Mount Vayu - Northwest Ridge, August 2011
(Report by Tony Tsuboi - his full report here)
Mount Vayu is a prominent 9100’ peak located 40 miles north of Pemberton BC. Its position, deep in the Coast Mountains, offers a fun ridge climb with spectacular views all around. The rock climbing itself is mostly exposed scrambling with a few Class 5 moves and a short rappel off a gendarme to maintain the ridge. The crux is the approach, a cross country bushwhack with few signs of foot traffic. The TR’s we did find mentioned ample flagging, but aside from the first and only sighting, we didn’t come across any more. We took the high route in and the low route out.
The drive is long, 2.5 hours from Pemberton on mostly decent dirt road – washboard with pot holes, but none too bad. Driving directions can be found in the McLane Guide, Alpine Select. While it mentions that a high clearance 4WD vehicle is required, a 2WD beater car would do. The final spur off Jamie Creek Road is overgrown with alder in places. You won’t want to take a shiny new car up that. We parked about 2 miles short of the described start and hiked in from there. On the way, we crossed two bridges and a lot of bear scat. There is a third bridge, but the route forks up to the right just before it. You can continue straight into clear cut where the road will peter out and follow the north bank of the river (i.e. the low route.) However, we saw a shag of flagging above us that directed us up the high route. We followed that up, trending leftwards, and leveled out on a side hilling traverse at roughly 5700’. That wasn’t particularly pleasant, and we were likely higher than we needed to be. Eventually we sighted the ridgeline and Peak 7651 that we would skirt around to get to the outlet creek that drains the Pancake Glacier.
We rounded an obvious ridge and dropped into the outlet creek drainage. At that point we could see a steep wall of talus off to the left that would lead up to the Pancake Glacier. We crossed the creek and picked our way thru dense brush to a flat area that opened up. While it was obvious this was camp, and a goddamn fine one at that, heather was abundant with few if any signs of foot trampling. Aside from a pair of heli ski markers, this place was near virgin. Car to camp took us five hours. We settled in for dinner, a few medicinal drinks and an incredible show of alpenglow to stars.
We woke leisurely after sunrise and got a start up the talus about 8:00. The Pancake Glacier is appropriately named and fills the entire upper basin. The NW Ridge extends around to the right with a prominent gendarme at its lowest point before rising back up. McLane indicates the route begins to the left of that gendarme, but we picked our way up a lower angle line to the right of it. Getting around that gendarme was a little loose and dicey in places, but the remainder of the NW ridge is mostly sound granite. To me, it had similar flavor to the East Ridge Direct of Forbidden, but not nearly as technical. I think there was one move that would rate 5.4, the rest was mostly Class 3-4 but exposed. We summited at noon and took a long break to soak in the panoramic views of ice fields and dramatic peaks all around us. The descent along the East Ridge was easy and non-eventful. We dropped back onto the Pancake Glacier and made it back to camp in little over an hour.
Our exit route started the same, but this time we didn’t hesitate to drop elevation in order to skirt obstacles. That said, we still had our share of slide alder and heinous brush to deal with. At times, that ranged up to BW4, but we were rewarded with lower angle terrain and a few open meadows that were bursting with wildflowers. In hindsight, we should have come this way. We made it back to the car by 6:00, about 5 hours from the time we left the summit. Three hours later we were dining on bitchin burgers at the Pony in Pemberton. That place kicks ass!
This one's not for everyone, but I’d give it a thumbs up.