Last Updated: December 2, 2022


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Friday, December 2, 2022

Cartmell Peak - Cartmell Peak Trail, February 2022

High pressure having returned to the South Coast combined with a lack of recent snowfall; we postponed plans for "slackcountry" touring in favor of snowshoeing up something we hadn't yet been to. Never been to Sasquatch Mountain Resort-a small ski hill north of Chilliwack formerly known as Hemlock Valley-but something there piqued my interest, and it had nothing to do with shredding the slopes! With good access from the resort base area and impressive views overlooking Harrison Lake from the west, Cartmel Peak has become an increasingly popular Winter objective. And so, on a crisp, cloudless morning in February we made the long drive up the Fraser Valley for a look-see around the 'squatch.

Having purchased our snowshoe passes, we set out along the edge of the piste just right of the main lodge towards a snowshoe trail named Old Yeller and marked with a yellow lollipop. This we followed to a four-way where we went left onto the Ridge Run Trail, now marked with an orange lollipop. Having gained the ridge crest, the trail forks again, with the right branch (green lollipop) leading to Cartmel Peak. Great views of Harrison Lake as expected, and of the surrounding peaks such as Robie Reid, Judge Howay, the Chehalis Group including Stonerabbit, Ratney and Bardeen, north towards Mount Breakenridge and the usual suspects flanking the east side of the lake such as The Old Settler and a striking thumb of rock that goes by Mount Urquart. After a good while of gawking, we retraced our steps back to the Ridge Run junction, this time taking a right and following a snowcat trail now as it follows the crest at the head of Hemlock Valley. Enjoyed great views overlooking the resort ski bowl area as well as familiar Cascadian peaks in the distance. We had toyed with the idea of bagging nearby Mount Klaudt as well, but the views from the Ridge Run Trail were much better than what Klaudt's treed summit apparently offers. Apres beers at the base area lodge made for a fitting conclusion to a fine day of 'splorin the Hemlock Valley backcountry!

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Monday, November 14, 2022

Mount Chief Pascall - Northwest Ridge, January/April 2022

Mount Chief Pascall is a lesser member of the famous Joffre Group that includes iconic peaks such Mount Matier, Slalok Mountain and of course Joffre itself. With good access from Hwy 99, it is a popular Winter objective for ski tourers and hikers alike. The route features travel along forest roads, a steep forest grunt up to the alpine and an aesthetic ridge finished with a short steep pitch to reach the summit proper. Its north face offers what appears to be a great ski descent down into the basin and where one intersects the forest roads from earlier, making for a nifty loop tour. Like with most peaks in this area, the views are nothing short of spectacular with a great panorama of the Duffey area from Cassiope and Saxifrage, Cayoosh, Marriott, Rohr and down Cayoosh Creek Valley overlooking Duffey Lake and beyond.

Truth be told, I had a bit of an ordeal with Chief Pascall, with repeated failed attempts for one reason or another. The photos shown here are from both a January '22 attempt and subsequent success in early April '22. In January I was stymied by unexpectedly firm snow on an exposed traverse just below the summit. I was wearing my snowboarding boots with spikes and still got zero purchase. Didn't fancy an uncontrolled slide a few thousand feet down into Cerise Creek, so called it and simply rode back the way I came. Better luck when I returned in April, this time coming prepared with crampons and ice axe. Snow was still quite firm in spots and the arctic wind blowing in from the east was just as strong as before. It all made for a short but satisfyingly fun mountaineering(ish) finish. As a Winter and/or early season objective, this one is deserving of classic status and is well worth the long drive and effort!

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Monday, November 7, 2022

Gin Peak - via Hanging Lake Trail, January 2022

Not to be confused with the so-called "Alcoholic Group" on the Squamish-Cheakamus Divide, a range of peaks with names such as Brandywine Mountain, Keg Peak and Mount Brew; nearby Gin Peak and its lesser neighbor Tonic continue with the area's boozy theme. Together with Sproatt, Rainbow and the Puma duo, these summits comprise the subrange sandwiched between Callaghan and Whistler valleys. With good access and well-travelled trails, the zone lends itself nicely to the short days of Winter. Approached from the groomed Nordic trails at Whistler Olympic Park, Gin in particular makes for a pleasant ski tour with excellent views of Rainbow Mountain, the Garibaldi Park giants and south down Cheakamus Valley.

