Emerald Basin: President & Vice President attempt

Me and Nayden were excited about the excellent weather coming up this weekend and made plans to do the President & Vice President in a day by approaching it from Emerald Lake. I got up at 1am, which is my all-time record, picked up Nayden and we were on the edge of Calgary by 2:30am. The temperature was below zero in the town of Field during the night, and we wanted to get an early start to take advantage of the frozen glacier, and to be down off of it early, because of the hot day that was forecasted.

With headlamps on, we were hiking at 4:50am around the Emerald Lake trail. Less than an hour later, we were in Emerald Basin. Here's where we made a mistake... Sean's book talks about following "the creek" until the snout of the glacier, and the topo map (82N10) had a single creek running down the correct valley. It was dark, and the terrain didn't make a lot of sense, so we spent some time here wondering what to do. Eventually we decided that since there is only one creek on the map & the description, we should just follow it. In the dark, it was really hard to see other landmarks. This was a mistake and cost us over 2 hours, because the big creek (including 2 waterfalls) follows the valley on the West of the basin, toward Mt Carnarvon and Mt Marpole. Needless to say, once the sun started coming up and we had light, we realized we were in the wrong valley and backtracked.

Eventually we started making our way up toward the glacier, now with everything in sight. The gulley leading to the glacier was much slower-going than we anticipated, being loose and quite steep in places, and remaining snow/ice required us to take our crampons on and off. In the meantime, the sun had come up, and was heating up the rock walls surrounding us. On climber's left is the S ridge of The President, which is an impressive overhanging wall... in places directly above your head. There is water seeping down these walls and as the sun was heating things up, the threat of rockfall was increasing. I was worried about rockfall the whole time, and as we witnessed a few rocks doing just that here, the choice was to turn back. We weren't sure an alternative descent existed and the thought of coming back down this gulley later in the day did not make us feel safe, to say the least. Perhaps had we not gotten off-route and wasted precious time in the dark, this would be different.

There may be an alternate way, on the right side, away from the creek gulley, where there is less objective hazard. At least it looks that way from our pictures on the descent... who knows. It would be best to keep right from the start in that case, as the rock was quite loose and climbing out of the gulley did not look good once you're there. There would still be a significant rockfall hazard in the heat of an afternoon however, and I would not recommend this route to anyone. On a cold day this maybe better, but in the winter this must be an avalanche gulley. We'll see whether we give it another shot... it's tempting. However, the N Glacier route on the other side looks much more aesthetic, without the objective hazard, and seems to be a better choice despite the longer approach.

  some waterfalls, leading up the wrong valley the correct ascent valley  




  this is the start of the glacier in the view, but we decided to turn back