Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 12-13-14, The Sphinx, Garibaldi Park

It was the week-end we had been waiting for…

After 2 wet and foggy winter camping trips, the weather was finally on our side. It was almost hard to believe, 5 consecutive days of pure sun and visibility! For a whole week I checked the forecast everyday, and not one cloud in sight, just too good to be true.
The magical part is that it was the week-end that the VOC (Varsity Outdoor Club) had decided to go the Burton hut and bag some peaks (most of them also doing the nevee traverse).
Because of our skills and our timing we decided to do the Sphinx, the 12th highest summit (2405m) of the park and probably the easiest of the 20 highest peaks.

With my super crew, we set up departure at 2:30 pm Friday from Burnaby, I had managed to leave two hours early thanks to my manager who seems to have a real interest in my adventures, I always give her a good summary of my trips on Mondays.
So our objective for Friday was to make it to the hut ( on the other side of Garibaldi lake) by midnight, so you would expect us to rush to the Black Tusk parking lot, well no…
My super crew has a way of managing time very different than most of us. First we had a nice pitt stop at burger king ( 40 min) then they had to do groceries and buy liquor to keep themselves warm…another 30 min. I kind of wondered that begging to get 2 hours early was really worth it, but the weather was great and we were already having lots of fun.

We had a sea to sky pass so we passed Alice lake at about 5 PM. We made it to the parking lot, checked all our gear, some of us turned on the beacon, I turned on the GPS and away we went, departure time 5:30 pm, 6 min of sunlight left…

We steadily went up the trail, start meeting the serious snow at about KM 2. We put up the head lamps and were thinking about KM 6 which would be the end of the first mental stage. The climb was cold and dark, crossed 3 skiers who had just done the nevee, I decided to go with no snowshoes or crampons as I was comfortable on the soft snow.

At about 8:30 we made it to the junction and we knew we had gone through the hardest part, especially when you pack is about 45 pounds. We had a quick night look at the Barrier but nothing too impressive as it was not even a quarter moon.

We crossed directly on Barrier lake and I put my snowshoes from there. We went through the frozen creek between Barrier Lake and Lesser Garibaldi Lake. Now from there it got a bit tricky. The lake is actually not completely frozen so we had to go on the side and go through some sketchy passages. The water was going very fast just under us, I don t think there was a risk of falling in but we did slow down the pace. Finally at the most eastern part of the lake where it becomes a creek, we had to go into the forest and climb some steep sections back to the summer trail. About a KM later we went back towards the creek and crossed it on a beautiful snow bridge about 100m before the summer bridge. We were finally in front of the majestic Garibaldi lake, from there we knew we had almost made it…wait, it was about midnight, cold and dark and we had another 5 km to do with heavy packs, nope we were not in our sleeping bags yet.

We decided to break up, all 6 of us crossed the lake light free and at our own pace as some of us are faster than others. I had my gps on and I knew exactly how much more I had to walk. It was a straight line towards the hut.
Although tired, there is something magic about crossing a huge lake in the middle of the night, there was winds and it was tough but being in the middle of these mountain by myself ( my crew was way in front or way behind) was so incredible, I felt so tiny and yet so strong to do this kind of adventure.

After an hour and a half, I made it to the hut, we quickly set up our tent because there was no room in the hut (filled with 20 skiers). I jumped into my sleeping bag with my tights and primaloft vest and fell asleep. However the night was cold in our MEC 3 season tent .I kept waking up between dreams about the new Mountain 25 TNF I have just ordered.

But the morning came and so did the excitement, we got woken up by some early climbers chatting about how crazy we were to come in so late, and also telling us that we had just set up our tent on the trail to the creek, did not matter, today we were climbing!

We got out of bed around 7 am and quickly put on our frozen pants. We checked all our AVI gear, made sure we had ice axe, crampons, rope, prussic, snow anchors, water, sun lotion and gummy bears… we were ready.

