Stein Valley - Shields Peak (Aug 19, 2016) - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2016, 06:07 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
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Default Stein Valley - Shields Peak (Aug 19, 2016)

One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.” – Robert Macfarlane

Being a spontaneous and adventurous creature has many benefits but suffers some fundamental flaws – the most plaguing of which is a suspension of reason that sensible but uninteresting people have. It makes audacious, extravagant, and entirely idiotic ideas seem somehow sensible, plausible, and tame. Often such ideas are self assuredly ended with a “how bad could it be?”, and such was the suggestion of going into the Stein Valley in a day and summiting 8 peaks.

Looking back it is clear to me that the mountains had to recalibrate my sense of modesty and pride and I thank them for showing mercy.

The idea was birthed at 5pm, by 8pm we were packed, and by 11pm standing at the trail head in the dead of night. An unusually hot dry night lulled me into a false confidence that I was going to be warm and an unusually easy start along the logging road disguised the efforts ahead.

With more exuberance than wisdom we marched up the VOC washout bypass. It was best we couldn’t actually see what was below us on the steep sandy goat trail. The raging river echoed its rumbled warnings through the dead of night - if we tripped there would be no stopping the slide. We contoured for about a kilometer and then we dropped towards the river to be spat out along a flat beautiful logging road.

Over the span of 13 years Mother Nature reclaimed what was hers, evening out rocks, filling in gaps, and replanting anew. We moved forward at a comfortable pace knowing we were committing to distance not time. It was a trail neither one of us had ever done and the trail ahead revealed only what it had to. A forced enveloping window of light emanating from my headlamp stole our steps from the night and as soon as we passed they were swallowed back into black abyss.

Alders crowned overhead and we moved beside the river to the right until we came to the source of its noise. A wide river crossing stood before us with a very very long log to balance across. It was definitely one of those” don’t trip now” moments. I crossed first onto the other side and looked back. In the darkness it stood illuminated by a full moon – Sasquatch. It stood approximately 6ft5 and moved briskly by the edge of the water. This blurry photo is all that I managed to capture.

Thus for 10kms we moved effortlessly on the old road. Flagging confirmed our way and we passed higher and higher into the trees. It was all too easy and we felt it at our core - it was coming, it had to.

Slowly the Alders which had crowned us earlier began to move closer, their arms touching, scrapping, grabbing at us. My hands lifted to my face, elbows up, poles in defensive position. My guide and only clue was what lay below my feet - unwonted flatness, a hint of the man made. I trusted my instincts and switched from sight to feel, pushing through and every now and then being rewarded with a glimmer of neon flagging. For 2km it persisted, a battle of wills.

By 3am we burst through the last of it and arrived at Lizzie Lake campground. To our surprise there was a single lonely tent pitched in the trees. We had intended to stay at the cabin as we brought neither sleeping bag nor shelter but the path ahead was obscured by dead fall. Like match sticks thrown down trees crisscrossed every which way and the darkness refused to yield a path. And thus we were presented with a choice, stay put or carry on? Getting two hours of sleep seemed like a good idea – we could travel by first light come 5am.

Getting off the ground seemed a priority so we found a picnic table, put on all the layers we had, used the backpacks and pillows, and lay under the full moon like two sardines in a can. Despite the warmth we had experienced along the way, we were now higher, beside a lake, and the breeze decided to pick up, which meant only one thing – COLD.

For two miserable hours we battled with the hope of sleep; each of us shivering like a leaf in the wind. The bear spray lay between us. Minutes passed like hours and I lay there watching the moon circle the heavens, spying upon us through the branches mocking our wretched state. We were vulnerable and bare and the night stole our warmth, tormenting us. There was no comfort save that of my companion who was equally disconsolate. Laying shoulder to shoulder we trapped what invisible heat there was to be had, but even that wasn’t enough. At one point I thought about boiling water and pouring it into the Nalgene so it would radiate heat. Surely sleep would find me?!

