Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I`m a sensitive climber….Last week we had to turn back on Brohm Ridge as we were trying to ascend Mount Garibaldi. The huge avalanche we had just heard had been a very convincing argument. We had just walked in the fog and snow for 8 hours with huge and heavy packs, just to turn around without a single view. We had a much nicer day climbing The Chief the Sunday but I just need my weekly dose of alpine. Therefore, even if I do not regret one second turning back on Brohm ridge, I was a bit frustrated about my last week-end.
This made me look at the weather forecast anxiously all week long hoping for a beautiful sunny opening on the week-end. I started looking at the weather forecast as early as Tuesday, and of course, things looked great for Saturday and Sunday. I was very optimistic because I was planning to climb Baker those days. But as the week went by, the weather was looking worst and worst. Sunday seemed to be a write off so Saturday was only good for a day hike.
Pemberton seemed to be the best option although on Saturday morning, the weather looked terrible in Vancouver and there was 70% chance of showers in the Pemberton area. Didn’t matter anymore at that point, I needed my fix, I needed a summit bad and I had 4 people counting on me to bring them in the mountains.
I woke up around 5:45 am on Saturday and looked out the window where I usually can see the North Shore Mountains, this morning it was more like the North Shore fog… However when I looked south, some patches of blue sky were reminding me that there is a world beyond the clouds.
I hopped on a bus at about 6:30 and made it to the car rental agency. I picked up a car and headed towards Main Street to pick up the super crew one after one. I picked up the last person around 8:30… Yes I left Vancouver for a Pemberton day hike at 8:30 am, an embarrassment to the early morning person I am.
However the traffic was smooth and being 5 in rather small car with a pair of skis on top of everyone makes the trip rather fun. We had our usual pit stop at Tim Hortons in Squamish, but it was already 9:20 am… still a long way till Pemberton.
After Whistler it was really clear blue skies towards the north but thick black ones on the west, I really wanted a nice day and get some good pictures, so I was getting a bit nervous about how the weather was going to be. I tried to stay optimistic in the car as I told everyone that I had looked at the Pemberton airport webcam and had seen a wonderful blue sky, also the reports said it would clear up during the day. We saw two small planes in the Pemberton valley which was also a good sign.
11:30, finally made it to the trailhead!! Such a late start but such a great area! We got excited fairly quickly because we could see Vantage Peak completely cleared.However Joffre and Matier had their summits clouded up. We quickly put on the snowshoes and the skis and took the Cerise creek summer trail full south but took a turn into the clear cut after 500m. I had taken this summer trail earlier in September but this time we stayed on the east of the creek almost the whole way. I think the winter trail is much more direct and more gradual with better views.
The snow was very soft and even with snowshoes we sunk in quite a few spots. Although it was fairly cloudy around us, it seemed we were in a bubble of blue skies, and it was just delicious. We crossed a skier who told us that the area was fantastic today and that although there was a soft layer of snow, the conditions were really nice. All of this got us pumped up to do our summit. We hit the logging road after crossing the clear cut and after 10 min went into the forest on the Cerise creek alpine access trail (such a cool name). In the forest, it was a much easier walk and we got to have some nice views on Vantage when we were going through some open areas. After 2.5 hours of walking, we arrived at the large cerise creek opening where the tree don t usually grow tall. This was very nice as you walk right next to the creek and ascend towards the moraine. We noticed some skiers at the top of Anniversary glacier and envied the accomplishment they had just done, probably Matier... When we arrived just under the moraine, we went on our left towards Vantage Peak. We knew now that it was going to be all alpine till the summit. From the bottom of the moraine we followed some other ski tracks and started to evaluate the terrain for our ascent.
I didn`t feel like taking the scramble summer route which starts on the far right of the ridge, for two reasons:
• it was a longer route
• the ascent to the ridge seemed steep and exposed to avi risk
So we basically headed for the middle of the ridge, 2 bumps under the summit. Originally I wanted to take a slope on the left of the first bump but after analyzing the steepness we decided to go right, much more gradual. We finally hit the ridge, 2 bumps to overcome and the final summit push. The first bump that I had originally feared turned out to be much easier, the hidden side was not steep and there was plenty of good holds. But I did underestimate the second bump, much steeper, and the snow on the base layer made things very slippery. At the middle of this bump, we had to take the snowshoes off and I took a hold of my ice axe, it was definitely getting trickier. However we managed to boot up all the way up to the top of this bump and had a good break. It was about quarter to 4 pm and we still had to do the last push towards the summit, we were all breathing hard but still motivated to conquer Vantage Peak. After a good break, I took the lead to find the most appropriate path to our final reach. The beginning started not too steep but fairly quickly after, there was some short steep sections, very enjoyable sections. We had to climb some short rock faces (5.5 max) and needed the ice axe on some steep section requiring a good grab. We were finally 30 m below the summit where the thin ridge started. And it was quite thin! I ascended via a rocky loose face but the rest of the team went through a snowy section. I preferred my way because the top was not as exposed, the other way led to a short step but you ended on a 1 m wide ridge with a fairly exposed left side. And the north face had quite the cornice, not a good place to hang around at this time of the year.
But we all managed to get pass this crux, at different levels of comfort but with all a huge smile as we were going to make it to the summit.
4:35 Pm, latest summit ever, but on time: Summit! And the best weather we had all day. We were just astonished by the beauty of the area. We realized that our lucky weather was mostly because it was a western wind and that all the clouds were getting stuck on Matier and Joffre. We could see that the Wedge area was under heavy rain and snow but we were just on an island of sunshine at 2235m high. We did a quick summit video and the traditional VOC summit picture.
We had a quick lunch/ dinner break and about 4:50 pm, started to head down. Lots of fun glissading on our bums or avi shovels. The weather was just getting better and better and at the end Joffre and Matier were cleared up!
As usual we went much faster on our way back, cutting through the gentle slopes.
We finally made it back to the car at 7:30 pm, 30 min before schedule. Had a quick bite at Pemberton and brought everybody back home before midnight. I had to wake up at 6 am the next day to bring back the car to not get over charged. Who cares, it was raining on Sunday so I just went to the office. (I m not crazy, I m taking sunny Thursday off -? to follow).
The video !! --> http://www.vimeo.com/11453424