Monday, March 29, 2010

Revenge on Mount Crickmer, at a price...

The forecast was plainly terrible. But after a failed attempt earlier this year (where we had great weather), I wanted to conquer this summit, at any cost.

I called up my friend Ryan on Saturday, and we set up a schedule. We were hoping to quickly climb this because he has a car and we can skip a big part of the hike with the 4 wheel drive. I wouldn’t t have mind skipping the logging road part since I had already done it and it was pouring rain.

Ryan picked me up at 8 in Burnaby and we headed East. Todd was also part of the team this day. We made it to the parking lot and to my very unpleasant surprise the gate was lock… today was going to be a cold and wet day.

We hit the logging road at about 10 am (we had done some pit stops on our way), and each had a full layer of Gore-Tex (or wannabe gore-tex fabrics). On the way up a grouse walked in front of us, maybe to divert us from its chicks, it did the same thing when we came down.

The logging road was wet, real snow level roughly 800 m on the south face. Very wet and slushy snow, but it actually never snowed that day for us, not even at the summit.

We made it to the steep part, so much easier in this super heavy snow, no chances of sliding. However I had a feeling that a wet slab avalanche could start if we really tried hard.

A a bit of hard time to find the markers on the slope but found them when we arrived at the plateau. However lost them there because they were buried. I turned on my GPS, ant it was telling me we were 1.5 km north of Crickmer, WTF!! I decided not to look at it and let Todd do the orientation, we just followed in the fog the natural line, however it was very confusing. We went along a ridge, maybe 250 m and had a snack under a small slope, at that point I felt lost but I found a yellow marker with an arrow pointing towards the top. At this point we were wet to the bone, it was hailing and windy.

Ascended the small slope and we came up to a big flat open area, the GPS was not telling us anything relevant. It was so foggy we could see nothing, maybe a mountain in front of us, Ryan thought we were an hour away from the summit. I had no clue, there was a serious drop on our right, and I thought we should continue North. But it was getting late and we turned back. The GPS stated Crickmer was 500 m south so we decided in an ultimate attempt to make it.

I followed the direction, a straight line, I thought we had taken a wrong turn earlier. We were quickly approaching the summit on the GPS… I was on the summit! Based on my GPS… Actually I was on the middle of a frozen pond. I restarted my GPS and it turns out that I had just came from the summit but we had noticed nothing because of the fog and the GPS miscalculation. We congratulated ourselves, a 100 m lower than the actual summit and headed back

It was also a bery wet way down where I was actually using big blocks of snow as a sled.
After an eternal way down, finally made back to the car and put the heater to the max, it was cold and wet day to summit. A summit hat we never really saw.

A different outdoor adventure: Dog Sledding

I realized a long time dream, trying dog sledding. Now I know that to count a day in the outdoors I have to spend at least 5 hours outside but this would be a shame if I didn’t t count this extraordinary experience in my adventures for this year.

This trip was generously sponsored by my friend Adrienne, who I brought to the tour with her two children. We left early from Vancouver and headed to Whistler. After a nice trip through the north shore mountains we arrived to Whistler in the sun. We quickly made it to the agency who had a van waiting for us. The van loaded all 4 of us and picked up some guest at the 4 Seasons hotel. After a quick drive towards Pemberton, we took a left into the Soo valley, a valley I had never heard about but I had actually seen when last summer I climbed Rainbow Mountain. I thought we would have arrived directly at the kennel but instead it was just the launching center for dog sledding. Now I was really hoping we would dog sled for about 2 hours as the brochure made us understood but instead there was a lot of talking but with the dogs around. It was a short and useful introduction to dog sledding and how the dogs live and their features. The interesting part is that they did not have any Siberian huskies but mix races of German Sheppard with Husky and Greyhound. It turns out all the dogs were extremely cute and joy full. To my very pleasant surprise, they wanted us to actually drive the sled, and this was very exciting.
Of course I volunteered immediately to drive the sled. I carefully listened to the instruction. Basically the dogs follow the track so no steering needed but lots of breaking needed because they will run till they are out of juice. The sleds were very simple but very efficient. The main mechanics is a break that you just step on and a metal hook you kick into the ground to anchor yourself. The only tricky part in dog sledding is actually releasing that hook because the dogs feel when you are taking it off and they will just blast away.

