Wedge Mountain - Wedge Couloir, May 2003
Paul Cookson, John Chapman, Dave Carpenter and I all set out to climb the majestic Wedge Mountain. Clearly visible from the north end of Whistler Village, and being the tallest peak (9,527 ft) in BC's Garibaldi Provincial Park, Wedge Mountain (in addition to Mt. Garibaldi itself), is the obvious peak in the area to bag. Similar to last year's climb of Mount Garibaldi, our trip to Wedge Mountain was delayed a week due an unfavorable weather forecast. A week later than originally planned, we found ourselves driving the Sea-to-Sky Highway under sunny skies. As always, the views of the Tantalus Range peaks north of Squamish were tantalizing. One of these days I'll go there and climb Alpha or Serratus or Tantalus...but not this time.
Paul pulled off the highway about six miles north of Whistler village. He crossed some railroad tracks, passed over the Green River and drove the Chevy Impala he had rented, up the 3 or 4 miles of logging road to the trailhead (left at a junction after crossing river and again right uphill at next fork). Again, just like the rough Brohm Ridge jeep road on Garibaldi, we passengers would have to step out of the car and help clear the water bars of potentially damaging rocks (flashbacks of a previous trip to Snowking Mountain come to mind) so that Paul could drive on to the next impediment. We made it to the trailhead with a minimum of scrapes and bumps, but hey...it's a rental, and for $30/weekend, a damn cheap one too!
The trail switchbacks up through forest before leveling off for a mile or so. It then reaches a steep slope leading up to Wedgemount Lake. Dave approaches a col above the lake minutes after a small hail shower rained down on us. That evening we shared the hut with another party, a solo-climber. Clouds began to build and shroud the summit. We hoped this would be a passing disturbance. We awoke around 5am that next morning, ate, packed and set out across the frozen Wedgemount Lake towards the Wedge Glacier. Our solo-climber friend departed for the NE Arete about an hour ahead of us. I entertained the notion of joining him. We descended down the backside of the Wedge-Parkhurst Col, aiming for a prominent couloir. I took the lead and began kicking steps though the deep, unconsolidated snow that fans out below the couloir (40 - 45 degrees on average).
We rest briefly before completing the short slog to the summit. It was yet another superb day on a summit in the coast range. Is it always like this out here? John had minutes to burn on his cell phone. The Cellular reception was fortunately very good. Looking over the classic NE Arete towards the Weart summits, I wished I had done some route research prior to this climb and climbed the NE Arete instead. We lounged up on top for maybe half-an-hour. During this time, we witnessed cumulus clouds materialize out of thin air and begin to fill the valleys below us. I guess the mountains and intense sun conspire to create their own weather, in this case afternoon thunderclouds. We descended from the summit (myself taking the West Ridge descent while the others took the Wedge Couloir), avoiding the lower Wedge Glacier, and instead crossing slopes directly beneath Parkhurst Mountain. Ski tracks were evident. Judging by the terrain and perfect spring corn, this trip to Wedge Mountain would have been an ideal ski touring area.
As we approached the hut, dark, ominous clouds threatened from across the valley. While we were packing, the wind picked up as snow and hail blew sideways. Hard to imagine it was perfectly calm and sunny no more than ten minutes ago. We waited out the weather for a while. It didn't let up. We eventually left the relative comfort of the hut for the blizzard outside. Once down in the trees the weather mellowed; and back at the car we again had sunshine. So there you have it, Wedge Couloir: an easy but rewarding climb with outstanding views and funky weather (for us). I might have to return here one day to climb the NE Arete. This hut camping business I can also definitely get used to!
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