It was a long day to the hut, though we did have energy for a short evening ski. (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


Dinner at Lyell Hut; given the unexpected change of plans for the week, we are all quite happy to be here. (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


Wednesday, Cloudy and snowy: Crossed the Lyell Icefield

In the morning the skis were rimed. Pretty, but indication of a day spent with low visibility. We crossed the Lyell Icefield to the col between Lyell 2 and Lyell 3.


The Lyell Hut is perched on a high plateau just south of all the Lyell peaks. I think it is the third-highest hut in Canada, behind Neil Colgan and Abbott. But it is quite possible we were the highest (!) people in Canada on our nights here.


A superb composition by Elke Dratch.


Thursday, Mostly clear: Summited Lyell 5, Down 5000 feet, up and over to Mons Hut

The hut in the context of the Lyell Icefield. The background ridge is the Continental (and Provincial) Divide. (Photo by Kyle Williams).


An unnamed peak between Tivoli and Lens.


Crampon Col in center; Icefall Peak behind. Our ski tracks are visible just to looker’s right of a bergschrund about two-thirds of the way down the steep slope.


View from Lyell Hut. (Photo by Kyle Williams)


Approaching Lyell 5. A few steep switchbacks got us to where we left our skis and traversed to the summit. The descent route was the face on the left (which is steeper than it appears in this photo). (Photo by Elke Dratch)


Approaching the top of Lyell 5 (11120 ft., aka Christian Peak after Christian Hasler).


Returning to our skis: The exposure here was intense. The first two (me, then Kim) are by Ben McShan.




For a fantastic image (below) of the ski line off Christian see the cover of the Shirahata book. Of course, the image (with more shown on the left and right) is in the book, which I highly recommend. Here is the image taken from the listing. The ski line is the shaded slope from the summit at far left. The peak at right is Lyell 4.


Descending the Lyell Icefield had long stretches of cruising; Divison Peak in rear. (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


Halfway down the 5000-foot run to the canyon rim.


A video of the next two skiers down -- the Brauers -- doing perfect 8s is here. And another shot of the tracks (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


Looking back at the icefall after which Icefall Brook, Peak, and Lodge are named. So I guess this is Icefall Icefall. Elke and Kim, thrilled to have a nice day in fantastic alpine terrain. Here we are en route to our second summit of the day, a sub-peak of Division.


Mons Peak:


Here the summit of Lyell 5 is just visible in rear. The face up there was a magnificent ski, followed by slope after slope of powder skiing down to the 6200-foot level.


Near the top of our snow peak NW of Division. The two peaks seen here are West Division (the highest) and East Division (rear).


Mons Peak. On Saturday we skied from the left skyline ridge top below the summit triangle on Mons Peak down and then to lookers left into the steep face. This was the most sustained steep ski run of the trip. Conditions went from good powder to very nice wind-buffed snow to more powder lower down.


We had some steep terrain on our descent of Division’s snow summit. We skied down left of this photo, but it was still steep. (Photo below by Kyle Williams)


After a fine day we relaxed on the deck outside the Mons Hut. This was a pretty big day with 5500 feet of climb and 7100 feet descent. It is hard to imagine a better traverse day: minuscule packs, great skiing, an 11000-foot summit, and a second summit near 10000. (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


Friday, stormy: went caving

The ice cave. What a thrill to revisit this spot, which we stumbled across in 2003 on the Mons to Mummery traverse.


The feeling of the ice is hard to describe: like polished stone. And it feels warm to the touch. An illusion?


Stan enjoying the ice (Photo by Elke Dratch).


Ice crystals (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


Ice roof. (Photo by Kyle Williams)


Walking on the ice chunks was difficult, but they were pretty. (Photo by Kyle Williams)



Later in the afternoon about half the group skied the Spider Glacier near West Division, which provided great conditions with one steep stretch. I did not take my camera.

Saturday, clear weather: Climbed to near top of Mons before helicopter pickup.

The Mons Hut:


The Mons Hut viewed from Mons Peak, with Tivoli in center right.


Division Peak. Spider Glacier is the bowl on the left and we skied the shaded line through the cliff band. The lower snow peak on the left is what we climbed the previous day, skiing the far left bowl (line hidden). The two peaks at center and right are West Division and East Division, respectively.


After the first part of the run down from Mons summit area; Pierre on left, Craig on right.


I like this view of La Clytte (left) showing the superb ski run down the face.


The north face of Forbes, which we climbed in 1999.


The group: Elke, Kyle, Craig, Stan, Harvey, Kim, Ben, Logan. (Photo by Pierre Hungr)


Waiting for heli: Stan, Kim, Ben, Elke. (Photo by Kyle Williams)


Our pickup. Finally the helicopter can get up here: In my two previous tries at this (2003, and the drop-off this year) it was not possible. (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


Here is a view of Forbes from the helicopter. (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


And a view of our tracks on Mons as a great week draws to a close. (Photo by Harvey Brauer)


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