December 2011

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Trip Date: December 11, 2011

Participants: Alexis Guigue, Steve Bell-Irving, David Haslam, Rob Kay, Travis McClinchey, Andrzej Jarzabek, Ed Zenger, Geoff Zenger (organizer)

Difficulty: 3.  Easy rock scrambling, slopes to 30-35 degrees, dense forest low down

Elevation Gain: 920m

Report: My first ski trip on the BCMC schedule to actually run this season!  The trip began by meeting up at the Mt. Currie Coffee Company in Pemberton just before 8am, making all of the necessary introductions, and setting off to the weather station pullout right at Cayoosh Pass.  We set off from the cars at about 9:30, with 7 of us on skis, and 1 on snowshoes.

The first 10 minutes or so of the trip were easy going, and then we hit the logging road.  When I went up towards Mt. Chief Pascall in February 2011, the logging road was completely covered, and we took it to the clearcut a couple hundred metres to the east, which was then easily descended.  This time, however, with no appreciable snowfall in 2 weeks, the logging road was a brutal alder bash, which we had to take all the way to the east side of the clearcut as from below the clearcut did not appear to be skiable.

From the east end of the clearcut, we had little difficulty ascending the forest, slowly traversing around to the east side of the ridge to avoid the bluffs high up, and soon entered the gentle basin at treeline to the north west of the summit.  From here, it was an easy skin up to the west ridge of Chief Pascall.  After a quick snack break (and to give our valiant snowshoer a chance to catch his breath!) we skinned up the narrowing ridge (with some difficulty in places due to the low snow level) up to the top of the large gully descending from the summit (~100m below the summit) and left our skis behind to scramble the remainder of the ridge.

The final ridge was an easy scramble, although the going was slow with many of the rocks covered with only a few inches of snow and ice.  We all reached the summit around 1:30 and took our time to eat, drink, and gaze at the north/east faces of Joffre.

Leaving the summit, we made quick time down to our skis (despite one of my legs post-holing into a gap between two boulders approximately 3m deep!), and began our descent by skiing the top couple hundred metres of the wide snowslope labelled “Equinox” on Baldwin’s Duffey Lake map.  With a bit of foresight, we could have left a vehicle at the Marriot basin trailhead and had a fall line descent most of the way down, but alas, that hadn’t crossed any of our minds and we quickly had to begin our traverse to the west in order to reach our vehicles.  Around treeline we found some fantastic powder, but the traversing was not steep enough for our snowboarder to properly ride and I think he found much of the descent quite tedious.

Back down at the clearcut, we started to bash through the alder on the logging road, but Alexis smartly decided to take a peek through the bushes to see if he could scout a clear line through the clearcut, and as it turned out, he could!  Although not phenomenal by any means, we had a nice run through the clearcut back down to the logging road, and from there it was a quick ski down through the trees to the vehicles, where we arrived around 4:30pm.  The route taken is definitely much more suitable for skiing than snowboarding, and so I learned something for next time.  Nonetheless, everyone made it down before dark, and fun was had by all.

Verdict: 2/3.

Note: I forgot my camera at home for this trip, and so all photos were taken by my dad on his camera

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Mt. Seymour

Trip Date: Dec. 4, 2011

Participants: James Clarke, Stetson (James’ dog), Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2 (usually)

Report: By the morning of James’ early season BCMC trip to Mt. Seymour, we were down to just James, his dog Stetson, and myself.  Leaving the Mt. Seymour parking lot at 8am on a sunny Sunday, we were able to quickly ascend to the regular winter trail to the 2nd peak of Seymour before the snowshoeing crowds hit the mountain.  From the second peak we could see that there was a lot of exposed rock on the 3rd peak and that it wouldn’t be possible to ski all the way up, and so we ditched our skis in some bushes on the 2nd peak and began the traverse over to the 3rd peak.  Unfortunately for us, I had neglected to bring an ice axe and the traverse over to the col between the 2nd and 3rd peaks was covered with a thin layer of ice that, given that this was my 5th or 6th trip to Mt. Seymour in 2011, rendered the traverse too sketchy to be bothered with.

We reascended the second peak and ate our lunch as the first of the snowshoeing hordes caught up to us.  A brisk wind picked up, and we headed back down the trail, skiing down the southwest face of pump peak, and due to the presence of a dog, had to ski the trail down from Brockton Point.  Stetson at one point got distracted by the adoring crowds and disappeared for a good 10 minutes, but was eventually found mooching food from a group of friendly admirers.  Just below Brockton Point, Stetson was nearly fined by the park rangers for being off leash (a technicality, truly, as he was attached to a leash… just no human holding on to the other end), but managed to charm his way out of a ticket.  We reached the parking lot around 1 o’clock, by which point the trail was populated by the steady stream of hikers normally reserved for the grouse grind.

In the end, it was a failed attempt on Seymour, but we had fantastic weather, good views, and was a good trip for a day when I had to be back in town by early afternoon to visit with some visiting family.

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Alpen Mountain

Trip Date: Dec 3, 2011

Participants: Ed Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2.  Difficulty rating is 2 provided that you swing around to the south ridge near the summit.  If you head straight up on the west ridge, then there are a few short, mildly exposed steps of 45-50 degree snow.

Elevation Gain: ~1200m

Report: For an early season day where I had to be back in town by early evening, my dad and I decided to go for a “short” ski trip somewhere in the vicinity of Squamish.  Wanting to avoid the crowds on Paul Ridge, the idea came to attempt the little known Alpen Mountain.  Inexplicably missing from John Baldwin’s ski touring guidebook and only an hour’s drive from Vancouver, Alpen turns out to be a great warm-up ski ascent with no crowds.

Leaving New Westminster a bit past 8, we drove up towards Squamish, headed onto the Mamquam FSR, and hit solid snow on the Alpen Mountain Spur (ungated at this time of year) at around 550m.  After taking a bit of time to get the car turned around, and get our ski gear on, we were able to set out on skis right at 10 o’clock.  Following some old snowmobile tracks, we gained the first ~800m of elevation on the main logging road (easy to follow, it’s the only non overgrown road in the area) under grey and foggy skies.  However, around 1400m, not far below the old snowmobile hut at the end of the road, the skies suddenly cleared and we were presented with amazing views of Sky Pilot, Ledge, and Habrich to the west.

From the snowmobile hut, we followed what appeared to be ski tracks off to the north east, but soon realized that we were heading in the wrong direction to the peak, and had to contour back to the south, losing some elevation.  Next time, the smarter route decision would be to turn right at the hut and head south, in order to directly hit the main basin below the summit of Alpen, where the west ridge can be easily obtained about 100m below the summit.  Still early season, there was a mix of rock, ice, and snow on the ridge of Alpen, and so we left our skis behind about 100m below the summit and climbed straight up the west ridge, just above the north face.  This route requires negotiating a few short, mildly exposed, steps of 45+ degree snow, and from the summit we learned that the smarter route would be to swing further around to the south of the summit before heading straight up.

We summitted Alpen just before 2pm, and after stopping for 15 minutes for food and photos, made our way down.  The first few hundred metres of skiing were good powder, but once on the logging road, what had been soft snowmobile tracks in the morning had frozen into icy ruts that made the run down the logging road both tiring and bothersome.  Nonetheless, we made it back to the car just before 4pm, for a total round trip of 6 hours, with a bit over 1200m net elevation gain.

Verdict: 2/3.  Worthwhile for its convenience and varied terrain.  No crowds!

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