Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mt. Sloan

Mt. Sloan, NE Ridge
Last weekend Mike and I headed out towards Gold Bridge, BC, about 60km North-West of Pemberton, to try our hand at climbing the NE Ridge of Mt. Sloan. We had spent the week previous doing some research on the route and discovered that Gold River is home to a Grizzly Bear enhancement program. That little fact, couple with the knowledge that Mike and I have never climbed a mountain on our own before led us to spend the next few days trying to pin down a third team member. Unfortunately everyone was busy or uninterested, so we armed ourselves with bear spray, bear bangers and a few items to facilitate a noisy hike thru the woods and we were on our way.

The adventure for this trip starts even before you leave the car. The drive to the trail head for Sloan involves a 50km trip down the Hurley Forest Service Road plus another 5 km up the Ault Creek FSR. The Hurley is a gravel road, and is not half bad, but still slow going. The Ault Creek FSR however is full of waterbars and lined with car-attacking Alders making for a 4x4 adventure to our final campsite at the end of the road.

We spent the evening camped out in the cutblock as close to the NE ridge as we could get, cooked some dinner, listened some tunes and turned in for an early bedtime in the back of the truck after watching the sun set over the surrounding peaks.

The 5am wake-up call came way too soon; the last thing I wanted to do was climb out of warm, cozy sleeping bag and head out into the dark, but if were to have enough daylight to get  off  of the FSRs before dark we had to get moving. So after a quick  breakfast of bagels and tea we were bushwhacking our way up the side-slopes of the NE Ridge.

It took us about an hour or so to gain the 500m of elevation to reach the ridge crest. From here the route continues easily along the ridge, gently climbing through thru a sub-alpine forest. It took us about an hour of ridge walking (easy hiking) to reach the first step of 3rd/4th class rock. From this point on the real climbing began.  Once you reach the first rock step you can see the double towers ahead, your first "goal" along the ridge.  The climb up to the double towers is a mix of 3rd and 4th class scrambling, with maybe one or two moves of 5th class mixed in.  Most of the difficult looking areas have  a by-pass if you look around hard enough.

Once you summit the double towers there's an exciting piece of exposed climbing to get down into the next gully and back onto the ridge.  The difficulties are short lived though, so we scrambled through without much trouble and without pulling out the rope.  Once back on  the ridge there is some more fairly straight forward 3rd and 4th class scrambling to get to the top of a second tower. Most of the climbing here was fun and not too exposed. There were once again a few steps here and there that may have nudged into the low-5th category. There was also an exciting portion where we traversed out onto the north face slightly and had to shimmy between some snow, ice and the rock face to gain a weakness in the rock to advance up the tower. It definitely involved a bit of planning of moves to avoid the ice!

Once we gained the second tower we finally had a view of the summit tower with the Cairn perched on top (Mike, Steve and John: Insert dirty jokes here......).  We also finally got a look at the section of the ridge that the trip reports we had read describe as having "airy exposure" and difficult down climbing. We managed to scramble down below this portion of the ridge and traverse some ledges before regaining the granite slabs on the summit tower. The summit tower had some excellent climbing on it. The rock was solid and featured and was probably the most technical section of the day, but also the most fun. just before we reached the final pitch to the summit we encountered a steep snow slope that had still not melted out.  We were aware from previous trip reports that the snow may still be there, so we were prepared with ice axes.This was the one section of the route that we pulled out the ropes for. We decided that without crampons it would be too easy to slip and go for a ride, so we built a quick anchor and belayed each other across the snow patch. Once across the snow we followed some 4th class blocks and with two 5th class moves at the very end, we topped out.

The views from the summit were spectacular with snow covered peaks all around us. It was nice and warm on the summit so we took a half-hour break, had some lunch and enjoyed the views before heading back down. We followed the 3rd class South Gullies to descend the route; we had heard that they were significantly easier and faster than down-climbing the ridge.  The gully descent was straight forward, an easy hike down some loose rock as expected in a gully. The end of the gully had a small cliff-band that required about 5m of down climbing to reach the easier ground below. Once we exited the gully we hiked on moraines, scree slopes and lake-side trails until we were within 700m of the cut block.  From here we got the joy of bushwhacking for the next hour to reach the cut-block and our car. The hike out was beautiful near Ault lake, but a bit of a hassle past that with the heinous bugs and bushwhacking. Luckily the climb was awesome and made the hike out worth the effort.

Lets keep our fingers crossed for the summer weather to continue so we can get out on some more adventures this year!

Click here for photo album

No comments:

Post a Comment