Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mt Matier- May 2010

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So far 2010 has been a great outdoor year. As always I try to check off some of the 103 hikes, some of the Matt Gunn scrambles (much harder to do with all that snow) and now I am looking at the Alpine Select book.
After two failed attempts of Mt Garibaldi this winter, we had decided to look for something different, not easier, just different. 5 days earlier I had gone to the Cerise Creek area with Bonn-Tien, Len, Ben and James, we had had an awesome day climbing Vantage peak, and like the name says it all, we had gotten an incredible view on Matier and Joffre. Since I worked on the following Sunday, this allowed me to take Thursday off and attempt something big, something like Mt Matier.
Weather forecast looked great so it was easy for me to convince Bonn-Tien and my friend Ryan (The Sphinx, Garibaldi attempts, Mt Crickmer…) to attempt the famous Mt Matier.
Although I had two days of availability, we could only do this in one day, Bonn-Tien had to work at the hospital on Friday and Ryan had other things to do. So I left the office around 15:45 on Wednesday, rushed to the rental agency (the mighty Jeep Cherokee is in for repairs), picked up a super fuel efficient Subaru ( $32 of gas for Vancouver- Cerise Creek return!), went back home to pick up all the gear, then traversed all Vancouver to Pick up Ryan and Bonn-Tien and another beacon…I was hoping to leave Vancouver around 17:30 (completely unrealistic) but we were over the Lions Gate bridge almost at 19:00!! In my unrealistic plans, I was hoping to be by the trailhead at 20:30 and get an hour of slim light, sometimes I m a bit too much in lala land. At 20:00 we were eating a burger in Squamish, all three of us getting mentally prepared for a late night hike, second one this year.
After an easy drive passed Pemberton, we crossed tons of dears and stopped on the road to watch a big black bear on the side. It was quite frightening to see how passive he was in front of us. I wondered if he would react the same way if we would have been on snowshoes.
It was 22:30 and we were finally at the Cerise Creek parking lot. We quickly packed and strapped, started heading our way towards Keith`s hut. I was very excited as I had seen the hut in September from the outside but never had the chance to go inside. Since I had done this hike a few days before, I had all the gps track in case we got lost. But we followed some well marked tracks and it was quite easy through the forest although we got a bit lost when we hit the large creek bed. Overall it took us two hours to get to the hut. It had been a nice and easy night hike and the fact I knew the distance already made it ok to deal with. At the hut, we saw a few mice run around which was a great reminder to hang our stuff. As I knew the next day was going to be a big day, I rushed to bed while Bonn-Tien and Ryan were checking out the stove and all the amenities of the hut.
The night was cold…. Although we had started a small fire, it didn’t t last long. I tried this new technique to keep warm (new to me). I simply opened my sleeping bag and let Bonn-Tien with her bag closed go inside mine, this immediately heated her feet, I felt quite warm after 5 min. However, my therma rest slipped under me and ended up sleeping on the floor, too drowsy to notice it. However I did notice it in the morning when my back was killing me. I finally woke up at 7 (instead of planned 6) and started preparing the packs while Bonn-Tien and Ryan were finishing their night. I peaked outside and was thrilled to see an amazing blue sky just above Joffre and Matier, today was going to be a good day…

