Like with most CT'rs in these parts, the weather forecast for back to back sunshine on the weekend had us looking through our options for possible hikes to take advantage of it.
Brandywine Mountain has been on the back burner for a while since myself and Springbo hiked to the meadows last summer. We where just waiting for the snow to melt back far enough on the access FSR to get back in there. So on this weekend, myself, Matt (CT'r: MatthewBaldwin) and Springbo decided to at least see how far up the FSR we could get. If the snow line was still too low due to the compacted snow from skidoos we'd bail and do our plan B in the area.
So, Saturday morning at 7am Matt picked myself and Springbo up in his 4x4, we made it to the Callaghan turnoff in good time. Then drove the FSR, anxiously awaiting the snow line to appear behind every corner. But, as luck would have it, we made it to exactly where I'd hoped, the junction for the 2WD and 4WD TH's. We parked near the skidoo shed and toilet and geared up.
Rather than hike the 2km's to the 2WD TH we decided to walk the 4WD road to the meadows which would only be slightly longer from the junction and would allow us to move at a faster pace, plus, as we would find, the views on the 4WD road are excellent. In fact, I would hike the 4WD road in summer. The views more than make up for it's extra length, which I'd gladly exchange for the mud and swarms of blackflies we encountered on the 2WD trail.
Anyway, we made it to the meadows in about 3 hours and witnessed the carnage from the skidoos. Our original plan was to camp in the meadows and then summit. As I could hear what sounded like swarms of bees approaching up the road behind us and the churned up snow of the meadows in front, when Matt said, "want to camp on the summit instead?" it felt like he was pulling the words right out of my mouth.
So up we went with our ~40lb packs, to gain the ridge to the left as you approach the end of the bowl. From Matt Gunns scrambles description I knew to gain the ridge above 1900m's so we tended towards the high point which led us up a gully of avy debris. It was getting on to 1pm now and the snow was turning to slushy as usual. We slogged our way to the top and had a break, with Brandywine finally in view. The route up looked super straight forward. Knowing our trip was one way that day, and with oodles of sunlight left, we weren't in a hurry.
We where joined by two more hikers soon afterwards who where day tripping it to the Brandywine Mountain, one of whom regaled us with her attempt on Mt. Fee and, as we stared across at it, put the hook into us to attempt it also in the near future.
The swarms of bees sounded like they where getting closer at this point. Loud enough that I quickly realized I was sitting in the middle of a skidoo track with a blind dropoff in front of me. We grabbed our gear and moved them off the track shortly before the first skidoo topped out beside us. It was soon joined by a few others, who where heading deeper into the mountains that day to get some turns in on their snowboards.
We all chatted for a bit, then went our separate ways. From there it was an easy walk to the summit area. The hikers we'd met earlier where already on the summit so we let them have it to themselves for as long they wanted knowing we'd have it to ourselves for the night.
We all felt like the hike was much shorter and easier than expected, getting there in an uber leisurely 6hr's. With the scrambling and ice in the summer I'd imagine it is more difficult.
Anyway, none of us knew if there would even be an area to pitch our tents on the summit so it was a pleasant surprise to find a nice flat area right below the summit. We stomped down an outline then started digging out a sheltered tent pad. After getting our tents up, and with loads of sunlight left we had a bit of a nap (why not, lol) to get out of the sun for a bit.
We then dug out a kitchen/recliner area to bring our sleeping pads out to so we could lie back and watch the stars come out.
From there on it was sunset, moonrise, moonset, sleep, sunrise. When I upload my pictures (I have over a thousand to sort through) they can do the talking. Needless to say, at numerous time during that night and morning it was uttered: "can you believe we're here right now"
After sunrise, we went back to sleep until about 8:30am then had breakfast and broke camp. We departed at around 10:20am, when the snow was just perfect for buttsliding. We made good time on the return, buttsliding pretty much right from the ridge crest all the way to the valley floor, descending in about 1/5th the time it took us to ascend.
From there it was a quick hike out on the FSR, reaching our ride out at about 12:40pm.
We briefly got stuck in a section of snow, thanks to having to go around a minivan that had got stuck in the middle of the road. Thankfully, some skidooers where heading out for the day just ahead of us, who where able to tow us to freedom.
All in all an exceptional weekend. I'm really getting a taste for camping high in the alpine with panoramic views, as the light and weather changes it feels like you are always looking at a different view. I feel it is something I'll have to do more and more of in the future.