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I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Northwest Ridge of Joffre Peak

Aug 27-28, 2011
The Joffre Group and Duffey Lake
A view of Matier and Joffre Peak from Gott Creek. The northwest ridge is the long right skyline. 

The weather looked great again for yet another weekend of this short summer, so Chris Krystil and I took full advantage of it to spend some time in the mountains and also at the crags. We drove up to Pemberton on Friday night, indulged our inner foodie with dinner at the Pony Espresso, climbed the northwest ridge of Joffre Peak on Saturday and relaxed with some cragging in Squamish on Sunday. The two days contrasted strongly with each other, one day involved a lot of hiking for a few metres of climbing and the other day required only a few minutes of walking and lots of climbing. 

We waffled for awhile trying to decide how much technical equipment to bring on this trip to make the hiking enjoyable. Between the three of us, we brought a light rack of nuts and tricams, two pickets and iceaxes for the glacier descent and one 60m half rope. Chris is old school, so he wisely insisted that we leave our climbing shoes and springy cams at home. This made sense as there were only a few technical sections on the ridge that required protection. 

The northwest ridge is a long ridge that rises five kilometres from the Duffey Lake road, with some short sections of technical difficult near the top. We camped at the Joffre Lake parking lot and woke up at 5am to begin our bushwack up through the steep and forested lower ridge. This area is also known as Joffre Shoulder to most backcountry skiers who frequent this area for steep tree skiing and fun pillow lines in the winter. The bugs were horrific, easily the worse I've experienced all summer. We plodded up for two hours into the alpine at a steady pace, never stopping for long, racing up into the alpine for salvation against the mosquitos. Another hour of meadow rambling brought us within view of the scrambling on the ridge proper. 

Most of the ridge consists of easy 3rd class scrambling. The technical difficulties lie in the notches that divide sections of the ridge, generally requiring some 4th class climbing On the hardest notch, we made one rappel off an assorted collection of slings around a chockstone and Chris rope gunned us up the opposite side. We continued scrambling through more short sections of difficulties until the final borad ridge walk to the summit. From the summit, the view was as spectacular as I had imagined. I've done many trips in the area, summer and winter, but never made it up to this point before. After lounging on the summit, we continued down the Aussie Couloir. We considered descending the standard southeast face down to Cerise Creek but opted to go out via the Matier icefall so Chris and Krystil could see the picturesque Joffre Lakes. The descent down the sunny couloir was slow and tedious, requiring careful kick stepping most of the way down due to the firm snow condition. I wish I had crampons at this point. From the top of the Matier icefall, we pounded our knees down the steep moraines to the Upper Joffre Lake. This wouldn't be a very enjoyable way to reach the Matier Glacier (I've done it before once too!) We stopped for a swim in the Middle Lake before finishing off the hike to the car for a total of 13 hours roundtrip. This was a fun day out, a good objective for anybody who enjoys covering a lot of varied terrain with scenic vistas thrown in. If you think of this as a good scramble with some technical difficulty mixed in for extra fun, then I think you'll have a great time. 

The price of admission, two hours of easy bushwacking in the forest. It was different to see all the trees and bushes here without a few metres of snow. There is no trail here but as long as you keep climbing up through the forest, you should reach the alpine within 2-3 hours. From the Joffre Lakes parking lot, we walked east along the highway until reaching an overgrown logging road on the right. We followed this road for 100m as suggested by the guidebook without seeing any obvious spot to crash up into the bush (it was partially dark still). The start is the steepest, and things get better higher up. 

Krystil stoked to finally start the scrambling. 

Krystil crossing a snow patch on the northwest ridge. 

The Stonecrop Face of Slalok Mountain. 

Exposed crevasses on the Matier icefall. 

A wonderful morning to be up in the alpine. The clouds dissipated later in the morning. 

Great views of the Matier Glacier. The tenth annual VOC mountaineering camp was held here on the following weekend and VOCer's were able to climb every peak in the area. Of note was the "Other Joffre Enchainment" completed by three VOCers (Nick, Nick and Piotr) climbing Hartzell, Howard and Spetch in that order. 

More snow on the ridge.  The south side of Chief Pascall looks like great skiing in the right condition. 

Chris belaying Krystil across and then down one exposed section. 

Krystil and Chris scrambling along the northwest ridge of Joffre Peak. This is the typical terrain on most of the ridge, easy blocky scrambling with some exposure on either side of the ridge. 

More easy scrambling along the ridge. The highway is visible below. 

Krystil rappelling down one of the notches on the northwest ridge. It might be possible to downclimb some exposed features on the north side of the ridge, but it looked frightening. We rappelled off a slung block that looked pretty good. 

Chris silhouetted in one of the notches on the northwest ridge. 

Krystil climbing out of the notch. The first two moves off the ground were thought-provoking in boots. 

Stoked to be on the summit with fabulous weather. 

Chris scrambling over towards the Aussie Colour, with Matier Peak in the background. We did not see any other climbers that day. 

Chris lowering Krystil down the Aussie couloir. 

Glacier walking with Chris and Krystil. 

Descending down towards the turquoise Joffre Lakes. We descended to the end of the snow and then scrambled down ramps and slabs on skier's right to gain the moraine, well away from the overhead hazard of the Matier icefall. 

Wildflowers along the Joffre Lake trail.

A last view of Slalok Mountain. We went for a dip in the lake just before the sun disappeared. The water was cold. 

The next day, Chris and I climbed the wonderfully fun Bullethead East and Wire Crack to compensate for the lack of technical climbing from the previous day. 

Chris hanging out at the bottom of Pitch 3 of Bullethead East. A five minute approach through the campground lead to the base of the climb, which was followed by an hour long wait at the base for the party ahead to climb the first pitch. 

