Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Robson / Valemount

Steven Song
Mount Terry Fox
Jul 14, 2012

After finishing Mt Sparrowhawk and Read's Tower on Wednesday, I drove back home and rest, for the am ...more

bitious weekend trip with Eric Coulthard to Valemount area. As for many BC mountains, the crux is usually finding trail head and driving there. The direction is clear: If approach from Robson, turn right at Stone Road (before entering Valemount town), take an immediately left after that and then follow trail signs to the parking lot. However, there're one or two other intersections in the maze of logging road system which do not have a trail head sign. For those, I suggest you just to follow the most obvious path. At the last intersection, take a right fork which is heavily overgrown and ridiculously narrow. The ground isn't extremely steep nor rough, so I would say a 2 wheel drive with high clearance can probably make it. We have a 4WD so we were okay.

We arrived at trail head by approximately 11pm, and slept in car. Oh gosh, the mosquitos were ridiculously crazy. Not exaggerating, you gonna have 100 of them around you if you stop outside your car for 15 second... We spend most time of the night killing mosquitos, and as a result we probably just slept for 1-2 hours (sleep in car). Horrible... The forecast for Saturday was mostly sunny, but with 33 degree temperature, feels like 39 due to humidity. That's terrible for an ascent of 1800m elevation gain, so we decided to wake up by 4:30 (Albertan time), so 3:30AM local time, and started the ascent by 4AM.

Despite the lack of sleep, we still managed to start with a fast pace. Take a note for Terry Fox, you start your grind at Rocky Mountain Trench, an area with elevation 800m or so... You gonna have spend a good amount of time to reach treeline. The initial switchback section makes me feeling like going back to Vancouver, as the vegetation is pretty much like the coastal region. The trail is a bit overgrown, but generally easy to follow. Many dead falls to negotiate though, nothing tricky from a scrambler's point of view. Since we started early, we could catch up morning light shown on the Cariboos which was a bonus for the trip. Near the end of switchback section, the forecast thins a bit and you can have some glance of the Cariboo Mountains on the other side of Rocky Mountain Trench.

The next section is a tedious slog along a ridge to treeline. This section is foreshorten seen from below, so be prepared. Again, as you gaining elevation, the view towards the Cariboos gets better and better, and at treeline, we could take a full panorama of the Cariboo Mountains, which we have never seen before (well, if not counting the road trip photos). Slogging up a scree slope brought us to a much better view point. From there on, the trail became faint at places. We just pretty much followed the ridge crest to the first false summit. The next thing to do was to slog up a huge grass / talus slope to another false summit where a weather station is built. Really nothing to describe here except for slogging and slogging. Once topping out, we were treated with a head-on view of Whitehorn Mountain, Mount Robson and Resplandent Mountain, three 11,000ers. The morning sun was bad for photographing them though.

From the weather station, we had to lose about 50m elevation to a high col before trudging up the next false summit, on talus and boulder fields. Then it was a scenic ridge walk to the true summit. Oh man, we were blown by the views. Except for the Cariboos and Robson, we could see the sea of peaks towards SW direction (Rockies west range). There're a couple of high ones that we were suspecting to be either Mount Hooker or probably Tsar or Clemenceau. We could also see the Monashee Mountains including Canoe Mountain. There're several high peaks towards north, probably Mount Sir Alexander and Mount Chown, but not 100% sure. The peaks around Mount Sir Wilfred Laurier are also clearly visible, the apex of Cariboo Mountains.

Due to lack of sleep, we took a nap on the summit. Including the nap, we spend 2 hours on the summit soaking in the views. The descend was far more tedious than anticipated, mainly because there was no loose ground for a scree run. You have to come down step by step, and all on the knees, for a 1800 vertical meters. The heat finally got us after re-entering the trees, as well as the mosquitos. Terrible... Our descent was actually slower than ascent. By the time we got back to car, it felt like 40 degrees. We soon drove to Valemount for food and cold drink!

At the end of the day, we drove to Kinbasket Lake for quick photos, and then directly to the trail head of Mount Pierre Elliot Trudeau, our objective of Sunday.

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Steven Song
Campion Mountain
Nov 11, 2012

My original plan for the 2nd day was Swift Mountain. But the amount of snow I just encountered the d ...more

ay before made me start reevaluating the plan. I couldn't drive up any part of the logging road which means 15km one way of post-holing and trail-breaking, with 1750m elevation gain... Considering I still had plan on the 3rd day, I had to save some energy. So the small peak in front of the big Robson jumped into my plan.

The summit is barely above treeline, and to get there, you have to bushwhack all the way up. There's no trail, not even animal trail. I got this idea by just looking at the map: it's a named mountain, barely above treeline, and the contour lines suggest a straightforward ascent. The location guarantees great views in a clear day.

I could have started the slog from Robson information center, but when I got there, I could see a little bump between me and Campion Mountain. This could make confusion while bushwhacking. So I continued to drive up Highway 16 for 4-5km ish, and parked right after a small bridge.

