MOUNTS FLEANCE & MACDUFF by Steven Horvath
From “Peakbagging for Intermediates” ’95 Karabiner
Time to move on to bigger and (one would hope) better things. There are many good places for an aspiring peakbagger and we are fortunate to have some of them right in our backyard. A great place to start is on one of the groups of peaks accessible from the Glacier Creek Road. Probably the best one of them, especially for an intermediate peakbagger, is the Macbeth Group.
So in the interest of research and service to fellow K.M.C.ers Hamish Mutch and I had decided to end the summer with a “long glacier slog”. The idea had occurred to Hamish while sweating it out on, under and [all] over Stegosaurus Ridge in the dry smoky heat of July 1994. With our calendars full of a variety of family and work commitments, there was only one possible date left; two days [exact date to be agreed upon later] during the last week of holidays. The weather was not very cooperative so we kept postponing the start from day to day, until we found ourselves driving up Glacier Creek in fog and rain with only a day and a half left to the start of school.
Hamish’s plan was simplicity itself; leave one car at the end of the North Fork road then drive the second car to the start of the Macbeth trail. The trail was a pleasant albeit rather wet surprise, considerably improved from its previous state. It took us two and a half hours to reach the small lake below the headwall and as it was getting dark and we were a bit on the damp side we decided to put up a tent, dry out and hope that the weather will follow suit. It did; the skies cleared, stars were bright and I was pleased with my decision to lug my big winter sleeping bag.
Next morning, we made a sensible start. We reached the top of the headwall in 30 minutes. This was our original destination and a much more pleasant place to camp than in the narrow damp valley next to the lake. We could now see our first goal, Mt. Banquo. After a look at our watches and a quick calculation of the time available we quickly agreed to give it a pass and settle for Mts. Fleance and Macduff. The weather was glorious. It was one of those early fall days when one can see forever. There was new snow on the ground and we put our crampons on for a last steepish slope below Mt. Fleance and then a short horizontal scramble and there we were. The view was tremendous and Hamish entertained me with his impressive knowledge of the surrounding peaks.
After the summit lunch we started across Macbeth Icefield. The snow was firm and going was easy and fast, not quite the leisurely glacier slog that Hamish kept dreaming about while sweating it out on the warm granite of the Stegosaurus Ridge. It took us less that 90 minutes to get to the far end where we were planning to drop down to the valley below the NE escarpment of Macbeth Icefield [site of the 1988 hiking camp]. One look at Mt. Macduff and another at our watches and we were off. The summit was just as we predicted, a pleasant 30 minute scramble.
By then it was past 5 p.m. and we had a short discussion about the shortening days and the unknown bushwhack to the car. We kept moving at almost Freddie Thiessen pace with only occasional glances at the truly spectacular surroundings, but alas, a mini epic was unavoidable. The bushwhack turned out to be longer and more bushy than expected [the enormous huckleberries were a temptation that we had to resist, well most of the time anyway] and it got darker and darker and we were nowhere near our destination. As a matter of fact we could not see it, or where we were, or very much of anything. It was prime bear country but by then we were thrashing through the bush so noisily that even the most dense of ursidaes would be aware of the presence of dumb tourists in their neighbourhood. Anyway, we did make it, notwithstanding wading a flooded creek, falling into tree holes, hanging from a bush by one arm while trying to cross a wet log spanning a vertical gully in pitch darkness etc. Such are the consequences of peakbagging addiction.
So, to summarize: this is a lovely trip with a possibility of bagging three separate peaks in one day, especially during the longer daylight in mid summer with an early start. Two cars are advisable as the traverse does add an extra dimension.
There are plenty of nice campsites above the Macbeth headwall, at the level of the icefield. We could definitely recommend spending an extra night camping somewhere on the large plateau below the NE escarpment. This would give extra time to explore the plateau and downgrade the bushwhack to the car. Equipment 4WD car/truck is nice to have for the last section of the road to Macbeth trailhead. Usual snow/ice travel gear.
Mt. Fleance, 9520′, Mt. Macduff, 9810′ Steven Horvath, Hamish Mutch
MT BANQUO – North Ridge and Traverse by Hamish Mutch
Follow the MacBeth Icefield trail to the waterfall, up the big moraine to the Banquo-Fleance col and descend the glacier on the far side, turning west just above the outlet lake. I stopped at the last trickle of water before the north ridge and briefly fell asleep.
Reaching the crest below some broken black towers, I stayed on the rock all the way to the summit, finally arriving at about 5pm. There were superb views of the MacBeth Icefield and up the length of Duncan Lake.
I took the guidebook’s advice and easily descended the scree slopes to the southwest, and back to the big moraine. (This would be an excruciating way to climb the mountain!) I walked slowly down the trail by headlamp. Recent trail construction made it easier to follow in the dark.
This is a more strenuous trip, 18km in length and 7000 feet of vertical. 12-14 hrs., with unique summit views.