By 5am I could take it no longer. The dusk was coming and I needed to warm up – I don’t do well in the cold. We walked around gathering twigs and anything that wasn’t saturated. I had one tealight candle in my emergency kit and knew I was gonna use it to start the soggy tinder. An old half burned logged remained in the fire pit. After a while the candle lit what it could and we fed the flame with a quickly diminishing supply of twig tinder. It smoked all around us but there was heat at last - heat that allowed me to feel my fingers and my toes again.

I took the water from my camel pack and disappointedly recalled I had forgotten all the tea bags. The JetBoil had the water boiling in two minutes which I split between Jason and I. In silence we hungrily stole the warmth back. He figured a sandwhich would help, my stomach still protested. By 6am, sleepless and on a cup of boiled water we started our day – light finally gifting sight of trail.

In the end it was good we waited, I don’t think we could have found the way in the dark. Much and more deadfall awaited us as the trail gained altitude. Eventually we came to the “Gates of Shangri-La” along a boulder field that guarded all beyond. Would it be as the name suggested? An earthly paradise – isolated, lush, splendid and pristine? I certainly hoped.

We first came to the old cabin which seemed to appear out of no where. There are no clues that it might be there, it just materializes in the trees. I had to take a look at what could have been. Holes were forming in the outer deck. A horseshoe crowned the door, an ice axe wedged into the frame read Canadian Sasquatch Hunters (1991, 1994, 2003)…should I have added 2016? Inside a sleeping bag hung on a string. Perfectly dry split wood waited on the side of the cabin with a wood burning stove. I silently cursed.

Just past the cabin a small creek runs with flagging going left and right. We elected for the right path. Goat trails meander everywhere in the meadows and we weren’t certain which way to go. So we moved up through boulder adorned meadows coming to a lake – Long Lake. We took the wrong way noticing the path was on the right side of the lake not the left. This was to become somewhat of a theme for the remainder of the day.

Long Lake is stunning. The morning light danced upon its calm surface as it drained into an infinity pool and rumbled towards the “gates” below. We refilled our water and by now my stomach felt awake enough to snack. What quickly became apparent however was that this was not the way to Caltha.

Perhaps we do it in reverse order we thought – knock off Shields and come back for the rest. It seemed a simple enough plan even though we couldn’t yet see Shields. We moved up and down along the lake in classic alpine - heather meadows, teal blue lakes, boulders. Long Peak and Tynemouth were so enticing it’s where I wanted to go. But we kept moving right until we were high enough to see the target that was the sole outlier. It looked close. “Looked” being the operative word here.

Up, down, lake, micro-terrain, cliffed-out. We moved, but we did not. It was endless and as the name suggests, Shields was guarding her entry every step of the way. At some point we had to wade a lake-tarn. Hours drained from the day and vanished. It would have been better to call it Yo-Yo Peak. Up down up down all around. It was all pretty enough but my amusement had started to wane. It had now been six full hours since we left camp and we were just below the mountain starring up at a cornice that the book merely says sometimes appears at certain times of the year and might present a “potential objective hazard”. WTF joked he could tunnel through it with our ice axes…I thought WTF. I held many doubts if it was passable but knew there was only one way to find out – climb to it and find out.

Both of us have had enough “book time” to know the Matt Gunn special. You know – the nasty lose rock gully which so wonderfully defines so many of his chosen. To the left an impassable cornice. To the right an impassable cornice. In the middle a narrow lose rock weakness…well I guess we go up that. Jason took lead on the marbled dusty lose route – a pile of mistrust and skepticism. I guess it was better than Helm we concluded but then that’s not much of a comparison, EVERYTHING IS.

We crested and threw down anything that was going to fall anyway. It was 1pm by the time we reached the summit. It’s not a sexy mountain, it doesn’t look as spectacular as some, it doesn’t have a glacier, has some clinging snow, and looks like it shouldn’t be half as much effort as we exerted that day. But we got up and were content with that. It was a beautiful sunny day, we drank some much needed watermelon flavored electrolytes and slept on the summit for an hour cocooned in Goretex so the bugs wouldn’t get us. As revenge they bit between my toes, the one place I left exposed. It was the only blissful hour we got all day.

