Lesser Wedge Mountain

Elevation Gain: 2,512m
Distance: 24.39km
Total Time: 12 hours 38 minutes
Date: April 19th, 2024

Lesser Wedge Mountain is the smaller counterpart to the massive Wedge Mountain, located just a few hundred meters west of it. Despite being so close to Wedge, one of the more popular skiing and mountaineering objectives in the area, it appears to be rarely ascended. Perhaps that’s because it looks improbable from most angles. Or perhaps it’s such a massive effort just to get to the main prize, few people want to venture further for something with the word “Lesser” in its name. For whatever reason, there are few accounts of the summit and I was keen to find out why when Elise posted a photo of Lesser Wedge on the way up the NE Arete of Wedge Mountain. Front and center was a tantalizing snow line on the north west face that appeared to run directly to the summit. There was some added exposure as the line traversed climber’s left above steep cliff bands, but in good snow conditions this looked manageable. Elise’s photo revealed one other thing. The snow line looked to be 45 degrees at most, not some extreme snow line as it might first appear. Of course, that’s subject to change once you’re there in person, but this was looking like a very reasonable proposition.

I quickly messaged Steven to see if he could make a mid-week ascent work. Wednesday and Thursday had excellent conditions and the weekend was looking like it was going to fall apart. It was now or… much later! He managed to shuffle his schedule around and now we were committed to a Thursday ascent. Steven reached out to Elise about the summit and found out that she was also organizing a team with Brayden and Garrick and so we decided to join forces. It was shaping up to be a busy day out there as I found out that my friend’s Alex and Trevor would be in the area at the same time doing Wedge Mountain.

Our plan was to start walking by 3:30am on Thursday, but we ended up starting closer to 4am. Some time was wasted as I drove us up two separate spur roads to see if we could dispatch with more elevation, but they did not pan out. As it was, we started the steep approach up to Wedgemount Lake at a fast pace. We did our best to dodge the skating rink of a trail at the midway point and reached the lake in just over 2 hours. Alex and Trevor had started an hour before us so I was scanning around to see if I could spot them, but no luck.

If you’ve seen one of these night time approach photos, you’ve seen them all
The final steep slope below Wedgemount Lake
Sunrise over Rainbow Mountain

We dipped into the shelter for a few minutes to have some snacks and then started the long haul up the Wedgemount Glacier. There were already tracks in place from the previous days, so we simply followed those keeping an eye out for sagging snow, crevasses, etc. Far ahead we could now see Alex and Trevor and they were nearly to the arete by the time we were onto the glacier proper. After our quick pace out of the forest, this section felt markedly slow and challenging. The bitter cold didn’t help much either, but the sun was beginning to poke out over the ridgeline and this offered some motivation.

Heading around Wedgemount Lake towards the glacier
Steven leading the way through this bitterly cold section
On the glacier now. Wedge Mountain poking out behind
Getting ready to rope up
Elise and Steven plodding along
Garrick, Brayden and myself heading up
Into this short icefall section
Last slope to gain the arete

By 9am or so we crested onto the notch that marks the start of the “Half NE Arete” route on Wedge. Our plan now was to drop onto the other side and contour along a glacier bench on the north east side to reach the base of Lesser Wedge. Steven did some cornice assessment and found a reasonable spot to drop in. Meanwhile, Alex and Trevor had just finished their descent and met up with us while we were doing some gear transitions. We coaxed them into joining along after seeing our route for Lesser Wedge would be manageable with an expanded party count. With that Steven lead us down onto the glacier bench and we traversed for perhaps 1000m around to the base of Lesser Wedge.

All of us on the arete now
Lesser Wedge looks like an imposing fin of rock from here
Alex and Trevor just finishing up their ascent
Steven descending to the glacier bench
Plodding along now
Looking back at where we gained the bench
One short steep slope to get off the bench. I just glissaded down this part
Looking towards Flood Peak
This is the view across the Weart Glacier. Oasis Mountain and Eureka Mountain left and right
Steven reaching the base

Here we swapped snowshoes for crampons and ice tools and then Steven and I started up. I lead a traverse into the snowline where it steepened to perhaps 45 degrees before tapering off as we reached the continuous line to the ridge. Steven swapped leads with me for a bit when I ran afoul in unconsolidated snow near some rock and then Brayden, Steven, Alex and myself swapped trail breaking duties to the top. The snow line didn’t prove to be all that long, around 150m, and not any steeper than 45 degrees. Adding to that we had perfect secure snow conditions making for excellent bucket steps to the ridge.

Myself starting up. This was the steepest section and a little exposed at climber’s left
Myself as Steven passed around to start trail breaking
Here’s Steven from my angle
The rest of the crew coming up
Now looking up at the line to the ridge
Getting higher. Sorry for the camera tilt

Steven reached the ridge first and then we slowly piled onto the narrow summit shortly after. The ridge was wide enough for one person at most, but had enough length to somehow squeeze all 7 of us on. James Turner was highly visible from the summit and commanded most of our attentions. Nivalis and Mount Pitt vied for a second place though and really the whole area was phenomenal to look at.

Steven reaching the ridge
Myself on the ridge/summit
Looking at Alex, Brayden and Steven on the northern side of the summit
and now the other way with Garrick, Trevor and Elise
Mount James Turner is no easy feat

I started the descent first and followed the ladder of bucket steps down. Brayden and Steven eked past me near the bottom, but I reached our gear not long after. The rest of the crew wasn’t far behind and we relocated ourselves to a sunny patch to catch up on snacks and figure out the plan for the rest of the day. Alex and Trevor had now done Wedge and Lesser Wedge and I was already starting to contemplate going for a double summit as well. The route up Wedge was much less involved and we’d be passing within 300m of it on the way back, so why not. After our snack break we followed our tracks uneventfully back to the NE Arete of Wedge and Garrick, Brayden, Steven and myself started our second ascent of the day.

Steven captured me descending this lower section to our gear
Mount Weart is a ways off now

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