Bellevue Hill (East Face Route), 19 February 2021

Bellevue Hill (2116 m; foreground with the summit in the centre) as viewed from the north summit of Lakeview Ridge. Today’s route utilized a snow-filled couloir on the east face (far left skyline) of the northeastern outlier for ascent and then a large drainage (left) on the outlier’s north side for descent. Despite the insane wind we encountered on the summit, our time in the couloir was largely sheltered. In short, I would characterize our ascent as an involved route up a minor, but enjoyable objective.

⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer⚠️

Oh man, was I a hot mess today! Thankfully, Brad took the time to point this out to me on more than one occasion. 😂 How you ask, could such a ‘graceful’ and ‘composed’ individual such as myself, devolve so quickly into a Keystone Cop? Well, let me tell you…

To kick things off – literally – I began the day rather carelessly, botching the attachment of my crampon to my left boot and delaying our couloir ascent while I fumbled around trying to fix it, only to have it fall off repeatedly before finally clueing onto my mistake – doh! This was not a good sign. Then, as we finally made our way up the snow-filled couloir, the toes on my left foot began to grow cold, and that’s when I realized that not only were my crampons pinching my toe box (perhaps the title of a new country song?), the sole of my boot had begun to peel off, exposing the inner lining directly to the snow. Yikes!

This was followed by an awkward crampon rescue when the implement slipped off my right boot halfway up an icy rock band, forcing me to dangle precariously from a tree stump while attempting to fish it up and towards me with my axe. Later, and just when my ego was healing, I proceeded to biff it rather spectacularly on our way back from the summit, just as Brad happened to turn and look back at me. Even though it was insanely windy and I couldn’t hear him laugh, it was easy to imagine what he sounded like. 😂

Then (yes, there’s more), while we were still on the ridge, the boot strap on my left gaiter snapped, making the deep post-holing at the bottom of our descent drainage, a super fun experience. In fact, the toes on my pre-chilled left foot let me know how thankful they were for all the new snow that was now filling my boot. Finally and to top things off, I noticed after we were back on the trail, that I had torn my mitt while glissading down the drainage. So you see, there’s no doubt that I was a hot (and cold) mess. 😳

Fortunately, the trip itself more than made up for my foibles. Taking inspiration from Andrew’s seven unique ascents of Bellevue Hill, with his latest being less than a month ago, Brad and I set out with the primary goal of using his eastern approach as shelter from the wind. As we drew closer to the mountain, Brad suggested that instead of following Andrew and Mark’s path up the east ridge, we attempt a prominent, snow-filled couloir on the east face of the northeast outlier. This was an excellent idea – which is nothing new from Brad 😁 – and we enjoyed several hours of a challenging, wind-free climb. Once on top of the northeast outlier, it was a relatively easy but windy ~1.9 km hike to the summit. On return, we made a quick descent – which included a long glissade – down a large drainage on the north side of the northeast outlier.

In short, I would describe this trip as an involved route up a minor objective – which is why these diminutive destinations are so much fun in the winter. A smattering of snow and ice definitely ups the challenge level of the terrain and provides that big mountain feel. Kudos to Brad for his great choice of routes, and for putting up with my ineptitude. 😂

To get to the east side of Bellevue Hill from Lethbridge, drive north from the Waterton Park gate on Highway 6 for ~2 km until you come to the Bison Paddock Road on your left. If it is closed, park off to the side but on the pavement and hike the ~1.4 km to the trailhead. If it isn’t closed, you’re already winning the day, so cheerfully drive and park at the trailhead.

From the trailhead, we followed the Horseshoe Basin trail for ~885 m until we came to the junction with the trail for the Red Rock Parkway. We then followed the Red Rock trail for ~500 m before leaving it and heading overland towards the east face of the northeast outlier. In total, it was ~3.6 km from trailhead to the base of the mountain. The couloir we chose, leads up from the base for ~2.4 km (418 m elevation gain) and tops out on the ridge only a couple hundred metres to south of the outlier’s summit. The trip from the outlier to the actual summit was ~1.9 km (~158 m elevation gain) and involved ascending and descending several small highpoints.

