Friday, June 11, 2010

Cerise Creek Fun and Pain

I had already been twice during May in this valley, located about 3 hours from Vancouver! I guess I have just fallen in love with this place, because of the beauty but also the protection it gets from the west as Matier and Joffre tend to block the clouds. This time, I wanted to climb Joffre via the Aussie Couloir. There had been several recent trip reports about this climb therefore I assumed that it was a good time to climb it. The group was really great, Len, Ben, Sarah (a fantastic Kayaking guide) and myself. The plan was for us to leave early Saturday morning for the Cerise Creek trailhead, sleep at the col and ascend Joffre early on the Sunday morning. Well I managed to pick up everyone on time. However the weather did not look promising and would probably slow us down. We made it in a fairly quick time to the trailhead, with of course a short stop at the Squamish Timmies. Immediately I noticed that the snow level had significantly dropped. We started off taking the usual winter-summer trail, but in the forest we decided to stay west of the Cerise Creek. When we hit the logging road, we put on the snowshoes and skis and started a short slog towards the summer trail, on the west side of the creek. However, I decided to have a look at the creek junction with the logging road, since maybe we could still take the winter trail. Unfortunately the creek was way too high for us to cross it and we didn’t feel like getting wet the first 2 hours of our week-end. Len and Ben had a hard time crossing some unsnowed waterbars as the skis were not helping at all. Once we got back into the forest, we realized that the summer trail was really not ready and we would have some difficult creek crossing. We had to cross a sketchy log bridge, that Len fantastically crossed with his skis on. After about an hour in the forest, Ben broke his tele ski binding, which we believed would significantly slow us down. However we managed to fix the problem with a strap, a nice MacGyver fix. We crossed the creek on a rather good snowbridge only to find out we had to cross another one a few meters later. By then we were back on the winter trail. We got through the forest and realized that it was not possible anymore to follow the winter route as the creek had opened up under the snow. At this point of the day, we had already hiked 4 hours although we had hoped to take only 2 hours to the hut. We went back into the forest, went up a steep slope to come back again to the creek. At one point, I felt that the east side of the creek would be the better way to the moraine. I crossed on a sketchy snowbridge, and just before shore, I went right through the bridge. Luckly, I had the reflex to fall forward, wich spread my weight on the bridge and prevented a total collapse. I followed the creek bank while the rest of the group was on the other side. At sufficient altitude I crossed back to the west side. We were finally at the moraine, after almost 6 hours of hiking. We realized that the Joffre attempt was too late to start and that we were too tired to go much further. We decided to camp right at the moraine. We setup camp quickly, and although it started to rain. We took the rope and went to train our mountaineering skills on the moraines`steep slope. Trained our crevasse rescue skills, our belaying skills, rappel, anchors, snow picket placement, etc. We hadn t climbed a summit or explored new places but we had some very useful time on the mountain. I realized that the snow pickets could not take much weight if they were not very deep into the snow.
We had a lot of fun running down the 45 degrees slope, with little risk. Sarah got to train her avalanche rescue skills.
We finally got very humid and decided to head back to our tents. After a good dinner we went to bed. I had one of my coldest nights this season. The air was not that cold but it was extremely humid. I kept waking up, bothered my the humidity chilling my bones.
The morning was actually pretty nice, a lot more sun and good views from around. We packed camp and made it out. Ben decided to carry his skis on his back. The way back was a little bit better than our way in although that we tried to cross another snowbridge. Len was successful with his skis, but when Ben tried, he went right through. He also managed to not fall in the creek, but when he pulled out his legs from the hole, we could see a very deep creek running very fast, a bit scary.

The way back took us only 4 hours and we tried to stay as much as possible on the winter trail. It was though a full summer trail through the clear cuts, no snow left at all.

It was really nice to hang out with my friends this week-end. We didn t do anything crazy but it was well worth it to enjoy Cerise Creek in somewhat “winter conditions” But I would really not recommend going there for the moment, it would suck...

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