We walked over to the Wiretap area to join Jules and Krystil who were also climbing here. Chris climbing the first pitch of Wiretap. This is a pretty good place to climb on a hot day.

The memorable belay seat with a great view of Howe Sound. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chilcotins Mountain Biking

Much to the disappointment and surprise of some of my climbing and slogging partners, I purchased a mountain bike this summer and have been trying to learn how to throw myself off drops and tight rocky switchbacks. However, the learning process isn't going so well, as my sense of self-preservation has reduced me to walking most of the trails on the North Shore.

Mountain biking has far more similarities to skiing in comparison to climbing. In biking and skiing, you're always moving and trying to go down and up the optimal line. However, at least for the type of skiing that I enjoy, I usually fall into soft fluffy powder. On the north shore, the landings options are usually a rock, roots or a tree. With climbing, most pitches usually have one or two crux moves and the rest is fairly easy. The really good climbs are sustained the whole way though. So far in biking, everything feels like hard 5.11 climbing, even that six inch roll-over. Or maybe more like a V5 dyno problem above a poor landing.

Aug 20, 2011

Alex, Maddy, Cam, Mia and I had a great weekend of mountain biking in the South Chilcotins. Over the years, I've seen enough photos of people riding bikes in the Chilcotins. Photos that made the biking look like it was just perfect wide bike lanes right through the alpine, with wildflowers on either side. The South Chilcotins are located five hours away from Vancouver and the landscape and climate is significantly different in this drier region of the Coast, which makes for great hiking, biking and skiing. We drove up on Friday night and camped at the Tyax Lodge, just off of Tyaughton Lake.

On Saturday, we continued driving north along the Mud Creek FSR and then onto the Relay Creek Road (4x4 HC). The idea was to bike up the Little Paradise Creek Trail up towards Little Graveyard Pass or something along Davidson Ridge. Alex, who tore his MCL a month ago, thought we could bike most of this route and that it wouldn't be very technical, perfect for a beginner like me. We found out that day that this area isn't a paradise for mountain bikes. Most of the trail was too muddy or tracked out by horses to be considered enjoyable biking. There were also sections of marshy terrain and long sections of shrubbery, terrain more suitable for hiking. We reached the alpine meadows between the West and Middle Fork of Paradise Creek and called it a day. After that experience, I wasn't sure if the Chilcotins were quite as amazing for biking as it's hyped up to be.

Alex biking along the Relay Creek trail. So far, so good.

We turned south afterwards and headed into Little Paradise Creek. This part was far from mountain biking paradise.

Maddy biking through singletrack, surrounded by wildflowers. Despite what the photo suggests, not all of Paradise Creek looked like this.

Maddy and Alex trying to figure out where the trail goes.

Alex, Maddy, Mia and Cam at our turn-around point, with Relay Mountain in the background.

Cam biking through shin-scrapping shrubberies. I wish I had high socks or shinguards for this painful section.

Riding across creeks and getting our feet wet was a common theme of the trip.

Alex on the "trail" through Little Paradise Creek. We decided that out of all the biking trails in the South Chilcotins, this one might have been the least suitable for biking.

Cold beers after an unsuccessful bike ride into Little Paradise Creek. I don't think I'll be coming back here again on a bike, but maybe on foot to visit the Dil-dil Plateau and Mount Vic.

Starry reflection on Tyaughton Lake.

Aug 21, 2011

The next day, we decided to stick to the trails that Alex and Maddy knew would be awesome. We started at the south end of Tyaughton Lake at Hornal Road, biked the High Trail up through the beautiful alpine meadows at the head of Pearson Creek, dropped down into the east fork of Eldorado Creek, turned right onto the north fork of Eldorado Creek, up and over Windy Pass, down amazing singletrack to Spruce Lake, out along the Gun Meadows Trail and finally out along the Gun Creek trail until reaching Gun Creek road. It's amazing how much terrain one can cover on a mountain bike if the trails are suitable for riding. I think this loop would also make for a great (although long) trail run if you went from the end of the Pearson Creek road and stopped at the Jewel Creek bridge. This was a fantastic bike ride and I can't wait to get back to the South Chilcotins for another adventure!

It might have been late August, but finally the flowers were in full bloom. Only a month later than normal due to the wet spring and snowy winter.


Maddy biking along the smooth Chilcotin singletrack. The day started with a long climb up the Pearson Creek road.


Maddy and Cam checking the map to figure out where to go.

We still managed to take the wrong trail up steep switchbacks towards Camel Pass. We realized our mistake shortly afterwards. 


It was great to see the meadows here. I was here two years ago during a New Year's ski trip  and everything was just white.

Cam and Maddy pushing bikes up towards the pass. I used my trail runners for this trip and quite enjoyed walking with my bike up the hills.

Alex biking up towards the pass between Pearson and Eldorado Creek.

We descended smooth switchbacks down into the east fork of Eldorado and then turned into the expansive meadows surrounding the north fork of Eldorado Creek. 

The group checking the map again. Maddy and Alex had biked up to Windy Pass before but they were snowed on last time. 

Cam on the hike-a-bike section on the climb up to Windy Pass. Sunshine and a tailwind made the climb very pleasant.

Smiles at the top of Windy Pass. It was actually rather windy up here.

Cam riding the alpine single track on the way down towards Spruce Lake.


Alex biking through the smooth singletrack on the way down to Spruce Lake. This section was actually as smooth and easy as it looks, but there were a few sections in the forest where I walked.

Maddy biking through the fantastic Gun Creek meadows.

Cam biking through the fantastic Gun Creek meadows.

Alex descending dusty switchbacks through the aspen forest.

A photo of myself riding through the awesome and fast single track along the Gun Creek trail. Photo by Alex Gibbs. 

Alex and Mia on the homestretch along Gun Creek.