On return, we followed the ridge back to the col between the northeast outlier and the first highpoint. Here, we followed a large drainage that descends the north side of the ridge for ~1.85 km to the base of the mountain. A quick walk across a meadow, brought us back to the Horseshoe Basin trail, which we then followed for ~3 km back to the trailhead and from there, an uneventful ~1.4 km walk to our cars.

Our total roundtrip distance was 17 km with a total roundtrip time of 7 hours and 45 minutes. Total elevation gains came in at 1233 m.

A large herd of elk cross the highway near the Waterton Park gate.

Our starting point at the entrance to the Bison Paddock Road with Lakeview Ridge in background. The road is closed to vehicle traffic, but open for hiking.

Making the ~1.4 km walk to the trailhead while eyeing Bellevue Hill for potential routes. The actual summit is between the two outliers.

Morning sunlight highlights the intense drifting we encountered along the road.

Arriving at the trailhead.

A rough approximation of our route up the east face of the northeast outlier. I’d like to come back and try a similar route up the southeast outlier.

We started out by following the left (west) fork of the Horseshoe Basin trail.

After ~885 m, we came to the junction with the Red Rock Parkway trail.

We only followed the Red Rock trail for ~500 m before leaving it for a more direct approach.

The couloir we chose is the one in the centre.

Brad leads the way as we head towards the base of the couloir.

When we got to this point, we realized that we had a second option via the couloir on the far left. However, we stuck to Brad’s plan and used the couloir to the right of centre.

Looking towards Sofa Mountain (right) as we draw closer to the base.

To use what will become a cliche statement for the day, the grade is steeper than it looks.

Brad arrives at the base of the couloir.

A closer look at the interesting rock.

Brad’s all smiles as he prepares for the route ahead.

The initial rock step was trickier than it appears. This is also where I realized that I had messed up the strap on my left crampon… doh! 🤪

Brad’s view after I finally got my s**t  together –  or so I thought. 😂 (Photo by Brad Wolcott)

Enjoying a pleasant, and wind-free climb in the lower section of the couloir.

The view from partway up.

Approaching another section of rock.

Brad peers upwards as a small ‘waterfall’ of spindrift flows toward him.

This next section was much steeper and icier than it looks. While Brad’s expertise would allow him to stay inside the couloir, I would avoid the ice by deviating to the ridge located to climber’s left.

My view of Brad from the ridge.

Without crampons and an axe, this would’ve been an exercise in futility.

A wide angle of Brad (lower right) ascending the couloir.

Meanwhile, this is the rock band where the crampon on my right boot fell off, forcing me to dangle from a tree while trying to fish it up with my axe. It was definitely not one of my prouder moments. 😂

Looking south from the small ridge.

A series of rock steps and well-positioned trees made life a bit easier.

Continuing along the ridge.

Brad’s view back and along the upper section of the couloir. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)

After leaving the couloir, Brad waits patiently for me along the ridge. At this point, the toes on my left foot were feeling cold due to my crampon compressing my boot combined with a rapidly disintegrating sole – or maybe that should be soul… 😂

Gazing down the small ridge with the couloir on the left.

Brad follows as we continue upwards.

Nearing the top.

Ursula, the sea witch from the Little Mermaid, makes an appearance.

As he did for most of the day, Brad leads the way.

Another look back.

Glancing northward and towards an open prairie landscape.

Getting closer to the top…

Brad powers his way up the final section…

And reaches the top of the ridge well in front of me. I swear I could hear him singing as he passed me. 😂

I work hard to catch up. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)

The actual summit is still a ways off.

Our route emerged only a short distance from the summit of the northeast outlier.

A better view of the summit (centre), the connecting ridge (right), and the southeast outlier (left).

