Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall has Arrived

Just a quick note on what we've been up to lately.

Last weekend Mike and I flew up to Prince George to visit Mike's Family. It was Dave's Birthday, so we had a yummy Prime rib dinner finished off with cheesecake to celebrate as well as our favorite pies to munch on all weekend. Thanks for the great food all weekend Debbie! We had a great time visiting with friends and family and enjoying the outdoors around PG. We saw all kinds of animals in PG this time too which was pretty cool. We saw several deer and a Moose right at Dave and Debbie's house and we saw a couple of black bears while we were out and about.

We spent Friday fishing at Nulki Lake which is out by Vanderhoof. It was a beautiful, sunny warm fall day and we spent all afternoon rowing the fishing boat (after the motor died) around the calm, quiet lake while we fished for trout. Actually, Mike and Dave rowed the boat while I fished. :) The trees were all turning colours and the lake was pretty much deserted and completely flat and calm, so it made for a nice, relaxing day out in the sun. We ended up catching 6 trout to put in the smoker.

On Saturday we met up with some of Dave and
Debbie's Friends and went for a hike up to Raven Lake, which is located in Grizzly Den Provincial Park. The hike if 4.7 km one-way with about 1500 ft of elevation gain. It starts out by climbing fairly steeply through the forest and tehn breaks out into sub-alpine meadows with great views of the McGregor Mountain Range. After this point you basically contour and hike over some rolling hills for about an hour or so before reaching the lake.

The lake is surrounded by towering ridges and has a stunning but peacful setting. There is also a backcounty hut and several tent pads and an outhouse at the lake if you choose to spend the night. We spent about an hour at the laek enjoying the scenery and havign some lunch. The entire trip took us about 5 hours return, including lunch and snack breaks along the way.

After coming home from PG We decided that this was the week to get back into some sort of routine with the arrival of fall. Time to kick the lazy summer days to the curb. Mike and I bought an annual pass for the Edge Climbing Gym and are excited to get back into climbing regulary and to get into shape over the winter. Lara and I also revived our running schedule and are back to running 2-3 days a week. This week we ran up mosquito creek, hiked the BCMC trail by head lamp and are starting the fall trail clinic for the "Phantom Trail Race" with Heather thru Mountain Madness tomorrow. It feels good to be regularly active again!

Click here for a Full Photo Album from PG

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Frosty Mountain Fun

Frosty Mountain is a 2408m high peak in Manning Park, BC. It is the highest peak in the park. For the past few years I've been volunteering at the Frosty Mountain Trail Race where one year we hiked 7km up the Frosty Mountain Trail to set up an aid station. I've always heard great stories about the terrain and views and have wanted to see it for myself for the past couple years.

Last weekend Mike and I met our friends Steve and Bobbi-Jo Oliver at the Lightning Lake campground in Manning Park with the intentions of tackling the Frosty Mountain Hike. The weather was kind of touch and go; We lucked out on Friday night with nice enough weather to allow us to cook dinner and enjoy a camp fire but when we woke up on Saturday morning it was raining. We got up anyways and started to get ready for our hike and lucky for us, by the time we were ready to go the rain had stopped! It was still pretty cloudy out but at least it was dry. we ended up having great luck with the weather all day.

The route we chose was to start at the Frosty Mountain Trail Head at Lightning Lakes, hike to the summit and then hike back out via the Windy Joe/Pacific Crest Trail. We dropped one car at the Windy Joe trail head so we didn't have to hike the 4km along the road at the end of the day to get back to Lightning Lakes. This turned out to be an excellent decision and I will never do that hike with that additional 4km. The route we hiked turned out to be about 25km long with 4000 ft of elevation gain. It took us about 8.5 hours car to car, including a 20 min break at Frosty Camp and a 45min break at the summit. If you ever attempt this hike with one vehicle I'd recommend hiking it as an out and back on the Frosty Mountain Trail from Lightning Lakes instead of doing the loop that we did.

We started our hike at 9:30 am at lightning lakes after dropping off a car down the road at the Windy Joe trail head. The hike starts at the back side of Lightning Lake and immediately begins to climb for the first 4 or 5 km. At about 2 km into the hike you get your first glimpse of the mountains in the background and the lakes below when you reach a view point. At km 3 there are distance markers in the trees that continue for the rest of the hike to allow you to track your progress.

After about 5 km you reach a plateau and your first of many meadows along the hike. From here the trail remains fairly flat with a few small climbs until reaching Frosty Mountain Wilderness camp (7km). This is a nice spot for a rest on some of the make shift benches. There is also a shelter here if it is raining and a stream where water bottles can be refilled.

After the camp the climbing begins again for a couple of kilometers. at about 9km you reach some more sub-alpine meadows and an old larch forest that is quite pleasent to hike through. The grade also lessons in this area and the trees thin out giving you a great view of the mountains ahead and the lakes and valleys below.

When we reached the sub-alpine the peaks were all in the clouds and we were a bit disappointed that we had hiked all that way to potentially not get any view from the summit once we got there. But lucky for us as we continued to hike the clouds quickly lifted and disappeared all together giving us blue-bird skies and amazing views!

