In Search of Mt. Baldr 2799m 9183’
Map: 82F/15 Kaslo
No, that’s just wrong. I know exactly where Baldr is; I just can’t get to it, and the outing of Sunday, August 9th, was to prove no exception. This 2799 m (9183’) peak, part of the Purcells’ Leaning Tower Group, is located 5.5 km. NE of the coveted Mt. Loki. Baldr was first climbed by a Kootenay Mountaineering Club party in July 1972 (Knut Langballe, Sue Port, Sandy McElroy, and Peter Wood) and has seen few ascents since.
On September 30, 1998, I tried day tripping it as a solo venture from Nelson and reached Mt. Hodr (225-238, not a gazzetted name), 1/2 km. to its NW before the thought of a return in the dark turned me back. This time, I was able to round up another partner in foolhardiness, Sacha Kalabis (well, no, he didn’t know what he was getting into), and we left Nelson at 5:45 to catch the first Balfour ferry at 6:30 am.
After a 45 min. drive north along the logging road north of Riondel, we turned right near the km. 13 sign and headed up the deactivated Powder Creek FSR. The usual story: 70 min. to drive 11.8 km. to road’s end at GR 209- 279, 5403’. By now, it was 9:15, and I was reminding myself that we should have car camped. I rationalized this decision by remembering the weather wasn’t very good the day before.
Off we raced with very light packs, following the good trail to the aptly-named Mosquito Lake in 25 min. The trail continues up the north side of the drainage to Tamarack Lodge, the fly-in commercial ski touring hut. As our goal was to the southeast, we removed boots and forded Mosquito Lake at a low spot, rebooted, and thrashed through the extremely annoying sub-alpine landscape south of the lake—folded ridges studded with alder and blow-down interlaced like pick-up sticks. I have made three trips through this (tells you something about my judgement or sanity) and still haven’t found any decent access to the south-side peaks. Once through this rubbish, we headed up steep alder slopes (again! It was either that or nasty, slidey scree gullies) below u/n 2709 m. Higher up, we ascended moraine, polished slabs of quartzite, and snow to gain the ridge west of u/n 2709. At this point we could see Baldr, some kilometers away and wreathed in cloud beyond the twin horns of Mt. Hodr. An incredulous look crossed Sacha’s face as he asked, “That’s where you want to go?” Although Baldr is technically easy, the obstacles are getting off the SE side of u/n 2709 and crossing what looked on the map like a barrier ridge on the west side of Hodr. We first tried a descending traverse along 2709’s south face, but were stymied by cliff bands. This led to a re-ascent to the 2709-Hodr 16 ridge and descent into a grotty notch west of Hodr which I had passed through in ’98 (220-244). Keeping that west ridge of Hodr in mind, we traversed and descended south, hoping to turn the barrier at about 7700’. When we reached this ridge easily from the north, we found a multi-hundred foot cliff band on the south side extending almost down to the spectacular rectangular lake at 7000’ located 1 km. west of Baldr (GR 205-230). By now, it was 2:25 and we had been going 6 hrs. 10 min. Calculating that we might descend this band, that we could reach Baldr in an hour and a half, that the return would involve lots of up and down, and that it would be dark by 8:45, I counseled retreat. Faced with Sacha’s disappointment (“I don’t like being turned back”), I suggested we scramble Hodr’s west ridge. This turned out to be composed of very solid granite blocks, a walkoff on the north and very exposed on the south.
Reaching the cairned summit at 3:30 (6 ¼ hrs. up), I felt totally whipped. During our 30 min. stay, I put in a KMC summit tube with details of the first ascent and the two subsequent ones and tried to force down some lunch which tasted like cotton wool.
With Sacha leading the way, we began our return by descending the northwest ridge, passing over the definitely-lower northwest summit and several lesser eminences before descending a chaucy (read “rotten, loose, and dusty”) gully to the left of the notch we had passed through earlier. Then we continued along the southeast ridge of u/n 2709 to its summit (GPSed elevation) by 5:05, stopping only briefly before descending snow and rock of the north face to pick up the snow of our upper ascent route. We went down a bit to the west of our up route and staggered through the nasty bush once again. Here, Sacha took a header in the alder and earned a nice battle scare on his shin. When we finally reached the trail, I counseled Sacha that we should now really boot it. Since the summit of u/n 2709, I had been thinking that we would have to hurry to make the last ferry at 10:20.
By 8:25, we reached the truck (11 hour day; 3 ¼ hour descent from Hodr), and at 10:10 we glided into the ferry parking lot. Perfect timing. A satisfying but frustrating trip since Baldr had eluded me once again.