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Clemenceau - Fortress Lake Approach
Timestamp Free: 2019.09.20 - 11:36:56
Ranges: North America Ranges / Rocky Mountains / Canadian Rockies / Continental Ranges / Park Ranges
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Participants: Rick Collier
Difficulty: 4: Lengthy alpine ski touring across high icefields subject to whiteout and crevasse danger. Some avalanche danger.
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The third approach to Clemenceau also goes up the Athabasca River southward, but continues up the Chaba for only another 7 km. At this point, one turns W and, in winter, skis the length of Fortress Lake - although Fortress Lake is only 11 kilometers from one end to the other, it seems endless. At the W end of Fortress Lake, the party should continue to follow the drainage W as it coalesces into the Wood River.

However, rather than dropping down into the Wood River where it intersects with Clemenceau Creek, it is wise to stay fairly high on the SW flanks of the ridge that extends NW from Brouillard and Ghost Mts - say, about the 4000'-4200' level (1220m) - both to avoid the bush and to keep from losing too much elevation. Even so, the contouring and bushwhacking and avalanche slopes are, well, impressive. Once around the corner and into the Clemenceau Creek drainage, the going is slightly easier and becomes more pleasant the farther up this valley you ski. Eventually, you can exit the forest onto the snow-covered morainal debris at the N end of the Clemenceau Glacier at about 4800'(1500m).

As soon as one is out into the open, the skiing becomes a simple matter of picking the gentlest and safest route up to Tusk Peak, which looms forebodingly to the S. When we did this approach - mid-May of 1996 - it took us four days from the Sunwapta parking area to the base of Tusk. Camp #1 was at the junction of the Athabaska and Chaba Rivers; camp #2 was at the far W end of Fortress Lake; camp #3 was about three kilometers from the lower reaches of the Clemenceau Glacier....

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