I put Adrienne`s two daughters in my assigned sled. We were given four beautiful dogs that were hauling to get moving, a bit like me before climbing. Adrienne and her sleadder started quickly in front of us. I carefully released the hook-anchor from the ground and before the hook was even put back on it s holder we were firing down the trail. I was extremely surprised by the pace we were going at, least 40 km per hour, especially that the route was going downwards. I realized that we had the super dogs and quickly caught up to Adrienne s sled. I had to break many time so the dos did not pass the sled in front of us which could lead to some serious dog fights. It was very relaxing and the pace finally went down because the dogs got a bit tires after the first km. The trail was a simple up and down logging road going along the Soo river a large and nice deep valley stream. It was very enjoyable and the two girls were giggling of happiness.

It is actually quite easy to balance yourself on the sled but the bumpy part gives you some quick adrenalin whips, especially when you have a 3 and a 4 year old in the sled your driving. At one point , the trail does a 180 degrees so you can head back towards the lunch pad, so after 30 min we hit the turnaround point, and we got to be alone on the sled. I was a bit nervous because how would I tell the dogs to do a 180 turn, well the guide told me not to worry and let the magic happened. Adrienne did this part even by herself. So we stopped for a minute to listen to the instructions, and I waited for Adrienne to do her turn, I left about 30 seconds later. We went down a steep part which made me break so I would not sled over the dogs. And there it was the 180 degree turn, without a second of hesitation the dogs just did the turn while I was feeling the sled tipping on the side. I put all my weight on the opposite side so I would not tip. Well we made it just dine, and the girls were laughing of happiness. We steadily made back to base camp while the guide took plenty of nice pictures of us. After the one hour ride we got to give a treat to each of the dogs and even assisted to the reproduction of two of them ( a bonus to the program). The staffs were extremely nice and welcoming and the dogs were very well treated. We safely headed back to Whistler in the Van and a had a great lunch at the old spaghetti factory the first company I ever worked for, as a bus boy.. a long way before my first dog sledding adventure… Next year Yukon!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Petgill Lake with an attempt to Goat Ridge

Petgill lake was just suppose to be a checkpoint of my dream to spend the night in winter on Goat Ridge.Indeed I have always had this fascination for this long ridge with guaranteed views.

We left around 8 am from Vancouver Friday morning. And got dropped off at Murrin Park around 9 am. Went smoothly to the lake. Bonn-Tien was struggling a bit as this was her first winter camping ever, her pack was a bit heavy and has not carried any heavy packs since our ascent to Harrison hut in september.

We took too much time and it took us 4 hours to make to the lake, way to long. After a quick break at the lake, we took the route to the ridge. To my pleasen surprise, the marking was actually excellent. Because I had read litlle reports, I was not expecting this. We put on the snowshoes at about 800m high, taking some weight off the pack, Bonn-Tien felt much better and the terrain was actually quite good. But unfornatly we arrived at the bottom of this super steep slope.

Without much difficulty we climbed it with our snowshoes, but at the top of the slope we realized it was going to be hell to go down. First we thought the trail was going to the left and it turned out it was going towards the right. Because the traverse was really too sketchy and a slip could mean a fast out of control 100 m slide. We decided to turn back, it was 5 pm and we were nowhere...
I pulled out my 30 m , 8 mm rope, always handy in crappy terrain. And we easily made it down the slope. I think the rope was not necessary but gave some good safety.

Down of the slope we started looking for a camping spot. The sun was right on us so I just had to look for ths pot with the most light. We found an uncoverd moat and set camp on this thin ridge. We enjoyed the sun set and had a chilli night in my new 4 season tent. For some reason, and knowing we would not make it higher than 1100m, iI slept 13 h that night, mI usually only sleep 6...

The next morning, we quickly made it back to the lake, it took us 1 h wad had taken us 3 h the previous day. We enjoyed the viewpoint west of the lake and made it safe back to the murrin parking lot.