We first headed east towards Sphinx glacier a smooth path already well traced because we were the last to leave camp. We hit the glacier about an hour later, we could see other groups heading towards the Bookworms or Mount Carr, there was a large party heading towards the Sphinx, all on skis not roped up and going very fast.
We quickly roped up with a 30 m , 8mm Beal. However our prussic were quite thick (7 mm) so they seemed quite useless… The slope towards Sphinx pass was very gentle about 20 degrees and there were no crevasses in sight, all filled in. We had the sun in our faces and the temperatures was just perfect. The snow was wind slabbed which made it ideal for snow shoes. The climb was very pleasant and very easy. At about 200 m from the pass we headed east to a short steep slope (40 degrees). We followed the zigzagy tracks all the way to a platform.
Wow at the platform our views were already stunning. Prime view on Mamquam mountain and Mt Garibaldi and just amazing views of the coastal mountains.
But we also realized we were facing a very steep slope, about 55 degrees. Some of the team members got nervous but our most wreck less and experienced teammate just took his ice axe and ski boots and start climbing the 50 m slope as it was a latter. The previous team had done some good steps. Looking up the slope I was sure I would get very impressed looking down but I told myself the conditions were perfect for this ascent and just to stay aware and focused.

I was actually very surprise on how fast I was able to climb this, you might laugh but a week before on Elphinstone I had a few snow walls I had to climb that required the same skills. Being the second on the slope, I quickly caught up with the leader of the group. I was very comfortable on the slope and could see my buddies 40 m under me starting to climb. I was very happy that I brought my ice axe and my crampons, essential on those trips. I finally made it to the ridge with about another 700 m to the summit. The other group was going down after their lunch on the summit. We needed to hurry as the slope we had just been on was getting very heavy snow (facing south)
After another 15 min, we finally made it to the summit with unbelievable 360 degrees views, discovering mountains I had never seen ( Mostly East of the Sphinx).

We only stayed on the top for 10 min, ( at the cost of 20 hours of hiking, lol) We headed down fast and at the seep slope we went a bit on the east which is not as steep but a lot more exposed, a fall would have involved a very, very long slide. However, it felt safe as our feet were 40 cm into stable snow. Some rocks did make it hard for us to deeply stick our ice axes.

Our way down to the hut was much faster as we decided not to rope up feeling that all crevasses were full of snow. We took our time and even walked apart, proud of our accomplishment.

That night , we ate inside the hut talking to other VOC members who had bagged new peaks, such as Deception or Mt Carr. The night was extremely cold and I had a hard time to keep my sleep. Luckily I had met a French compatriot who let me use his heavy down jacket for the night. It was so cold that when I let my eye lids exposed while I slept and I woke up because they were burning me. The next morning, all our gear was completely frozen but was awesome for a photo shoot.

I had promised my girlfriend to be back home early so I could be at her family dinner but my friends were nowhere in a hurry. So I told them I would just hitchhike back home. I quickly made my way across the lake and had lunch at the Barrier viewpoint. I had left at 11 AM from the East side of the lake and made it back to the parking lot at 2:15 PM. I walked back to the road and got quickly picked up by a VANOC driver who dropped me off in Squamish. A young fisherman picked me up after waiting almost an hour and we talked about how to rebuild the world all the way back to my home in Burnaby where he generously dropped me off.

My girlfriend was happy as I made it back before 6 pm and I got to have dinner with my in-laws just after climbing the beautiful Sphinx…

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 10-11, Mount Burwell

We had the crazy idea to attempt Cathedral mountain last week-end in what seemed to be the worst storm of the season. They were planning 50 mm of rain in the night when the whole month of February only gets about 125m. I really love the mountains to put up with this kind of stuff.

Of course this trip was not going to be a 100% in the rules because we were planning to camp on the Burwell ridge ( forbidden by park rules) and we wanted to climb a mountain in the watershed. But passion takes over sanity…

My friend dropped 3 of us at the Lynn valley park parking lot around 9:30 am Saturday and went to park the car at Lynn valley road. As we were waiting for him with all our gear (sleeping pad very obvious), two rangers came up to us and asked what we were planning to do.

