Sunday, September 21, 2014

Howe Sound Crest Trail

 On Sunday September 14 I headed out with Ed, David and a group for Pacific Road Runners to check out the  Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT). I have been intrigued to hike this route for a few years, but has always heard horror stories about it being poorly marked, difficult, no water available, etc. so I had yet yo go exploring.

I had been on the first 5km out to St Marks Summit several times in the past couple years and last year Mike and I hiked the HSCT to the Lions and back so I had an idea of what to expect and was itching to see more.  An invite to run/hike the whole trail in a day, meaning that I wouldn't have to carry a heavy overnight pack for 30km, was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I decided to give it a shot with PRR last weekend.

We had an early morning with a 5am wake up call followed by car shuttles to Porteau Cove and up to Cypress for a 7am start at the Cypress Bowl Trail head.  There were 12 of us in all heading out for the day and we managed to run/powerhike the first section together up until St. Marks summit in slightly over an hour.

From there we broke into a couple groups and I spent rest of the day on an adventure with Ed, David, Natasha and Martin. We had a fun group of people for a long day of exploring in the mountains.

After  St Marks Summit we quickly drop into a saddle before beginning the climb up the unmaintained trails of Unnecessary Mountain (which truly lives up to its name). We enjoyed amazing views of Howe Sound, the Lions and several other surround peaks as we passed over Unnecessary Mountain's two summits and followed the ridge to the base of the West Lion. The ridge to the Lions is where the fun really begins with several short rock steps and steep drops off the side. It took us about 4 hours to get to the base of the West Lion.

From the base of the West Lion we again lost elevation and then traversed an awesome exposed ledge to gain the saddle between the East and West Lions. The views from the Saddle were phenomenal with more of the route and peaks to the North coming into view. We could see all the way from Mount Baker in the South to Black Tusk in the North that day.

After passing the Lions we hiked down a boulder field and skirted around  Thomas Peak and then climbed up onto the steep South Ridge of James Peak, complete with an exposed traverse where hand lines and chains were necessary to make the crossing. The views from James Peak were some of the best of the day.

Once safely across the ridge of James Peak we descended again into some meadows and onto the saddle in between James and David Peaks.  From here the official route drops sharply and  skirts around David Peak, but we opted for the alternate route and went up and over David Peak. The route over the peak is shorter and has less elevation change, but the terrain is a bit rugged with steep climbing and descending on loose scree and forested slopes.

Once over David peak we joined back up with the normal route and headed towards Harvey Creek Saddle. Just before the Saddle and the descent onto Magnesia Meadows there is a trail that branches off which takes you back towards the Lions and ultimately to Lions Bay.

At this point we had been hiking for over 7 hours, were only about 1/2 way along the HSCT and only had about 5-6 hours of daylight left.  None of us had ever been on the second half of the trail before and didn't know what to expect difficulty or time wise, so we opted to be smart, not get stuck in the dark and descend to Lions Bay via the trail from Harvey Saddle.

The trail down to Lions Bay was well marked but not at all maintained. We were basically bushwhacking for al least a solid 2 hours before finally being spit out onto the standard Binkert Trail to the Lions. From there it was still at least another hour or so of hiking on logging roads to reach the end of our epic journey in Lions Bay.

From there some of the other members in our group kindly offered to pick us up and give us a ride back to Porteau Cove to get our car, we drove once more to Cypress to get the remainder of the vehicles and headed home from an awesome adventure with a great crew.

In hindsight we figured we probably would have had time to finish the entire route. In talking with people who have done the whole HSCT in the past we determined that the route we took down to Lions Bay is just as long, if not longer, than the second half of the HSCT  out to Porteau Cove would have been. Guess that means there will have to be a rematch! :)

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Washington Pass 2014 - Take 2

Washington Pass 2014 - Take 2

September 5 - 7, 2014

Participants: Aaron Cornes, Don Montrichard, Alan Trick, Julio Velandia, Mike McMinn, Amber McMinn

 The weekend after labour day Mike, Don, Aaron and I along with Alan and Julio returned to Washington Pass to climb a couple of  the routes that we had been rained off of a few weeks earlier.

