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.

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