Icefields Parkway Trip Reports

Middle Earth (Practice) Gully – Mount Andromeda

Overview

Quote from Barry Blanchard on the Earth (Practice) Gullies: 

I’m on a campaign to change the name of these climbs away from the “Practice Gullies” as the route that we climbed yesterday is as long, and of better quality, than the routes on the N Face of Mt Fay. I’ve taken to calling the left hand climb “Far Earth“, the middle “Middle Earth“, and the right “Near Earth“. The slope leading to the AA Col (not pictured) is “Little Earth

Location: Icefields Parkway (Mount Andromeda)

Elevation Gain (m): 300m of climbing

Total Time: 14.00 Hours (Including helping another party and a 2 hour summit nap)

Difficulty: 50-60 Degree snow early season, can be 300m of alpine ice late season.

Cell reception: None

Rating: 4/5. Very rewarding for the effort, the approach isn’t nearly as long as for Skyladder and you do roughly the same amount of climbing on slightly steeper terrain.

Photos

Aside: Routes on Andromeda and Athabasca

I’ve tried to compile all the major routes on Athabasca and Andromeda using beta from Selected Alpine Climbs, Summitpost, and Vern’s Site. If there are any routes that I can add please let me know!

All climbing routes on Mount Andromeda including the practice/earth gullies

Major Routes on Andromeda that can be seen from the road.

All climbing routes on Mount Athabasca, Icefield Parkway

Major Routes on Athabasca as seen from the road

After begging Tim to tackle something like Photofinish or Skyladder with me, I finally settled for the Practice Gullies. I guess the name and seemingly unaesthetic line made me think they would be a waste of time when we could be doing a more classic route. Boy was I wrong. The Gullies are something that I am definitely going back for, to do them all and even repeat the middle one. When we got to the summit we ran into another group of friends I’ve climbed with before who had just finished Skyladder and they admitted that they felt a bit uninspired by the route. From the summit it definitely doesn’t look at steep, and it isn’t much longer climbing wise. I’m thankful I listened to Tim, who has done almost every route on Andromeda and I now believe him when he says that the Earth Gullies are the best routes on the mountain (aside from the harder mixed routes I assume).

Mount Andromeda Practice Gully Route

Navigating under the cornices, you can just barely see our tracks.

Middle Earth Practice Gully Mount Andromeda

Tim traversing the final section as we try to escape the gully before it gets too warm.

Approach

The Earth Gullies are all very easy to approach. Start at the parking lot and follow Snocoach road to the bus station and up a small hill. When the hill starts t go down and the road levels out look for a faint trail on the left hand side marked by a carin. This trail follows the road while slowly gaining elevation along the moraine. After a while it takes a sharp left and up towards the tongue of the glacier (seen in photos above). Follow the trail on the left through easy rock on the headwall and up onto the glacier above. From here gear up and head straight to the bottom of the gully.

Far Earth had cornices blocking the entire exit when we were there, so be careful.

Middle Earth seemed to be in the best shape, but was still threatened by huge cornices.

Near Earth has a spicy rock step (can’t find a grade?) and with no rock gear we didn’t attempt it, although I would like to go back and see what it’s like.

 

Descent

Descend the AA Col route, by either rapping from sketchy tat and pins in summer, or down climbing easy snow in early season. Basically just follow the ridge until you can look down and see the AA Col below.

 

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