REDLINE PEAK 3226m 10,584’
Map: Toby Creek 82K/8
It’s punky, but it’s big. What’s not to like about that? After Bruce Fairley, David P. Jones or somebody else told me this year that McDonald Creek was driveable to 7000’, I had been scanning the map of this area east of Mt. Farnham in the Purcells. The most logical objective that I hadn’t already climbed looked to be Redline Peak or, just maybe, Spearhead Peak.
On Friday, Sept. 12th, Paul Allen and I drove over to the East Kootenay in the Xterra—our plan to explore the upper McDonald basin. As we drove up Horsethief Creek that evening, the weather looked less and less promising, black clouds boiling and the peaks disappearing in murk. Worse yet, we could see fresh snow quite far down the slopes. Just past km. 35, we turned on to the signed McDonald Creek road and followed this very good, re-conditioned route south. At km. 8, we turned left or east onto the unsigned Redline Creek road, an old mining track that we were able to drive to km. 11.8, 406- 934, 6877’. Beyond this point, the road is passable only to ATVs for a ways before degenerating into a walking track. After turning the truck around, we set up our tent on the road and, as soon as we settled in, were treated to thunder, lightning, rain, and a brief but substantial snow storm. Not very promising.
Saturday, we were up to see clear skies, snow on the road, and the upper basin to the south completely blanketed in fresh snow. At the heathenish hour of 8:00 am, we set out with our climbing gear for a wander up the road. I was thinking, “Chance of success, 20%.” However, we meandered along the snowy road for about two hours till it ended at a mine bored into a steep face at 8330’ (420-923). After a quick exploration of the mine, we headed southwest up easy rock and snow of the two ski-poles variety till we reached a bench at the edge of the glacier at 9115’ (421-917) and put on the rope. The friendly looking pyramid of Redline beckoned 1500’ above us, the sky radiated a summery blue, and all looked well.
However, the fresh snow that had fallen over the last two weeks meant a calf- 12 deep plunge with every upward step. We crawled along, the summit never seeming to get closer, until we finally reached the ridge crest northeast of Redline at 10,200’. Not there yet–the supposedly-easy east ridge looked to be plastered with freshies which might create ugly climbing conditions. After reaching a snow shoulder, we tackled this ridge and found it to yield 300’ of decent going on snow and rock.
Over a false summit and along another 40m, mostly horizontal, and we were at the massive summit cairn (the base would be as big as a kitchen table). It was 1:10, and the weather was perfect, cloudless and mild. During our 50 min. sojourn on top, we savoured views of Farnham and its uncanny looking Tower, Peter, Delphine, McCoubrey, Jumbo, Karnak, and, farther to the southwest, Truce, Cauldron, Blockhead, Hamill, and Toby. The flat and lake-like Delphine Glacier spread just below us to the southwest, while across Bruce Creek to the east and south soared Mt. Nelson and Sultana Peak. We also speculated about the origin of the gigantic cairn next to us; when Robert West and Art and Claudia Maki made the first recorded ascent of this peak in 1960, also from Redline Creek, they found this enormous monument, but no summit record.
Finally, at 2:00 pm, we headed down. The descent proved fast and easy: the new snow provided excellent straight line plunge stepping, and lower down we continued directly south down the now snow-free rocky alps, cutting off a good deal of the upper road. At one point, we could see an ATV driver with dog on the road below us. Our direct route led us back to the truck in a mere 2 ½ hours by 4:30 for a very acceptable 8½-hour day. After quickly guzzling a Pepsi, we drove down to Radium Hot Springs in 90 min., consumed a burger and fries, and drove home by midnight. In all, Redline was an unexpected September bonus—another of the delights of alpinism. Kim Kratky