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Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Cayoosh Mountain - South Ridge, July 2018
Cayoosh Mountain is a prominent peak directly opposite the highway from the ever-popular Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. It stands relatively isolated and boasts a fantastic 360-degree summit panorama overlooking the southern portion of the Duffey Lake Valley and surrounding area. While it apparently makes for a popular ski touring objective in Winter, its Summertime popularity pales in comparison to the park just to the south.
The standard South Route I followed entailed a fair amount of route finding and travel over hardened scree, dirt, and rotten snow to eventually reach a pair of slanting snow fingers, and arguably the crux of the route. After some shenanigans following the upper finger and rock rib to its right, I finally reached the mostly horizontal South Ridge...think sidewalk-in-the-sky. A small saddle separates the ridge from the blocky slabs that make up the final summit block. Once up on top, I briefly exulted in the view and choked down an energy bar before returning the way I came to relieve Dan from his nap in the basin below. I'd give this one a 3.5 - 4 out of 5 stars, with the deduction for the tedious boulder hopping and overgrown forest road on the approach and return.
With just a day to burn and lacking the ambition for a particularly early start or lengthy drive, we opted to stay local and bag a peak in our backyard, so to speak. Located within in Cypress Provincial Park, and only a short hike from the top of Sky Chair, Mount Strachan is a great year-round objective with good views overlooking Howe Sound, Burrard Inlet, Vancouver and a swath of the Coast Mountains to the north. The true summit is a short jaunt beyond the Cypress Mountain ski resort boundary, an area that has unfortunately been the scene of far too many SAR incidences over the years.
Making a clockwise loop from the resort base area, we followed the Howe Sound Crest Trail to the base of the infamous Christmas Gully, which we ascended more or less to the saddle separating the north and south summits of Strachan. After tagging the true north summit, we continued over the south summit and then descended a rough trail just to the left of a designated run (Rip Cord) passing by the remains of a Royal Canadian Navy T-33 Jet, which crashed in 1963, along the way. We eventually popped out of the trees onto a ski run and made a beeline for the Crazy Raven to enjoy some adult refreshments and reflect on what amounted to a pleasant day of North Shore tramping.
Some 3.5 km north of Tricouni Peak is its slightly shorter neighbor Cypress Peak. Like Tricouni, Cypress lies within the Squamish-Cheakamus Divide, an area boasting several great scrambling routes that benefit from reasonably good access and relatively short approaches. I first visited the slopes around Cypress whilst cat & heli-boarding with Power Mountain and vowed someday to return and bag the peak itself.
The North Ridge route which Dan and I climbed is an enjoyable outing with a minimally exposed 4th-class step being the only real difficulty. The approach entailed an hour's worth of walking along a forest road and a bit of overgrown climber's path to reach a basin and headwall below a small glacier. Easy snow and glacier travel lead to the blocky ridge crest just before where it pitches up from horizontal. Another party climbed the East Ridge on the same day as us, which got me thinking - combining the east and north ridges would probably make for an aesthetic traverse of the peak. Much glissading on the descent made for a speedy return to the car and we found ourselves back at the Howe Sound Brewery enjoying a quaff in no time!
We ended up on this after abandoning a climb of Castle Towers, which itself was substituted in place of a couple days climbing in the Chehalis Range. That's right, we drove all the way to Chilliwack only to turn around in the pouring rain and drive back past North Vancouver from where we started and continue towards Whistler. The weather forecast seemed marginally better along the Sea-to-Sky corridor and we were determined to make something of the weekend. Alas, deteriorating weather and the appearance of a good dusting of fresh snow on the CT's summit block caused us to reconsider our plans a second time. What to do, what to do?
Helm Peak lies conveniently near where we were camped in Helm Meadows and seemed like a reasonable alternative all things considered. Turns out that the short summit scramble is a loose and exposed affair that I'd not necessarily recommend to anyone, other than perhaps those in a similar predicament to our own. After dispatching Helm, we continued over Gentian Ridge to the saddle at the head of Helm Glacier with Gentian Peak just beyond. We had time to burn and figured why not at least reconnoiter the route to CT for next time. Along the way we apparently hiked over another named summit, Fuscian Peak, which leaves out only Victorious from the trio of 3rd century Christian martyrs whose names grace the peaks here. Curious.
We returned via the Helm Glacier and traversed beneath Cinder Cone to intersect the trail back to Helm Meadows and the Cheakamus Lake Trailhead where we were parked. Now armed with a better sense of the local topography and what the approach entails, we retrieved our trailhead beer stash and made a toast to someday soon being "victorious" on top of the prized summit of Castle Towers!
Overlooking the Cheakamus River Valley just southwest of Whistler, BC and directly opposite The Black Tusk lies Brandywine Mountain. It is one of the primary summits along the west side of the Callaghan Valley; an area I visited my very first time flying and riding with Whistler Heli.
The upper 4WD trailhead provides quick and dirty access to the alpine basin and meadows just below the peak. Based on the discarded beer cans and random snowmobile parts littered about the snow in said basin, it appears to be a popular venue for the sledding crowd. With numerous couloirs descending from a small glacier high on the peak and wide-open slopes below, the sled-assisted ski touring possibilities would seem to be palatable for those suitably equipped.
From the meadows, it is a relatively short and easy slog and/or scramble to Brandywine's summit, whereupon the views are grand and dominated by a pair of nearby volcanic peaks - Mount Fee and Mount Cayley. Along with The Black Tusk, I believe these two are the next in a series of South Coast volcanos after Mount Garibaldi - all of which are part of the long chain of Pacific Northwest volcanos that extend as far south as Lassen Peak in Northern California. Something to contemplate while enjoying the long glissade back down the mountain!