MOUNT AMEN-RA 2914m 9,550′
MOUNT ATMU 2804m 9,200′
Egyptian Peaks, Glacier Creek by Kim Kratky
Back in the 1970’s, when Glacier Creek first opened up to easy access, I spent some time on the Truce Glacier studying the peaks south of Mt. Monica on the height of land between Glacier and Jumbo Creeks. Prominent among these was a dark, pointed one, the highest and most formidable-looking of the group.
In 1991, after visiting Monica Meadows for the first time, I had a look at some old ACC Journals and discovered that my peak was Amen-Ra, one of the Egyptian Peaks first climbed and named by Curt Wagner and John Jeglum in 1971. They approached this 9,550 ft peak from the Jumbo Creek side and climbed it via the north ridge. Over the following winter Hamish Mutch mentioned that Bob Krusznya and party had climbed Amen-Ra via what he said was the south ridge and had likened the route to a mini version of Sir Donald’s NW arete. Our appetites whetted, we decided to go have a look at this peak when the next climbing season arrived.
On Saturday June 20th, 1992 we drove up to the end of the Monica Meadows road and car camped. The next morning we were up just after 4:00. My first more-or-less waking act was to squash my glasses while I knelt down to wash in a creek. More of the same was to follow. We got away just before 5:00, headed up the trail, and then diagonalled east to a prominent notch in Amen-Ra’s SSW ridge (co-ordinates 244- 830). At the time we were thinking about this ridge of Amen-Ra, a series of jagged ups and downs which hadn’t and probably still hasn’t been climbed. Hamish was more enthusiastic about this new route than I was; fortunately for my peace of mind I was able to persuade him that it was too rotten–it was. The decision made, we dropped a few hundred feet into a boulder-filled valley east of the notch and traversed north. Here, I slipped while boulder hopping and opened a nice gash in my knee. Fun event number two. After climbing north on some snow slopes in this valley, we finally decided to start on the rock of the south face, since the “south” ridge seemed awfully far away to the east.
Right away we put our rock shoes for some high-angle scrambling on solid limestone-like rock much different from the junk on the west side. Cliff bands and overhangs above kept forcing us right or east as we crossed two couloirs on our way up. One of the memorable sections was traversing steep snow on the lower edge of a ‘schrund while wearing rock shoes. More movement up and right eventually put us onto Amen-Ra’s east ridge/face (the ridge makes an “s” between our peak and Storus next to the south, so there really isn’t any south ridge). For the last hour I’d been muttering to myself, “Doesn’t this guy ever use a rope ?”
Just as I reached a good station below where the climbing would definitely get harder, Hamish called out, “Could you give me a belay up to that spot?” 25 From this point we did five leads of class 4 and low class 5, mostly on smooth slabs with flaring cracks that were hard to protect. The friction was good, but this early in the season streams of meltwater on the slabs made the footing more tricky. Hamish got all the good leads, the third pitch being the most interesting. We kept the rope on for the last, sixth, lead as we scrambled to the pointed summit just past 12:30, 7 hrs 50 mns after leaving the truck.
A hot sun burned down from a cloudless sky as we lounged on top for nearly an hour. Hamish had climbed most of the rock route in shorts and without a shirt on this longest day of the year, so he was in need for sun protection. In a fitting tribute to the sun god our peak was named after, he wrapped a shirt round his head in something approaching Egyptian style to fend off the blazing rays.
Now what about getting down ? Down-climbing our route was unappetizing, and there certainly weren’t many anchors spots for what would have to be multiple rappels. It didn’t take long for us to choose to descend the north ridge, a class 3-4 route that we did unroped. Near the bottom of the ridge we descended steep snow on the east until we reached the col between Amen-Ra and Atmu to the north.
The gully leading west down to Monica Meadows didn’t look too good so we continued north over Mt. Atmu. In for a penny, in for a pound. In fifteen minutes we had passed over the top of 9,200 ft Atmu. We down climbed to the next col along the ridge; from here the going to the north didn’t look too good, so we decided to take a big gully down to the meadows 1,500 ft below. It wasn’t a pleasant experience: slithering down some gravelly rib, hoping the crappy handholds would hold until my boots touched some tiny ledge; hunting for parallel gullys after the one we were in ended in a 300 ft drop; smashing the crystal of my watch while doing a hand jam. Hey, we don’t recommend this route.
Eventually, we reached the upper meadows and followed the creek downstream to pick up some gear Hamish had cached in the morning. By now we were pretty beat, and Hamish looked truly sunburned. Now to follow the “flagged” route back to the trailhead (one of my major complaints about this route is that it has been hard to find on the way back from the Meadows). On the way out, I never did see a piece of flagging until we were five minutes from the top of the trail, although we had been about 50 to 100 ft above the route the whole way. This did provide some extra excitement to our day. Wonderful way to finish–get lost. When I delivered a jolly, “Good, now I won’t have to kill you.” Finally, at 7:00 pm we reached the truck, just over 14 hours after starting.
Summary: one pair of broken glasses, one bloody knee, one watch destined for retirement, one thoroughly sunburned partner, two peaks climbed. I think Fred would classify it as a “low-grade ordeal.” And it took just about as long as climbing Sir Donald would.
Map: 82K/7 Duncan Lake