Stats include overnight stay and all 3 summits
Elevation Gain: 2898m
Total Moving Time: 17 hours 40 minutes
Date: May 21st, 2022
Ashes Peak is located on the eastern side of the Terrarosa glacier and can be reached with a mere 100m elevation gain from the glacier base. As a result, it makes for an enticing addition to any trip to the Fire Spires. Steven, Phil, Alex and myself had just finished summitting Ember Mountain and while Steven was making his way up The Flames, the rest of us slowly made our way up towards Ashes Peak. From the glacier it’s a tame snowed-over slope (at this time of year) to gain the summit.
Phil left before Alex and I was most of the way up to the summit by the time we started up. I was still wearing crampons from the descent of Ember and found the firm snow perfect for climbing. It didn’t take more than 20 minutes and Alex and I joined Phil at the summit. We sat down and soaked in the sun while we watched Steven plod across the glacier. He made amazing time and joined us on the summit without much wait.
We hung out for awhile longer and then descended down our ascent track. Instead of dropping down to the glacier directly, we cut left towards the chute and rejoined with our tracks from the first thing that morning. It was around 8:30am now and already the sun was heating things up quickly. Wet loose sluffing was occuring on the chute walls nearby and the snow underfoot was growing increasingly rotten. Thankfully the conditions improved on the slopes closer to camp and we got back to base about 20 minutes later.
Once we reached camp we took a long break to make lunch, boil snow for water and pack things up. We didn’t get going again until around 10am. From camp, we retraced our tracks back around to the south side of Mount Glendinning where we ran into Steven’s friend Vlad and his friend Chris. They were making a day trip out to Ember and after a brief exhange we began that 200m gain back up to the eastern side of Glendinning. The snow was firmer than expected and we reached the the slopes above the gully in good time.
Here, the conditions worsened drastically. We were sinking up to our hips in spots and at one point I tried a short glissade and the whole slope below me gave way. I wasn’t in a bad spot for this, but it was clear the snow stability as in a bad state. Worst of all, we’d have to descend that gully now and there was significant overhead hazards and evidence of a size 2 slide that morning. Unfortunately, there weren’t really another options down, so we started down the treacherous snow in the gully. Everyone was slipping out, sinking and risking a fall down the gully. Steven made the call half way down to ditch the snow shoes and expedite his descent with a glissade. After a successful ride to the run out zone, Phil followed soon and then I decided I didn’t want to prolong my exposure in the slide zone either.
I started my glissade with my snow shoes and this proved to be a total mistake. As I picked up speed, I couldn’t dig my heels in because my snow shoes flexed too much and my speed picked up faster and faster. I reached “critical mass” and couldn’t stop my trajectory any longer as I careened towards Phil and Steven. They had to jump out of the way and thankfully I hit softer snow just after and finally came to a halt. Worst case I would have run out to the bottom, so I was glad I learned this lesson here and even happier to be out of the gully now.
We regrouped outside of the debris zone and then plodded back to the edge of the cut block. Our snow shoes stayed on until the very last snow flake and then we put them away for the traverse back to the key gully. The rest of the descent was uneventful thanks to Steven’s route finding and we found ourselves back at the truck around 2pm. Steven drove us the rest of the way out and we managed to avoid any serious long weekend traffic.
A special thanks goes out to Steven for organizing a full on trip like this and driving us all out there with a good group of guys. I got to witness some of the best views I’ve ever seen and I will most certainly be back to the Fire Spires for some of the more technical ascents when I’m ready.