Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sir Donald

I first climbed the Northwest Ridge back in 2009 with Ross. On that occasion we were so focussed on getting up and back down again quickly that afterwards we both agreed that it would be good to do the route again just so that we could enjoy it! So near the end of July I went back with Brian for another go.

The forecast was the same for the next two days with a 30% chance of afternoon thunderstorms; not perfect but fairly typical. Ominously it bucketed down for a couple of hours at midday on the day that we hiked up to the bivy site.

It then rained again overnight. I swore that I'd never let myself get caught in crappy weather on Sir Donald. Nevertheless the next morning we went up to the col for a "look". How many times have we said that before? "Having a look" is the mountaineering equivalent of saying "hold my beer and watch this".

It was fun while it lasted as we enjoyed the warmth of the rising sun.

We pushed our luck and managed to get up to the highest bolted rap on the ridge about half way up. From this point we knew that we could get down in almost any weather. Right on cue it started raining and hailing and the rock became slick as motor oil in a matter of seconds. Down we went into the cold wet mist, cartoon legs skittering around as if we were wearing ice skates on a vertical skating rink.

All's well that ends well. Looks like we'll have to go back again.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Grizzly Peak North Ridge

Not until late July did we make our first overnight trip to Hermit Meadows this year. On the way up we met a group coming down from Tupper. Turned out that one of them was Dan, a fellow we met at Bon Echo last fall. Small world.

We camped next to a babbling brook, had a fine evening, and got a civilized start the next morning.

First task was to skirt around the southeast ridge of Sifton and find our way to the Little Sifton Col. We've often skied this way in the winter but always in the opposite direction. The slope from the col seems really steep on skis. Not so bad in summer.

From Little Sifton we followed the shattered ridge up and down and all over the place. It was mostly just scrambling with the occasional rocky step thrown which (as always) left us wondering exactly what 3rd class is supposed to mean.

We wound our way up and found ourselves at the top for lunch about 4.5 hours after leaving Hermit Meadows.

On the return journey we took advantage of the summer snow to bypass much of the ridge before regaining it again just before the Little Sifton col. Here Brenda was gripped by summit fever and insisted that we summit Little Sifton rather than skirting around directly to the col. I don't know what's got into that girl. 11,000er training I guess. Aided by all the snow it was a quick 2.5 hours back to Hermit Meadows where we packed up for the knee jarring return to the highway.

A fine easy day in the mountains.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Yak Peak

Stymied by the weather but desperate for exercise we made a trip to the Coquihalla to hike on Yak Peak. I think the route we chose was the climber's trail rather than any "official" hike. Parking at the Zopkios break check, we doubled back about a kilometre to an obvious cairn and dropped down to the swampy start.

The trail went straight up through classic west coast old growth to the base of the giant slab visible from the highway. A spooky place in the mist; we were pretty wary of rock fall.

We soon reached the snow line where the already gloomy morning became decidedly wetter.

The Yak-Nak col was completely snow bound with wind rolls and cornices.

The ice axes came in handy.

Here's a somewhat bedraggled looking Brenda on the the top.

A nice short hike.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Avalanche Mountain SW Ridge

We could have made an argument to use skis for a good part of this trip up Mount Avalanche in early July. But we made an early start and thankfully the snow remained firm underfoot for most of the morning.

Taking a break on a rocky knoll we saw a coyote sprinting across the snowfield opposite. We'd never seen coyotes around here before and it seemed strange to see this one in such open terrain. Perhaps he was hoping to snag an unwary marmot emerging from its burrow.

We gained the crest easily enough and began working our way along the ridge, sometimes on rock, sometimes on increasingly sloppy snow.

Although the SW ridge is supposedly just a 3rd class scramble, having descended this way once before (after climbing the SE ridge) we knew that there was at least one tricky bit. Sure enough at one steep corner festooned (yes!) with rap tat we were left scratching our heads at the "3rd class" designation. Rather than dorking around we got the rope out for the two slightly unhappy seconds and were soon kicking steps up the final steep pitch of snow below the summit.

It took much longer than anticipated (doesn't it always) but we finally topped out by early afternoon.

The snow made for a mercifully fast descent to the snow line but the switchbacks on the Avalanche Crest trail still seemed interminable.

A great day out. Thanks to Craig for the company. Sorry we got you home so late.