Friday, August 30, 2013

Tantalus Provincial Park - Lake Lovely Water

Lake Lovely Water

View from the Hut

Climbing at Tantalus Provincial Park

Hiking in the Alpine Meadows on Omega

Lake Lovely Water Area

August 10 - 14, 2013
Accommodations -  ACC Tantalus Lake Lovely Water Hut

Objectives: Climbed Alpha Mountain - East Ridge and Omega Mountain - North Ridge

Chopper time

Mike and I spent the last week of our 3 weeks off up at the Tantalus Provincial Park, a few km West of Squamish BC.  Tantalus is a beautiful, pristine park in close proximity to Squamish and can been seen on a clear day from Hwy 99 when driving to Whistler, but due to its difficult access, it is not heavily used.  The Squamish River makes getting to the park a challenge.  You can take a helicopter or float plane into the park or, if you're set on hiking in you must either paddle across the fast moving Squamish River, hire a jet boat or do a tyrollean traverse across a cable in order to reach the trail head. We opted for the Helicopter option and do not regret it for  second as it saved our energy for the climbs in the park and took 10min instead of  full day to get to the hut.

ACC's Tantalus Hut

Day 1: Arrival

On Saturday August 10 we arrived at the Squamish airport, at Black Tusk Helicopters , at noon to fly into the hut.  We loaded the chopper with all our gear for the week, had a quick briefing on flying in a helicopter and we were off. I had never been in a chopper before and was a bit nervous, but quickly relaxed and enjoyed the smooth and scenic trip in the helicopter. It was awesome flying up the valley and right out over the Lake and next to the mountains we were hoping to climb in the next few days. I'll fly in a helicopter any day!

Out for a Paddle

The helicopter dropped us at the end of a trail about 100m from the Hut.  We shuttled all our gear in and set up our beds and living area for the week and had some lunch. That afternoon we took one of the rowboats out on the lake and paddled to the end of the lake to stock the cooler with ice and to explore the area a bit. Once we got back to the hut we went for a hike to explore the start to climbing Alpha Mountain and get an idea of the next day's plans. That night we had and early dinner and bedtime to get some rest before the next day's big climb.

Collecting Ice for the Cooler

Day 2: Alpha Mountain (2305m)- East Ridge (AD-, 5.8); 15 hrs hut-to-hut

On Sunday we decided to try for an attempt at the East Ridge of Alpha, one of the classic climbs in the area. The weather for the week was questionable and Sunday seemed to have the best forecast so we thought we should go for it right away. We got up at 4:30am and we were on the trail, heading up the dense timber above the hut, by 5:15 am. The route to gain the ridge on Alpha is a steep, buggy, bushwhack. It took us about 2.5 hours of bashing through the trees and then steep shrubs to gain the ridge. I was more than ready to be done with bushwhacking!
Crossing the Glacier on Alpha

Once we gained the ridge we travelled along the easy rocky ridge until we reached the first tower.  Here we geared up with crampons, ropes and axes and stepped down onto the glacier. The glacier was quite broken up and involved a lot of time weaving around crevasses and looking for snow bridges that were stable enough to hold our weight. We quickly gained elevation on the glacier and we re-gained the ridge once we reached the obvious notch.  This notch brought us to the main summit tower of Alpha.

Climbing Alpha's East Ridge
Once back on the ridge we climbed several pitches of rock, starting out steep and then mellowing out to a point where we could simu-climb. Before we left the notch, starting the committing part of the route, we had noticed that the weather was turning.  The forecast was for mostly sunny, but that was not turning out to be reality. We decided that with the visibility closing in, it would be  safer to continue on the ridge than to try and reverse the crevasse-riden glacier with poor visibility.  About two pitches before the summit the rain started. It was just lightly spitting, but still not ideal.  We reached the  summit 6 hours after leaving the hut with minimal visibility.

Summit of Alpha

Due to the bad weather we quickly took a couple of photos and began our descent. From the summit we descended the west ridge and then dropped onto the south slopes of the ridge, intending to downclimb the scrambles route up Alpha. Unfortunately we had poor visibility and unknowingly ended up travelling too far along the West ridge. We were actually on a described descent route, but not the one we thought we were on.  After following a beaten path down the slopes and coming upon two rap stations, we figured we were good to go. The visibility was still non-existant and now the rain really picked up as we started to rappel.  Luckily it was short lived and due to the warm temps we dried out quickly. At the bottom of the second rappel we were on some snow that we thought was the "Snow slope" that is talked about in the scrambles book.  As we descended the snow we reached a huge moat, which seemed weird for a snow slope. This was our first clue that we were not where we thought we were.
Looking at Alpha from Omega

