Summer 2019

I’ve been overwhelmingly behind on blog posts so rather than try to catch up individually, this is a bit of a summary of my spring and summer. While it’s tempting to let short blurb Instagram and Facebook posts take over, I think the long-form blog posts serve a purpose as well.

Matt Ruta on Chancellor Peak

Our ski season on the Coast ended with a bit of a fizzle. March brought 40mm of rain in town (and accompanying snow up high) which could have potentially come in a single storm rather than a monthly total where our average is closer to 400mm. This lack of warm spring storms left the high faces looking shockingly dry and dramatically out of condition. The dry weather pushed us into the valley and out on foot rather than pursing steep spring ski adventures.

Luckily, the Rockies had a slightly better spring and when I spotted a good weather window and a break in my workload, Matt Ruta had already scoped out a line on his mind. While ultra-early alpine starts are fairly routine in the Rockies, I’m generally of the opinion that the whole point of all this training is to make it so we can sleep in a bit. Much negotiating ensued and we settled on a 4:00am departure from Matt’s house in Golden.

Despite the brief interruption of a highway closure due to a flaming semi-truck, we were on our way up the trail just as things were getting light. The approach went quickly as we caught up and we found ourselves standing at the base of the face observing that a little more snow down low would have been nice but nice powder higher up. Cramponing up the lower face was firm but gave way to, eventually quite deep, trail breaking through fresh snow. Stability seemed good and we pulled over the lip to the ridge crest at the top of the face feeling fairly happy with ourselves.

I was perfectly content down climbing the thinly snow covered rocks from the ridge crest to put my skis on the face proper, while watching Matt air off the top. One of the longest continuous cold powder runs of my season led us back down to the lower face and some extremely not-sun-softened scary scratching down neve.

I couldn’t line up a ski partner for the next day but the following, I joined up with Tyson for another rather early start to ski the regular route off Athabasca – rewarded for our lack of sleep by perfect corn from the summit right down to the road!

Ski season ended for me on the Coast with what has become a yearly tradition skiing the Stonecrop Face on Mt. Slalok. While the Joffre Lakes Trail is a tourist hell and a bit of a drive, it gives incredibly easy access to a fantastic north facing strip of snow down Slalok. I recruited a big group of like minded skiers for a gang shred of the mountain and we formed a conga line booting up the face in nice firm conditions.

A skiff of clouds, and the need to be home in time for a few to get a half day of work meant that the face hadn’t quite softened up when we took off down the summit but much fun was had by all.

With ski season wrapped up, I turned my focus on to the Tantalus Range and a few projects that I had in mind up there. First, a trip to climb the NW Ridge of Alpha Mountain, a major route that I hadn’t yet visited and clearly a classic deserving of more attention if access wasn’t a little tricky.

Then, a recon trip up to the back of Lake Lovely Water with Brendan, Rowan, and Paul. Immediately upon watching the helicopter depart after dropping us at the Haberl Hut, I determined I had left my crampons on the seat of my car in the valley. Paul kindly offered one of his for crossing the Serratus Glacier as we headed towards Ionia. I can confirm that the overnight freeze was solid and one crampon and one running shoe is not ideal!

We headed over to repeat a route I’d done previously on Ionia, the NE Buttress, one that absolutely deserves more attention with two of the most amazing pitches of easy alpine rock climbing in the range. Definitely worth a visit! After tagging Panderous as well, we decided that continuing on towards Red Tusk wouldn’t be prudent and headed back towards Lake Lovely Water and down the trail to the valley (no heli assist on the way out…). Our plan to walk the cables on the return trip was thwarted by work happening on the cables – we found the lower cable slack and hanging 15-20 feet below the upper cable!

Without hesitation, Paul dropped his pack, stripped down, and jumped in the river to swim across, retrieve a canoe, and paddle back across to pick us up with the packs. Something weird happens on every Tantalus trip!

As summer plugged on and school took time away from climbing, I stuck to slightly more running oriented adventures. One I had on my mind was running the ridge that’s visible above the north side of the Duffey Lake. If you’ve ever driven along the lake in the summer, you’ve looked up at Rohr Ridge and wondered what it would be like to hike along!

As a weather and schedule opportunity presented itself, I sent out a few inquiring texts to see who would be interested in joining. I didn’t want to give the idea away and then not execute so Tyler, Stu, and Wilf all agreed to join on the promise of a very long day, and an adventure to someplace new.

