I got a few hours sleep and was up at 3am for the drive to Squamish. With no traffic on the road, I was at Chance Creek FSR early and parked right next to the highway. Jer arrived shortly after and I tossed my pack in the back of his Tacoma and we enjoyed a luxurious ride up the road.
We basically guessed all the turns up the FSR, but found the way without issue. Jers truck is still quite new and his job requires it to stay B.C. pinstripe free, so at the last turn where the bush closes in we parked. A sign marked the spot.
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!! Well, thankfully, (or not) just bears. Jer vocalized his concerns regarding grizzlies. I gave him a rundown on what to do if we encountered one.
“So, basically if you see a bear, and he gets close enough, he will stand on his hind legs. This is your chance. You have to rush in close, get right against him. Now, because his front legs are so short, he can’t claw you. You’ve eliminated the threat of claws but he can still bite you. Next step, you have to be quick on this one. Next step, reach in his mouth and pull his tongue way out. Don’t let go of it. Now he can’t bite you without biting his own tongue off. Ok, you’re in a stale mate. You can’t move and the bear can’t attack. The last step is most important. With you free hand you have to reach up and pinch his nose shut so he can’t breath. After 5-10 minutes like that, he will pass out from lack of oxygen. Now is you chance to quickly get away.”
Jer decided that was crappy advice and it would be better to just not encounter a bear.
We made plenty of noise as we headed up the road. No bears were seen, but some very large piles of bear scat were. Even more noise was made as we took the trail through the berry patch. We got to the lake after an hour or so of decent paced hiking. We spent some time taking photos, as the area was quite picturesque.
Around the lake talus hopping, up a bit of snow, and soon at the col. we stopped to put on harnesses and crampons and on to the glacier. There were obvious crevasses, so we decided to play it safe and rope up for the crossing. A bit of probing when crossing the crevasse, the snow bridges were solid and in short time were at the base of the rock wall.
Actually, we weren’t technically at the rock yet as there was a moat between snow and rock. Peering carefully in suggested it was bottomless and neither of us felt jumping across was a good idea. We saw one snow bridge left touching the rock a little above us. Upon closer inspection it was overhanging at the top. With no other options we took turns chopping away snow so we could get down to the bridge. We cut a few steps in the vertical hard snow from above and Jer was the first to drop in. I kept him tight on the rope and he made it across. Then on my turn, without the rope tension holding me up, I started to lose my balance as I dropped over the snow lip. I thought I was going to take a tumble but at the last second I dropped my feet down and recovered my stability.
Quickly stowed the axe and crampons, grabbed the bit of gear from Jer’s belay stance right above me and I started up the rock pitch. I’d probably say forth class but I was wearing a pair of discount runners, definitely not good scrambling shoes. I did a short pitch and Jer climbed through. After I reached Jer’s anchor, we left the rope on but I was basically hiking up a heather ramp.
We stowed the rope after that and scrambled up. A nice pitch of scrambling and we gained the ridge. Up the ridge a bit and Jer said he’d prefer to rope up. There were a few exposed steps on the ridge, jenga stacks of rocks, I almost pulled one big hold off. We swung leads but little pro was placed. We got to the gap before the summit. The downclimb was tricky, I ended up putting on my rock shoes for it. Then I led a nice low 5th pitch right to the summit from there.
On the summit and it’s 5pm. We lost time somewhere and the clouds have closed in. We knew there is a descent that drops us back to the lake. There’s supposed to be a 30 meter rappel and some talus. Problem is visibility is 5 meters. We can’t see where we are going. And from scoping out descent from the lake this morning, it’s not simple terrain below us.
Shit! We’re going to epic on this one. I have a micropuff and a rain jacket. Jer has a rain jacket. We have a very small rack. We have a 60m rope. Options, what are our options?
1)Reverse the ascent route. We will be forced to leave gear to rappel several sections. We don’t know if we have enough gear for this.....
2)Drop down the unknown side towards the lake, we know there is a rappel. We have no idea where the descent is, or where it goes and we can’t see. There are many large cliffs on this face. We could potentially drop down something we can’t climb back up and can’t continue down....
3)Follow the scrambles ascent. There is a bit of trail in the scree from the south. I’ve done this route many years ago. It will put us on a logging road on the wrong side of the mountain. We will have to get a ride around to chance creek.
4)Stay put and call SAR. We have cell service.
We are in clouds, we don’t know if they are going to start raining on us. We have about 4 hours of daylight left. I ask Jer if he knows anyone in Squamish with a truck. We need the fastest way down if we are to not spend the night out. Jer makes the call, his friend is willing to meet us. He knows the high falls trail at the base of branch 200 road. We just have to get there. Descend the entire mountain and the logging road.
It’s decided. Take the easiest way. Follow the scrambles route. Speed. I make a call. I know someone who keeps all their GPS tracks and has done Tricouni. Masiar! I try to get Maria on the phone but my signal is too weak. I switch to text and get the request through. Having a gps track down to the lakes was key. Maria and Guntis get the track to Jer’s phone and it’s go time.
Jer wasn’t experienced with following a downloaded track. This is the first track he’s ever downloaded. I take his phone and we move. We didn’t follow the track exactly, but it kept us moving in the right direction. There were many course corrections.
Down. Talus. So much talus. There is a lake below with an obvious trail. At the lake, on the trail. Jogging. A few spots the trail fades and we’re searching. Down. More lakes. More trails. More searching. More jogging. Maria’s last message warned of the mud fest. We found it. Kilometres of deep, slippery mud. Racing darkness. With muddy runners and tired bodies. Legs burning with lactic acid. Through the forest and the meadows. And the Mud. It was getting dark in the forest sections, I told Jer I felt the road was close. He passed me and a minute later hit the road.
The road meant more light. We only had one headlamp so didn’t bother to pull it out yet. Jer relayed to our ride that we hit the road. With legs on fire we pushed on. Jer asked how long the road was. I guessed and said a dozen kms. It was going to be a few more hours.
After an hour on the road we came upon a group setting up tents. We gave them a brief tale of our day. We asked for some spare water and were thankful they had some. Neither of us had the nerve to ask for a ride down. We pushed on. Darkness came and I saw a sign on the side of the road and went closer to see what it said. Jer asked what it said. “You don’t want to know” .....”8km to go”....”still got a couple hours”
I finally pulled out my headlamp and tried to adjust it so both of us could use it. We pushed on. The pain pushed back. Around 11pm we hit a wall. We’d been moving with only short breaks since 7am. We lay down in a pullout beside the road and enjoyed the euphoric waves of pain. I was laying on a few rocks but they couldn’t hurt me. Jer suggested we should bed down for the night. We had no cell service this low to contact our ride.
I was getting shivers but too tired to pull the jacket out of my pack. I was high on pain and amazed that I just did a 16 hour hard push.
I heard it first. “Truck!!!” Jer jumped up with headlamp in hand to make sure he didn’t miss us on the side of the road. Our ride found us. He had water and Indian food. I turned down the food but guzzled the water. Now we only had to retrieve the trucks on the other side of the mountain.
At 1am I crashed on Jer’s couch in whistler.
I’d like to thank everyone involved. Campers on the road with water. Jer’s friend with the truck. Maria and Guntis for the quick gps upload. And Jeremy for another epic adventure.