“It was the climb of a lifetime for me so far,” Tiffany Cunha said of a climb of Colonel Foster from Vancouver Island she did with wife Darryl Anderson and friend Eryn Tombu-Haigh.
Cunha, who grew up in Gold River on Vancouver Island, said she often saw the famous peak as a child and remembered ‘being absolutely blown away that people climbed it “. Colonel Foster is the fourth highest peak on Vancouver Island, after King’s Peak, Elkhorn and Rambler Peak, and it has the most technical alpine climbing terrain of the four.
Cunha said, “Fast forward to getting into rock climbing and mountaineering for the past 10 years and it seemed so far from my wheelhouse and until we got to the top I still had serious doubts. .”
There are several old routes that were established in the 1970s and 1980s, but Cunha said they “took a relatively new route that was only climbed by a few groups called the Great West Couloir to gain the upper glacier and the summit ridge”.
From there they climbed the summit traverse to the main summit and back. “We took three days,” Cunha said. The first day they went from the Elk River trailhead parking lot to Colonel Foster West Ridge via Landslide Lake and the South Col. The next day they reached the summit and brought the camp back to the South Col, and on the last day they exited the South Col.
“I drove the group to the top and my wife drove everything on the way back,” Cunha said. “Eryn works on all the 6,000 foot peaks on Vancouver Island and only has a small handful left. It was the scariest thing for her. The exhibit was great at many times, but I was just having fun all day.
Weather and snow conditions have been capricious so far this year on the island. “It was just a fluke that we got the time we did,” Cunha said. “The snow conditions were great for us as the pass and southern couloir were very full on the way up. The south col was tricky and very good on the descent. There was also shitty snow on the very exposed parts of the summit ridge, but we managed to get around it. The climbing lengths were clear and that’s what was important.
Cunha took to social media to find out if any other all-female team has climbed and reached Colonel Foster over the years. “It feels like no other women’s group has made it to the top, which is a really cool experience,” she said. “I’m so proud of us and the way we worked as a team. I felt like we were very safe and making good decisions. It’s so important. We also did well in terms of speed. A lot of people were doubting us, and I had a few messages and stuff ahead warning us of how the snow would complicate the ridge and how my travel times were set. Well, we succeeded in the end.
The alpine climbing season in Western Canada is just getting started as conditions at higher elevations in the Rockies and Coast Range are improving. When asked what’s next, Cunha replied, “So many things. We want to finish our Island Qualifiers and leave Warden and Septimus. We have to go back and do the Kain route on Bugaboo Spire. Tick off some of the biggest volcanic mountains like Baker, Rainier, etc. I would also like to do a bolder line on the east face of Colonel Foster like Cataract Arete or something. There are so many great multi-pitch alpine climbs that are established here on the island that the list just keeps getting longer and longer.