Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mount Rohr

Last fall I had the chance to go to glacier school with the VOC. The week-end was happening at Anniversary Glacier where you need to take the Cerise Creek trail in order to get there. The Saturday had been miserable but we had a great sunny Sunday, and on our way back to highway 99, we had a great view on Mt Rohr. I had never read any reports on Rohr but new about the scramble because of Matt Gunn`s book, my favorite night shelf book… I found this mountain very impressive by it s mass and prominence. From there, she was on the hit list..

For scrambles I usually prefer waiting for less snow because of so many failed winter attempts, but this year I was so surprised to read to great TR about winter ascents of Mt Rohr, the BCMC and Spectrum trip reports, awesome ascents, I wanted to follow their steps.

As early as Tuesday I started sending the emails to my usual partners in crime, the plan was that we would rent a car leave early on Saturday and spend the night at the Chief ( we wanted to go rock climbing at Smoke Bluffs on Sunday).

I woke up at 4:30 am on Saturday morning, prepared my AVI gear (conditions were considerable…) and took off with my car to pick up Len the American, Todd the Canadian and a new partner, Ben, intern at UBC, who has just arrived from France a few weeks ago. Ben was definitely going to get a taste of the BC mountains today!

We quickly made it to highway 99 and got passed at about 6:30 by about 35 Porsches, I guessed they left early because they were doing the Duffey lakes road circuit in one day, but it was just a guess.
We had almost a 45 min hour pit stop at Tim Hortons in Squamish before we set to Pemberton.

At about 9:30 we made it to the trailhead, and the parking lot was simply packed. Of course we immediately saw other VOC members, I guess we are really the mafia of the mountains, we are just everywhere, with or without sun. Quick notice, the parking to Cayoosh mountain was also packed. One of the other VOC members (who were going to Marriott meadows) asked where we were headed too, we told her Mount Rohr and she responded we were ambitious… These kind of comments are well taken but it always brings the doubt back to me, did I drive today for 7 hours for a failed summit… I get nervous about it.. But I keep motivated.

We quickly put on our gear, and started heading on the trail. We didn’t t feel like thinking too much so we actually just followed some well marked tracks, through the forest. I knew that we were way up east the actual summer trail, but I had a good feeling about those tracks, I felt that the skiers in front of us knew what they were doing… not the smartest feeling as you should only trust yourself on the mountain and not people you have never met.

The tracks were going straight up and in a descent zigzag, easy for snowshoers to follow but our friend Len was having a bit of a hard time with his new skies, he was loosing his skins on every turn. Since he was behind, I told him to take the lead and I would push his butt up the mountain. This actually really got him going. About 90 min later , the trees started to thin out, and we got our first good views of Joffre and Slalok (not Matier as we thought first).

The tracks were still excellent but we didn t really know what we were heading to. In the beginning I thought we were going to go as high as Rohr lake and then traverse under the ridge to meet the bowl, but as soon as I saw that we were a 100m above I kind of guessed we going to go on the ridge. I was happy about this alternative ascent but nervous as I had heard that the ridge was difficult.

When we arrived at the alpine, we decided to stop for a quick lunch/photo break, we ate our meal, happy that now it would only be great views. I appreciated the look of Vantage peak, something I would like to climb in a near future.

A group of three skiers arrived and we start following them. It seems we were quite a few on the ridge. 4 from my group, the group in front of us, 3 and another group of 5 who had gracefully broke this awesome trail for us.

We made it to the ridge and we felt on top of the world with excellent 360 degree views. Because of the proximity, we were focus on Joffre, Matier and also Marriott up North. The snow was delicious, not easy but far from exhausting us. The trees had that great frozen look, and some of them looked more like an ice cube than a pine tree. We first made it to the false summit where I realized that my silver necklace had broken and disappeared in the snow. I was pretty p…, I had been wearing it everyday for 11 years. If you see something shiny on the Rohr ridge please email me.

The false summit on the ridge had quite some preeminence, and it required us to a steep descent, butt slide way down, we lost about 200m. This kind of step made us want to go another way back down, especially that at this point we could see the group of 5 skiers going down into the bowl. We didn t have skis but we did want to do something different after our summit. We made it to the bottom to the slope that leads to Mount Rohr. Not difficult, steep but not scary, max 30 degrees. The snow was good, nothing slippery. Our friend Ben, was getting really tired and had to lay down every 5 min. We told him he was loosing tons of energy when he lays down in the snow, but he told us the wind was eating up more of it. Fine with us, what could we say, he works in thermal isolation.
I have to admit, the last steep part was tough, it was tiring, but when you wake up at 50m in Burnaby, ascending the same day a 2500 m mountain has a few effects on you. I didn’t t feel sick, just a bit short breathed, but it was one of those good feelings, that remind you that you are alive and that you are somewhere special.

Summit! After 5 hours of steep climbing. Fantastic views, We had caught up to the group of three skiers who nicely took pictures of all 4 of us. They took off and skied down and we stayed a bit to discuss our two options: Back track or the Rohr bowl?

After 2.5 seconds of deliberation the majority decided to attempt the Rohr bowl, circuit hikes are the best and we had good AVI gear. We were not the first one to go in the bowl so we thought it would be ok.
We checked our beacons and straped well our shovels and probes on us and start heading down.
What an amazing snow, our friend Len was the one really enjoying his skis now after his unpleasant ascent in the forest. The snow sounded good and felt stable although it had been in the sun for at least 4 hours. We stayed on the skiers tracks. There were some parts where the snow was shallow and I know that those are the areas that are most prone to start an avalanche. When it was not steep we just spread out. But on a few parts in went in the 40 degrees, so we went one at a time, ready to rescue someone, in case…

On our way down I noticed the steep south slopes on our right, I had a feeling that they were high avalanche risk zones and to never wonder there in those conditions. Well soon after, Todd pointed his finger towards those slopes, and in front of us a avalanche wet slab, probably a size 1 was going down the slope. Maybe 15 km/h and 40 cm deep, nothing scary, but we wer happy to be at least 400 m away from it. Actually there was a lot of avalanche debris from those slopes, a good reminder of the nature of the are. We quickly made it to Rohr lake. And enjoyed a nice lake traverse and were surprised by the steepsnees of the slope going to Marriott creek. We met with more skiers enjoying their day on that slope, doing some runs. They told us they were sleeping high up there, probably – 10 at night, more courageous people out there. We traversed towards the south trying to make it back to the trail. We made it to the debris area, an opened area that I felt was very prone to Avi risk, We ran through it although at this part of the day I was getting a bit tired. We finally made it to the logging road and we felt our adventure was coming to an end. I tried to step on Lens skis and slide behind him, it kind of worked for 20 m but his ice axe was dangerously threatening my eyeball. After 8 hours of fantastic climbing we made it back to the car. Although I had lost a precious peace of jewelry, I was happy I had lived another amazing day in my life, something I will take with me to my grave.

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