With the long weekend upon us, a group of 4 of us found our way up to Lake Lovelywater. The decision was made since the approach to Mt Bardean sounded a bit too burly for my girlfriend and another who haven't done much in the way of mountaineering.....yet.
After my first two forays into the area, I decided that with a group of 4, the cable crossing was out. And we couldn't afford the necessary chopper in. I had a bit of an agenda for the trip, so we opted for a canoe. The logistics were as follows:
Team 1- Kelsey and yours truly
Team 2 - Lauren and Cassie
Team 1 would get dropped off at the first instance the Squamish Valley Road met up with the Squamish River. Team 2 would then take the car back and park it at it's final location for the weekend. Team 1 would paddle down river with all gear and backpacks to the trailhead. Mauro would then paddle downriver to the cable car. Team 2, after hitching a ride up to the cable car access point and walking down to the cable car tower, would be waiting. Mauro and Team 2 would then meet up again at the trailhead, and everyone would depart up the trail together.
The first part of the plan was executed flawlessly. The paddling down the Squamish River was great fun!
We then took our time wandering up to the lake. As many as 6 boat loads of people were dropped off at the trailhead, all going up to the lake. When we arrived, we opted to camp in the forest about 300 m from the Tantalus hut, as the sandspit camp was hoist to no less than 12 tents and various numbers of hammocks, the hut itself full, and more tents popped up around it. Needless to say, this was not the "remote" place I'd come to believe it was. Oh well, I guess next time I'll head somewhere else for the long weekend....
Once camp was up, we hatched a plan for Sunday. Originally we had discussed the E Ridge of Alpha, but thought it would take far too long for Team 2 to get back to their pre-arranged ride back into town on Sunday night (team 2 had to work Monday). So we tried for the NE Ridge of Niobe, described as an airy class 3 scramble, perfect for Kelsey and Cassie, who's scrambling experience has been 3rd and 4th class, but not with exposure. We rolled in to bed, ready for the next morning.
We were up at 5 and out of camp at 6, and rolled up into Niobe Meadows, where a vague description of access to the route had us guessing. Following a bit of a hunch, we scrambled up the "gray buttress' described in M Gunns scramble book, but found only bad options to gain the NE Ridge on Niobe. We had already burned time discussing options, so we chose to head up to Iota. Faced with a couple short glacier crossings, we pulled out the axes, and I began chopping our way across the short ice/snow/rubble crossings. We eventually arrived at a more substantial, steeper crossing, where we decided to call it quits. Without crampons, it was going to be too sketchy. So we decided to have lunch, and turn around.
looking back at LLW, Alpha, and a smoky Squamish Valley
the last straw - too sketchy now to cross without poons
We headed back to camp and went for a swim. Team 2 then packed up, and headed down to the cable crossing at 3pm, where they ended up meeting their ride a bit late, and had a fun bear encounter.
As they left, another group came in and took their spot. Throughout this day, various planes had been coming and going, picking up people, but mostly dropping them off. It definitely felt very busy for a place labelled as remote....
Anyways, Kelsey and I made plans to climb Alpha's E ridge, prepared, and turned in. On our arrival back to camp, we ran into a couple who daytripped the E ridge from squamish, and gave us some encouraging beta. However, the group beside us got up earlier then we did, and by the time my alarm went off, I knew the day was lost. Kelsey was tired from the previous two days, and I hadn't slept well. So.... I hit snooze.
We finally got up and had a relaxed morning, and decided to hike up to the E ridge on alpha, just to have a look. I got some good beta for the next attempt. Besides the good workout, the views were impressive. From high up on the E Ridge, I could see the trip's main objective.
the Grimy One
hmmmm..... certainly looks far from here.... I'm thirsty now!
We had lunch and relaxed up high on the ridge, and gradually saw the lake empty of people. By the time we got down, everyone had left from the weekend. A group of ladies, and another group of 3 had replaced everyone, and the place fell quiet. Until the evening. When the group of ladies decided to party into the wee hours of the morning. I got a lot of sleep this night.
the last morning
Kelsey and I had a groggy morning after little sleep. The coffee was a bit stronger this morning to make up for this. We would need it. We were heading for our primary objective.
At 8pm, we were heading down the trail back to the Squamish River, where we hoped our canoe would still be. After the downhill pound, we gathered our paddles, lifejackets, and canoe. We readied ourselves with our gear into the canoe, and headed off into a bit of unknown territory for both of us.
I had read the Squamish River below the LLW Trail is mainly class 2 and 3 rapids, which is what we found. We had to paddle hard at times to maintain our course and avoid various hazards, including a seal (WTF??). We didn't pick the best route, but overall we managed just fine for about 6 km. At which point, after enduring all the paddling, hiking, scrambling, and partiers from the long weekend, our final objective came in view around a corner - The Watershed Pub.
The primary objective
One final bit of interesting paddling and we were on the beach below the pub. Within a little bit, we had packed up, changed to look presentable, and sat down for a hard earned burger, wings, and celebratory beer. This trip had been in my mind for 6 months since I first thought of it. The logistics aren't too challenging, and which offered a fun adventure regardless of the success of any actual mountain objectives.
I love it when a plan comes together.