Trip Date: August 17-19
Participants: David Carne, Michelle Lapin, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger
Staying at Lake Lovely Water and the Tantalus Hut has been on my list for years now for its beauty, quality of hut, and remarkable closeness to Squamish. Luckily, Britt had the foresight a few months ago to make reservations at the hut and to take it upon herself to organize a trip to the hut and to explore the area around it. Thank you Brittany!
We had an early start from New Westminster on Saturday in order to arrive with plenty of time to spare before our scheduled helicopter flight at 8:30, and arrived at the Squamish airport to find that Black Tusk Helicopter’s large helicopter had been commandeered for fire fighting duty. No worry, they had a smaller helicopter available and their masterful pilot, Steve, had both loads of us and our gear up to the heli landing area near the hut by 9:30 or so. It was my first time in a helicopter, and I had a great time flying in to the hut. I think I’ll have to try and do more heli-access trips in the future!
The weather was warm and beautiful as we arrived at the hut, and we took our time to unpack our stuffed bags (fresh food on a backcountry trip!) and introduce ourselves to the party of VOC and MECers that had arrived just before us and that was going to be staying at the hut until Wednesday. Nonetheless, as the forecast had been poor for Sunday, we got ourselves ready to head up towards Pelops and Niobe and departed for them some time around 11.
The initial route into the Omega-Niobe basin is straightforward, and we didn’t have any trouble finding our way onto the flatish part of the glacier that needs to be crossed on the way up to the Omega-Iota col. Nonetheless, we definitely took a route higher and further to the right than the one indicated in Gunn’s book (we went right and over the “prominent grey buttress” instead of left of it). I can see why some parties would feel it unnecessary to rope up for the short glacier crossing, but you never want to end up the idiot at the bottom of a crevasse with a rope in your bag, and so we put on our harnesses and roped up to cross the glacier. Once across, it is easy to follow a fun series of class 2 ramps and ledges up to the Omega-Iota col, and from the col, despite its steep appearance, we quickly and easily made our way up Iota.
From the summit of Iota we had our first glimpse of the incoming weather system, and didn’t linger long before descending the backside to the Iota-Pelops col. The scramble down had some unexpected moderate exposure, but is quite easy, and from the bottom, we made our way to the left through the dense krummholz to the trail leading up Pelops, and in short time found ourselves on the summit. From here, it is reportedly a quick jaunt of less than 30 minutes over to Niobe, and there didn’t appear to be any major difficulties to be surmounted to get there, but we had started to hear thunder and see lightning approaching from the south west and made the hard call to turn around without bagging Niobe. I’ll have to head back someday to get Niobe, perhaps by a different route, such as the NE ridge.
Heading down from Pelops, over Iota, and back down to the lake was easy and uneventful and despite the visible rain and lightning in the distance, it never reached us. We were back at the hut just as the evening was darkening and settled in for a great dinner made with fresh ingredients. As we had been up early, the four of us headed to bed early and slept long into the next morning.
With a poor Sunday forecast, we had made the decision to spend the day exploring the lake, and after a long sleep and relaxing breakfast, we headed out in the late morning to take out one of the row boats on the dock by the hut. As soon as we got into the row boat, however, we noticed that it leaked! Luckily we had the foresight to go back to the hut and grab a pot to use to bail out the boat periodically and keep it afloat as we explored the lake. We spent all day exploring the lake and docking at its various beaches, and while we were doing so the weather continually improved, so that by the time we went back to the hut in the late afternoon it was once again a hot, sunny day. As on the previous day, we enjoyed a wonderful meal of noodles and fresh vegetables and settled in for a comfortable evening in the hut, passing the time away playing a version of Trivial Pursuit left in the hut by another party.
Monday was always going to be a quiet day as we had an afternoon helicopter pick up to catch. Nonetheless, we made the most of the time we had and followed the flagged approach trail up to the east shoulder of Alpha. Someday I’d love to come back and climb the East Ridge of Alpha, and it seemed worthwhile to check out the approach route. Alpine Select says that there isn’t much of a route, but we found it easy to follow on the ground, and generally well flagged. At our high point we could see a group coming down after being fogged off of the East Ridge of Alpha. Although the weather was good below and the day had a great forecast, the East Ridge and summit of Alpha were shrouded in dense fog, rendering it unclimbable that day… such is the unpredictability of mountain weather.
Steve returned to pick us up a bit before 3 o’clock, and once again made two trips to pick up our gear and us. The flights were short and sweet, and by 3:30 we were sitting on the patio at the Watershed, enjoying a warm and clear summer’s day with a great view back up to Alpha and where we were. Lake Lovely Water really is a beautiful spot. I was actually surprised by the ruggedness of the terrain and the lack of hikes within a typical hiker’s ability. Nonetheless, it is surrounded by a wealth of challenging scrambling and moderate mountaineering routes, and I hope to get back there in the next year or two with the time to tackle some of those routes.