We got very embarrassed and told them we wanted to do Burwell in one day and said we had gear, just in case…
They didn’t t really take it “ I wasn t born yesterday, you guys are planning to spend the night up there, it s freekin 10 am”. We admitted our plan to sleep. They were actually pretty cool about it because I m sure they are also outdoor enthusiasts (they were carrying some sweet gear). They asked us if we had a radio or a “Spot” or if someone new where we were going, I said we had cell phones and my girlfriend would call 911 if she did not hear from us before Sunday midnight. They said they would let us go for this time but was an exception. They said the snow was rather stable but to be very careful with the terrain as it can get complicated,

Our friend arrived very relaxed while we were all stressed out by the whole situation. We told him what just had happened and he asked us why we didn t hide our gear in the first place, I guess we just didn’t t think about it…

We headed up the Lynn valley trail, crossing many joggers as the weather was getting darker. By km 3, it started to rain, and it would not stop till the next morning.

We started up the coliseum trail, and made it slowly towards the ridge, we hit snow at about 800m but it was still raining, the weather was really warm. We put on the crampons just before the ridge on the final steep part, however it was not necessary.

It was really tricky on the ridge, the first 100m has a steep slope but not enough snow, so a bit scary. Luckily there is a few trees to hang on too. Afterwards it got really snowy. It was not easy to find the markers and although I had done this trail many times without snow, it was hard to recognize in the fog and a snow covered trail. We actually were able to cut the trail on several occasion because there was enough snow to climb on the slope. Those vertical snow walls are just so much fun with the proper gear.

We made it to the summit of coliseum at 5 pm and we were soaked and tired. It was getting extremely windy and we were all cold. We found a small protection under coliseum and dug out a platform. Because we were so cold we decided to do all the cooking from our sleeping bags. Because I have such a great group of climbers we managed to have a lot of fun during this cold wet night.

At about 10 pm, the storm started, all night long it was raining like crazy, hitting the fly and waking me up. I managed to get some sleep but tent buddy barely slept. I was feeling a bit nervous because I was wondering with all this weight on the snow if the snow protect above us (about 1m50 high) could collapse on us. I took my mighty Swiss army knife and put in my pocket in case I needed to tear myself out of the tent.

But at 5 am, it started to snow and we stopped hearing the rain on the fly. It was so peaceful… But by now are sleeping bags were wet and humid by all the condensation that fell off the fly because of the wind.

We woke at 8 am, I put my completely soaked insulated snow pants in the sleeping bag (very unpleasant) so I could heat it a bit before wearing it out side.

But the clouds had gone and we were on the top of Vancouver. My friend Len took his kite out and we started kiting on a nice sunny Sunday morning. When our last friend woke up we decided to attempt Burwell. I was scared that the snow would be deep but it was actually very nice, the crampons were perfect. We went fairly quickly to the summit from coliseum about 45 min one way.

The weather was much nicer and we saw cathedral and it crazy ridge mocking us, I told myself that it would be my summer attempt.

We went down and although it was not raining anymore, the grounds were very humid, we got our shoes very wet.

At about 900m high I realized that it was 4 pm and St Valentines day. Because I knew the trail very well, I asked my buddies if I could go ahead, they told me they were fine with it, I rushed down to the Lynn Valley trail in less than one hour and made it back to the bus station at about 6 pm, hoped on the bus and was home at 7:30, going through downtown with my ice axe and crampons.

My girlfriend was happy to see me and I brought her to a Thai restaurant, it tasted like crap…

