Friday, June 11, 2010

Squamish Valley to Callaghan Valley Traverse

Finally, I got to do an adventure again. Since Baker I hadn`t done anything too crazy since the weather had been cloudy and rainy, what a bad end of May. I managed to do Fromme in a morning, Hollyburn (same route as the 103 hikes book) on a cloudy day and been up Cerise Creek for some mountaineering training than actual mountaineering.
I believe that the month of June is very unpredictable for the weather forecast. The week-end forecast had changed 10 times from rainy to sunny to rainy back to sunny, how can you make plans! I understand the location and why it is so hard to predict, especially with global warming changing all the weather rules our meteorologist learned at school. With my usual over optimistic predictions, I just decided that the weather was going to be great all week-end long regardless of what I would hear from the weather network. If I was wrong, I would already be outdoors anyways...
Originally, with my Supa Krew, we wanted to attempt (#3 this year) Mount Garibaldi. Unfortunately Ryan had to be on the island the week-end and Todd wanted to climb Rainier. So I and Len were stuck together. I offered to rent a car and go hang out at Elfin Lakes and perhaps attempt Little Diamond Head as we had never bagged it.
However, when I called Len, I was told that the VOC was planning a traverse. I had heard much about these traverses, and I have always been timid to be part of them as I am an unfortunate snowshoer. But Len is a great guy and easily convinced me that I should be part of the adventure. I was very motivated but a bit scared that I would not be invited since the skiers might think I would hold them back. So I posted a message on the VOC board about my situation, like “Sorry guys I m a snowshoer, but I m not too slow...”. Len, who has converted to skis, nicely commented on the board that I had never been a burden on the ski trips we had done together. Immediately the responses were very positive and I and Len got invited in a car group, we were going to be car group B, the group starting from the Squamish Valley.
It is always great to do trip with VOCers as I meet them time to time in huts, in Squamish, on the mountain, they are just every cool spot you can imagine. Our group driver (and surely leader) was Piotr who had organized the trip for everyone, his girlfriend Anne (also from France!), Ran (who I had met on several trips already) and my loyal friend Len. Bonn-Tien was meanwhile climbing solo 4000 s in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains.
They picked me up at 6:20, the kind of schedule I like, at my place. We headed to the Timmies in Squamish where all three car groups would meet up to talk about final logistics and camping spots. We were altogether at around 7:45 and with coffee, observed the Callaghan area map (BTW!! Clark Geomatics Callaghan Map is out, got just after this trip, I love it, $15 at MEC!!). After a brief discussion, group A headed towards the Callaghan lake and we headed, with group/car C towards the Squamish valley with for objective: High as possible on S-500. Pietr has a great 4x4 so the trip was really good even up S-500, there was quite a wash out that he managed perfectly. At about 900m the road seemed really decommissioned and the alder was getting thicker and thicker. Group C had a tough 4x4 and did not seem disturbed by the thickness (CT and VOC member: Jbest). We were cutting down the alder and tried to minimize the damage on the vehicle. However at about 975 m we decided to park the vehicle. We put on all our gear, the skiers had to add the skis on their backs and myself just the snowshoes and we headed in the bushes. Jbest had been here a few weeks earlier and the conditions had completly changed, they had parked further down but did not have to bushwack once. Our situation involved at least 500 m of alder fighting . Fortunately we quickly got to snow level which stuck the plants to the ground, plus the weather was actually getting really nice (it had started quite foggy in the morning). We had started our hike around 11 and by noon we were almost at the end of logging road. We put on the skis and snowshoes and headed off into the forest, parallel to the creek at the bottom of Ring Mountain. After reading several trip reports this month on Ring Mountain, we were extremely motivated to bag this mountain as the views on the summit seemed extremely promising. We crossed the creek as high as possible, beyond Ring Mountain actually, to head back west towards the tuya. When we arrived at the bottom of Ring Mountain, I realized the mission to be accomplished, 500 m slope with the slushiest snow I have ever been. Anne took the lead and found us an easy way to climb. The sun was now hitting hard and we felt like in an oven. We zig zagged our way up, me having a really hard time with my Denalis snowshoes. Sometimes I would just go straight up as I would ruin their ski tracks. At about 1950m, we emptied our bags and kept some water and AVI gear to climb the final 150m. Those 150 m were really, really long.
I was already feeling the water run out. I would walk 25 steps and would have to stop for a breather. Everyone around was suffering (well maybe just most of us). It was hot, the snow was horrible and it was steep. Finally after an hour struggle, where I felt like fainting several times, we made it to the summit plateau. Of course like many VOCers, we all looked for the true and fake summit bumped. From the top we could see 2 VOCers who were on the Callaghan-Ring Col, we waived at them and I envied them since they were much closer to camp than I was. The way down was a lot of fun though, even if I had a small scare by falling in a hole (just an odd rock formation) We picked up our stuff where we had left them and looked at what were our options. Our goal now was the Callaghan glacier, where we would sleep. It was already 5 pm and seemed miles away. But Pietr was a great leader and kept the spirits high by telling us we still had plenty of light and we would get there in no time.
