The fall can be a difficult time for outdoor recreation in our wet and rainy climate, especially the months of October and November. Every year, after the first rainy weekend, I'd be asking myself why I'm not adventuring something warm and sunny. With the start of winter only a week away, I thought I should share some of my mini-adventures.
September was spectacular. It was one of the best ones I could remember, sunny nearly every day - only 5mm of precipitation was recorded. It started off with a three-day trip on the Isolation Traverse, a rugged off-trail hiking and mountaineering trip in the North Cascades. Together with Alex, Maddy, Chris and Krystil, we weaved our way across late-season glaciers, up and down heather slopes that never ended and consulted my maps a few too many times to remember. This was my first trip to this part of the Cascades, and I'd like to return there for some of the rugged beauty it offers. I was amazed that in the three days spent here, we did not see another person.
North Twin Sister
Feeling tired, yet still yearning for some good times in the mountains, Tim Chris and I headed south across the border yet again. We had great time scrambling up the west ridge of the North Twin Sister. The rock is dunite, with large rough crystals destined for climbing on. The approach involves some logging road and mountain bike is recommended. Or you could run up and down the road if you're a fitness maniac like my friends did.
Two of the best days in the mountains I can recall were spent rambling along the scenic granite ridges above the Sims Valley. On yet another beautiful September weekend, Pete and I made the horseshoe traverse around Outrigger Creek, going from Outrigger Peak to Mount John Clarke. Perhaps pushing our luck in September, we went light and left the tents behind - it turned out to be a perfect night to sleep under the stars. I can understand now why those who have travelled here rank it amongst their favourite spots accesible in a weekend from Vancouver. We drove up the Squamish and then the Elaho Valley, and bushwacked for two hours from the end of a cutblock into the alpine. After that, it was two full days of jaw-dropping views - I was grinning from end to end the entire time.
Sailing in Howe Sound
Back in the spring, I purchased a quarter share of a Catalina 27 sailboat. I figured it would be a good distraction during the times when I needed a rest from human-powered activities. Most of the time spent on the boat this summer were on evening cruises out in English Bay - enjoying a barbeque and a few beverages while watching the sunset. On a cloudy weekend in September, we sailed off to Keat's Island, a small island in Howe Sound, tucked behind Bowen Island. Sailing might have been an exaggeration on the first day - we were drifting along with the tide when our sails were raised in the calm conditions. We had betterwinds on the return voyage, enjoying sunshine and Palmosa's (equal parts Palm Bay's and orange juice) on deck.
Welch and Foley Peak
With yet another beautiful September weekend, I headed off into the eastern end of the Cheam Range to scramble up Welch and Foley Peak. This area is located in the Chilliwack Valley and well-described in Matt Gunn's scrambles book. This was my first trip into this area, it's perfect for any peak-bagger, with numerous summits, all within day tripping range. We scrambled up the south ridge of Welch Peak, which is described by Matt as "a fantastic scramble with over 425m of alpine scrambling and a long, airy summit ridge." The following day, we climbed up Foley Peak, getting a good view of rest of the Cheam range, Mount Baker, Slesse, Rexford, Robie Reid, Judge Howay and many more.
Robyn's family has an amazing spot on the east side of Cortes Island, with a waterfront view of Desolation Sound. A few of us were lucky enough to enjoy some rare November sunshine, which lead to other unseasonable activities like swimming in the ocean and kayaking on a calm ocean surface. November is usually a time when I test my patience, and tolerance for warm wet weather that doesn't quite lead to favourable ski conditions. Luckily, time goes by quickly when you're surrounded by good friends and food.
Early Season Skiing
I find it tough to motivate myself for the first few days of skiing. The uncertain snow conditions and terrain hazards coupled with a lack of fitness and boot discomforts usually keeps me at home for the first few storms that roll through the Coast. Paul, Kristen and I made our first turns of the year around the Marriott Basin, off the Duffey Lake road. The light warm rain and the closed coffee shop in Pemberton (it was still under fall hours) made us second-guess our decision to drive three hours in search of snow. Luckily, we were not disappointed. The next weekend, I visited two popular ski destinations if only for their proximity to Vancouver. We spent a valuable day on Seymour in above freezing temperatures, practicing beacon searches and confirming that skiing in the rain is unpleasant and best enjoyed in small doses. This was followed by a day on Red Heather with Mark and Jen, where we wallowed through the 150cm's of snow from the past week. On the gentle slopes, skiing downhill was a challenge. And most recently, Greg and I visited the Cayoosh basin, where we found plenty of powder, sunshine, clouds and pillow drops.