South Early Winter Spire

Washington Pass, Highway 20, WA, USA

South Arete, 10 pitches, 5.6, Difficulty II

On our first day we climbed the South Arete on South Early Winter Spire.  The other guys in our group had hoped to climb the Southwest Rib but unfortunately we picked a busy weekend and there were already 5 parties on the route by the time we got there at 8:30am.

We started the day with a 5:30 wake up call, met our group at 6:30 and were hiking by 7am. The approach took a little over 1.5 hours to get us to the base of the route and we were lucky to be the first ones there for the South Arete route.  We paired off into 3 climbing teams and followed each other up the mountain.  

The route starts right away with the crux, a 5.6 mantle move, and then quickly eases off. The next pitch has the second crux, a 5.4 chimney section.  The next few pitches involved a lot of scrambling with a few climbing moves mixed in. 

On the 7th pitch you get to cross the white Camel, a fin of rock that you hand rail (or straddle depending on your comfort level) as you traverse across, that added some excitement to the route.

 Shortly after the White Camel pitch you get to the exposed traverse that brings you to the summit bolder.  Aaron and Don strung a fixed line along the traverse to ease the passage of the rest of our group. It worked out well as it got all 6 of us efficiently across the traverse to the summit.

Once across the traverse we took turns climbing onto the summit boulder to enjoy the views and had a well deserved rest and snack on the summit. 

Once we were done enjoying the summit we crossed back over the fixed line, hiked down a gully, traversed the white camel and began a series of down climbs and rappels to reverse the route and get off the mountain. 

One note about this route - it's popular! Start early! We passed about 20 people on the way down. It was nuts! 

We reached the base of the route around 11:30am and were back at the cars by about 1pm.  Climbing time: about 3-4 hours return from the base of the route, 6 hours car-to-car. 

The route was not technically difficult but was still a fun romp in the mountains - providing enough interesting pitches to be worth the effort and providing stunning views and atmosphere along the way. 

Since we were back earlier than expected we spent the afternoon cragging at the Rhinozone at Mazama Rocks for a few hours, enjoying refreshments from the Mazama store and swimming in the Methow River swimming hole before retiring to Klipchuck campground for the evening. 

Prime Rib of Goat

Goat Wall, Mazama, WA, USA - 11-pitches, 5.9, sport route

 On the Sunday we headed out to Mazama to climb an 11-pitch sport route called "Prime Rib of Goat"  It is located on the Goat wall, 3 miles North of Mazama on Lost River Road. "Prime Rib" is marketed as the longest moderate sport route in the US and follows a rib of rock up the Goat Wall along side a gully. 

We were once again up at 5:30 am on the road by 6:45am.  We were at the parking area for the goat wall around 7am. We had read that there was an area at the top of wall where you can park a car and do a car shuttle allowing you to top out and avoid the 15 rappels that it takes to get off the route at the end of the day so we opted to go for the car shuttle option since we had 3 vehicles with us.  

4 of us headed up to get started on the route while Don and Mike kindly volunteered to organize the car drop for the 6 of us. The car shuttle took about an hour and involved driving up the dirt Goat Creek Road (South of Mazama) for about 20-30 minutes and parking at the second cattle guard located at 5500ft elev. and then returning to the base of the route, North of Mazama. 

The rest of us started the approach which was relatively straight forward with an obvious trail located about 100m North of the parking area which we followed for about 15-20 min before emerging into a talus field below the goat wall. From there we picked our way up and then left across the talus for another 20 min or so to reach to base of the wall. 

