Date: Feb 25, 2017
Participants: Nancy Zenger, Jeff Wallace, Nathan, Geoff Zenger
Report: A friend of mine skiied Flora peak in the Chilliwack valley a few years ago and said that it was a great ski trip, with easy access, nice fall line skiing, great views, and low avalanche hazard, and it’s been on my to do list ever since. We all met at my house Saturday morning and set off down Highway 1, heading east, but with no particular destination in mind. By the time we passed through Chilliwack, the sun in Coquitlam had given way to dense cloud, and we seemed to have settled on heading for a mellow day in the Coquihalla, perhaps skiing Zupjok and Iago when Nancy finally made the executive decision that we would try going somewhere new. The drive BC webcam near Chilliwack Lake showed snow next to the road, and as we were still in the final outskirts of Chilliwack, we made a brief backtrack and headed down Chilliwack valley to the Post creek trailhead.
Indeed, there was snow next to the road at the Post creek trailhead, and the parking lot was also covered in snow. However, despite being at 630m, the trees appeared to only have a bit of snow in them so we strapped our skis to our packs and at 9:30 began our hike up the Flora Lake trail. The trail is in good shape, and we quickly ascended. Little did we know that it would be a long hike up to find snow. The trail ascends the southern slopes of Flora peak, reaching a camp/viewpoint at around 1200m that overlooks Chilliwack Lake. Here we saw our first snow, and if it was a good snow year, from here you could skin directly up the mountain, but we elected to continue on foot, eventually reaching an open bench around 1600m. This is where the winter route diverges from the summer route, with the summer route continuing ahead up the basin ahead to the col to the east of Flora Peak. The winter route ascends the ridge above directly towards the summit.
We continued for about another 100m before finally electing to put our skis on around 1700m. Finally! From here the route is generally straightforward except for one point about 3/4 of the way up the ridge where the ridge steepens. We kept on the ridge for as long as we could, and just below the rocks, skirted right onto the steep and mildly sketchy snow slope before reaching the comforting safety of the mellow slopes above. From here it is easy to ascend directly to the summit.
We reached the summit at 1:30, and within a minute or two, so had a large cloud. Engulfed in fog, the temperature plummeted and after a quick snack we started our descent in a thorough whiteout just before 2 o’clock. The fog was dense enough that it was challenging to make out the skin track and we descended very slowly. Only a minute or two down from the summit, Jeff called out from the back for us to wait up. One of his skis had snapped! Despite descending through the whiteout at a snails pace, apparently a gentle dip in the slope was all that it took to cause his new G3’s to snap about 8 inches ahead of the front binding.
Nancy volunteered to carry the broken ski, and Jeff soldiered on, skiing and side slipping down the mountain on just one ski. Nate and I had a surprisingly good run down to the flat spot at the bottom of the basin, and amazingly, the others were only slightly behind us. From here, rather than follow the trail we skiied straight down the mountain, and managed to hit the trail just a couple minutes walk from the 1200m viewpoint. The trees on the descent to this point are quite open and in a good snow year would make for fantastic gladed skiing. For us, they weren’t great, but had just enough snow to allow us to make it down to this point without significant difficulty. From the viewpoint, the skis were put back on our packs and we hustled down the trail, reaching the car just before 4, for a total round trip of 7.5 hours.
In the right conditions, Flora Peak could be a great ski trip, but in present conditions it would have been more suitable for snowshoes. Nonetheless, it was great to get out with good company and ski in an area I hadn’t visited before in winter.