Trip Date: July 7, 2012
Participants: Jeff Ross (organizer), Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger + 6 more BCMC members
Difficulty: 4. Mostly a stiff 3rd class, with one short pitch of low-5th climbing.
Report: Easily visible and prominent from many parts of the Lower Mainland, including from the river shore in front of my place in New Westminster, Blanshard Needle has been on my to-do list for a couple years now, but until just a couple days before this trip was scheduled to run I still had no idea when I’d have an opportunity to tackle it. However, a fortuitous series of events led to Brittany and I signing up for the trip at the last minute and on a beautiful warm Saturday morning we found ourselves driving out to the Golden Ears West Canyon trailhead.
Our party gathered at the trailhead and departed around 8:30. The first couple km of the route follow the regular west canyon trail towards Alder Flats, but just before the crossing of Evans Creek, there is a trail that heads off into the trees on the left. The Evans Creek trail is in great shape and was easy to follow, and we made quick time following the trail to its end where it dumped us out onto the creek bed at the bottom of the basin below Blanshard and Edge. From here, we proceeded to take the wrong route as we followed the obvious, wide creek bed up towards Edge. Luckily, Jeff didn’t take too long to realize that the route didn’t feel right, and we backtracked right back to where the trail ended at the creek, and found the correct route to follow. Immediately after making it to the creek, you have to turn left to follow another (smaller) creek bed (there is flagging if you look carefully) up towards Fly’s Gully.
Even in early July, Fly’s Gully was snow filled right down to the bottom, and most of us put on our crampons (even with the summer heat, the gully faces NE and doesn’t see much sun) to ascend the 35 degree gully. We topped out of the gully at around 12:30, dumped our crampons and ice axes, and followed the easy ridge from the Alouette-Blanshard col up to the base of the needle itself.
At the base of the needle, there is one short pitch (perhaps 12m?) of low 5th climbing that I’m sure some people would be willing to climb unroped, but not me. Jeff led the pitch in fine style, and by having a few people top rope on the same rope at the same time, it didn’t take long for everyone to make it up the pitch. From the top of the pitch, it is generally straightforward to find the route up to the false summit, although some of the flagging has fallen away. From the false summit, we made a very short descent into the notch between the two summits, and although some reports have mentioned the exposure of crossing the notch, I thought it was less bothersome than on other parts of the route due to the ease of crossing the notch (similar to the summit ridge of Mt. Brunswick). Once across the notch, it is only another few minutes of scrambling up to the main summit. In all, the route has one pitch of low-5th climbing, followed by a consistently steep (and in places exposed) 3rd class scramble right up to the summit. It was some of the most enjoyable scrambling that I’ve ever done.
We arrived on the summit around 2:30, and the views were amazing in all directions. The local peaks such as Golden Ears, Edge, Robie Reid, Judge Howay, and Crickmer were all clear, as was Alouette just to the south of us where we could see a few hikers arriving on its summit. Further away, we could make out details on Sky Pilot, Baker, and Slesse through the clear air above the haze below.
We departed the summit a bit past 3, and downclimbed the same route that we ascended to the 5th class pitch, which most of us rappelled. Putting the crampons back on it was a quick and easy descent down Fly’s Gully, with a few of us having some accidental self arrest practice sessions on the softening snow. We did have a scary incident near the bottom where a couple of bowling ball sized rocks came loose from above and careened down the steep gully, narrowly missing some of our party members! From the base of the gully we made good time down the Evans Creek and West Canyon trails, and reached our cars at about 6:45. A truly fantastic trip! Thank you Jeff for organizing!