About Me

My photo
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, August 26, 2014

Sigurd Peak

Muffin, Champagne, Simons, Fuller and Rich.
The photo above was taken on the summit of Ossa Mountain, a weekend scrambling trip that I organized with friends in the Varsity Outdoor Club in July 2006. Steep forest and bushy avalanche paths were all that I remembered from the first day of the hike up to our campsite. The next morning, I was the first awake, and wandered between the tents trying to wake my friends up. Jordan was suffering from "alpine-lassitude," and my remedy of opening the valve on his Therma-rest didn't go so well. He ended up bed-ridden all day while we went for the summit. Unfortunately, Steve rolled his ankle within thirty minutes of leaving camp, yet continued with the 1000m climb from camp to summit, and then the 2000m descent back to the car. It was slow and gimpy descent, ending a long fourteen hour day! 

It takes me a while to revisit certain places. And with my map wall obsession, I'm hesitant to repeat any approaches, unless it offers a few centimetres or more of dashed red lines on the topographic maps adorning two of the walls in my basement suite. The whole thing is really quite silly, but I like to think that it encourages me to explore new areas.

After spending the Saturday out in English Bay racing on a sailboat, something that I've been doing a lot of this summer, I was looking forward to some real exercise the next day. I wanted to go somewhere scenic, new to me, not too far away, and reasonable as a daytrip. Sigurd Peak seemed to fit the criteria, and Agi and Maddy joined me for the day.

We drove up the Squamish River Valley, crossed the bridge over the Ashlu, over two more small bridges, and then parked at the bottom of the unmarked A-200 branch. The start of the road is loose with small to medium rocks, but likely passable with a good 4WD vehicle. Doing so would save a 1.5km roundtrip. The Sigurd Creek trail is well marked at the end of this road and well defined, thanks to the efforts of the BCMC. We stopped at the Randy Stoltman lookout, a small detour, which gave us our first view of the Squamish River Valley below. We skipped the Crooked Falls turnoff on the way up, saving it for the way down (it's worth checking out). At ~650m, the Sigurd Peak trail branches off to the right at a well marked junction. Once off the main trail, we noticed a big difference in the trail bed, a sign that fewer people hike in this direction. We followed the trail, through rooty and mossy sections, through rich blueberry bushes and steadily uphill under a canopy of old growth. 

Eventually we reached the treeline at 1400m, at which point the flagging that we followed was replaced with occasional cairns. We continued along the east ridge to the summit, which was still obscured in the clouds at this point. Valley clouds drifted below us, and higher clouds covered the view of Pelion Mountain to the south. Aside from snow patches near the summit, there were no good water sources aside from a few muddy tarns on the east ridge. After five hours of sweaty hiking, we arrived on the flat summit just in time for the clouds to lift up, revealing the stunning view of Ossa and Pelion Mountain.  I need to get back there in the spring and lay down some nice turns off the summit! The views of Mount Jimmy Jimmy, Phantom Mountain, Ashlu-Elaho divide, and Squamish-Cheakamus divide were pretty good too. I couldn't see much further though, with the haze from all the forest fires this summer.

A long lunch on the summit was followed with some more hiking down the west ridge to get better views of the deep blue coloured Sigurd Lake, before retracing our steps back to the car. I kept thinking that a loop combining the Sigurd Creek trail with Sigurd Lake and Sigurd Peak would make for a good overnight trip. Another option would be to go up the Sigurd Creek trail, over the Sigurd-Pokosha col, and down Pokosha Creek. The BCMC is also applying to establish a trail up Pokosha Creek, making for a fantastic addition to the trail network in the area. 

A few links:

Agi standing under the tall trees
Hiking up the east ridge of Sigurd Peak
Harrison picking a bushier path
Summit of Sigurd Peak 
Mount Jimmy Jimmy
Phantom Mountain poking out of the clouds
Ossa Glacier icefall
Pelion and Ossa Mountain
Looking down at the east ridge, with the Squamish River valley far below

Monday, August 11, 2014

Backyard Alpine 2 - Crater Slabs

I've been meaning to get back to the backside of Crown Mountain for another adventure since climbing the Widowmaker Arete with Nick. There's a route called the Crater Slabs, which climbs up from the Crown Couloir and opens up onto 400m of open slabs below the summit pyramid. It's been a Plan B idea for a while now. The North shore mountains are a good option for those days when the car breaks down, or you're looking for a hike or scramble close to home.

There's two options for the approach. Either take the gondola up, or hammer up the Grind or other trail to the Chalet and then along the alpine trail past Dam and Little Goat Mountain to Crown Pass. The alternative would be to approach from Lynn Valley, taking the flatter route. It's a toss-up for which one is faster, as you have to descend quite far down from Crown Pass into Hanes Valley. If you were running the Hanes Valley loop from Lynn, this would make for a most interesting detour. From Crown Pass, descend the talus slope marked with orange wands until it joins up with the talus slope below the Widowmaker Arete. It's tempting to traverse high and across along the rockwall below Crown, but this leads into unpleasant bushwacking. Just go down, unless you want to go deep into salmonberry and blueberry bushes.

After descending down the talus, climb back up a long talus slope to reach the couloir. There is one small couloir partway down, but it goes nowhere. The slope is a tedious mix of small rocks and bigger rocks, some rather unstable. Earlier in the season, there is likely to be snow in the couloir. With the dismal snowpack this past winter and the hot summer, the couloir was snow free, nearly bone dry and looking into good shape. We had fun climbing up the short water polished 4th class rock steps in the couloir. We had quite a scare at one point though, when the terrifying sound of rockfall could be heard thundering above. Luckily Jen and I were already behind a large boulder, and was relatively sheltered. Mark was further up, and could see that the rockfall was due to some hikers throwing rocks below, based on the arcing nature of the airborne rock, all big enough to do serious damage while rolling down the slabs into the choke-like nature of the couloir. We yelled up, and fortunately they stopped trying to kill us. So if you're planning to climb this route, start early, try not to go on a busy August day, and hope there's nobody above you. Helmets recommended.

Once we reached the slabs, it was straightforward scrambling to the summit. The idea is to trend up and left, following well featured rock. The final hundred metres below the summit is more exposed, and you could easily cut left to the normal trail. It is also possible to traverse right half-way up towards the Camel. The easiest route follows lines of weaknesses in the slab, littered with small unstable blocks in spots, adorn with cracks and small, somewhat friable holds. It was a straightforward and hot hike back to the Chalet, with a small detour to West Crown. This is the mostly forested peak west of Crown Mountain, but much less busy than Crown. A fun day out!

A view of the Crater Slabs route, as seen from the summit of Coliseum Mountain to the east.  
Looking up, with the Crown Couloir on the left, and the Widowmaker Arete on the right. The slabs are the sun-kissed slopes above the couloir.
Mark hiking up the talus slope
Scrambling up the rocky couloir 

Jen scrambling up one of the 4th class steps in the couloir leading to the Crater Slabs
Mark scrambling up the Crater Slabs in the sun
Mid-way up the Crater Slabs
Jen scrambling up with a view of the city 
View of West Crown from the summit of Crown Mountain. The route follows the forested ridgeline to the summit slabs.
More Photos at Flickr