The Peuterey Integral is the longest route in the alps with over 4,500 metres of climbing to the summit of Mont Blanc. For decades, climbers have looked at the rising traverse from the Athabasca River to the summit of the North Twin on the Columbia Icefield and wondered if it would be the Peuterey Integral of the Canadian Rockies.
Ian Welsted and Alik Berg just spent five days making the first ascent of the route, which Welsted has called the Peuterey Integral of Choss. “After 700 ascents it will be as good as the Peuterey Ridge,” said local climber and historian Urs Kallen. The rock quality leaves much to be desired, but the position and location can’t be beat.
In his blog here, Welsted wrote about one col they traversed through between Twins Tower and Son of a Twin, “It truly is not that friendly a place to hang out, though now there is a nice bivi wall for the next party at the col. It is, after all, the Standhart col of the Rockies, as Alik pointed out we were camped next to the Cerro Torre of our range.”
In July 1985, top South African climber Dave Cheesmond went to attempt the traverse with Sean Dougherty, but they didn’t make it very far. Cheesmond stashed his gear in the Lloyd McKay Hut near Mount Alberta and returned later that summer with Barry Blanchard to the make the first ascent of the North Pillar VI 5.10d A2. The North Pillar has only been repeated once, by Jon Walsh and Josh Wharton in 2013.
Welsted and Berg found no trace of any previous ascents, although Dean Waterman and Al Spero reportedly made the first ascent of Son of a Twin (the smaller peak to the wets of the North Twin north face) back in 1979.
Welsted said, “If the Son of a Twin were anywhere else other than in the Canadian Rockies and next to its much more famous neighbor it would be a major objective of its own. We didn’t find any evidence of the first ascent. Alik likes to take the direct line. I figure Waterman might have taken the easier gully just on the west side of the ridge, which looks like an excellent winter outing with a two day approach.”
Welsted and Berg avoided a number of shorter towers along the massive traverse, only because they would lead to more rappels. Welsted, who’s always been one for poking fun at himself, said, “I am old and don’t like climbing hard, and wanted to get on to the bigger towers down the way. So, for the purists in the crowd the complete ascent of the complete north ridge of North Twin awaits.”
The biggest section of continuous climbing of their traverse was the Abrons Route V 5.6, which is the proper north ridge of the North Twin. Welsted and Brandon Pullan made the second ascent of the early-1960s route in 2012.
“In one of the more remote valleys of that sub-arctic rain forest called the Canadian Rockies there is a mountain wall which acts like a strong drug on the mind of the observer. So dark, sheer, and gloomy is the North Face of North Twin, like a bad dream,” wrote Abrons in the 1966 American Alpine Journal.
Welsted said, “By 2 p.m. on Thursday, I was figuring we would have a short walk out on Friday, perfect for my day of guiding Cavell on Saturday. We were at the familiar shoulder where Brandon and I had begun our easy traverse above the infamous north face. So I told Alik, ‘Just head straight across on the obvious ledge system,’ but when I swung around the arete and onto the north side I was terrified to be greeted by a large snow covered face. Hidden under the wet summer’s snow coating was grey ice for our two ice screws, while most of the rock protection was obscured.”
Welsted also made the first ascent of the North Spur IV of Mount Philips in the Rockies and a massive traverse of Mount Waddington via the Epaulette Glacier over five days, both with Simon Richardson. Berg, known for his under-the-radar ascents of bold lines is one of Canada’s top alpinists.