There was only a thin layer of snow at the lower section, but the ground was frozen solid. This made things extremely slippery. I put crampons on right at the beginning, and they helped a lot. Initially the bushwhacking wasn't too bad, but the higher I went, the more deadfalls. Having crampons on my feet means I could simply walk on these snow covered deadfalls without slipping. There're tens of dead alders as well. If doing this in summer, the bush would be much harder to negotiate.

It was all about perseverance: just going uphill. After eternity, the snow got knee deep and the forest starts to get thinner. Time to change to snowshoes. More post-holing on snowshoes, I eventually topped out on the ridge. WOW!! This could be the best viewpoint for Robson/Resplendent's south face! I followed the scenic ridge crest towards the summit. It was longer than expected though. There're actually a few trees on the summit.

Due to the coldness, I didn't do the necessary summit stay. I slowly retraced my footprints down the ridge, and then down the treed face. Round Trip Time: 6.5 hours

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Steven Song
Canoe Mountain
Nov 10, 2012

It's been a month since my last summit, Mount Solomon. Now comes the November long weekend, and weat ...more

her forecast predicted a high pressure system moving in. This would bring in blue sky, but also -20 ish temperature.. Well, that's still better than having no view.

Edmonton got a near 40cm snow storm on Wednesday and Thursday, and roads got covered with a layer of ice, with snow on top... And then another big system moved in to Calgary and the front country of Kananaskis. 40cm new snow fallen on Friday means, K-Country could be inaccessible, especially given the fact I don't have snow tires.. Eventually I decided to set my goal to Valemount area, with the option to extend towards Kamloops, or driving back to Jasper. The crux would be the drive out of Edmonton.

The hardest part was to negotiate the snow covered road in my neighbourhood. Once I got to the main highway, things became easier. There were still ice patches on Highway 16, but at least not continuous ice. What normally took me less than 3 hours, took me more than 4 hours to get to Hinton. The road condition improved dramatically once entering the mountains. I eventually arrived at Valemount at 1am, and slept in car outside the A&W. Temperature had already dropped to -12 degree, and I soon fell asleep. The next morning, I woke up in a temperature of -18 degree... Good thing I could quickly move into the nearby A&W for warmth. Through the window, I could see the snowy Mount Pierre Elliot Trudeau, which I did in July. It was much more snowy than anticipated. It could be a challenging day.

Canoe Mountain situated 15km south of Valemount, in the Monashee Range of Columbia Mountains. It's the northernmost mountain of Monashees. Towards west across Kinbasket Lake, is the Rocky Mountains. Towards east is the Cariboo Range. The location guarantees great views from the top. In summer people can quad up the access road all the way to the summit. 13km one way, with elevation gain of 1850m. In winter, it would be 1850 vertical meters of trail-breaking and post-holing on snowshoes...

The access road (trail) is 15km south of the main street, according to the info I found. However, there are several other branches nearby which caused some confusion. I forgot to take a photo of the entrance, but I remembered it being almost exact 15km south of the A&W. Due to the snow, I could drive in so I just parked at the shoulder of Highway 5.

Snow was about 10-15cm deep initially, not deep enough for snowshoes. However the road was very slippery but I didn't bring microspikes. Therefore I just put on snowshoes at about 200m in. They gave me much traction and I could go much faster. There's very little to describe the slog. The snow gradually got deeper. The road went on and on. It's the theme of this area. It reminds me the tedious slog up Mount Terry Fox in July. The views won't show up until you make a good amount of elevation gain, typically around 1000m mark...

The post-holing started to get very tedious as approaching treeline. Instead of following the road up, I decided to take a short-cut and went straight up the slope. This way I could save some distance, and therefore doing less post-holing.. Not far up I started to enter the clouds... Oh no!! At treeline, it was extremely cold, and white-out.. With the peak in mind, I kept marching on. All the sudden, wow!! I topped out above the ceiling! Mount Robson, Whitehorn, and other Cariboo giants started to show up above the low clouds. And now I could finally see the summit. That's still a long way to go. But with the view like this, I didn't slow down. I picked a straight line up the slope. Later in the season you probably want to traverse towards climber's right to aim for the least steep area.

Another big wow moment, once I made to the north ridge. The other side fully opened up. There was still a good amount of work to get to the true summit, mainly because of the post-holing... The weather station made for some good photos. The summit is still about 15min away. It took me 6 hours to get up. In November we only have a bit more than 9 hours of daylight time, so I had to descend soon. Retracing my steps down was much easier and faster. It took me no time to descend back into the clouds. It wasn't that cold this time. I met a local solo skier on the way down.

Again, it was much faster to descend, soon I made back to the logging road. I re-joined mom further down and we grouped together for the rest of the day. The sun was setting soon and we got great evening views. Round Trip Time: 10 hours.

Overall, a highly recommended peak in winter. This's another highlight of this already awesome year. You probably want to do it on skis, but make sure you get mentally prepared for the 1850 vertical meters of trail-breaking..

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Steven Song
Mount Pierre Elliot Trudeau
Jul 15, 2012
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Photos taken by Steven