Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Marmot Mountain

Never thought of doing 37.5km distance on snowshoes in January. This distance is even marginally longer than my 15-hour ascent of Castleguard in May. But on this Saturday, January 26, Ben and I did it, 13 hours on full force.

This time we decided to go back to tradition, to sleep at trail head. However, non of us knew Marmot Basin was gated in midnight, so when we arrived there, we had no choice but driving down to Portal Creek (Tonquin Valley TH), which is the closest place we could park... This means we had an extra 5km distance one way with near 300m more elevation gain.. Oh well. It was obviously frustrating but my logic was, we both have no trouble doing 3000m elevation and 40km distance in summer, so the only thing we had to do was to wake up a bit earlier. So we set up alarm at 4:30AM.

We woke up under a full moon. Excellent! That means we didn't need headlamp at all. So we had a quick breakfast (one sandwich for me) and got ready pretty soon, and we started the day a few minutes passing 5. Having the entire day ahead of us, we tried to walk as fast as we could up the Marmot Basin Road. The only way to walk faster was to jog. We made to the gate in just 30min and hopped over it, then another 20min brought us to the upper parking lot. Nobody was working there, and we quickly spotted the Whistler Creek TH. You could snowshoe up the ski runs all the way to the summit, but I believe Sunshine Village is the only one allowing to do so, so in order not getting caught by ski patrols, you need to wake up very very early. Unless you can walk and snowshoe as fast as me, you probably want a wake-up time around 3:30. There will be snowmobiles going up the runs by as early as 6:30, and you have to at least making to the upper basin by that time. Anyway, the Whistler Creek Trail is maintained by Marmot Basin so it was very easy to follow. Under full moon, it was quite a peaceful environment.

It was a long way around Marmot Mountain to its backside. I didn't calculate, but it should be around 10km away from our parking lot. Again, this was such a memorable ascent due to the full moon. Too bad I don't have those fancy camera gears so I can't show you any photo. All the nearby peaks were clearly visible and we knew exactly where we were going. I think doing 4AM start under full moon will become my favourite in the future. We tried to slow down on the upper slope as we started to realize we were too fast. We would miss the sunrise photos if we kept going up under this pace. But, I guess the most comfortable way is to keep your regular pace. I usually take more photos to slow down the pace if I want, or to take short breaks, but given the face our cameras didn't work under faint light, we soon went back to our pace... It didn't take us long to arrive at Marmot Mountain summit. The sky was slowly getting brighter, but we were still way ahead of schedule. We waited there for about 20min until the coldness forced us to descend. It must be below -15 degree, and under this temperature, we must keep moving. Ben's camera is better than mine and he could take a couple of photos without blurring, but that's it for this summit. I really like the awesome looking Peveril Peak, and I'm glad Ben got a photo of it.

In order to get better photos, we took a slightly less direct line. Instead of dropping down straight towards Whistler Creek, we decided to descend the ridge towards Marmot Pass. On the slope we were treated by the ever-changing colours. I especially like the reddish view over Mount Kerkeslin. The snow was excellent (rock hard) for going uphill, which also means, it was terrible to go down. Every step was on the knees. Of course, even though there wasn't enough snow, we could still find lines to glissade. But given the face we wanted to slow down, we didn't bother with that. And of course, the impressive Terminal Mountain and Manx Peak was always eye-catching, and I finally could get a photo of them without blurring...

We didn't drop all the way down to Marmot Pass, instead we cut straight down the slope to save some distance. More interesting colours started to show up, and we quickly got down to treeline. Some post-holing was waiting for us, but it was brief. We soon crossed the Whistler Creek and started up the other side. By now, we had done the most significant elevation loss in this traverse. We were treated with some alpenglow views.

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Photos taken by Steven