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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!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Markhor-Needle (and Flatiron) Traverse

Once again, the weather looked better on the Coquihalla, with warm sunshine forecasted for Saturday, rather than cloudy weather in Vancouver. I wasn't sure if the slabs on Yak Peak would be dry after some rain earlier in the week (they weren't), so I figured a nice scramble along the Markhor-Needle ridgeline would be fun. This is a really nice scramble on mostly good rock, with only a short bushwhack and then an easy trail back down.

We parked at the salt shed, and started off into the forest, aiming towards the open slab on the north side of Markhor Peak. There's no trail, but the forest is open, maybe thirty minutes before reaching the bottom of the first mossy slab. We went around the left side of it, and then continued upwards through the krumholz and rocky steps until the ridge crest, and then up pass a sandy col to the summit of Markhor. It was pretty spectacular up here, warm and sunny, quite a contrast to my trip to Coquihalla Mountain just a week ago. I stared across at all the mountains in the Cascades, which looked even more spectacular than normal as they stood high above the valley mist. Looking over at Coquihalla Mountain, I could see that all the snow had melted off already.

The descent off Markhor Peak down to the southwest is the first crux of the trip. There are open slabs up here, and we generally descended down and right, traversing high across the slab at times, until nearly reaching the southwest ridge. At this point, we reached what is known as the "leg-eating crack," a deep low-angle offwidth that must be downclimbed. It was slightly awkward, and I was happy to be wearing pants for it. This felt more secure than attempting to descend the open slabs though.

From this col, continued along the ridgeline easily up to the sub-summit between Markhor and Needle Peak. There is an exposed ridge to descend on the west side, on good rock, followed by a short climb back up the other side on kitty-litter rock, but still enjoyable. This would probably be the main crux, and a rope might be handy for somebody without climbing experience. The rest of the route is straightforward, going up the northeast ridge of Needle Peak, an easy scramble with short blocky steps and minimal exposure.

We reached the summit, somewhat surprised that there was nobody else up here on this beautiful fall day, and that we were here so quickly. The route felt short enough that it would be fun to go back and reverse the route to get some more scrambling in. We decided to keep going on towards Flatiron Peak, dropping down the easy west ridge of Needle Peak and then along a nice trail on the ridge crest. I've spent more time here in the winter when the ridge top is windswept and icy, in contrast to the buff trail today. There are tarns on the west side of Flatiron Peak, and a larger lake on the southeast side. It might have been mid-October today, but that's not too late to go for a mountain swim! The swimming pool is always open (except when it's frozen over). We hung out for a bit longer next to the lake, enjoying what was my last warm day in the alpine heather. We jogged along the Needle Peak trail, back down to the car. Mark is training for the Kneeknacker Race this July, so any running was good for him! Total time was around 6-7 hours car to car. Definitely go and do this trip, it's awesome!!!

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Intense bushwhacking up through the Markhor forest.

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Hiking along the mossy outcrops

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Picking a way through the rocksteps and krumholz

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Stoked!

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Scrambling up from the sandy col up towards Markhor Peak

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The view on the other side

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Rich and Coquihalla Mountain

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Mark with Needle Peak behind

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Misty day in the Coquihalla Valley

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Mark and the Coquihalla valley

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The route continues along the ridge on the right, and then up the right skyline of Needle Peak

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Can you tell I was excited to be in the sunshine today? I love it when I get the forecast right. It was cloudy all day in Vancouver!

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Mark heading down the slabs 

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Getting into the leg-eating crack

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And down we go.

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Hiking up to the sub-summit

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Two ungulates on the Markhor-Needle traverse

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Au-cheval not required

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More fun terrain to go

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Is Mark stoked or scared?

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Rich with Yak Peak, and the Markhor ridgeline

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Mark just below the summit of Needle Peak

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Needle Peak summit

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Woohoo!

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Descending down the west ridge

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Ridge top running

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The granite runway

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The timing worked!

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Apparently I missed the memo that September would be my last chance to jump into a freezing cold alpine lake. Fortunately, all BC lakes are warm.

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So awesome here.

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Another great day on the Coquihalla!

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