OCHRE PEAK 3095m 10,150′
Map: 82K/7 Duncan Lake
Ochre, one of the Horseshoe Peaks on the south side of Glacier Creek located some six kilometres south, southeast of Lady Macbeth, seems to hold a fascination for local climbers. It was first climbed in 1971 by a party of Americans led by Jim Petroske, who made many first ascents in the West Kootenays. In those days the Glacier Creek road went up only some ten kilometres and was on the north side of the creek. The group would have crossed the Glacier Creek on a log (a sobering thought), bushwhacked up the drainage west of Ochre, ascended the West Truce Glacier, crossed a col somewhere between Squabble and Ochre, and climbed the peak via its south ridge.
I first had a look at Ochre in July 1978 when Fred Thiessen and 1 viewed it from Tranquility, another Horseshoe Peak, and guessed it might be unclimbed. Time passed and by the early 90s when the Glacier Creek road began to re-open, Ochre again became of interest to me. Several parties attempted it from the west, as that side is easily visible and seemingly accessible from the main road. Andrew Port and Chad Johnson ascended the rubbly-looking west face to about 2740 metres just below the big step on Ochre’s north ridge. There they were benighted, and because of fresh snow and low cloud, retreated to the east across from Horseshoe and Truce Glaciers to link up with the KMC climbing school for a ride back. Tim Rippel and Myke Hryniuk also attempted the peak. They travelled up the West Truce Glacier to ascend the rotten ridge southeast of Ochre, somewhere near Squabble Mountain, where they were turned back by wane of daylight. Then there were rumours of ascents, Someone told me Fred Thiessen and Peter Wood had done Ochre on skis. Not so. Another informed me that Armin Hasenkox and party had done it by the Rippel/ Hryniuk approach. Not true, either. Armin’s group retreated because of unstable snow on the steep upper West Truce Glacier.
For several years I pored over maps and discussed approaches with friends. but never attempted the peak. At one time I thought about approaching Ochre from the bottom of the Horseshoe Glacier, but examination from viewpoints farther north convinced me this would be, well, imprudent. Finally I decided to “just do it” from the south fork of Glacier Creek using the normal approach to Truce and Cauldron. Maybe this wouldn’t be as exciting or as aesthetic as the other routes, but it seemed to stand a good chance of success.
At 4:50 a.m. on July 21, 1997. Peter Tchir and departed from our car camp on the Glacier’s south fork just below where the trail begins. Clad in shorts and plastic boots, we carried a nine mm rope, and some rock gear since Petroske’s account spoke of several leads of roped climbing on the south ridge. (CAJ vol. 55, pp. 82) Following the usual west moraine route, we reached the edge of the Truce Glacier (9,250′ 2820m) after 3 hours and 15 minutes, and roped up. We see a track leading off toward Cauldron which we surmise was Peter Bullock’s path made a week or so before.
Off we plod in a westerly direction toward the Quibble-Tranquility col (10,000′ 3050m) which we reached at 9:15. After a snack, we descend a steep snow couloir for 100 metres, gingerly cross a snowed-in ‘schrund and reach the Horseshoe Glacier itself. Ambling along in a northwesterly direction, we passed under the impressive rocky block of Squabble (10,000’ 3050m) which we mark down for attention at a later date. Nearing Ochre, we ascend some very steep snow with an even steeper and uglier run-out, we flop down in a boulder pile IS metres below the south ridge and just below the summit tower at 11:10 a.m. (6 hours 20 minutes up). We inspect the ochre-toned rock and decide the final bit will be an easy scramble on shattered rock with a snow patch in the middle. We also examine what we can see on Ochre’s west face; the upper portion is a desert of crumbling red pinnacles set amid steep. loose aggregate—a truly ugly route. Below that the West Truce Glacier is a sea of broken ice for more than a kilometre. Dumping the rope, we complete the climb in an effortless 20 minutes, reaching the top at 1:50.
There is a cairn but no record, so we add our own with a note about Petroske’s first ascent. We lounge for an hour in fine weather, speculating that ours might be only the second ascent. On return, we cross the Horseshoe Glacier, enjoy fine views of the Egyptian Peaks, and meander up to the Toad-Quibble col (9,800′ 2985m), passing over an easy filled-in bergschrund. This is recommended over the Quibble-Tranquility col, which later in the year and in low snow years might not give access to the Horseshoe Glacier. Descending onto the Truce Glacier, we pick up our tracks from the morning, enjoy a building thunderstorm on our way down the moraine, and return to the truck by 5:30. The mystique of Ochre has been dissolved in one physically hard but technically easy outing. Ochre Peak south ridge (111, 4, s/g) Accent 6 hours, descent 5 1/2.