And that summarizes the last couple months of living in the big city. I'm looking forward to a great season of skiing!
Thursday, October 18, 2012
|Click on the image to see our route. So close to home!|
The Judge. A coastal classic, so close to home. A multi-day multi-modal journey. Mount Judge Howay is a prominent double-peaked summit in the Fraser Valley, easily recognized from surrounding peaks near and far. It's one of those peaks that you can stare at for a while, thinking about how great the view from the top would be, but then as you recount the complicated approach, you quickly change your mind to something with easier access.
Lena picked me up on Friday afternoon, and we headed off to a Karl's place in Deep Cove to pick up the canoe. This wasn't just any ordinary canoe though, this was the legendary canoe used by Karl and Damien on their week-long self-propelled trip to the Judge. We drove east for an hour and a half on Highway 1 and then Dewdney Trunk Road to get to Stave Lake. In the past, visitors to the Judge have launched their canoes off Cypress Point on the east side of Stave Lake, but a pulled bridge has made that access unfeasible, unless you like walking with your canoe and gear down old logging roads. Our plan was to launch from Sayers Point. We turned off onto the Florence Lake road on the west side. It was dark by this point, and we headed off into the heart of redneck country.
I didn't have a good idea of where we would park. To the south of Sayers Point, there are extensive mud flats which dry out in the summer. The flats are popular with partiers and their ATVs and dune buggys. It didn't seem like a safe spot to leave the car. Reluctantly, we left the car on the edge of the mudflats, after some advice from a group who said they would look after our car and that it was less likely to get torched on the beach versus on the road. We would joke about this over the next couple days, wondering whether we would come back to a skeleton of a car.
|Our Nova Craft canoe, loaded and ready for the journey.|
To make the most of the short fall days, we woke up before sunrise each day. By day break, we were paddling north again towards the end of Stave Lake. We paddled against a northerly outflow, with gusts which seemed to stall our forward progress with every stroke. A motorized canoe would be perfect here. I don't have a good track record with canoe-approached mountaineering. Four years ago, Tim and I tried to paddle down Chilko Lake, but we where turned around by strong winds. I haven't tried canoeing since. Slowly, we worked our way up the western shoreline. We beached the canoe at Glacier Bay at the northwest corner of Stave Lake to thaw our cold fingers in the sunshine.
|A frosty morning at Glacier Bay.|
|At Glacier Bay, the 1700m north face of Mount Robie Reid dominates the skyline. Pacemaker climbs up through the white rockfall scar in the centre.|
|Lena paddling along Stave Lake.|
|A surreal experience paddling through the submerged forest in shallow waters at the head of Stave Lake. The river outlet is to the left, but the road is to the far right.|
|Reflection of the banks of the Stave River|
|Lena and the Stave River. Our canoe is somewhere in that sunny patch on the right.|
At daybreak, we left camp and looked for a route through the granite slabs which surround the hanging valley. Hindsight is always 20/20, we did not take the best route here. We worked our way across firm snow, then off into the moat behind the snowfield towards the main gully at the end of the valley. Eventually the small moat transformed into a dark cavernous abyss, and we moved onto the slabs. The plan was to climb the slabs, reach some trees above, and then hope for a route through the head of the main gully. A few committing moves on the slab were required, and I hoped that our route would go, as retreat here seemed difficult. Our gamble worked, and we found a spot at the top where the vertical sides of the gully flattened. Once across the main gully (which would be completely snow filled in the spring and early summer and easy bootpacking), we hiked south across boulders and slabs and heather slopes, feeling relieved to finally be moving in easier terrain.
|The route goes up the boulder field to the gully to the left of the dark buttress on the left|
|The Chehalis peaks to the east|
|Upper snowfield above the hourglass|
|On the summit of the Judge!|
|Exposed scrambling on the false summit|
|We descended these slabs. I don't recommend coming up here in wet conditions.|
|Luckily we found an easier way to get back onto the snowfield in the hanging valley lower down.|
|The Northern Lights above our campsite in the hanging valley.|
|Who needs coffee when there's BW4 bushwhacking in the morning. Dale (2000) describes a BW4 difficulty as "Severe brush. Pace less than one mile per hour. Leather gloves and heavy clothing required to avoid loss of blood. Much profanity and mental anguish. Thick stands of brush requiring circumnavigation are required." |
|Robie Reid, Judge Howay, and Lena.|