I failed Sigurd peak last year almost at the same time. I think I will have a super revenge week end this summer, fast and light, Day 1 Goat ridge, sleep at car, Day 2 Sigurd Peak. Anyone motivated?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 16- Needle Peak- March 6th

Another beautiful day in BC.

We left early from home, around 7 I think, with Russ Len and BT. The drive was towards a new destination, the Coquahilla highway, heard so much about it have yet never has the chance to see it. Today was an excellent day to meet…

Not one cloud in sight but lots of peaks in the views. Because it was a first timer in the area we wanted to do the most famous peak of the valley, the Needle peak, many trip reports on it so definitely a must do!

We passed under Cheam with a promise to Bonn-Tien to climb that mountain, maybe later spring. After passing Hope we entered on route #5, the Coquahilla highway. The weather was just astonishing and the views sublime. As I was carefully looking at my GPS to not miss the parking turnoff. After a few turns, an amazing peak “Yak Peak” appeared. With its beautiful rocky south face, smooth granite, a climbers dream. However we knew we had just arrived. We parked closely to the trail head. Put on the snowshoes and start heading towards the ridge. The first part is through an easy gentle slope in the middle of an open forest. After a while it got very steep, reminded us of the Grouse grind. We crossed a few skiers that were struggling going up. After about an hour leaving from the car, we finally hit the first ridge. A perfect view on Yak Peak and on Needle Peak. Yak Peak was so beautiful that I even wondered if I should have done that peak instead, but I was just being insatiable. We took our first break on a small butte, enjoying our snack we had not eaten for 3 long hours. We needed to put on the sun lotion with all the rays hitting our faces. After a good break we continued along the ridge. At one point there was a nice snowy notch. Myself and Len could not resist jumping hit with Bonn-Tien sports photographing us. The jumps were high and I actually had back pains the following evening.
After our extreme photo shoot we continued our assault towards Needle Peak, we were obviously taking our time in these extraordinary conditions. The slope started to increase and at one point we changed ridge to start taking the South ridge but going North till the peak. It got fairly steep around 30 degrees but the snow was holding us good. After 10 min we made it in front of a series of big rocks that seemed easy to pass at first. I took off my snowshoes and started ascending them. However Russ was not comfortable, and after an attempt to climb them resigned to go any further and was happy to wait for us at that point. Bonn-Tien gave it a try and managed to make it to a small platform. From there it was really tricky. First we tried to go through a small gully but it seems that there were no good holds, so we decided to go on the right side. Bonn-Tien found an open passage, some kind of a large gully but with a little slippery snow on the bottom. She tried first but felt very uncomfortable in the gully not finding any good grabs, she tried to go back and had a little panic moment as she did not know where to put her feet. Myself I felt very uncomfortable stepping back not knowing where to hold. She went back to the platform, but I decided to continue where she had turned back. I used my new boots that have great soles to walk on the side of the gully and to climbing it up. It worked out well. At the end of the gully was a large rock plate, because it was not icy and, a great rock and not too inclined I jumped on it and grabbed some plants at the top, a sketchy move that got me out of the difficult part. Len followed me the same way but because a bit smaller than myself, we had to use the rope to give him some extra security. I stuck my ice axe deep in the snow (which was hard because it was quite a shallow snow) and gave him a quick belay. He pulled himself off the plate and was out of the tricky part. We tried with the rope to get Bonn-Tien through the gully but after an unsuccessful attempt, she decided to stay with Russ. We had already lost a lot of time at this notch so we decided we were going to rush to the summit. I left my climbing poles to save on weight and we rushed on the short ridge, my GPS was indicating me that there was only 600m towards the summit on the gentle ridge. This ridge was easy and I did not put my snowshoes back on, however I did fall to my waist into a hole, a bit scary when you have a 600 m face a few steps away from you. We finally made it to the summit pyramid, not the summit yet. We started with an easy unexposed traverse, the crampons would not have been handy as there was little snow . Afterwards a small corridor with again little snow making it a bit slippery, we arrive under a small face and since it seemed the easiest rout we decided to climb it. An easy climb, we after arrived on a platform but facing a 2 m rock… I punched the snow to see if we could kick steps. Besides opening one of my knuckles and starting to bleed, I did not manage to do much. I was wondering if Len could have pushed me up there but I had no clue on what was behind the rock.
Len called it a day and with all the adrenalin we had just gone through, it seemed the best solution. However, I was very disappointed, the weather was too beautiful to not make it to the summit today, Needle peak is climbed so often, it did not seem possible that this impassible rock was the normal route. Because I had my doubts, I took a few “summit shots” looking at the true summit 20 m above us. Len started to eat his bagel and I started to go down because I wanted to find another way, I would not stop, I was going to summit today!