Day 9- Mount Elphinstome

5:00 : Wake up...(why do I do this)
5:35: Leave home, towards the skytrain, there no one in the streets, it s so dark
6:00: Arrive at Granville, I can see the search lights from English bay.
6:15: Hop on the 257, direction horseshoe bay.
7:00: Arrived at horseshoe bay, hummm a hot chocolate at blenz...$4.75...what a scam!
7:20: The ferry leaves the dock, I m taking pictures of the map of the sunshine coast that is on one of the tourist information table.
8:00: I arrive at Langdale, time to take the bus
8:10: The bus leaves, they are so chill here on the coast.
8:45: I arrive at roberts creek, what time did I leave, I don t want to think about it, the weather is going to be great.
9:00: Logging road....
9:30: Logging road...
9:50: Sick of logging road! I cut through the forest, lots of old rotting timber, but terrain is easy , not too steep, this should save me some km, i got a brand new Oregon 300 ($285 from mec, yes $285) i will meet my original track in 10 min.
10:20 Made back to the road, now it is a small logging road and there is my first snow at 900m
10:25: My first view west of the coast, I can see the island! Very neat.
10:50: Only snow now, hard snow easy to walk on.
11:00: I leave the path and head on the ridge towards Elphinstone, a failed attempt in December excites me to get to it s summit.
11:30: Very nice ridge, very easy, there are markers, makes me feel confident. A bit icy, i m glad I got the ice axe.
11:45: I arrive at a junction I notice a trail going south, my way home?
11:50 Steep slope, Ice axe very handy.
12:00: Small snowy steep slopes, lots of fun, kicking steps
12:30: Summit, so cool, I can see Panther peak, steel, the true summit of Gambier and all the sea to sky! Victory!
12:50: Heading down smoothly
13:05: I decide to go towards the unknown, I take the junction
13:30: I love this trail, super well marked, have to jump a small creek
14:00: No more snow and great mossy grounds, i m running like a mad man on the slopes of Elphinstone.
14:30: I m in biker land, lots of tracks and cool signs, a bit a maze but the GPS does all the work.
15:00 Out of the forest, I made it, but where am I, my gps tells me i m only 2 km from the ferry awesome!!
15:30 Back at the ferry and heading back home, 20 km and 1400m up, what a great day
19: 00 Back at home exhausted and happy

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 7-8, Brohm Peak and Brohm Ridge

In a attempt to climb Mt Garibaldi last week-end, we headed towards Brohm ridge with the goal to reach the glacier before dark. I guess things did really not turn out the way we thought it would.

First mistake: We did not pack light:

We headed with the 4x4 jeep on the Cheeky FSR, and we took the left road as we were told by the president of the VOC.
We were hoping to reach an altitude of 1000m, but we had to stop at about 850 m, not bad for this time of the year.

We put on our rented touring skis and started heading towards the logging road, with for first goal the snowmobile hut.

Now, I would have though that a snowmobile hut at this location would have been a small hut, same kind that there is in the brandywine valley, mais au contraire!! It is actually 2 huge 3 story chalets managed by the blacktusk snowmobile club. I m not a big fan of snomobiling but the location is really amazing and there is many rooms, a great place to party. But they do have a bit too much comfort for my taste (flat screen tv, pool table, etc)

We took a huge amount of time to do the 5 km between the car and the hut located at 1400 m. The problem was that my feet were blistering on all sides from the skiboots that were too small for me.

We stayed a while at the hut in order to rest and heal our feet. My freind had the brilliant idea to tell me to take off the linings. This actually helped a lot, I added 3 pairs of socks. It was not the best but it allowed to bear the pain.

After a long 30 min break, we headed back out in the fog and went on some snowmobile road, in the middle of the snowmobiles....
Besides the very annoying noise, I have to admit that these snowmobilers were respectful and careful about our presence.

It was actually so foggy that we could barely see them.

This part of the trip was much more pleasant. We made it to the ridge and because we knew that Garibaldi was hopeless, we aimed for the much more modest Brohm peak. With the help of my mighty GPS, we found the route as things were clearing up a bit.

Victory of the day we made to the easy summit of Brohm peak, and as a reward we got to get a glimpse of Garibaldi Mountain and Mt Atwell.

We went further up the ridge for another 30 min and found a good camping spot.
We set up tent and got ready for a night that was not so cold.
The night was clear, nothing like the next morning

We woke up in the complete fog which only motivated us to go back down, we were cold and blisterd, but the fun with the pals made it all well worth it.
We headed back town in a complete whiteout.

Once we got low enough on the logging road , we started to get views on the Tantalus range which saved the day.

Without a lie, we were very happy to make it back to the car and admire our many blisters, som e big as my thumbs.

Day 6 -Vedder Mountain

This was a simple hike with some nice views, we added 6 km to the trail because the logging road was too dodgy for our vehicle.

Day 5- Dennett Lake

A hike that required me to bike 6 km in and 6 km out. It it recommended to take 8 hours to do it, it only took me 5. Again, very little snow and hard ice at the highest point. Slipped on my butt and got a nice bruise. The orientation was a pick trick near the lake especially that I needed to jump a few streams. But a hike well worht it.