We decided to stay as high as possible by traversing Ring Mountain. However, when the first skier went down he launched a significant wet slab. This reminded us to be extremely careful and to keep our distances.
At the level of the col, there were the remains of a gigantic avalanche with massive ice blocks, like the whole mountain had fallen off.
We took a rest at the col and start layering back up. We were at about 1700m and camp was at 2250, we weren’t there yet. The climb to the glacier was long but enjoyable, as we talked and joked on this long way up. When we arrived at the glacier, because I was on snowshoes, I asked Len to rope up, I had already fallen in a hole today, I didn’t want to fall in a crevasse. Once on the glacier, it was just another 15 min to camp. When we arrived (I was the last one with Len, because we had lost a bit of time because of my roping up). I noticed group A was not there. We were a bit disappointed because it is always great to be all together. I and Len quickly headed for a small peak next to camp to watch the sunset. The sky had cleared up, and not one cloud in sight. We could see from Mamquam, to Currie, Overseer, Ashlu and it s huge glacier fields, we were in paradise. The sunset was amazing and I had a thought for Bonn-Tien maybe watching the sun rise on the Atlas Mountains. As we were on the small peak, we noticed some skiers coming from the East, it was group A! Veenstras , Roland Burton, Doris and Gili! They had made it, we would have plenty to talk about. We came back to camp, set up tents and snowalls. The evening was cold for me because I was hungry and exhausted. I talked to the group A to find out what I was to expect from tomorrow. Basically a long walk on the glacier but also a 7 km walk on the Callaghan road. I went to bed with a full stomach which allowed me to have a rather warm night, which gave the good rest I needed. In the morning, we all woke up at 7, put on minimum gear and headed up to climb Mt Callaghan. I was very surprise to realize it was really a quick walk away. It took us less than 30 min from camp to summit. I took the chimney which was a lot of fun, some preferred to go on the side. We were 10 VOCers on the top, I like to be alone on summits usually, but these people are such a great company that it only makes the summit even better. Climbed a rocky tower next to camp and then We quickly headed back to camp and exchanged car keys. Packed up and on our way to finish the traverse. The way down was a bit tricky, the weather was not as good as the first day and we even had a small white out. We went down the glacier. But at one point we faced a very steep slope, we wanted to take the ridge that was going east but because of the whiteout we decided to follow the tracks of group A.
So we went down on the slope, for skiers, it was a difficult task, for me it was crap.... I took off my snowshoes and boot down in a slushy snow. As I was going down I realized I was getting myself under some big seracs, in this weather, it was a stupid idea. I tried to stay on my left as much as possible but when I ended at the bottom of the slope, there was a half buried bergshrund; I was unroped, heavily packed and already tired. My friends were waiting for me way in the front, in a safe spot. Adrien you are on your own here. I quickly traversed to end up under the seracs but where the bergshrund was fully covered. I took my ice axe with both hands, and jumped over where I supposed the bergshrund was.
Fortunately I landed far and din t fall in any crevasse. But I still had the seracs above me. So I wanted to wait no time as the only exit to those situations is move you butt fast!! And the fastest way was to slide on my brand new Gamma AR pants... Well I slid, and within 5 min, I felt my bum very wet. I was surprised because those pants are very water repellent. Well not when you completely rip them... I was pissed, but I was not going to let myself bothered, I know the repair service and I knew they would do a great job ( I don t live in Burnaby for no reason...) .
We got off the glacier and I was managing to keep up with the skiers by taking less breaks. However I really struggled on steep slopes as my Denalis would have no grip at all and I would fall directly in the snow... just a bit of a pain. When we arrived just high above Callaghan lake, we went down a cool gully, that was a highway to the lake. Not to steep, perfect for me. The group A had gone on the north side of the lake and said it was really shitty so we were going to contour it by the south, we didn’t t know what was there but “maybe shitty “ is better than “shitty”. When we arrived at the lake, we realized that there was no way we could cross it. We headed toward the south and actually, besides the beginning, stayed on the lake banks, a mix of snow ice and sand made them rather safe and convenient. We did a great timing as we managed to go from one end to the lake to the other in less than an hour.
At the tip of the lake, we realized we would have to cross the Callaghan creek, knee deep. At this point we didn’t care anymore and just crossed, my feet were already soaked. We found out the next day there was a bridge a 100 m lower...
The 7 km on the snowed up road seemed to last forever. But when we saw our car, this made us realize we had just finished an amazing trip. We were exhausted but happy, the real VOC kind of trip. We drove back to the Shady Tree, and I ate my burger with a giant whole in my pants. We exchanged the gear from one car to another...some girls took some pictures of us???
The traverse was amazing.....but I am looking now into skis..The VOCers made their point...

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