The crux of the day is the car shuttle. We started in the Downton Creek Valley – on the far side of the Duffey Lake Road, with the goal to finish at the Wendy Thompson Hut Trailhead. After dropping a car at the finish, we all piled in and made our way to Downton where we bivied at the truck.

An early wake-up, cold breakfast, and were soon on our way up towards Downton Peak. Once the sun hit us, we were all feeling pretty good as we dropped into the Melvin Creek Drainage and what was for us, a grey area on the map. We made good time through Twin Lakes and up the Barkley Valley though found it a bit disconcerting when we realized actually how far away Rohr Peak was. We gained the ridge and found fun running on gentle goat paths.

About halfway through our day, we turned onto Rohr Ridge and saw the view down to Duffey Lake. The goat path got steeper and we slowed down significantly, especially after running out of water. The final few bumps along the top were a bit on the painful side but every step down towards Heart Shaped Lake meant closer to a water refill. We opted not to tag the summit of Rohr due to the impending sunset and blasted down the Rohr trail to our car finishing in about 14.5 hrs. Despite promising Wilf that I would be helpful in keeping him away while driving, I immediately fell asleep the entire ride back to Squamish.

If I were to repeat the route, something that isn’t unlikely as it was one of the best ridge traverses I’ve done, I would definitely opt to gain the ridge system immediately above Twin Lakes rather then descending into the Barkley Valley. It would be a little longer/more vert but much more aesthetic and less bush. I’d also be a bit more careful about filling up on water before the ridge portion!

In July, Jessie and I road tripped east for Meet the Minotaur, the only true mountain running race that I’ve experienced in North America. The race itself was beautiful but rather uneventful for me. I was running on thesis writing fitness which is unfortunately not ideal but still had an enjoyable time chasing Troy and Jessie.

En route to the race however, we stopped in Roger’s Pass and with promising weather, headed up to climb Mt. Sir Donald’s NW Ridge. It’s one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America and for good reason. It’s almost 1000m+ of continuous 4th class climbing with a few sections of 3rd. The views of the Pass are amazing and the climbing is high quality. We motored our way up the trail and hit the base of the ridge in good time.

Once on the route, we slowed down a bit, conscious of the exposure on either side of the ridge. We didn’t quite nail the route finding and managed to sniff out some proper 5th class climbing when it should have been easy scrambling but nevertheless made our way up. Passing a few parties, we topped out JUST as snow started to fly. We scurried down from the summit pyramid with rain and snow blowing and tried to get as far as we could before things got slippery. We were quite happy to find the bolted rappel stations and relaxed a bit knowing we just had to follow those to the bottom.

Sir Donald was definitely a spectacular day but not one that to be taken lightly. It’s a massive peak with lots of ground to cover, little respite from the exposure and route finding, and the chance for lots of different weather.

Before the end of the summer and rainy season, the Arc’teryx Academy came to Squamish and while I had some athlete responsibilities on the weekend, I managed to get in some fun adventures. With the Academy usually comes an influx of rad people to Squamish and this year was no exception.

Posing for the camera…

With Janelle Smiley and Ryan Kerrigan visiting, I proposed a idea to Chris Christie that we borrow some watercraft to paddle across Garibaldi Lake and then climb around the Sphinx Glacier area. Chris found us some lightweight loaner paddle boards and we were off. It’s around 1000m+ hike up to the lake so it was a bit of a haul with giant packs but the weather was perfect.

The sound of the paddle board exploding as we were inflating them at the lake was demoralizing. It’s akin to realizing you’ve broken a ski or have a flat tire but there’s nothing to be done except watch it deflate. Ryan’s board had split at the seam and was definitely not seaworthy. After a few minutes of debating what to do, we realized we could paddle around for a bit while Chris took some photos, then pack up the boards, stash them, and go climb Black Tusk (Ryan and Janelle had never been) before hiking back down to the car.

The Tusk is of course a beautiful plan B and Chris spotted some rad photo opportunities along the way. There was some debate around abandoning the boards at the lake but we eventually shouldered the loads and headed back to the car. While it was technically one of my least successful trips of the summer, it was still pretty rad.

That’s a good summary of just a few of the highlights. I’ll try to post another training summary sometime here soon – and maybe a few others if I can get my act together!

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