Made my way over to the WOP entrance gate in time for a very civilized 9 am opening (8:30 on weekends), paying the silly entrance fee for the "privilege" to park there. Skinned-up and started navigating a maze of Nordic trails towards the Hanging Lake winter trail. As expected, the trail was icy towards the end and made for some tedious travel with splitboard. Nevertheless, I reached the lake in good time, now in total whiteout. Teamed-up with a couple guys who's splitboard tracks I had been following to this point and alternated leads up into the unknown. Topped out above the fog in short order, with a stunning in-your-face view of Rainbow Mountain to the northeast. Gained the broad summit ridge and proceeded on my own from there to tag the actual summit. Quite the winter wonderland up there with loads of ski descent options for those keen on exploring further! Didn't linger as the fog was slowly creeping upslope. Blower pow back to Hanging Lake followed by an icy sketch fest down the forest trail returning to where I started. Ice cold beer in lieu of G&T for apres to round-out a satisfying day in Callaghan Country!

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Saturday, October 29, 2022

Whistler Heli - Petersen Creek/Wishbone Zone, December 2021

Spent our hard-earned coin on a mediocre day with Whistler Heli last December. Best as I could tell, we sessioned slopes around Wishbone Peak and Sneak Out E2, descending drainages towards Petersen Creek and Ryan River Valley. Conditions were a mix of wind buffed pow up high and blower on more sheltered aspects below, with much of the zone having been hit already by previous parties. Had a bit of drama right before our first lap when I snapped a critical ankle strap, the plastic having gone brittle in the -18 C temps, not including windchill. Fortunately managed to MacGyver a fix out in the field, as it were, salvaging the day for myself. Note to self, a heli day is no time to gamble with "antique" bindings no matter how loved they might be! Noteworthy were the couple runs from Wishbone's summit ridge down the glacier (Ryan Glacier?), although this too was a tad conservative and low angled for our liking. Excellent scenery as usual and good times had by all, but our guide's zone and run selection, not to mention the sloppy seconds left much to be desired! It's been 4 years since we last rode with Whistler Heli, probably be another 4 before memories fade enough to convince ourselves to give them another try.

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Thursday, October 27, 2022

Mount Solmar - via Lovers Beach, December 2021

A few days in Cabo San Lucas for a surprise 70'th birthday celebration. No big agenda exploring the beaches and surf up the southeastern tip of the Baja Peninsula as I did back in '96, just kept it "local" and never too far away from the tequila bar. Seeing whales breach in the bay from a parasailer's perspective was a highlight! As usual, I "discovered" a small hike to do that promised some nice views. Normally accessed from the marina at the south end of Cabo's harbor, Mount Solmar is a short hike ending at the highpoint of the rocky outcrop known as Lands End. This approach crosses private property, and one must first register with some fellow named Enrique who apparently leads guided excursions to the summit 2x/day. Seemed like a bit too much red tape for us. Fortunately, the peak can also be reached from Lovers/Divorce Beach; conveniently served by water taxi starting from the beach directly in front of our resort. Like everyone else that visits Cabo, we had plans to do a boat tour around the famous arch and explore the beaches nearby anyway.

With the Pacific to our backs, we followed a twosome from Texas to a saddle on Solmar's East Ridge. Continuing up, we immediately encountered no trespassing signs and warnings that the area is surveilled by drones. Hard to tell if the signs are merely to discourage people from approaching cliffs on the north side or from hiking the peak in the first place. Whatever. Followed a well-worn trail that angled up towards the southern edge of the ridge before turning up the final steep pitch to the summit. Fantastic views all around as expected! Met a couple local youths up top, had a quick chat and our photos taken before I started to worry about them ratting us out. Didn't linger and made it back down to Divorce Beach in no time, whereupon we ran into the Texans from earlier and had a celebratory snort of tequila from a bottle they'd brought with. Wrapped up a fine Baja afternoon, toes in the hot sand watching the shore break with setting sun behind. Salud!

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