Everyone has his or her irrational fears. I've seen grown adults run from the smallest of poodles. My own father rarely visits Vancouver because he thinks he's more likely to get sick. And when I was young and living on a farm, there was this one turkey...literally a turkey...that wold bring me to tears at the thought of having to go feed him every morning...okay so maybe that last one wasn't irrational, he was one mean bastard!
When it comes to mountains, for some reason Joffre Peak was always my irrational fear. Not sure why, but I always had an excuse not to do it or something bigger and better wold come along. This was only further fueled by trip reports over the years of people using ropes, people getting turned back by rock fall or untimely snow. And so as it is with me, I chose one of the worst days to finally go give it a shot.
Here's me the day before. Had to rent an asphalt bin to get rid of a backyard full of the stuff. Given the set up an excavator was not an option so I bought a wheelbarrow, crow bar and sledgehammer. It was a long couple of days and my hammies and lower back were feeling the effects. I literally waited til 4 AM the next morning to make the call of whether I was going to go or stay but I needed a breath of fresh air. I needed freedom. I needed Joffreedom.
I had checked the smoke report (funny how things change, usually its the weather report) the night before and it said that things were supposed to be clearing up the following day so I decided to take a chance on me, gonna do my very best and it ain't no lie.
I woke up and the moon only had a slightly orange tinge to it. A good sign! Not such a good sign was the fact that the moon disappeared entirely into a blanket of hazy white as I passed horseshoe bay and onto the sea to sky. Things only got worse from there. It was downright surreal driving through Pemberton as the sun rose. Tendrils of smoke and morning mist fought for supremacy across the rode ahead. I love the smell of napalm in the morning...
Expecting some adventure seekers to be long weekending it at Cerise Creek regardless of smoky skies, I was shocked to find the rode side lot empty. I got out of the car and the psychological battle with the oxygen starved air began. I kept telling myself that if Vantage, which I could see the entire way in, ever became indistinguishable, I'd call it a day.
Cruising speed to the empty hut, where I paused to send out a message that the smoke was pretty bad and that I was just going to go a little higher to see if I could get above it.
Climbing up the trail that leads towards the East Ridge.
I had not taken any photos until this point so I stopped to get the camera out of my bag. Camera...camera...where are you camera? Great. Left it in the car. Well at least I had my cell phone still but the route description from the scrambles book was on my camera so I was a little apprehensive. Luckily, as many people will attest to, I claim to have a tremendously photographic memory, but in reality only remember my versions of things.
I knew there was some sort of gully to ascend. I also knew from reading Dblair's report that its easy enough to go around to the left with a little bit of glacier travel. The rock on the left also looks like a moderate scramble as well. From down here the gully looked great and the snow was just soft enough for some ice axe purchase so up I went.
Half way up, I discovered a depression in the snow that appears to be a crack forming. On either side are some considerable moats. Heres a picture standing in the bottom of it looking up. Took two adzed steps to get up and over.
At this point I was uncertain from recollection whether the scrambles route went up the second gully or the rock to the right of the gully. Both looked feasible but I'm more into rock n'roll than vanilla ice so off went the pons. Heading up the rock, I was starting to feel the effects to smoke inhalation...or so I figured. At one point I looked up an was like - hey this is the cover shot of the scrambles book!
At the top of the second gully I sat down and tried to regulate my breathing. I didn't feel good. I lied to myself for the second time that day. Lets just go up a little farther to see if I can remember where to go. I had two lasting images in my head from Jeff Han's report.A short video of the group putting up a fixed line to cross over some down sloping slabs, and one of them descending a large steep snow patch. I found myself at the base of the snow patch and could see fairly obvious melted out tracks. I looked around for a cairn but didn't see one so I started up into the snow once again.
Said snow patch after ascension.
The runout was a little airy and the snow a little slushy so I stopped part way up to put the pons back on. I was feeling pretty gassed at this point but wanted to see what the slabs looked like.
A quick transition back to rock at the ridge crest and I could see two cairns up ahead. I consulted the GPS and was surprised to see 2630 elev. The summit had to be super close! Following the cairns I dropped off the left side of the ridge into a dirty, loose top of a gully. Looking back, I realized this had to be the top of the Aussie Couloir. Sans snow of course. I could still see snow lower down but it was melted out a lot.
Crossing over the loose rock and dirt was probably the most unpleasant part of the whole hike except for of course the smoke and bugs that never really left me alone all day. In short order, I was standing next to an unimposing cairn imagining the views lurking somewhere in the haze.
Those lips be looking a little dry!
Out of water but still feeling parched, I rested just long enough to send out my descent message and munch on some mango. I pondered my ascent. Somehow I had missed the airy crux traverse I had seen. It didn't quite add up. I distinctly remember seeing both a picture of people descending what I assume was the snow patch I had ascended in the same report as a video of the same group crossing back across the slabs on a fixed line? Maybe Jeff Han can clear this up. Either way, I knew there was running melt water at the bottom of the snow patch so that's where I was heading. I began my descent facing out but found the snow a little too slushy on a firmer layer underneath so I faced in for a bit. Filled up just below the snow and proceeded to ease my way down the same way I had come up.
I was relieved to finally get to the snow/glacier but was a bit surprised I had the legs to glissade until I started sliding.
All geared up for the smoke and ready to rob a stagecoach should I see one!
There was one lone father and his two wee tots at the hut when I arrived. Small world. Turned out to be one of the dudes with Tree Frog on his Chipmunk trip. We chatted for a bit before I left them to enjoy the solitude and headed back to the car.
As it turns out, maybe it wasn't entirely the smoke that was wearing me down. The flu hit me part of the way through the next day.