We took some summit photos and by 2pm had to mentally prepare for the return journey.

It would be another 11hrs of travel to return to the car. I desperately wanted to stay at the cabin another night but we moved onward. We were losing light and and we wanted to pass the bushwhack and complex terrain. Only will kept me moving forward, until it couldn’t.

In the dead of night the moths followed my headlamp in such swarm that I couldn’t’ blink or breath. I used my long hair as a shield, moved the headlamp to my hand and still choked on wings. Surely it must be soon, now…now? At 10:30pm after moving nearly 24hrs, my body had had enough and I slumped into the trail forlorn. “I need to stop, to eat, something, anything to rebuild my will”, I whimpered. A bar, some ginger chews and water helped and again in the dead of night we passed the VOC bypass arriving back at out vehicle at 11pm exactly as we had started – 42km later. Shields was a bigger and more exhausting effort than Castle Towers. Now I knew. The mountain crushed our exuberance.

Exhausted, the most dangerous part was still ahead – driving. I drove the logging road and switched somewhere half way. I tried to speak but my words were disconnected and incoherent in thought. My brain tried to force micro sleep…it was too dangerous for either of us to continue. We made it as far the Pemberton Gas station and parked to get 2 more precious hours. I snored like a fat bellied pig according to Jason who was kept up by the racket. After a banana and Earl Gray tea I was back to my chirpy self and returned us to the safety of home and spring filled cushioned rest. I love you mattress, you’re so much better than a picnic table, and on this particular evening my very bones thank your existence.

Trip Stats:
Distance: 42km
Elevation Gain: 2250m

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martin, guntis, Mr. B and 4 others like this.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2016, 06:23 PM
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Thanks for posting it. What took you so long?

24 hours, my longest day ever. I quite enjoyed all the entertainment along the way.

So....we still have 7 more to do, whatcha doing this weekend?

Edit: just needed to add awesome job on the trip report, I've read it many times since you posted. Thank you for this trip, I'll remember it for a long time.

Last edited by Wandering Tree Frog; 09-12-2016 at 01:27 PM.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2016, 06:24 PM
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Cool shot of what looks like some Big Jims
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2016, 07:57 PM
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Thats a hell of a day trip (literally), I was up there a few weeks ago and camped on the south end of long lake on that ledge that drops into the lake. We had planned on doing Shields peak but I saw the cornice you mentioned from the top of Tarn peak (I think) and called it off because it looked impossible and I didn't want to hike there and back for nothing but seeing your route makes me second guess this choice.

Also on a side note there is a FSR (Rogers Creek I think) just south of Shields and Cloudraker that I wanted to try as my next entry point to the area.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2016, 09:42 PM
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Your first paragraph says it all!
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2016, 12:25 PM
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Fantastic trip report! That approach to Lizzie Lake Cabin sure is burly. Well done to get up and down in a day! I recall taking over 10hrs just to get to the hut this past winter...
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2016, 02:53 PM
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Holy moly! I knew your original plan was going to be tough , now I"m glad I politely declined to tag along on this day lol! Kudos for doing that epic Shields trip though!
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 09-04-2016, 02:46 AM
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Good work. Cool to see some summer view up there. Was there in this past winter.

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post #9 of (permalink) Old 09-06-2016, 09:38 AM
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Wow. Poetry.
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My hiking career: a selfish pursuit or a pursuit of self?
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 09-08-2016, 02:10 PM
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O my gosh! thats a long way to go in a single day push! good job! there is no way my body could do that. I fidn 25km in a day a living hell lol. Great trip report and great shots.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 09-08-2016, 07:10 PM
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Heh, you guys got lucky: the VOC brushed out most of the trail this summer. When I went through there in '14 the alders were a solid wall for almost the entire road to the lake.

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post #12 of (permalink) Old 09-08-2016, 11:29 PM
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Awesome trip, awesome writeup and very enjoyable style.

A very fun read, and enjoyed your pictures every step of your way.

Well done you both.


Hiking is what keeps you young of mind and heart. When the going gets tough, the tough get going..............
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