Looking at the weather forecast late last night, and at the last sunny day of the week, I decided it was time to bag a group of three peaks i'd been yearning to bag for quite some time: Bishop, Deacon, and Presbyter. I spent a lot of time looking at Instagram's taken the same day to try and get a fix on what the conditions would be like Monday, and everything looked promising. Finally arriving at the parking lot at around 8:30 I set out to the trail head; biking to hydraulic creek then taking the connector to the spur 4 road. In hindsight the demo forest road would have been faster, although I had read some old trip reports that had mentioned wading the river if taking this route. Of course there is now a bridge in place at the end of the road linking both routes, which was the way I took back. It took almost exactly an hour to get to the tail head. With the bike stashed I begun the climb up to Vicar lakes. The Vicar lakes trail isn't the most friendly trail; and i'm sure anyone who has done the trail knows what I mean. The first 10 minutes aren't so bad, but quickly turns into a steep slippery dead-fall covered abyss. Countless fixed ropes were in place which proved super useful in the slippery conditions, and the flagging by NSR is pretty easy to follow. As bad as the trail is, you are rewarded with the odd gigantic old growth cedar.
Finally emerging from the steepness the snow started at about 950m right where the lakes are. The smaller of the two lakes was frozen, although the large one was ice free.
It had taken about an hour and a half to get to vicar lakes and with 5 hours left of sunlight things were looking good. The snow disappeared on the Bishop trail until about 1150m. At first it wasn't too bad because the trail was not incredibly steep but this changed the higher up I got. Not to mention; some pretty menacing tracks appeared before me. It looked like a fox had been chasing a hare, which was being chased by a cougar. My tracking skills aren't great, but either way the tracks were BIG, and I was happy they didn't look too fresh. After following them up for sometime, to my relief the big paw prints veered off the trail a few meters ahead.
What are these?
Finally approaching the bowl, some very interesting ice formations started appearing everywhere. The pictures I had looked at to reference the alpine conditions didn't quite match Bishop. I quickly realized the trails I had looked at were all south
facing and the bowl behind bishop is very north
facing, so needless to say it was a bit of a winter wonderland.
Forgot my ice bouldering tools
It was clear I had underestimated the amount of snow that would be in the alpine. Without a rope, ice tool, or crampons the descent from Bishop looked sketchy at best. A small sub peak looked like it could provide an alternate route up to Bishop's north face, and was far enough away from the true summit to allow sunlight to melt a lot of the snow up the ascent. The scramble was mostly class 3 , with the last section a steep class 4 with but lots of good holds. I knew I reached the top of the ridge when a cool November breeze smacked me in the face. Taking a lunch break and analyzing the route to the summit things didn't look too pleasant. The ridge was narrow, rocky, snow covered, and followed what looked like an ominous steep traverse to Bishop's west side.
Planning a route to the summit
Deacon and presbyter looked much more promising than Bishop, as both were relatively snow free and looked easily accessible. I decided without Bishop in the bag, and the diminishing sunlight, I would save the triple bag for another day. Instead I finished eating my lunch and enjoyed the views.
Deacon and Presbyter
5 Fingers, Obelisk, Sharkfin
Mesliloet and Mt Gillespie in background
Sky Pilot group, fresh snow on Garibaldi
Icy Bowl of Bishop, Coliseum/Burwell and Cathedral in foreground
The descent back to Vicar lakes was slow back to the snowline and involved a lot of butt sliding. The entire hike took about 5 hours, plus another 2 hours biking to and from the trailhead. I ran into another party I saw in the morning heading down from the lakes, and after emerging from the trail stopped to chat with a biker, who brought up the bushiness of the trail (so it wasn't just me?
). After making one more quick stop at the hatchery and watching a few giant sockeye swim around, I headed back to the car. I was glad in my decision to hold off Deacon and Presbyter, the light was fading fairly quickly on the road back home. After this trip, I think it's safe safe to say winter has hit the North Shore Mountains!.