Helm, Fuscian, Castle Towers, Gentian, Black Tusk. Sept 2 & 3, '17 - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-04-2017, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
Ryl
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Default Helm, Fuscian, Castle Towers, Gentian, Black Tusk. Sept 2 & 3, '17

I haven't been into Garibaldi since 2013, a time when just going up Panorama ridge was ruinous to my stamina. Boy, how times have changed! This is well recorded territory around here, so I'll skip most of the boring parts.

I've been quite antsy lately, not having climbed a real mountain since my shitty St. Helens trip last June. With the fire on the Mamquam having ruined my plan of slaying Meslillooet & Dunkeld, and being unable to find any info on Pyramid, I decided I'd go climb Castle Towers instead. Knowing I'd want to go fast, my overnight pack weighed in at a whopping 15lbs, including water. Stoves? Wassat? I'll run on Landjaeger and Cookies, thanks! Hit the Helm Creek trail at 5:30 on friday night, and bivvy'd just below the top of Helm Ridge around 8:30. I woke up at 4am to see the milky way with the naked eye: a rare and most welcome treat. Packed up and peaced out at 5:30am.

I hoofed it up to the base of Helm peak just before dawn broke, concurred with my copy of Scrambles that it is a miserable thumb of choss not worth 30' of climbing (hence the .5 in the title), and booked it along the ridge towards the towers. The patch of the Corrie Glacier which crosses the ridge towards that peak has almost fully retreated this year. If I hadn't been alone and had brought my axe I'd have bagged Corrie along the way, but there was just enough left to make me wary. I suspect another two or three years of this heat and it'll be completely clear.

Crossed Fuscian along the way, did not realize at the time that this was a thing, thought it was just a particularly scrambly bump on the ridge.

Passed a tent in the saddle at the head of helm glacier, they were still snoozing in the early morning so I skiied down the scree and dropped my gear in Gentian Pass at 8am. Wouldn't see another human until I hit the top of Panorama the next day. Kind of crazy, really, figured there'd be at least one other group doing the towers!

Set up my tarp & overnight gear, tied my food in some trees, and headed up Polunium. What a wonderfully gentle ridge that was, super chill walking all the way to the top with the exception of that rather exposed downclimb in the notch. Good stuff. Topped out at 12, discovered the pipe for the summit log had a massive hole chewed in it and was empty, was super choked I had nothing to scrawl my name on for future posterity. I'm not into freeclimbing so the true summit can wait until I drag a friend up there. (I ran into a group on my way out of Helm campground who said they were planning on doing the towers in two weeks, asked them to bring a replacement log w/ziploc bags, and tape the pipe shut again!).

Took my time getting down, ran into a massive flock of some kinda grouse high up on Polunium. Back in camp at 4pm I ate dinner, crawled into my tarp, and promptly slept for the next 12 hours straight.

Sunday morning I awoke to no wind, and thus bug clouds of biblical proportions. Wolfing down some cookies for breakfast I hastily packed everything up and hoofed it west at 7am to a scree field just below the gargoyles on Gentian ridge. The bugs followed me almost all the way up. When they finally cleared near the top, I paused to switch into shorts from my pants and watched my tarp fall out of my bag and bounce a good 500' down the scree. I blew a good 45 minutes looking for it, to no avail, and I know the marmots will make bedding of it long before anyone else decides that sidestepping up that vertical scree slope is a good way to get out of the pass.

Hit the summit log on Gentian, skied down the ridiculously loose talus slope towards Panorama, and ate lunch with the crowds around 10:30am. Glissaded down the Panorama snow patch, bearing hard left to avoid the open glacier with gaping fissures in it, noted that there was a recent glissade trail which ended abruptly in said fissures. I sure hope they're alright!

Fired up from my long sleep, and noting the day was young, I decided to crank out the Black Tusk before leaving, so I headed over there and stashed my overnight pack in the trees a short ways up the lookout trail. Topped out the tusk at noon. That is assuredly the shittiest and most dangerous pile of rotten ass rock I have ever climbed, and I have no desire to ever go up there again. On descent I got stuck in the tight notch below the summit for nearly 20 minutes as a group of terrified chinese tourists milled around trying to get up. Bonus: as I was traversing beneath it to gain the trail down I was nearly conked on the head by an avalanche of debris from above, as some dumbass was kicking rocks down a deathchute and onto the trail below.

Ran into a Ranger on the trail, apparently there were two of them on staff there for the weekend but one finished their shift on Saturday and one on Sunday, which seems a bit of a foolish way to assign staff for one of the busiest times of the year.

Anywho, hauled ass out of the park and got back to my truck at 7pm and discovered my feet were thrashed. These Scarpa's have like 1500km on them now and they are just refusing to not destroy my feet no matter what measures I take.

I'm pretty stoked, though. 50km, 4500', and 4.5 peaks in 2 days is solid in my books!

