Deeks Peak Loop - Feb 10 2018
I've been crazy busy at work the past month so when I was allowed to take off this Friday, I knew I wanted to get out of the city. I had plans to go up to the Hilton with a group of friends from Saturday to Sunday so Friday was all about peaking. I've been wanting to do Deeks Peak for a long time now, but never really thought about doing it in the winter for a couple of reasons. The first is I've never submitted a sizable / rarely traveled peak in the winter. Second is that I don't own crampons and had never used an ice axe before. Finally, I don't have really any friends with any mountaineering experience so it would be a solo mission (and I have no mountaineering experience as well).
Anyways, it helped having a decent amount of beta on the area from numerous well documented winter ascents of Deeks and Windsor (thank you Steven Song). The plan was to keep going until I felt out of my element and then turn around in needed. My ultimate goal was to make it for the night to Lost Lake Hut so I was lugging my overnight gear in my 30L bag which was a bit tiring too. Avalanche Canada was calling for low/moderate at treeline/alpine which helped me ease my mind...
Set the alarm for 5 AM Friday morning, woke up at 7 - sounds about right for me. Reached the trailhead at Porteau Road at 8 AM and drove up in my trusty '01 Cavalier to ~800m before the steep hill. Parked in the little pullout and quickly got on to going. Bad news for all you 4x4'ers out there who drive up this road. January's snow on the old logging road had melted fast and completely eroded parts of the road. I was extremely surprised with how many people made it up last year after the destruction - this year I doubt many will risk it.
For the 20th time in a couple years I started the plod up the old road towards Deeks Lake. Besides the numerous washed out parts, nothing special to right home about. One thing to note, I was told by some hiking websites that Clubtread's trail description is saying that the home development construction has prevented access to Deeks Lake via the logging road. This is completely incorrect and no signs of that project starting up anytime soon. The billboard at the highway exit has trees completely blocking it and nothing online that shows design has began besides the old info from pre 2010.
End of the logging road and into the forest (3.5 km and ~400m elevation gain)
After leaving the logging road, I stopped and had a little snack at Trailblazerís lookout. Two weekends ago there was about a foot of snow here, but it had all been washed away in the warm Feb days we had experienced. Tried to spot some mountain goats across at the cliffs but couldnít really make out any.
Back on the trail, it was pretty steady. I had bought a Japanese pull saw off amazon and tested it out clearing some of the trees that blocked the trail on the way up Ė crazy fast and effective. First sight of snow was at the avalanche gully crossing the trail at 800m elevation. I looked up and saw that a HUGE avalanche had stopped about 100 meters uphill. The snow was higher than ten feet at the end Ė very glad it had stopped.
Soon after this I threw on microspikes which were helpful as the trail had been packed down by a snowshoer and myself from before and was hard and icy. Reached the lake at 10 am and spent a good ten minutes enjoying the scenery. From my last trip up here, me and my buddy had tried getting to Hanover Lake again but were stopped by sinking in knee deep snow on the lake and waist deep powder on the other side with snowshoes on. Our 2m probe didnít hit the bottom in the open snow.
Very different this week Ė all the snow had been brushed away by the heavy winds and the thick ice could be seen below. All the usual avalanches around the lakes had also been triggered and the force of sliding into the lake had caused a huge crack around the ring of the lake which seemed to had frozen back together. For anyone doing this, donít risk your life crossing those avy paths.
From Deeks Lake, I headed north east towards the trail up the Deeks/Windsor col which was all new territory for me. As I entered the trees, I began to posthole about a foot so I threw on my snowshoes. The trail is extremely well marked for winter hikes and all tags were visable. I only had to use my phone a few times to check I was on route with my gps. The trail gradually cuts diagonally to the right from the lake and crosses multiple streams heading down to the lake. It was decently steep but nothing too nuts.
At 1400m I reached the turn off for Peak 5400 and Windsor so I stopped for a break. The snow conditions were pretty good in the trees with an icy crust with maybe an inch or two of dry snow. It began snowing at this point too and as I began to emerge out of the dense large old growth, I relaized I had picked the wrong day of the long weekend to do this trip. Visiblilty was trash but oh well, time to keep going.
Soon enough I came to an open bowl which my gps app said is the turn off to Windsor. From here, I didnít see another marker til the summit, minus a few old weathered flags. The snow also got extremely hard and icy at this point including going up at a 50-degree pitch. It was at this point where I began to feel out of my element. Out came the ice axe and my god is it a brilliant tool. I had practiced before to self arrest, but just using it to climb up these steep slopes was super easy (relatively speaking). 3.5 hours in to the trek, I broke above the treeline, and started to see through the snow and fog the route ahead. The west side of the mountain had steep drops offs so I stayed mostly the east. From here on out it was sort of a blur. Conditions were pretty bad so I didnít stop to look around and just kept going up.
When I got to what looked like the base of the Deeks peak summit, I saw icy cliffs surrounding the entire peak. I had no clue how the hell anyone got up there and I was ready to turn around. I walked around for a bit and looked at my gps and realized the trail curved around the left side of the peak. This part was extremely steep and did not feel like a trail at all. To those following this route, you essentially cut left up the mountain until you canít go any further left and then cut right diagonally the opposite way making your way between the trees. There had been some old avalanche debris along this part which didnít help as well. After making it through this part, I was pretty much there. The last part cuts left again and goes up a little chute before reaching the top.
I emerged at the summit at 12:30 with fog all around. Pretty disappointing view compared to what I could have seen any other day this weekend but oh well. See photos below.
I had run out of water at this point so I boiled some ice and ate a PB&J sandwich before continuing on towards Lost Lake Hut. The next three hours or so would be a maze of route finding, and sliding down steep slopesÖ
If I would have been able to see more than 50 feet in front of me, it would have been much easier descending down. Instead, I had my phone out about 50% of the time so I new I was on the correct path. It would have been great to have had crampons instead of snowshoes at this point. Down kicking with an overnight bag and snowshoes was not glamorous to say the least.
I finally started to descend out of the exposed slopes into the trees and began to make my way down. The wind had created some weird snow formations and was pretty awkward getting down. I finally reached the gully and made my way down to Lost Lake while trying to not fall through in to the creek below the snow. This part was pretty frustrating as the creek was open in many places and I had to keep crossing over and bushwhacking to avoid falling through. My tip would be to stay to the left of the gully as much as you can to avoid falling through as the snow seemed more stable here.
Reached the hut after some alder cutting at 3:00 which was pleasant. Collected some firewood and chopped some of the seasoned wood too before settling down inside for a lovely night of quiet and relaxation. Only one entry since my last visit on November 5th Ė I had expected much more use than that to be honest.
I headed down early the next morning and cleared as many of the dense alder and pine branches blocking the route with my trusty saw. The thing cuts like butter so hopefully the trip will be easier next time up there for most. Got to 500m before realizing I had lost a snowshoe off my bag. Hiked back to 900m to retrieve it and went to my car. As soon as I got to the car I realized my rain jacket had fallen off as well. Iíll go back next weekend to get it but if you see it, itís a Black Mountain Hardware jacket with earbuds inside. Got to the car on the beautiful Saturday and drove to the pullout on the sea to sky and made my way up to the Hat Hilton to meet up with my friends. Exhausting weekend but one to remember for a while. Excellent views up there as well.
If anyone has tips on winter hiking please drop a comment Ė could use all the help I could get.
Probably my last trip report - impossible to add photos to the TR in the proper spot or get them the correct orientation. It's a nightmare using this outdated tech.
Last edited by russellcoffin; 02-12-2018 at 07:00 PM.