I'd set out with Coastal Climber on Sunday to attempt my first backpacking trip in 8 years. Too much snow on Stawamus-Indian River Road had us ditch the bikes first and continue on foot. Lot's of soft snow coupled with a long slog still ahead had us give up completely (for now) but we did clear a plugged culvert at the washout at km 7.5 to make the day not a complete write off. Snow had stopped us driving earlier at about km 7 (620m el.) and there was around 2m of snow at the pass.
We still had Monday open and after some discussion Chimai was agreed upon. The big question was would we be able to drive up to A-1100 on Ashlu Main. Snow levels in June this year are about a month behind regular melt schedule (The Hurley is still being <s>bulldozed out</s> - just read that it is now open). We got an earlyish start and drove up The Squamish Valley in Gerry's 4Runner and on to Ashlu Main. Once past the Run Of The River Project the road is okay but becomes 4x4 HC near Pykett Creek. We fix up the landslide area just past that and spend a bit more time trimming and moving debris a little further beyond by a creek near a slide path.
Slide path/debris area - taken on the way back.
Beyond that the alder really grows in and gently carresses
the vehicle. Some patchy snow was powered through and then we turn left onto A-1100 (quite a bit of snow just beyond) and drive down a short ways to park next to the Ashlu River (500m elevation). A washout stops vehicles here (ATV's okay) and the bridge is missing many of it's top planks.
After crossing the river we go right and follow the old road upwards into the Falk Creek Valley. Continuous snow starts after a km and the road is fully de-activated/resloped shortly after. A bit of a slog on soft snow but in short order we reach the end of the road (1000m el.) after surprising a small black bear that scampered off into the bush.
Near road's end. Falk Creek Valley at left and Chimai slopes at right.
Heading up through the cutblock we soon enter mature forest and after a quick break we head steeply upwards on solid snow. Easy but steep travel through here and it doesn't take us too long to break out of the trees and gain the east ridge of Chimai. Lots of views are opening up now and we take a break whilst trying to correctly ID the mountains that make up The Ashlu/Elaho Divide along with looking ahead to what's next.
This is next. Chimai's east peak at right.
We have another steep ascent of 200m which was no problem with good snow and once at a flatter area we put on the snowshoes.
Gerry hiking up the steep ascent. Pykett, Charlie Charlie, Storey, Zig Zag and Buck fill the rear.
Vrubel Peak with an Tzoonie E5 to the south.
And a look ahead at our route. We will pass just left (south) of Chimai's east peak (E2 - 2km east of true summit).
Still a couple more steep sections before we gain the shoulder and contour past.
On the shoulder just south of Chimai E2 we get our first look at Chimai. To gain the ridge leading to it we continue below for a while side-hilling over some avy debris and then angling up to join the ridge.
First view of Chimai. We'll follow the slopes to gain the ridge near the cliff at right.
A look back to where we came from after we gained the ridge. Sigurd, Pelion, Ossa and Tanalus way back with The Mount Jimmy Jimmy Massif in front of them.
The peak is getting closer but we still have a few minor ups and downs to go. And the views get better with each step.
Off goes Gerry. We'll aiming for the low point just right of the summit. Falk Lake and Peak are off to the left with Yuon far left.
We cross some more avy debris and do a rising traverse to reach the summit ridge area.
Chimai summit approach.
And just like that we top out and keep back a bit from the edge as we could see a good sized cornice whilst on the east ridge. Some good views all round and we can see Jervis Inlet to the southwest. Elevation up here is 2306m and there's plenty of views to take pictures of.
1. Summit shot.
2. Higher view to the southeast of Sigurd, Pelion, Ossa, Tantalus and Jimmy Jimmy.
3. Looking westward with Churchill the hump centre left. Marlborough is left of it and drops down to Jervis Inlet far left.
4. Zooming in on Limelight, Ashlu and Porterhouse to the northeast.
5. And a view (northwest) way up Jervis Inlet/Queens Reach with Mount Alfred and Mount Albert prominent.
After half an hour on top Gerry heads down and I eventually start to follow.
Leaving the summit. The east ridge of Chimai with a back drop of The Ashlu/Elaho Divide from Porterhouse to Storey.
From just below the summit ridge. Amicus, Icecap, Pykett, Charlie Charlie, Storey (or Wood), Zig Zag and Buck. Cloudburst visible too far right.
Gerry patiently waits for me as I take a few more pictures with both cameras and then we make our way back along the ridge (and grab some more shots).
Looking down towards Falk Lake with Falk Peak rising above to it's right. Yuon is centre shot and I think the Earle Peak area is rear right.
Ponor, Limelight, Ashlu and Porterhouse from a dip in the ridge.
And a look back towards Chimai's summit area.
Zooming in on Mount Jimmy Jimmy's summit area.
Broad southern view with Tzoonie just visible centre skyline. Serov is the pointy peak just right of it.
We drop down off the ridge and contour back around the east peak. Once back at the 200m steep slope we take off the snowshoes and slide/boot step down to near where we first gained the ridge and take another break. Late afternoon light was creating some nice lighting.
Amicus and with it's sub peak at left to the northeast.
Vrubel to the south.
Mount Crerar area to the NNW.
Dropping off the ridge we head towards the forest and I get this last shot before the trees close in around us.
Northeast view towards Mount Charlie Charlie.
Travel down through the forest went really fast and we were soon back at the road and starting the slog down that. After about 2km when the snow was thinning Gerry suddenly stopped and started to back up with a concerned look on his face. I soon saw the reason for his worry - there were 4 bears just ahead of us on the road.
The realization that these were Grizzly Bears came very fast and all of us just stood there for a few moments staring at each other. Curious looks were exchanged by the bears and us and we were wondering what their gameplan was. This was the first time I'd seen grizzlies in the wild and I after the quick initial concern and seeing them not react apart from the curious stares I reached for my camera. Gerry grabbed his too and we managed to grab some pictures and even moved a little closer through the alder as they were not threatening in any way.
The group consisted of a sow and 3 yearlings and after a couple of minutes she moved slowly down off the road into the bush and we could continue on.
You can see in the third shot that the sow has a GPS tracking collar on. After some googling I found that there was an extensive tagging of grizzly bears throughout the area and up towards Lillooet. There was also tracking done before the Ashlu Run of River Project happened to see it's impacts on bears and other wildlife.
After that encounter the rest of the way down was kind of dull but we soon reached the truck and the beer stashed in some snow. That went down well as we talked about our day and we both agreed it was very satisfactory. Round trip was just over 9 hours with an elevation gain of 1800m or so. The drive out went well and we stopped past Pykett Creek and unblocked a bunged up culvert that had caused the road to wash out (was 4x4 HC low but could smoothed out now with a bit of work).
The Watershed was again visited in Squamish for some good food and then we went home
Map of route.
MarkT2008's Chimai TR from last year.
Labelled view southwards.
Gerry got some good shots of the bears which I hope he posts too.