I pull over a bulge and come face to face with the serac capping the route. It is not really nasty as far as such things go, but still leans past vertical like a frozen breaking wave. Fortunately a stream of water ice pours out of a crack in the serac wall, and allows a merely vertical passage out of the shadowed world below into the sunshine playing on the windblown snow just above. I am glad I am spared carving placements out of the old, hard glacier ice; getting sticks in the cold water ice is hard enough. As the angle of the ice kicks back I pick up my pace, hooking cracks in the surface of the glacier, running for the top. The top? Actually the summit of the mountain is still hundreds of snow-choked metres above, but a flat glacial bench will do. From here, if we wanted to, we could go left and walk down a snow couloir, or go right and downclimb the glacier tongue. We do neither, as we drill the first abalakov and slide down the ropes, but it is the principle that matters. On the way down we battle stuck ropes as thick spindrift washes over us. May has come to the Rockies.
The ice over the Mistaya River is starting to break up, but we still manage to get across without getting our feet wet.
Spot the line! Tsunami climbs the obvious ice strip on the wall left of the Snowbird Glacier (and right of the unformed Riptide).
Josh heads up the approach couloir toward the start of the route.
Josh on one of the many traverses low on the route. After all, it is the Rockies: when in doubt, just look around the corner.
Thin ice or chossy rock? Let us go with the rock, at least there will be some gear. Photo: Joshua Lavigne.
Josh starts up the first of the ice pitches, with Rocket Man peeking over his shoulder.
As the day warms up, a massive slide thunders down the Rocket Man approach.
The final two pitches tower over the hapless professor's head. Photo: Joshua Lavigne.
The rope cutting into a snow mushroom offers a snowflake's eye view of Josh climbing up.
One pitch to go! The Icefields Parkway is visible far below. Photo: Joshua Lavigne.
Josh emerges from the crack in the serac feeding the route.
The glacier's layers were laid down by thousands of winters. It gives one something to think about as one's tools bounce off of the serac ice.
On the way down we are pounded by spindrift blowing off of the glacier above.
The sun sets on the summit of Mt. Patterson.
Summary: The first ascent of Tsunami (300 m, M5 WI5+), Mt. Patterson, by Joshua Lavigne and Raphael Slawinski, May 1, 2011. The route lies on the wall right of Riptide, and when formed is obvious. The first two pitches trend first right, then back left, on steep snow and low-angled rock, to a snowfield. On the first ascent the ice did not come all the way down to the snow, and was accessed by climbing a loose but well-protected crack system on the left. The final three pitches climb gradually thickening ice to - and through - the serac barrier. The serac capping the route appears to be benign, but one never knows with seracs.
Descent: Rappel the route from ice and rock anchors. The lower traverses are avoided by rappelling straight down a steep, rocky depression.
Gear: Half a set of nuts, a few pitons, cams to #2 Camalot, and ten or so screws of all lengths.