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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, October 14, 2014

Alpha-Serratus Traverse

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The Approach

There used to be this guy "Marty" who lived on the Lake Lovely Water Spur, who charged people money to cross his "land." Sometimes, the owner of the vehicles would come back to a vandalized car, whether they paid or not. Things seem to have improved now, Marty is gone for now. The road is gated, but a truck can drive around on the right.

The crux of the trip, and the most often asked question to any Tantalus trip, is "how did you get across the river?" The common options are the wobbly tyrolean across the cable, a water taxi, or canoes. We choose the latter this time. We launched the canoe and two whitewater kayaks at the end of the spur road, and paddled across to a sandy beach. Well, I was sitting in the middle of the canoe, taking photos.


A rough sketch of our route that weekend with Nick M, Nick G, Tim and Piotr.

Paddling across the Squamish River

Most people fly up to the Haberl Hut at the Serratus-Dione col. This makes sense if you're short on time and just want to climb one of the routes on Tantalus or Dione. Strangely though, people also fly into Lake Lovely Water.

After crossing the Squamish River, it took us two and a half hours to hike the trail. The trail climbs through some beautiful lush forest, ascending alongside a creek with a few waterfalls, and then up a quad-busting steep section to the lake at 1165m. I've heard stories of how the approach to the lake is a grunt with an unrelenting climb. It was well marked and easy to follow after leaving the river shore. Similar to the Wedgemount Lake trail, without anybody else around.

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Priorities. Swim time in Lake Lovely Water

Alpha East Ridge

From the hut, continue along the shore of Lake Lovely Water. Shortly after leaving the beach, a trail branches off to the right, marked with flagging tape. This is the approach to the east ridge. The other trail continues west along the shore line to Lambda Lake. Don't try to bushwhack up from Lambda Lake. Continue climbing up through the forest (some sections of bluberry bushes) until breaking out into the subalpine. There has been enough traffic now that a rough footbed exists on the way up. In late summer, there is no water up here, until getting onto the east ridge proper where snow patches can be found. Follow occasional cairns through some steep heather and boulders to reach the east ridge.

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Most of the ridge is easy scrambling. The crux of the route is a single pitch at the start of the steeper part of the ridge, climbing out of an obvious notch. Climb out of the notch, on the right side, following a steep wide crack (5.7-5.8) for a few metres. Protection is limited, unless you hauled a #4 up 2100m just for the one placement. I think there was an old piton nearby too. The climbing eases above near some old rappel slings, and then through some broken rock and then another crack to a nice belay ledge.

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View from the belay ledge.

We continued along more enjoyable ridge scrambling to the summit, somewhat in awe of the view around us. I felt quite fortunate to be up here with these guys sharing the bluebird conditions. Piotr had climbed the east ridge before, but neither Tim Nick or Nick had been up this classic route before. We've been staring at it from the highway for a long time. The rope was only necessarily for the one pitch out of the notch.

Originally, we wanted to traverse over Serratus and continue on towards the Red Tusk. By the time we were on the summit of Alpha, it was already late afternoon, and we realized that continuing on meant an uncomfortable bivy somewhere ontop of Serratus, or more likely between one of the gendarmes on the east ridge.

We decided to hang out for as long as we could on the summit of Alpha, and then descended to a good bivy east of the Serratus-Alpha col. Suddenly the day felt shorter, and I stretched out on the summit, and dreamt of future trips with skis to this area. There was no longer a rush to go anywhere, just the stillness of being up high in the mountains with good friends.

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Red Tusk, and Sedgewick behind.

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Ionia, Serratus, Dione, and Tantalus.

Tim scoping out the descent down the south side of Alpha, with a view down into the Russian Army Camp
From the summit, we continued down the west side of the peak, descending scree and talus towards the base of the west ridge, where we decided to bivy for the night.

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Tantalus and Tim

Sea to Sky view from our bivy near the Alpha-Serratus col
Sea to Sky Moonscape

Moonset over the east ridge of Serratus
Moonset over the Tantalus Range

The Milky Way over Mount Tantalus and Dione
Milky Way over Tantalus

Starry skies over the Sea to Sky country
Starry skies over the Sea to Sky country. The glow is from Vancouver lights.

