East Ridge of Alpha

A classic introductory alpine climbing route in the Tantalus Range.

Alpine Climbing Difficult

Distance
5 km
Ascent
1.1 km
Descent
1.1 km
Low Point
1.2 km
High Point
2.3 km
Gradient
28˚
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East Ridge of Alpha Map

Description

One of the most classic alpine climbs in the Tantalus Range. Expect to see other parties on nice summer weekends. It's not a gimme though - you've got to get to Lake Lovely Water, up the approach slopes and onto the East Ridge, before the real climbing even starts!

Either climb the Lake Lovely Water Trail from the Squamish River (~1200m+) or fly to the Tantalus Hut.

From the hut, walk north on logs until the trail enters the forest. The main trail continues around the lake edge to Lamda Lake but immediately take a spur to the right and follow faint trails and flagging. You're generally climbing uphill and slightly right. Eventually you'll pop out on open heather or snow slopes and head for the low point in the East Ridge above.

Once you've gained the col in the East Ridge, start following the ridge! You can stick to the rock and scramble up and over several rock towers OR strike out onto the glacier on the north side of the ridge and use the fast snow travel to move a bit quicker. If you do head onto the glacier, an ice axe and crampons may be necessary. This bypass is less attractive by mid-summer when there are open crevasses and exposed ice.

The easy scrambling continues until the ridge steepens at 2100m. You'll arrive at a notch in the ridge and look up to see a short crack through a small overhang. This requires a few moves of 5.7-5.8 and often sports a fixed pin but can be protected with a camalot. Run out 30 meters of rope to reach a big ledge with a bolted belay station. A second pitch continuing up on friction is difficult to protect and ~20 meters to another bolted belay on the ridge.

Continue up 3rd and 4th class scrambling to the summit. Generally stay on the ridge crest but if you're facing difficult climbing, there are a few bypasses by stepping left.

Descent is possible down the SW slopes of Alpha on a well worn trail (1-2 rappels possible) but requires a long walk to the Russian Army Camp and then down the Lambda Lake Trail back to Lake Lovely Water. It is significantly quicker to retrace the East Ridge and make two rappels off the bolted anchors (both 30m).

Difficulty

Difficult

The beginning of truly technical terrain which might involve pitched climbing on rock and/or ice, exposed terrain and complex route finding in ascent and descent. Equivalent to AD, AD+

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Much of the route is difficult to protect and a fall could be disastrous at certain points.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September, October

Equipment required

  • Ice axe
  • Bivy Kit
  • Crampons
  • Quickdraws
  • Climbing Shoes
  • Wires and Friends

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area