At 1o km you are in the alpine and hiking up the scree that covers the flanks of Frosty Mountain. There are however great trails laid out thru the scree making progress quite simple and enjoyable. The hike gets fairly steep at this point as you are gaining the ridge of the mountain. At 11km you reach a sign marking the intersection of the Windy Joe trail and the Frosty Mountain Trail.

We turned right at this point and followed the ridge all the way to the summit of Frosty Mountain. The ridge looks intimidating from the sign but in reality it has minimal exposure and is an easy 20 - 30 min walk to the summit on a well-used trail.

The Summit of Frosty Mountain is amazing! If you do the hike be sure to have time in your day to relax at the top. The views of the mountains surrounding you and the lakes and valleys way below are stunning. There is also an area surrounded by rock walls that makes a nice little spot to have lunch protected from any wind. We spent about 45 min at the top having a snack, taking photos and enjoying the scenery. It took us 4 hours to reach the summit (including our break at the Frosty Camp and a few photo stops)

After our break at the top we made a b-line for the car with no further breaks. We hiked back along the ridge to the trail sign/junction and headed down the Windy Joe Trail to complete a full loop hike. The second half of the hike back to car is approximately 13 km from this sign.
The first 3km of the Windy Joe trail switch back thru the alpine along the flanks of Frosty Mountain and meander through some sub-alpine meadows; always heading steadily downhill.

After that the forest starts to thicken and you are back into the trees. At the around 9km (?) marker (measure from the trail head at the bottom) you reach an area where a forest fire has killed all the trees; it is quite a site as you hike through all the stark white snags surrounding you.

Once you pass this area the trail is fairly unexciting; basically a 10km slog through the trees to get back to the car. In this section of trail you mostly head steadily down hill with a few small sections of slight uphill and flat meadows. At 19km (8km after the trail intersection) you reach another intersection. DO NOT head right toward the camp, instead head left and this will take you to a logging road which switchbacks down the mountain towards the Windy Joe trail head. After about 4km along the road you reach a trail on your left marked "Pacific Crest Trail"; follow this trail for about 2-3km through a marsh and over some boardwalks where it will spit you out at the trail head and your waiting vehicle down the road to the left. Once we got here we were very happy that we had dropped a car and didn't have to make the 4 km slog up the road back to lightning lakes.

If you only had one car you could potentially hike back to the lightning lakes trail head along the "Little Muddy Trail" that parallels the road if you were so inclined, but like I mentioned before, I would just hike to the summit of Frosty Mountain from the Lightning Lake Trail head and then go back down the same way went up instead of doing the loop. The top half of the Windy Joe trail is nice, but the 10km slog thru the trees at the end leaves something to be desired. You wouldn't miss much by hiking the Frosty Mountain trail both ways.

We ended up getting back to our camp site at about 6:30pm where we had some snacks, dinner and a well deserved beer. Just as we were cleaning up from dinner it started to rain. We fully lucked out with the good weather window for the day! We all spent the rest of the evening hiding from the rain in Steve and BJ's Boler playing an exciting game of "Settlers of Catan". The next morning it was still raining so we quickly packed up camp and enjoyed a warm breakfast at the Manning Park Lodge before parting ways for our journeys home.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Blackcomb Buttress:Take 4; Success at Last!

Route Overview
(Yellow = Approach, Red = Route, Green = Descent)

After being chased off the mountain last weekend by the snow we decided to head back this weekend to give it one last shot for the season. This time our friend Gary 'Alpine Yoda" Shorthouse joined us to offer some guidance and teach some proper short roping techniques.

To make a long story short, we lucked out with the weather and with the help of Gary we moved with a little more speed and confidence on this outing and we made it to the summit! it was a great feeling of accomplishment to finally summit Blackcomb Peak after 2 seasons of trying. The views from the top are spectacular with all the glaciers, lakes and peaks in the backcountry behind the Whistler/Blackcomb resort and the peaks of Garibaldi park such as black tusk to the south.

The descent from the route is quite straightforward, which was a nice change from most routes. We just scree bashed straight down the DOA couloir to Blackcomb Lake and then back to the gondolas along the nice, groomed trails. We even made it back to the gondolas in time to catch a ride down the mountain! All in all, a great alpine climb and great day all around.

Here's a trip report written by Mike:

Blackcomb Peak via Blackcomb Buttress
2436m PD Low-5th

We caught the first chairlift up at 0945. We had found through past experience that taking the Wizard Chair along with the Solar Coaster is about 20 minutes faster than going up the Whistler Gondola and Peak to Peak. This is critical because the last ride down from the Blackcomb side is at 1715 and if you miss this you have to hike down the mountain. From the Rendezvous we made our way up the access road toward 7th Heaven past the snowmaking reservoir. After passing under the 7th Heaven chairlift start contouring toward Blackcomb Peak and make your way onto ledges and continue through these until you reach the base of the route. It took us 2 ¼ hours to arrive at the base of the route. The route follows a series of 4th class steps to generous ledges. The route curves left and then back right to gain the main ridge. There is no sustained difficulties and only a couple possible spots were 5th class moves are encountered. At no point on this route did we place any gear and many a terrain belay were used for bringing up the second. We arrived at the Summit at 1500. For the descent we made our way down DOA couloir, along the trails and were back at the lift by 1630.

Click Here for Complete Photo Album
(All Pics taken by Gary Shorthouse)