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The Niobe-Lydia col, with Horseshoe Bay and Vancouver Island beyond.

Serratus East Ridge

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The view from our bivy site the next morning. Tim and Nick found running water on the north side below the col. We tried to go as light on this trip. Running shoes and aluminum crampons. Lightweight ice axe. Two 60m half ropes for the two rope teams. Couscous. Thermal, wind shell, and light puffy. Sleeping Bag, no tent. DSLR...

The east ridge of Serratus lived up to it's description - classic mountaineering, route finding around gendarmes, and uninspiring rock. From our bivy, we continued over two gendarmes to reach the Serratus-Alpha col proper. In early season, or with proper crampons, the gendarmes could be bypassed to the north via glaciated slopes, saving some time.

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Nick looking around for a way down from this gendarme. There was an airy downclimb on the other side.

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Omega Mountain

Lydia, Red Tusk, Pandareus and Ionia at Sunrise
Lydia, the Red Tusk, Mount Pandareus and Ionia

Morning light on the east ridge of Serratus
Climbing the east ridge of Serratus

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Rumbling Glacier Alpenglow

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Pelion Mountain, and the Ashlu-Elaho Divide.

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Rich somewhere on the east ridge of Serratus

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From the col, we continued scrambling up towards the first rock tower. It looked intimidating, and I wondered if the rope would come out. After some more airy scrambling, we topped out at the top. I looked around and found a way down to the col with the next gendarme.

This was basically how the climb went, sometimes climbing over a gendarme, or bypassing them to the left or right if possible. We made one short rappel down a steep corner and also pitched out an airy arete.

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Scrambling on the ridge top

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Bypassing a gendarme on the north side

Airy Arete
Pitching it out on the airy arete.

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Serratus
Serratus pack, on Serratus Mountain.

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Rich on the summit of Serratus
The stoke was high today on Serratus, and my usual smile was bigger than normal.

The Descent

Alpine Select describes descent route as the south couloir, but it was completely melted out. It's suppose to be chossy and best avoided. The shrund at the bottom has become in impassable in past years too. The south ridge looked like a possibility, but we decided to try out the west face descent, which is becoming the standard route, despite somewhat indirect to get back to the Lake Lovely Water side.

I heard that a bolted rappel line was installed on the west face, but couldn't find a topo anywhere. We descended from the summit , down to a notch with the south couloir on the left. From here, continue up and over a rock step with a cairn on top. The first rappel anchor should be here. Going right from here leads to the dotted red line in the photo below, to bypass the first station. The day after we returned from the trip, the top was sent out via the MCR reports from Ross Berg of Altus Mountain Guides. Thanks!



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Late season conditions in a dry summer. Steel crampons were the tool of choice today.

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Tim rappelling into the moat at the Serratus-Ionia col. It would be challenging to gain the col from the other direction. Only a very fragile snow bridge remained.

Rich Tim and Nick with the Crescent Glacier behind

We continued traversing below the south face of Serratus. Instead of descending south into the Russian Army camp, we continued east below Alpha, crossing two big scree gullies. We continued along this high route, until finding cairns that took us down to the trio of lakes northwest of Lambda Lake. I convinced the group to make another stop here for a swim break.

The trail from Lambda Lake to the hut seemed to go on forever, climbing up and down along the north shore of Lake Lovely Water. The descent down to the river was quick, headlamps came on halfway down. The only thing left was a moonlight paddle across the Squamish River, a car faff putting away the canoes, and a greasy burger in a parking lot.

Moonlight crossing of the Squamish River

More photos

8 comments:

  1. Awesome report Rich. Great pictures as usual.

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  2. That's fantastic! Wonderful crew and great pics as usual :)
    This trip is still on my list; hope you brought chocolate!

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  3. Thanks Leigh! Thanks Natalie!

    There was definitely some chocolate, but probably not enough!! I want to go back and spend some more time in the area next summer.

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  4. Awesome post Rich! Hope to ski with you in the Tantalus range this winter, I'll bring the chocolate! -Meghan

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  5. Thanks Meghan! We definitely need to get out on a winter adventure or two!

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  6. Awesome! I lost that rap topo from my computer. Glad you found the anchors!

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  7. Thanks for the topo of the rappel on Serratus!

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    1. Are you planning a coastal visit?

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