Main gully from base

Chancellor Peak is Mount Vaux’s slightly shorter neighbor to the southwest, south of the Trans Canada Highway between Field and Golden. Their routes are roughly similar — bushwhack a bit, follow a gully to the ridge, then turn left — but Chancellor’s is more involved and technical. It is also relentlessly steep, gaining almost 7000 feet in about 3.5 miles. Vaux had been somewhat of a slog in the rain, so I returned for Chancellor rested and with better weather. I had been vacillating on whether or not to attempt Mount Goodsir, an 11er a few miles south of Vaux and Chancellor, and the view of the Goodsirs from the summit of Chancellor was sufficient motivation.

Nearing middle cliff band

Driving back into Yoho Park one last time, I parked near a closed campground next to a much smaller one, then took off at a lazy hour along the old campground loop. At a somewhat arbitrary point where the loop is heading toward the peak, I took off to the right, crossing open fields, woods, and a very short stretch of bog, following game trails to eventually reach the base of the ascent gully. There was some additional hiking to get out of the woods, but a steady supply of fresh rubble from the gully kept the undergrowth in check. I continued rock-hopping a short distance in the open, then bashed my way up the left bank to find a faint use/game trail.

Direct route through cliff band

I followed this trail off and on for what felt like forever, usually staying right along the edge of the gully, but sometimes deviating left. The trail deteriorated as I climbed, and seemed to disappear completely higher up, where I negotiated some frustrating pickup-sticks deadfall through an old burn. This section was slow and frustrating, but it soon enough gave way to a steep gully and open woods, which led efficiently to the base of some cliffs. There turned out to be an easier way to the left, but I attacked fairly directly, climbing a gully on reasonable fourth class rock, then gaining a rock rib. I found a cairn, traversed another gully, then climbed another rib to the edge of the main drainage.

Ledge returning to main gully

The reason for the side shenanigans is some steep dryfalls in the main chute, but that chute remains the best route to the summit ridge, so the route traverses back in via some steep side-hilling and a narrow rubble ledge. Once back in the gully, I made my way up generally stable boulders and clean rock in the dry watercourse, deviating right to get around a blob of lingering snow. The drainage steepens into a bowl below the ridge, with leftward-trending ramps leading toward the summit. I scrabbled up some terrible dirt to get to the ramps, then wove my way up and left, finding some class 3-4 steps and a fair amount of scree.

Slab traverse

Reaching the ridge, I peered down the sheer south side to a glacier, then headed along the crest toward the summit. It started out easy, but the rock was fairly bad, a vertical step required traversing left onto the face. This part was the psychological crux, crossing rubble-covered slabs steep enough that one feels only barely stuck on, until it is possible to climb through a break in a short, vertical rock band. I am not sure if a person would pick up speed if he fell, or just slowly slide to a stop, but the rocks I dislodged certainly got going fairly fast. Once through the short step, more wandering third class climbing led up the face, returning to the ridge just shy of the summit.

Goodsirs and Ice River

While the weather was pleasant, clouds unfortunately interfered with the views of Vaux and the Goodsirs. However, ten minutes’ patience on the summit rewarded me with a nearly-clear view of the latter. Other than a bit of fresh snow lingering on north-facing ledges, they were totally dry, and hugely imposing, rising almost 7000 feet on the other side of the Ice River valley. Seeing them, I knew that I would kick myself forever for not giving them a try.

Trans-Canada from summit

The descent was predictably slow. I crab-walked and side-stepped down the upper steep terrain, then carefully picked my way back across the slabs, taking a slightly different route. I found a few cairns traversing down the bowl to the watercourse, on what may have been a slightly easier line. I knew the traverse out of the ravine led to a point just above a small but distinctive tree, but it took me a couple of tries to find my exact line. I tried to find an easier way down below, mostly without success: the cairned route through the cliffs was less technical but more annoying than my line on the way up, and I found no better route through the pickup-sticks.

Back at the car, I briefly talked to a guy from Calgary looking for a place to go for a short bike ride. I made food and hung out, so I was still there when he returned, informing me that the old Ice River Road, which weirdly takes off from near the campground, was choked with deadfall and miserable. We talked for awhile, and I found out that he knew the mountains well, and had done a number of the 11ers. When he left, I finally packed up and headed back to the familiar Beaverfoot Road, driving farther to the Ice River spur. I made sandwiches, packed, and tried to get to sleep quickly, excited and apprehensive about the “real day” ahead.

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