The east ridge of Mount Alpha is one of the classic alpine routes in the Tantalus Range. This route requires skills for glacier travel, moderate class 5 rock climbing and route finding in mountain terrain. Access to Lake Lovely Water will require a canoe or other boat to cross the Squamish River, or for the more adventurous, a large steel karabiner or pulley to traverse the cable crossing at the same point. Many do fly in to the lake, but the hike up from the Squamish River is well worth the extra effort. Though the fitter and more skilled mountaineers could do the entire trip in a day from Squamish, it is recommended that a full day be given for the return trip to Alpha from the lake. There is basic camping at the lake, as well as an cabin managed by the Alpine Club of Canada. To book this busy cabin, call Ron Royston 604-687-2711. For local companies that can provide ferrying services across the river, contact the Squamish Chamber of Commerce.
The Approach: Heading north from the cabin, past the camping area, then uphill in a north-westerly direction towards a relatively flat section on the east ridge of Alpha. As you get closer to the ridge, a head wall will force you up and right towards a more direct approach to the ridge. Cross a little way over the ridge, and you should be able to look west up a snow/glacier slope towards the peak. On the ridge, above and left are two rocky outcrops, followed by an open keyhole. Above that is a narrower keyhole looking over the Crescent Glacier above the lake, after which the ridge gets dramatically steeper before the final approach to the peak.
The Ridge: Climb the snow patch just staying just right of the ridge. Should snow conditions allow, continue up past the first keyhole up steepening snow to the second keyhole. If the glacier becomes too technical, regain the rocky ridge and scramble . From the second keyhole, three short pitches of up to 5.8 lead up through a steeper section. The first pitch is a little tricky, up an open corner, with a small overhang up higher. There is a low piton protecting the first few moves, though not much other gear. (An alternate route by passes these pitches, involving a forth class scramble crossing a treacherous scree slope to the left of the ridge before the fifth class section. A short distance past the scree slope, a gully allows you to scramble back and up to regain the ridge.) Then, continue up the ridge on good rock until you attain the summit.
The Descent: The standard descent is via the west side of Alpha. A little further across the summit you will be able to see a steepening west ridge dropping down to a patch of snow. An easy scramble down across the south face of this ridge into a shallow gully avoids the steeper sections, and gives easier access to the snow. About 150m further, a steep scramble or a short rappel down left (south) gains access to easier ground. Scramble down and gradually moving to the right (west) from here through scree, scrub and snow, taking the easiest path until you reach a shallow snow/scree bench above Lamda Lake, a small lake above Lake Lovely Water. (an alternate route from the rappel to this bench involves a more direct, though more technical, fourth class scramble descent. This route would not be recommended in wet conditions) Traverse back left (east-ish) along the bench, through a couple of thick patches of scrub until you can easily descend to Lambda via a snow slope. Across to the right (west) you will find a steep trail climbing up and behind a prominent bluff, which then drops down to a trail that leads back north east around Lake Lovely Water to the camp and cabin.
The route description for this trip are given from Lake Lovely Water, in the Tantalus Range. Lake Lovely Water trip notes can be found elsewhere on www.trailpeak.com, see the Lake Lovely Water Listing.
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