Gazing down the ridge (right) and the couloir (left) from a vantage close to the top.

Tackling the final few metres before reaching the top.

Brad uses the small summit cairn for shelter as he waits for me to join him.

Lakeview Ridge sits immediately to the north.

With my crampons off and my left foot warming despite my boot’s tattered sole, we set off towards the summit (left of centre) which was still ~1.9 km away. Our descent route would utilize the large drainage located to Brad’s right.

We had no problem with the short scramble up the first highpoint.

However, we would bypass the next highpoint by sticking to climber’s left.

Brad heads toward a weakness in the rock.

Enjoying a momentary reprieve from the wind.

Back on the crest and facing the wind head-on.

Firm snow made for efficient travel.

The final section before the summit. A full-on and sustained sandblasting of spindrift and grit, forced me to put on my ski googles.

The final section before the summit.

The summit of Bellevue Hill (2116 m). We definitely did not linger long!

Gazing south towards Mount Crandell.

The view along the Red Rock Parkway towards Ruby Ridge (centre) and Piinaquiium / Ahkoinimahstakoo (Mount Blakiston) (right).

To the west sits, Mount Galwey (left) and “Rogan Peak” (right).

A closer look at Galwey

And then “Rogan”.

Horseshoe-shaped Lakeview Ridge lies directly to the north.

Looking towards the southeast outlier.

This was Brad’s second time on the summit of Bellevue.

As you will note, I am not as tough as Brad as evidenced by my full face covering and heavy duty gloves. 😂

Summit selfie! (Photo by Brad Wolcott)

Our summit stay lasted all of 5 minutes before we called it quits.

A wide angle captures the near constant spindrift. I was staggered more than once by the wind.

It was around this point that the boot strap on my left gaiter snapped. This was also where I had a major wipeout just as Brad turned towards me. I’d like to blame my broken bootstrap or the wind (or both) for knocking me down, but in the end, it was just inherent clumsiness on my part. 😂

Getting close to the col with the northeast outlier (right of centre).

Surviving a sketchy down-climb. (Photo by Brad Wolcott)

Glancing down the drainage on the north side of the ridge.

With the summit of the outlier behind him, Brad leads us into the drainage.

The frozen terrain was steeper than it looked. Hmm, where have I heard that before? 🤔

Fortunately, we could glissade down a large portion of the drainage.

What tree did you say I had to watch out for? 😂 (Photo by Brad Wolcott)

After some tricky slaloming, Brad continues his glissade.

Continuing our long glissade in the lower portion of the drainage.

Unfortunately, soft snow at the bottom forced us to post-hole the last 200 m or so. My left foot welcomed the extra snow and cold that came from my broken gaiter. 🤪

Brad (far right) leads the way from the drainage towards the Horseshoe Basin trail.

After post-holing out of the drainage, the walk across meadow to the trail was a piece of cake. From here, we still had another ~ 3 km of hiking to reach the trailhead.

Gazing back towards “Rogan Peak”.

Back on the trail.

The east ridge of Bellevue that was used last month by Andrew and Mark.

Following the trail was a guessing game at times.

Getting closer to the trailhead.

Once at the trailhead, we had an additional ~1.4 km to go before reaching our cars.

A final look at Brad’s excellent route up the east face of the northeast outlier (centre).

Arriving back at our cars after a 17 km trip over 7 hours and 45 minutes. Even though I was the epitome of a hot mess, it was nonetheless an enjoyable trip due to the combination of excellent companionship and a fine ascent route. 😁 After reading through Andrew’s multiple trip reports for Bellevue, and then seeing for myself, the possibility for other routes, I’m struck by how similar Bellevue is to Prairie Bluff – a diminutive, but multifaceted objective that offers a different experience each time you are on it. I’m definitely intrigued by the thought of exploring routes up the east face of the southeast outlier, and if I’m smart, I’ll let Brad choose them. But first however, I have to make a few repairs to my gear… 😂

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