I packed up the food and the gear, prepared the crampons, but the hardest thing was trying to get Bonn-Tien out of the sleeping bag. The “wow! Amazing weather” “It s a summit day!” shouts did not do much, finally she came out when I threatened her we would climb without her, she doesn’t like missing out on those things…
After a quick and warm breakfast, we started our epic climb. We started climbing on the easy ridge north of the cabin. At first the snow was extremely hard and crunchy so we couldn’t even sink in it. But it got hot really fast, and we quickly had to remove our layers to the point we were all in t-shirts within 1 hour. However this resulted in a much heavier snow, a play dough snow. We finished the ridge on a bump that seemed the top of the world. We took a good break and analyzed where we were heading to. The beginning was not good, right under the south face of Joffre, with already tons of avalanche debris. This is the traditional route, so we looked at the face, there was very little snow left, the rock was bare. We descended under the face and accelerated the pace, our short term objective was a big rock at the beginning of the glacier where we would rope up unexposed from falling debris.
We quickly made it to the rocky platform and I got my 30 m, 8 mm rope out of my bag. While we were roping up, we started hearing and seeing large amount of snow falling from Joffre onto the slope we had just passed, sketchy… At first Ryan was part of the cordée, but since he was on skis and we were on snowshoes, it didn’t t work to well as we were going more direct and he had to zig zag. So he unroped and me and Bonn-Tien stayed together. I wasn’t too worried about him falling in crevasse as the glacier was really full. I was happy to be roped simply for the principle. Anniversary glacier is a steep glacier, and we were getting so hot. Surprisingly, it clouded up late in the morning and the shade was welcomed. This gave us some extra confidence since the air was cooling and reducing the risk of a wet slab avalanche. But going up the glacier was tough, I was counting my steps, I could do about 50 in a row. Bonn-Tien was doing great but I had to break trail in this play dough and it was exhausting. We finally made it to the col by 13:00, fairly late. Immediately it got chilli and we put all our layers back, Ryan was a bit behind, so we settled for lunch. It was amazing to see Joffre from so close and Slalok on the side. I understand why so many parties camp of there, a place of choice!
Ryan finally joined us, he had a quick break and we started heading up Matier. The climb at first was very similar to what we had just done but after 45 min we had to stop and put on the crampons, the fun was about to start….
We left the snowshoes and the bags right under the North face of Matier and started kicking ourselves steps, at first it was an easy slope but it got quickly steep. Bonn-Tien had actually never done this kind of climbing before, but I never under-estimate her capabilities and was confident that her taste for adventure would overcome the difficulty of the situation. I had brought 2 snow pickets that I planted when there was tricky parts. Unfortunately the weather was getting bad, not the general weather but we were caught in a cloud, this did not worry me as I knew that it would just be temporary. We grabbed onto the north-western slope and got all the way to the ridge. Bonn-Tien was a little bit nervous but was holding good. This climb seemed forever and I was starting to get tired. Ryan was still unroped and had no crampons. At the top of the ridge, there no more climbing involved but a traverse. Most of the ridge is not steep but there is a bit of exposure on both side. At this point, there was no more exposure, no more summit, no more cold or hot or snow, it was just myself and the team and the skills. It was all the focus on each step I did, where I placed my snow pickets, be alert if one of us slips. At one point the ridge became steep again with a very nice drop 300 m below. Ryan decided to stop because he had no crampons. I was disappointed but understood him. But a minute later, he asked to rope up because he had realized the snow was softer than he had thought, I planted a snow picket and was glad he was going to make it with us. A few minutes later, we all arrived at the summit, we were on top of Mount Matier!! Such a tiny top that made us feel in a haute-montagne movie. The view was fogged up towards the south but we could still clearly see Joffre and the northern mountains. What an amazing feeling, every effort was worth it, we felt like the most privileged people in the world at this point. We did some quick summit shots with our huge smiles, Ryan had a frozen beard and Bonn-Tien had frozen hair while most people were starting to wear t-shirts in Vancouver. We decided to head quickly back to the hut, the traverse went a little bit faster but our descent of Matier was still slow as we wanted to be careful going down, alternating between facing and not facing the mountain. When we made it back to our packs, the tension eased and we took a bite as I was starving and getting really tired. We put back our snowshoes and rushed towards the cabin as it was already 17:30. Going down the glacier was a delight, although a slippery delight but was effortless. We unroped, and traversed under the sketchy south face of Joffre, it was lot colder now and we felt more confident about what was above us. However our tracks from the morning had disappeared under the debris… We made it back to our safe house, the ridge. Ryan had decided to ski down the glacier, but it seemed to take forever because of the snow condition, he was having a hard time. We observed him from our ridge bump going down. We waited till he was out of the debris zone and he decided to go back on the north of the moraine. We just took the same path we had taken in the morning. We finally made back to the hut, after 12h on the mountain; we ate a bit and waited for Ryan. An hour later Ryan made it finally back, he had to back track and gone through the initial morning trail. We made tea and hot chocolate, packed the camping gear and headed back towards the car at 22:30… Unfortunately my headlamp broke and I had no more light... So I had to orient myself on Bonn-Tien `s light coming from my back, fortunately it was the 4th time I was doing this trail this week so the orientation was rather easy. After 2 hours, we made it to the car. It was 00:30 and I had to safely drive back to Vancouver. We stopped at Pemberton and got some food, took a coke hoping it would keep me awake. By the time I made it to Whistler I was dying of tiredness after 15 h of hiking… We stopped at the Husky and I had a “Monster” energy drink that tasted like gasoline. It helped a bit, all the way to Brackendale but I started feeling bad again after, feeling that the road between Squamish and Vancouver would be worst then a naked walk in the desert. I stopped at the 7/11 and had the darkest coffee they had to offer. This worked really well, all the way back home. Bonn-Tien was raving in her half sleep but Ryan was also fighting to stay awake to keep me company. We were finally back to Vancouver and the ride back seemed to have been just a dream where time and space did not matter. We dropped off Ryan and I was back home with Bonn-Tien at 5 in the morning, we could see the first rays of sun…Felt like summer, felt like the day when I came back from a great party where I had met Bonn-Tien. We brought all the gear back to the flat laid it down in the entrance and passed out, all that caffeine just couldn’t t do it anymore and we had just climbed Matier...

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