|Click on the image to see our route. So close to home!|
The Judge. A coastal classic, so close to home. A multi-day multi-modal journey. Mount Judge Howay is a prominent double-peaked summit in the Fraser Valley, easily recognized from surrounding peaks near and far. It's one of those peaks that you can stare at for a while, thinking about how great the view from the top would be, but then as you recount the complicated approach, you quickly change your mind to something with easier access.
Lena picked me up on Friday afternoon, and we headed off to a Karl's place in Deep Cove to pick up the canoe. This wasn't just any ordinary canoe though, this was the legendary canoe used by Karl and Damien on their week-long self-propelled trip to the Judge. We drove east for an hour and a half on Highway 1 and then Dewdney Trunk Road to get to Stave Lake. In the past, visitors to the Judge have launched their canoes off Cypress Point on the east side of Stave Lake, but a pulled bridge has made that access unfeasible, unless you like walking with your canoe and gear down old logging roads. Our plan was to launch from Sayers Point. We turned off onto the Florence Lake road on the west side. It was dark by this point, and we headed off into the heart of redneck country.
I didn't have a good idea of where we would park. To the south of Sayers Point, there are extensive mud flats which dry out in the summer. The flats are popular with partiers and their ATVs and dune buggys. It didn't seem like a safe spot to leave the car. Reluctantly, we left the car on the edge of the mudflats, after some advice from a group who said they would look after our car and that it was less likely to get torched on the beach versus on the road. We would joke about this over the next couple days, wondering whether we would come back to a skeleton of a car.
|Our Nova Craft canoe, loaded and ready for the journey.|
To make the most of the short fall days, we woke up before sunrise each day. By day break, we were paddling north again towards the end of Stave Lake. We paddled against a northerly outflow, with gusts which seemed to stall our forward progress with every stroke. A motorized canoe would be perfect here. I don't have a good track record with canoe-approached mountaineering. Four years ago, Tim and I tried to paddle down Chilko Lake, but we where turned around by strong winds. I haven't tried canoeing since. Slowly, we worked our way up the western shoreline. We beached the canoe at Glacier Bay at the northwest corner of Stave Lake to thaw our cold fingers in the sunshine.
|A frosty morning at Glacier Bay.|
|At Glacier Bay, the 1700m north face of Mount Robie Reid dominates the skyline. Pacemaker climbs up through the white rockfall scar in the centre.|
|Lena paddling along Stave Lake.|
|A surreal experience paddling through the submerged forest in shallow waters at the head of Stave Lake. The river outlet is to the left, but the road is to the far right.|
|Reflection of the banks of the Stave River|
|Lena and the Stave River. Our canoe is somewhere in that sunny patch on the right.|
At daybreak, we left camp and looked for a route through the granite slabs which surround the hanging valley. Hindsight is always 20/20, we did not take the best route here. We worked our way across firm snow, then off into the moat behind the snowfield towards the main gully at the end of the valley. Eventually the small moat transformed into a dark cavernous abyss, and we moved onto the slabs. The plan was to climb the slabs, reach some trees above, and then hope for a route through the head of the main gully. A few committing moves on the slab were required, and I hoped that our route would go, as retreat here seemed difficult. Our gamble worked, and we found a spot at the top where the vertical sides of the gully flattened. Once across the main gully (which would be completely snow filled in the spring and early summer and easy bootpacking), we hiked south across boulders and slabs and heather slopes, feeling relieved to finally be moving in easier terrain.
|The route goes up the boulder field to the gully to the left of the dark buttress on the left|
|The Chehalis peaks to the east|
|Upper snowfield above the hourglass|
|On the summit of the Judge!|
|Exposed scrambling on the false summit|
|We descended these slabs. I don't recommend coming up here in wet conditions.|
|Luckily we found an easier way to get back onto the snowfield in the hanging valley lower down.|
|The Northern Lights above our campsite in the hanging valley.|
|Who needs coffee when there's BW4 bushwhacking in the morning. Dale (2000) describes a BW4 difficulty as "Severe brush. Pace less than one mile per hour. Leather gloves and heavy clothing required to avoid loss of blood. Much profanity and mental anguish. Thick stands of brush requiring circumnavigation are required." |
|Robie Reid, Judge Howay, and Lena.|