Tom Livingstone and Uisdean Hawthorn, have made the third ascent of the House/Anderson route on the north face of Mt. Alberta (3619 m) spending two days on the mountain.
Arriving in Canada straight off the back of a short trip to Chamonix where they climbed both Divine Providence and the American Direct in only a few days, both fitness and confidence were high.
Fellow Mountain Equipment Pro Partner Nick Bullock made the coveted second ascent of the House/Anderson in 2014 with Will Sim [ see Nick’s blog], both raving about the quality of a climb that had only gained in reputation since its first ascent in 2008. Tom and Uisdean had attempted the route last year, but poor conditions turned them back at the start of the headwall. This time round local reports were that the mountain was in much better shape with generally thin ice and well-frozen but mostly bare rock.
Describing the route, Tom said: “We swung leads up the famous headwall, climbing overhanging ice, steep dry tooling and loose mixed climbing.”
“It was pretty relentless in terms of difficulty. All the hard climbing is on the headwall, which is about 12 pitches, with an amazing bivi cave at two-thirds height.”
“There are a few tricky pitches which Steve House graded M7 and one of M8. On a wild WI5++ pitch I had to aid on the axes for a couple of moves because the ice was so steep and severely undercut.”
Setting off at 1 a.m. the pair abseiled on to the glacier and moved together over the icefield, gaining the start of the headwall at 8 a.m. and the bivi cave by early evening. Tom said: “We spent the night here, feeling very lucky to be relatively warm and lying down.”
The following morning three more pitches took them to the top of the headwall with a further 150 metres of climbing seeing them on the summit. The pair descended the Japanese Route in worsening weather, arriving at the hut just as the light began to fade at 9 p.m.
A big part of climbing on Mt. Alberta is the seriousness and remoteness of the situation, Nick Bullock previously having described his experience on the mountain as being as committing as anything he’d climbed in the Himalayas.
Tom said: “We certainly felt the sense of isolation. You had to be extra careful to make sure nothing went wrong, you’d be in big trouble if you had an accident.”
Tom and Uisdean have two more weeks in Canada and are hoping to squeeze in another adventure if the weather allows. Tom has more photos and a write-up of the ascent on his blog