REDTOP MT, TRUCE GROUP 3156m 10,355’
Map: 82K/7 Duncan Lake
Redtop, another of those peaks I have wanted to climb since 1976, is located at the south end of the Jumbo Creek valley between Blockhead and Earl Grey.
For this outing, Paul Allen and I drove over to the East Kootenay on Thursday, July 9th, following the Toby and Jumbo Creek roads from Invermere. At km. 12.9 on the Jumbo road, just past a creek crossing, we turned left onto a faint road, re-set the odo, plunged down into a washout, and continued along the much-improved route up Leona Creek, passing R-K Heli Ski’s shelter (signed “Roger’s Hut/Leona Creek Lodge”) at km. 1.6. After turning left at km. 3.3, we continued up switchbacks, cut out some deadfalls, and parked in a landing at 6560’, GR 298-757, at 8:30 pm (4WD high clearance).
Friday morning, it was raining and looked grim. Later, as the weather improved, we made a recce for the route to Red Top. Following our logging road to its end at 7300’, we then headed up and east through parkland and alps to reach the crest of a beautiful north-south ridge at 7750’, 307-353, in one hour. From this spot, we had an unimpeded view of Red Top, a somewhat odd-shaped peak with a long west ridge, something of a hogback, ending in a tilted summit horn on the east end. As we relaxed, we agreed on our ascent route: south and up a glacier to reach the crest of this west ridge at a low spot, then along that to the summit. This is the route used by Conrad Kain and Albert and Bess MacCarthy on the first ascent in August 1916. In fact, part of our plan was to pick up a rock from the summit, and add it to the cairn of first-ascent rocks at the Conrad Kain fest in Wilmer on Saturday at 3:00 pm.
On the next morning in fine weather, we departed at 5:30, reached our ridge crest in 45 min., continued south to a lake, and plodded up low-angle rock to the glacier’s tongue. Rope on, we ascended somewhat “manky” snow, making for the obvious col in the west ridge. Higher up, we avoided a bergschrund by moving left and scaling greasy, rotten rock to reach the col by 8:30 (9150’, GR 314-738). Rope off, we headed up and east on the ridge on junky rock with ups and downs over several towers. Some time later, on reaching the highest tower, I was sobered to see how far away the summit lay (the ridge is 1.3 km. long). Continuing east, we turned difficulties on the right or south side, descending below notches and traversing on steep junk enlivened by dripping water and mud. We passed through a col with a rappel sling (left, we learned later, by Hamish Mutch’s party on their ice climb of the north face some years back), descended a nasty, wet wall on the south side, and continued to the final tower. Since roughly the highest tower, we had kept the rope on, mostly simul-climbing but occasionally belaying on this high class 4-low class 5 route. After leading across a snow pillow to the west base of the summit tower at 9850’, I conceded to myself that the prize was now within reach. Something to be said for grim perseverance. Still, the peak did not relent: 200’ of awful scree, followed by 300’ of steep broken junk on the west face, got us finally to the level summit knob.
After walking past a fallen weather or communications mast, we reached the highest point, a flat expanse with no cairn. It was 1:00 pm: the ascent had taken a cool 7 ½ hours from our camp, and a whopping 4 ½ hours on that ridge. We limited our stay to a scant 30 min., but had leisure to identify in hazy conditions Hamill, Toby, Lady Grey, Nelson, a very snowy Farnham, Truce, Cauldron, Cooper, and Brennan. As well, we noted signs of numerous lightning strikes on our summit, causing us to guess that the cairn had been blasted to rubble.
On return, we followed our ascent route, negotiating the slimy wall (Paul cheerfully observing, “That was 5.5”) and continuing to the col with the sling. Here, we made a good choice and decided to head straight down a north rib/north face, Paul belaying me for four leads on steep, shattered rubbish. Reaching the glacier, I led us down and left to easy rock above the tarn by 4:30. We then continued north along the larch-studded ridge of our ascent route, stopping occasionally to admire our north-side descent line off the peak, which from this angle looked impressively vertical.
Back to the truck by 6:30 after a 13-hour day and a 5-hour descent, we flung ourselves into our lawn chairs. While we each drained a Coke, Paul observed, “I hope that makes your ‘best-of list’.” As for the rock, we got it but were a little late to make the festivities in Wilmer.