Nick wanted to climb the Northeast Arete on Wedge Mountain this week, on of the classic Coastal mountaineering routes. I was keen but had already done it so I suggested we try something that we had been talking about since last season.
Wedgemount Lake is a beautiful turquoise glacial lake with a small hut in Garibaldi Park. One of my first few hikes in BC was to the hut and up to the lower slopes of Weart Mtn. Since, I have visited a bunch of times despite the long, steep approach climb to get to the lake. The lake is ringed by five peaks; Cook is on the left, a big rubble pile, Weart and Wedge are the next two and the most impressive of the group, Parkhurst and Rethel are on the right with steep North sides facing the lake but gentle Southern slopes.
I proposed we attempt to traverse around the lake and over all five peaks in one effort, probably the first time that has been done, especially in one day. We would get to tick of the NE Arete of Wedge for Nick and both tag a few new summits while exploring the unknown NW Ridge of Weart.
We got a relatively early start, leaving from the newly built trailhead at 8:00 am. The new trail ascends more directly and I suspect may be quicker than the old one. We made decent but not terribly fast time up to the col just before the hut and dropped out poles and refilled on water. From here we turned North and ascended the long talus slopes to the summit of Cook. Now we could see the long ridge stretching up to Weart and then beyond over to Wedge. Despite the quick tic of Cook, it all of the sudden felt like we had a long way to go.
We descended to the Cook-Weart Col and started up the NW ridge which looked more imposing as we got close. We tried to bypass a section on snow slopes to the north but the snow was very isothermal and without a rope, a sagging ‘shrund turned us around. We ended up mainly staying on the ridge crest with a few sections that we bypassed on either side to avoid more technical climbing. The ridge was mostly very reasonable and even some sections of good rock, but lots of loose rubbly ledges with big exposure. The climbing was never hard but I certainly needed some encouragement from Nick at a few points. There was no specific crux in my mind, but a few tricky down climbs at notches in the ridge. The final notch found us at the base of the summit pyramid where it was easy scrambling to the top!
We descended the SE Ridge described in Gunn’s Scrambles in SW BC book to the Weart-Wedge Col and then started up the NE Arete of Wedge. We stayed on the ridge crest from the Col and ended up doing the rock crux of the day at a notch that we could have bypassed by staying on the snow that the normal route follows. We got onto the snow section of the ridge and put on crampons. Nick was testing out some new prototype Salomon space boots so his feet were feeling decent. I was struggling to keep up in my runners as the tight crampons were crushing my toes. He was kind enough to kick me steps up the ridge. The conditions were good with deep isothermal snow that made the steps very secure but had us a little worried about wet slides. It was snow to the summit but the strong wind and being rather wet from climbing the snow meant we didn’t stick around long. Descending towards the West Ridge was major postholing in the deep snow. We were both leaving bloody prints behind from scraping our shins. The W Ridge itself was snow free and a long long talus descent with much loose scree. I was mostly nervous about dislodging a rock and having it crush my ankle.
We traversed around under the Wedge Couloir to the Wedge-Parkhurst Col and had a quick discussion about continuing. My feet were not doing so great and Nick was not too concerned about continuing anyway. We opted to call it a day. We headed straight down the Wedge Glacier, sticking skiers left and going around the South side of Wedgemount Lake, under Parkhurst and Rethel by crossing a semifrozen glacial tarn. We had to wade through the creek at the outflow of the lake and then descended back to the creek where we drank some water and picked up our stashed poles. From there, it was a bombing descent to the car and straight to McDonalds for a recovery meal!
This was definitely a long day. We were both pretty worked by the end. Fuelling is definitely a major factor. Also the sun took a lot out of us. Finally, the postholing in snow and endless talus took their toll on us. The intense scrambling on Weart definitely was an added stress for me. Overall though, it was awesome to cover so much alpine terrain so quickly – this is definitely a good example of what I like to do in the mountains.
I don’t believe the three peaks have been enchained before and I am almost certain that all five still have not been done, this is a traverse that is ripe for a strong scrambler/runner to pick. I would not call it low-hanging fruit though, that is for sure. I’d like to go back and tick off all five, especially with the mental reassurance that I have been successful on the NW Ridge of Weart but it will be a while before I am ready for that much talus punishment again. It is also a bit of a hassle to carry the crampons and axe for the whole trip.
- All the routes were in excellent condition.
- Cook is easiest to ascend by going up and left toward the ridge crest rather than tackling steep slopes head on.
- The snow level is ideal for the NE Arete on Wedge.
- The Wedge Glacier is starting to show some pretty big cracks and we did not want to cross the normal route without a rope.
- The ‘scrambles’ routes on all these peaks in Scrambles in SW BC are all long talus/scree slogs. Very little actually interesting scrambling.
- The NW Ridge on Weart was really engaging scrambling. It is listed as the descent route for the N Face of Weart in McLane’s Alpine Select.
- I am really curious about the new logging road that heads up the S side of Wedge Creek. This could be amazing for skiing in the area, allowing parties to drive much higher and/or skin up the road, rather than having to walk the low elevation sections of the Wedgemount Trail. I’m looking forward to investigating more as the ski potential in the area is awesome but the approach sucks.
- 5 Hammer Gels
- 3 Hammer Bars
- 1 Bag Haribo Gummy Bears
- 1 Bagel w/ Cream Cheese
- ~4L Water (filled up at Wedge Creek – very little melt water on ridge crest but some)
- Ultimate Direction SJ Vest
- Grivel Aluminum Strap Crampons & Camp Nanotech Axe (for Wedge NE Arete)
- BD Carbon Ultra Poles
- Dynafit Feline Shoes
- Dynafit Trail DST Jacket
- Julbo Sunglasses
- 25km Distance
- 3000m Vertical Gain
- Map on Movescount