Peak(s):  Mount Sir Donald - 10,774 feet
Date Posted:  08/22/2011
Date Climbed:   08/21/2011
Author:  Winter8000m
 Perfection On Mount Sir Donald  

Mount Sir Donald with the super classic NW Ridge splitting it. (

Mount Sir Donald has been one of my dream ridge climbs out there. Indeed, it is one of the best long moderate rock routes anywhere. It is not anything to be taken lightly though in many ways. It features 2,700 feet of mostly low fifth class climbing with exposure of 1,000 to 3,000 feet on each side the whole way. It's mostly all knife edge climbing with a ton of vertical headwalls that are sometimes overhanging. It's almost 7,000 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead. The weather is much colder being far north. You can never escape the exposure so it can be mentally exhausting. On top of that the rock is all covered in lichen so when it's wet, it is very slippery and dangerous. Many deaths have occurred do to this. A very committing route that is located in the Selkirks in British Columbia, Canada. It's one of the 50 classics in North America and has been one of the best days in the mountains for me personally.
Sir Donald from the highway with the NW ridge on the left skyline

The Bivy view

I have always loved ridge climbs whether ridge climbs or traverses from the Capitol Peak and Snowmass Mountain traverse to just the Blitzen Ridge in the RMNP but this one simply was the best of the best for me. To pull it off, I believe it's more mental then anything. I was glad to have a bit of experience with exposure and soloing in that way. If you pitched it out, it would be almost like climbing the El Capitan. Even simul climbing it would take many hours. The best and fastest way is to solo it. Though rated 5.4, I started questioning that after pulling a few overhangs that were boulder problems with big exposure.

Shawn climbing

Shawn and I came to the trailhead only to hear Sir Donald had gotten more snow and that it was out of condition for the rest of the year. In fact, that's what usually everyone is telling us. Most people seem to be trying to discourage us. I've learned the opportunity can't come unless your there. We decided we would go check it out and have a back up plan. After two days of straight sun, things were looking good, or were they?
looks good so far!

We approached the bivy camp which was a workout in itself. Almost 4000 feet in elevation gain in only a couple miles. I was glad to reach camp. All I brought to sleep in was a little bivy sack and my lightweight sleeping bag. I stared at the ridge, and oh my, it's like nothing I've seen before. It looked very exposed and way harder then 5.4 and long. I slept little. How could I with a clear sky and an amazing view of the stars above?

The col is reached by traversing a small ledge accross that face....The start of the route

We started the approach from camp. It took about 50 minutes to get to the col, where the route starts. I will always remember standing there. Have you ever stood at the bottom of something so beautiful but yet intimidating that you can't speak for 10 minutes? It was almost like standing at the bottom of El Capitan except it was an alpine ridge. It was vast, big, and steep as anything. I personally was thinking "Is it really smart to not use a rope?" All the unroped deaths on the route came to my head. Then the wind was blowing just enough to make it cold and interesting. I knew Shawn was thinking the same thing. He brought the rope out but I distanced myself away from it so he would put it away. I was still set on soloing and we would have the rope just in case things got too spicy. That looked like it would be the case in 100 feet! There was already a party on it simul climbing.
The view from the start of the route.

A little bit into the route

Off we go into the unknown. It took a couple hundred feet to get used to the climbing, rock, and your rhythm. Soon we passed the other party. The climbing never eased up the whole way. I never thought such a ridge existed. Fourth class after Fourth class move on a knife edges to countless 100 foot vertical headwalls. Even some overhanging 5th class climbing that had you hanging over the edge. I questioned the 5.4 rating as some of it, I really thought was 5.6 but everyone takes there own route.
A little higher

Again, great views!

High up on the route

Typical......North Face exposure

West Face exposure

I was in perfect rhythm and so was Shawn. Once we got into the rhythm, there was no stopping. Soon we approached the summit pyramid where about 3 80 foot steep headwalls guard the summit. We surmounted them and encountered a few false summits. We just about ran to the summit. It was about 8:00 in the morning. I didn't even realize we did the route in an hour and a half. We were the first to summit in 7 days. It was windy and quite cold but I took it in. The views were spectacular with glaciers all over, and huge mountains around. We spent little time on the summit. The weather was good but we were getting cold, and getting down the ridge was going to be way harder then coming up.

Shawn.....You can see the col wayy down there. Summit Ridge

We rappelled everything vertical while down climbing when possible. It took a little over 7 hours to get back to camp. We counted every rappel, and the ending count was 21. That's a lot of rappelling! Getting back to camp was gratifying. When you're in the "zone" for that long, it really can become mentally exhausting along with the exposure. Every second of it was "don't fall". We packed up and made the trudge back to the car. What a ridge. There is just so much climbing out there.
Shawn rapping the middle of the route

lots of going down!

rap number 16 or 17?

The Selkirks

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Classic ...
08/22/2011 18:33
Wow, there's still so much snow up north! What a fast time to the summit! Just curious, did you guys rap all the way back to the col (reversing your ascent route on the NW ridge), or did you take the west face variation down from the ridge using the rappel stations? Very much enjoying your trip reports. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


What a line!
08/22/2011 19:27
I can see why that route was so exciting for you. That is one beautiful ridge! Was there much loose rock?


08/22/2011 21:28
Lots of snow up North here. LOTS. We rapped and downclimbed until the bolted stations that took us over the lower west face. Standard descent these days and a little faster. All the rock was bombproof on the ridge. A couple loose rocks on ledges but overall very solid! Highly reccomended!!!


Nice looking mountain!
08/24/2011 04:03
And very nice TR Noah. You are doing amazing climbs out there my friend. You have an amazing gift. Be safe!

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