(I have plenty of pictures, but my house is currently 33* inside and I can't turn my PC on to edit them in Lightroom. I'll add them later in the week when this heat wave breaks.)
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Last edited by Ryl; 09-05-2017 at 08:00 PM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 09-04-2017, 11:37 PM
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Nice trip. Yeah, I wonder how many people (including myself) have glissaded over the crevasses on the Panorama snow "patch". I did it several times until one year during a low snow year I saw the exposed ice and crevasses! Not doing that again unless there is plenty of snow on it and earlier in the year.

if you're not hiking you should be skiing
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 01:58 AM
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Going down from Castle Towers in the afternoon on September 3rd I smelled a strong weed smoke near the notch between the ridges, but could not locate the source. Very strange. Have not seen a single person up the Castle Towers that day.

I went with wife and three kids and it took us three days and two nights from Cheakamus side at a leisurely pace.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 02:58 AM
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Nice report Ryl. Any snaps of the exposure in the notch?
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 07:47 PM
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Ryl, that is awesome! You are brave to accomplish this on your own! Regarding Black Tusk, I climbed to the top of that on Saturday and it was by far one of the most over-exaggerated scrambles I've ever done! It didn't scare me anywhere near as much as Vicuna Peak or Brunswick Mountain which both tested the strength of my sphincter muscle. I actually looked at it from the chimney and said to myself and my group "This is it? What the hell? This is bloody easy!" unlike Vicuna Peak, where my imagination ran wild while my bowels constricted.

If I may ask, where is your starting point? I'm a little confused from your description as well as your map. You started at the Helm Creek Trail? I did not know there was more than one way to get to Black Tusk/Panorama Ridge. I always thought everyone has to start at the Rubble Creek parking lot.


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post #6 of (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 07:59 PM Thread Starter
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echino: I'm glad to hear someone else was out there this weekend! Hope the family enjoyed the astounding views.

TheMagBumper: No shot of the notch, no. It's honestly not too bad, maybe ten feet down with solid hand and foot holds. I was just getting some shaky legs from hauling ass and have a general dislike of heights.

Chris S.: Thanks! I mean, the tusk isn't technically that bad, I just don't like my holds to move. I did Brunswick back in 2015 when it was half-covered in snow and thought it was a breeze, but the snow may have been covering the nasty parts. Vicuna, yeah, I had planned for this year but just the pictures give me shivers. I started and exited via Helm Creek, yes. I walked Helm & Gentian ridges to Castle Towers on Saturday, and then crossed Gentian peak on Sunday to gain Panorama Ridge, which allowed me to hit the Black Tusk before doubling back and out via Helm Creek.

Castle Towers via Rubble Creek & Gentian Peak is definitely much shorter in total distance, but you'd have to go over the talus on Gentian twice and the elevation loss between Panorama and Gentian is huge. I hadn't been out there before, or into the park at all in four years, so I just ran off what my copy of Scrambles suggested.
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Last edited by Ryl; 09-05-2017 at 08:02 PM.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 09-05-2017, 08:30 PM
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Here are some of the photos of the notch area between Polemonium ridge and Castle Towers west ridge. There are several places where it's possible to go the wrong way and end up doing much harder scrambling than necessary.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 09-07-2017, 12:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryl View Post

Crossed Fuscian along the way, did not realize at the time that this was a thing,
It's not, really a thing after all. but whatever
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 09-07-2017, 12:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by echino View Post
Here are some of the photos of the notch area between Polemonium ridge and Castle Towers west ridge. There are several places where it's possible to go the wrong way and end up doing much harder scrambling than necessary.
Great shots echino

Drop from Polemonium into the notch is actually straightforward, but not so obvious from above when doing it 1st time. When I did Castle Towers way back I trashed talus slope / gully to the right, then side-slopped back to the notch. On return easiest and direct way is kinda obvious from below & shown at 1 of your photos (worn path)
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 09-07-2017, 02:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zeljkok View Post
Great shots echino

Drop from Polemonium into the notch is actually straightforward, but not so obvious from above when doing it 1st time. When I did Castle Towers way back I trashed talus slope / gully to the right, then side-slopped back to the notch. On return easiest and direct way is kinda obvious from below & shown at 1 of your photos (worn path)
Are you referring to the the last photo? Any chance you could do a rough MS Paint scrawl showing the correct route? I missed out on a chance at Castle Towers last weekend due to a really stupid route error coming off Gentian ridge - trying to gather as much info as possible to maximize chances of success second time around!
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 09-07-2017, 02:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMagBumper View Post
Are you referring to the the last photo? Any chance you could do a rough MS Paint scrawl showing the correct route?
This is photo I posted at a time; similar discussion was in my report as well & someone asked same question as you did:



Yellow was roughly descent & red ascent. On descent I lost ~100m vertical more than necessary. On return just stick to the ridge, then it will be obvious. There is 1 step but it is easy; It's been awhile so memory is fading a bit but I think it's shown on this photo echino posted:

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post #12 of (permalink) Old 09-07-2017, 02:52 AM
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Excellent thank you! Hopefully I can make it back before the snow flies. Looks like a really long slog from Helm and back. Have to say I really did not enjoy ascending or descending Gentian Ridge (at the Helm end) so I can see the attraction of going long and light.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 09-08-2017, 09:46 AM
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https://forums.clubtread.com/27-briti...4-07-27-a.html

Lots of options for everything. I'd highly recommend not taking the gully described in scrambles and just scramble the ridge. Wayyyy better
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