We managed to scramble down some rocks to get past the moat and after descending a few minutes more we stopped for a few minutes to evaluate our situation.  Luckily while we were stopped the weather cleared slightly, enough to see the icefalls and crevasses below us, clearly we were on a glacier, the Serratus Glacier in the wrong basin,  not on the "Snow Slope" we wanted to be on! That explains the moat - aka, bergschrund. We took a compass bearing, looked over our maps and route descriptions and figured out were in the same area that is described as a descent route, but we were way too low on the glacier.  So we climbed back up the glacier and regained the rock ridge beside the glacier, near the moat. After a short scramble we gained the notch that we were supposed to cross through to descend to the scramble route and the actual "snow slope" that would take us towards the Russian Army Camp. After a quick break at the notch to confirm we were indeed in the correct place finally we headed down the grassy slopes to the final rappel which brought us onto the correct snow slope. a huge relief!

Hiking near Lambda Lake 

We wasted a good 3 hours of time off route trying to find the descent. From the base of the snow slope the weather finally cleared and we just had a long slog across never-ending scree, down some snow into the Russian Army Camp with its amazing wild flows. From there we had a bit of a hard time picking up the trail, but eventually found some cairns and then a marked trail which led us past Lambda Lake and finally around Lake Lovelywater and back to the Hut at 8pm.

Wild flowers at Russian Army Camp

We were more than ready for some rest when we got back, so after a quick swim to clean up and cool off, we enjoyed a pasta dinner and some whiskey and hit the sack. We had the whole hut to ourselves, which was fabulous since we were so tired and just wanted to have some quiet to sleep.
Evening Swim

Day 3: Rest Day

Rest Day 
On Monday we slept in and were awoken by the sound of helicopters.  We got out of bed and were greeted my our new hut-mates, a family of 5 who were spending the week hiking in the area. We spent the day relaxing, soaking tired feet and legs in the lake, reading books, playing board games and chatting with our new hut-mates.

Hut Journal Entry

Day 4: Omega Mountain - North Ridge (PD, Low-5th); 8 hrs hut-to-hut + a 1hr "detour"

On Tuesday we got up at 5:30am and headed out at 6:30 for some more Bushwhacking fun. We hiked the trail along the South side of the lake and had been warned not too wait too long to start heading up the treed slope as it gets very steep the further along you go.  We found a clearing in the trees and started bashing up the hill. about 40min later we reached the top of the trees and came to an impassible gully; we had started up too early. So back down we went to the main trail, we hiked further along, past the gully and tried again.
North Ridge of Omeda

This time we chose the right path. We made our way up the steep forest, pulling on branches and shrubs and weaving around small cliff bands and climbing mossy gullies. After a battle with a hornets nest (the hornets won, ouch!), we broke out into the sub-alpine at around 8:30am. We hiked through some alpine meadows with short scrambly sections for about 1.5 hour and then we took a bit of a break and enjoyed the views across the valley towards Black Tusk and Garibaldi.

Enjoying the Views
After our break we started to gain the steeper section of the ridge, but on the way, just before we reached the real climbing, we encounterd a gully.  We down-climbed into the gully and then climbed one pitch of 4th class/low-5th rock to get back out of the gully.  Once we were past the gully we scrambled up a  short section to an obvious steepening in the ridge.  We built an anchor and climbed 2 pitches before the ridge mellowed out again and we could easily scramble the 3rd class terrain to the summit. 
Omega Summit
We reached the summit at around 1130am, 4 hours of climbing from the hut. We enjoyed lunch on the summit and headed down at around noon.  The descent down the steep ridge was straightforward with sections of downclimbing and 2 rappels. Descending the bushwacking areas were a bit more complicated to try and work your way around the cliff bands and to stay out of the overly steep areas. We picked our way down the forested slope, back the main trail and arrived back at the hut at 3:30pm for a relaxing afternoon on chatting with our hut-mates out on the dock and enjoying the amazing views  of the tantalus range. 


Day 5: Heading Home

We woke up on Monday feeling sore and tired, so we walked out to the ridge line where we could pick up a cell signal and checked the weather.  The forecast was less than ideal, so we decided to call the helicopter for a pick up.  We spent the morning enjoying the hut and  packing our gear. The chopper picked us up at noon and took us on a tour of the park before flying us back down into Squamish and ending another adventure.

Pelops, Iota, Niobi

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