This was a total last minute decision between me and Sean C. we were initially going to paddle across the Squamish river and go do the East Ridge of Alpha. I ended up calling Black Tusk Helicopters at 4:30pm the day before and asked if they had anything available for tomorrow morning and he said there was a 8:30am departure. That was good enough for me and Sean so we booked it. It was our first chopper ride, yes it's a form of cheating but I have done plenty of crappy ascents that I wanted to treat myself for a prize like this one. On Day 2 we would end up camping below Zenith, doing Zenith, then hiking down towards Pelion, back up Pelion's shoulder, then down the North Glacier and out via the Ossa trail so it was still abit of a grunt of a trip.
After all the safety stuff and whatnot, we got dropped off at the Zenith-Tantalus col, and when the chopper took off it was a very strange feeling. It was instantly a "Well I guess we are doing it now" feeling. I think because normally you get to adjust to the feeling of the alpine, this time it was just BAM! you're out there, dead silence, staring at towering walls and bergshrunds instantly. We ditched all our dead weight in a nearby moat, put on the crampons and took out the ice axe and started heading for the notch. It's a very steep traverse directly above a huge schrund, after a steep transition from snow to rock to gain the notch it was very nasty and loose. When Steve did this trip a few weeks later than us they still had snow covering the loose shit, so that heat dome did a number on the snowpack.
After arriving at the notch a short loose downclimb and now we are on the West side of the ridge in the shade doing another rising glacier traverse, The snow was in perfect condition for quick travel and the shade was nice as it was gonna be a hot one.
After the traverse it's one section of steep snow and then we gain the start of the rock portion of the ridge, and what a ridge it is! We passed by 2 guys from Ontario that were gonna do it over 3 days and had got dropped off before us a few hours earlier.
Once on the ridge it was pure joy just rambling along on beautiful class 3 rock.
There was one more downclimb section and then we jump onto the top of the rumbling glacier briefly and found our way to the "crux" of the route. Black Sheep guides had 2 clients on rope in this section, so we just took a long break in the shade and waited till they were gone and well ahead of us, we never saw them again. Our route up wasn't the best, Sean got himself into a jam on a slab traverse, so I downclimbed and found a better way to match his height where then I had to take out the rope, sling a rock and get him on a handline across. Of course when I took the rope out of my bag my crampons flew down the slope 15m so we had to go get those after he got across. LOL! this section was abit of a shitshow for us but once we figured out a better line, it was pretty straight forward class 3/4 up.
We were able to avoid the steep upper snow and stayed on the rock to the left and no we were at the sub-summit. It's a airy traverse that cuts straight across it bypassing going up and over it. We saw some old slings up above so we figured the route was up so we went up it and soon realized nope this isn't the way, so we downclimbed back to our initial traverse height and found a nice ledge to get us by it.
We climb up into the notch between the sub-summit and the true summit and do a nice section of rock to top out on Tantalus. The clouds are coming and going but the views are still fantastic.
Most people carry on towards Dione and do 3 or 4 raps down, and then make their way to the Habrel Hut, and then either get picked up by chopper or go down to Lake Lovely Water and then hike out via that trail and use the cable car wires to cross the Squamish River, or get a company to shuttle them across the river. This trip was so last minute that we didn't feel comfortable knowing the rap route that we decided to just head back the way we came.
The downclimbing was fine, we didn't use a rope until that 1st crux section where 1 single 30m rope got us down it no problem
The West side traverse that was in the shade in the morning was now brutally hot, it was instant sweat walking slowly down and I don't usually sweat that much. Once back in the loose notch there was a breeze blowing through it to cool off. The traverse back towards our gear above the schrund was abit sketchy now that the snow had softened up. It took me a good 30 steps to finally trust my crampons, and Sean definitely took his time on the traverse. I got into a zone and kicked my steps for him and zipped back to our gear where we had some beers chilling in the snow for us. We packed up and started to make our way closer to Zenith when we thankfully found some running water, so we filled up all our bladders and bottles and decided to just camp in the col where we would have the sunset to the West, and in the morning the sunrise to the East. It was abit windy at night but at least we had dry flat rock to hang out on and cook on. Day 1 was unreal! Day 2 would be a slog out.