Aaron and I were climbing together that day and I started out leading up the first two pitches at around 8am. The climbing in general was liberally bolted and straight forward. Aaron took over the lead on Pitches 3-9 and we cruised up the fun terrain enjoying the movement and atmosphere of the route. By about the 4th or 5th pitch Mike and Don had finished the car shuttle and caught up with Julio and Alan on the route and all 6 of us followed one another along the route for the rest of the day. 

I took the lead again for pitches 9 and 10 and Aaron finished off the route with final 5.9 crux pitch. We scrambled a few hundred feet up into the sparse forest and found some shade to enjoy lunch and wait for the rest of our group. 

From the top of the route we traversed up and right through the forest for about 20-30 min before coming to a barbed wire fence which we followed out to the dirt road. We then hiked up the road a few hundred feet to find our car waiting at the top. It took about 30 min to drice back to the base of the route and our other vehicles, which was significantly quicker than 15 rappels would have been. The car shuttle was well worth it!

We ended our day with a swim and celebratory beverage in the sun at the Methow River swimming hole and then we said good bye to Mazama and Washington Pass and headed for home. 

We topped out at around 1pm, about 5 hours to climb the 11 pitch route. The climbing on the route is a lot of fun and would be a great lead for a 5.8/5.9 climber who is looking to get some multi-pitch miles. The whole route is well bolted, the climbing is fun, varied and interesting, difficulties are short lived and the views and atmosphere are awesome. Well worth the trip!

Goats Beard Mountain Supply Store in Mazama sells guidebooks with topos for the routes on the Goat Wall and surrounding climbing areas. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Coliseum Mountain

 Coliseum Mountain

25km, 1240m (4070ft) elevation, 8hrs return with running lower trails to and from Norvan Falls), expect 10+ hours return if hiking full route

A couple weekends ago I thought I'd take a break from climbing and get out for a long hike for a day.  I'd been wanting to check out Coliseum Mountain in Lynn Headwaters Park for a few years now and with a full day free and a bombproof weather forecast it seemed like a good day to go.

I decided to run/hike the route to make it bit less time intensive so I loaded up my camelback with water, gels, jacket, a few bars and some safety equipment since I was heading out solo - map, compass, emergency bivy, Fast Find personal locator beacon, headlamp, lighter, whistle, small first aid kit and of course, bear bangers in that area.

The first 4 km of the route is along the Cedar Mill trail which follows Lynn Creek from the parking lot to the 3rd debris chute and is fairly flat. This then leads to the next 3 km section to Norvan Falls which is still fairly low angle but more of a single track trail. I ran the first 7 km to Norvan falls at a casual pace in about 1h15min.

From here you reach a sign and map board that clearly marks the turn-off for the Coliseum mountain Trail.  This is where the fun begins! From the sign post you immediately start to climb through the forest along Norvan Creek. The trail crosses the creek, climbs some more and then crosses the creek back again before flattening out for a bit of a reprieve.  After about an hour of hiking I caught up to some park rangers who were doing trail maintenance up to the summit of Coliseum that day. They were the first people I had seen since Norvan Falls. I was happy to see other people since at this point a majority if the trail was though blueberry patches which seemed like an area that bears would like to hang out.

About 1.5 hours into the hike the forest began to thin and a viewpoint and Norvan meadows was reached. I ran into another group of hikers at this point and took a break at the viewpoint with them. From here the fun part of the hike began. The next hour or so involved some short rock steps, steep hiking to the false summit and then descending steeply into a notch and back out before traveling along rocky slabs that finally bring you to the summit.  It took me a little under 3 hours to get from Norvan Falls to the summit of Coliseum, including two or three short breaks en-route for snacks and photos.

The views from the top make it worth every ounce of effort. You can see all the local mountains, the Lions, the peaks of Garibaldi Park and the City of Vancouver far below. There is also a pretty little tarn just below the summit where several people were cooling off. I lingered on the summit and enjoyed the sun and the views for about 45min before retracing my steps for an uneventful descent.

The full hike took me about 8 hours car-to-car and was a great way to spend a day in the mountains on a sunny summer day.

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