Scaling New Heights
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: North Van.
Interest: Anything mountain related
Not Just another Black Tusk Trip Sep. 16th
My daughter planned a family Black Tusk trip comprising of her spouse, her brother (my son), her mother (my wife) and her Aunt. As she likes to do stuff legitimately, she could only book overnight camping at Helm Creek. Fair enough I thought, she knows what she's doing. Plan was to pick Aunt up from Horseshoe Bay ferry at 7am and we get to trailhead and hike up to Black Tusk and overnight at Helm Creek on the way back. Some kind of feeling made my look up the distances from Helm to the Tusk. Nowhere could I find a straightforward estimate. The BC Parks website broke it out from Helm Creek to Helm Pass and Helm Pass to trail instersection with Taylor Meadows and from there to Black Tusk look out. In my dismay, I saw that this all added up to approx. 11.5 km's one way. As 3 of us are in our 50's and my wife's abhorence of physical discomfort, we tried to come to grips with doing 23 km's in addition to the slog up to Helm Creek of 8.5 km's. As I've been doing alot of hiking this summer, I thought it would be a bit of a sufferfest towards the end, but I could do it by pre-Aleve'ing myself. My sister in law runs almost 10 miles a day but has never overnight back packed and my wife - the survivor of many car accidents in her late teens was iffy. We could arm her with a can of bear spray and leave her at the side of the trail when she couldn't go on. I was curious when I looked at Park's maps why there wasn't a more direct route from Helm to the Tusk as it appeared pretty close. It seemed ridiculous to go almost to the Taylor Meadows trail to go onto the right path. Naturally with this back drop in mind, I was purusing the horizon as we set forth from Helm Creek after ditching the heavy camping stuff. So, as we hit Helm Lake I looked across and saw some sweet looking meadows in amongst some dead trees. I imagined a path through this to attain a ridge on the horizon before the Tusk (see picture 1). From our vantage point at the end of Helm Lake, I saw a smaller pointy objective that I imagined could lead to the summit, but I didn't know for sure (picture 2 below the left side non snow bumps). I polled our group and every one was surprisingly game to give my scheme a try. So off we went around to the right of the lake where amazingly there was a natural footbridge of boulders that crossed the lake drainage. So as we made our way up the meadows and scree (that was surprisingly consolidated and didn't lead to much back sliding) we attained a ridge that made its way up to the bumps in the aforementioned picture. At this point a fairly steep scree shoulder revealed a faint footpath. Once we attained to top, it yielded a spectacular cirque above the snow with a definite trail on the ridge (see pictures 3 and 4). This led to the shoulder below the peak. The rest is fairly well described. Next a shot of the infamous chimney (first 15 meters that also functions as a choke point and a divider of the brave and the faint of heart). And the obligatory vanity shot of your's truly. The denouement of this tale is that our little bushwack/trail imagining where there was none was a round trip of 13 km's vs the estimated 23 - a not insignificant saving of 10 km's. This allowed all pre-geezers to make it to the summit (or just below) plus the additional adulation of those that saw us coming across the knife ridge. Made it back to camp before we lost the sun.