Going down the steep section, I noticed a gully on the right, I ventured towards it and noticed it was wide enough for myself and that I would get good support on my sides. I yelled at Len to tell him that I might have found a way. Len quickly finished his bagel and headed down towards the gully. Meanwhile I started climbing it. It was a lot of fun, and I had some good usage of my ice axe jamming it into some rock cracks. After the gully it got fairly easy, a step on a rock or two and we were at the summit ridge. Because I thought we were going to fail today, the fact of getting to the summit was 10 times more enjoyable. Len captured on camera my last meters to the summit and I screamed my victory. Because we had been working on this summit for so long, we stayed only a few minutes and start heading back down. We easily made it back to the south ridge and ran to the notch where Russ and Bonn-Tien had stayed. To our surprise they were not there anymore but a giant arrow traced in the snow at the saddle between the two ridges let us guess that they were on their way down. I prepared the rope for the notch and set belay. But the 30 m were not enough. We did not go down the same way we went up. Instead we went on the steep rock face and jumped onto the snow. That part I had feared so much on my way back went thorough easily. In a hurry to catch up with the rest of the group. We slid down (me and my crazy carpet) the steep slope, to my surprise, I gained much more speed than I would have thought. We made it to the west ridge and started running down. After a few minutes I saw the two others who had setup the picnic protected from the wind and in the sun. They seemed very happy to see us. I was in ecstasy to see Bonn-Tien, especially after all that hard climbing. They had actually witnessed our summit and heard my victory screams!.

We had a quick bite and made it back towards the car. I had not felt hunger or tiredness while making to the top because of the adrenalin rushing through my blood, but as soon as I made it back to safety I felt a huge weight on myself. We finally made back to the car altogether.

It was a great day with a great summit. Another beautiful moment in British Columbia.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 15- Bear Mountain- Febuary 28th

A classic 103 hikes in South Western BC. It is always nice to do these easy hikes that you have read so many times about but never actual had time to do them or was doing something harder.

I rented my car early in the morning and picked up my girlfriend at the apartment. While is was cloudy in the Fraser Valley, I had a good feeling it would clear up. We made it at the trail head by 10:30, if I would have followed only the book I would have founded it easily but I used my GPS with wrong coordinates that I had put in, so that was really not useful.

We started the easy hike up the logging road, and again the logging road, and again the logging road, logging road…

We finally made it to the lake, had a quick look, nothing exceptional. We headed towards the look out which seems to not be the summit of Bear Mountain. We found on our way a little bump, nothing around seemed higher so we both stood on it and we had climbed Bear Mountain.

On our way up it was a mix of clouds and shy sun rays. We hit snow on the top of the mountain but nothing where we needed extra gear. A little bit of bushwacking at the end of the logging road and cut through an old clear cut where we finally made it to the look out. At first we were in the clouds but it cleared up on the Hope side. We never got a full view of the valley (but we go excellent views of Cheam on our way back home).
A nice little lunch on heli pad, a few shots to never forget what I live for (GF and Mountains).

We were quickly back to the car, although for some reason my girlfriends shoes blistered her to blood. We stopped at the Harrison beach and were amazed by some beautiful peaks way up north.

We went to Abbotsford and stopped at the border, I did a few paper work and officially became permanent resident of Canada, the day Canada got gold in Hockey!! Of course since we were hiking we did not watch the game, the border told us the good news, yes permanent resident but not Canadian…yet.