We decided to attempt GR357403 (the
unmanned on the McDougall ridge) in winter conditions.Just so everyone is aware
our access was through Old Baldy Trail which goes through a canyon and follows a couple of very narrow ledges that offer up
some minor exposure. Attempting these ledges in icy/snowy conditions is not that
advisable (although we were successful) a better strategy may be to bush-whack up the frozen creek bed.
On Old Baldy Trail heading just before
the first “steep bank” over McDougall Creek, the one that goes under some loose cliffs, we spotted some tracks
across the creek so I went over to investigate. When I get there I looked over some low brush and I saw a nasty looking fresh
killing ground, fur, bones and flesh everywhere. There was this lingering reek of death, then I spotted something that made
me feel really sick. There, on the edge of this killing ground, was a Denali Ascent snow shoe. The crampon on the bottom had
been ripped off and when I picked it up it stuck worse than the musty air surrounding me. I got a little worried and started
poking around with my trekking pole. None of the bones appeared to be human, the fur was clearly from some animal and I didn’t
see any other equipment or clothing. Satisfied that this wasn’t the final resting place of a human being we continued
onwards to GR357403.
The story ends when we got stopped
by waist deep snow, slowing us down, so we veered off to do Old Baldy, the snow wasn’t much better however we were successful
on the backup objective thanks to some pre-made post holes going up the drainage to the cairn.
This is my guess as
to what happened: I think that the party that that broke our trail to Old Baldy must have seen something on the south bank
of McDougall Creek on the way down (its easier to see coming down than up) and they went over to investigate. The branches
probably snagged the MSR shoe off one of one of their packs when then left the scene. They probably didn’t bother to
return to look for it as the shoe wasn’t in the best shape.
The problem with this theory is that if they had
snow shoes going up, you’d assume that they would have used them instead of post holing up the drainage. If they lost
the shoe on the way up, they would have likely been able to locate it on the return and I would not have found it. The trail
was quite clearly travelled the day before and there was for sure one individual, maybe two (one following in the leaders
foot steps leaving only one sole print). The trail did not appear to have been traveled recently other than that one party.
The really strange part is that for a portion of the trail before the “scene” it looks as if someone had
used snow shoes for awhile, then the snow shoes imprints disappear. The other theory is that someone got to the killing ground,
saw it, maybe even a predator, turned around and got the heck out of there forgetting about the snow shoe.
I should have taken pictures of the
scene, I thought about that driving back to Calgary. I was a bit stunned so I
didn’t think of it.Regardless here are some pictures of the trip once
we cleared the canyon.
A view of a peak on McDougal's ridge.
Clearing tree line.
Slogging it upwards.
Exploring the ridge on hard snow.
LOL, over equiped for the objective we obtained. Our failed objective in the background.