Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Elk Mountain & Mount Thurston

After 2 ascents in dreadful conditions, the sun finally came back and without hesitation, I rented a car for myself and BT to go hiking in the Chilliwack area. We left the house around 9:15, I admit a late start but the hike was only 1.5 hours away and 7 hours long. We went through the beautiful Fraser valley Bonn-Tien screaming each time she saw a farm selling organic eggs or nuts, luckily it was Sunday and everything seemed closed otherwise I would be bankrupt by now.

We easily found the trailhead, unfortunately people have been dumping their trash in the area and they have some fresh new clear cuts.

The start of the trail was really easy but BT felt some horrible pains with her shoes. Several time we had to stop so she could re adjust or add some inefficient mole skin. The trail makes you do some really large turns adding, quite some distance but the forest is really nice and the trail is so well maintained that each step is delightful (when you are not wearing BT`s shoes). We arrived at the beginning of the steep section. I was happy to see it was not that steep and no gear was required, although some previous hikers had scared me by asking us if we were equipped with ice gear. It was a smooth climb through the forest. We quickly got out of the trees and saw this hikes main appeal, it`s amazing views of the North Cascade and the Fraser Valley. We were very impressed.
We followed the summit ridge for another half hour and made it to the gentle summit of Elk mountain. We were lucky to meet another couple who took pictures of us.
Although the pain, BT was motivated to go further. So we continued and had to go back into the forest. I really like this trail that is relatively flat, going along a summit ridge. This insured us a good view every 5 min. The snow was soft but not too deep. Some steep sections on our left but nothing technical on the trail, a pure pleasure. A few times we got completely in the forest and we enjoyed much deeper snow in a very calm atmosphere. Once again we got out of the forest and we just needed to walk another 5 min before getting to the Thurston Cairn about 1 km from Mt Thurston. We finally made it to the cairn and the views were astonishing. But I wanted to do the trail in full, but BT did not want to and nobody had gone further than the cairn. The snow was virgin, no tracks, I would have had to break trail, which was fine with me. BTs heart wanted to go further but her feet were saying no. However, she has an amazing source of energy, and accepted my invitation to go further!, I broke trail, at first going downhill but then going up hill again. It was hard to break trail but the beauty of the untouched alpine and the isolation kept us going. We made it to the Thurston look out, and BT was giving up. But when I said that the actual summit was another 400 m, she did not give up and followed me through the scenery. We were at 1600 m high, and the snow was much deeper. It was hard but the we were almost there. After a last steep, knee high snow, slope we made it to the summit. BT was tired but proud of our accomplishment. It turned out that it was not the best view that we had that day, but we were on the top!
After a sweet chocolate bar and a few pictures, we headed back. Although of her feet pain, BT was quick and carful. We were going back at great speed. After the cairn, me met Elkaholic and his beautiful dog, an active Clubtread member, that I had read much about. It was a pleasure to meet someone who has hiked so much in the area, he had so many great recommendations for the area, this was his 207th time climbing the mountain, a number that made me dizzy. He was very kind and we would meet again on Clubtread.
The way back was great, passed a group of winter/early spring campers, the weather was holding good. We thought we could cut through the new clear cut on our way back to save some time. It was not that great of an idea. The cut was steep and I grabbed some kind of super prickly root-branch, as I am writing this I still have some spines in my hand. We finally made it to the car after 8 hours of hiking. Today was a fantastic day and we were extremely happy of our adventure. BT healed her blisters. And I was already thinking of what I was going to write about this trip.

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