May 5-6, 2016
Hope / Manning Park Area, BC
Mt. Outram is a tall peak dominating the west gate of Manning Provincial Park and certainly one of the biggest out there along Highway 3 corridor in the BC Cascades. Having driven through that road many times in the past few months I was keen to check this one off my “list” sooner than later. The standard route is nothing but a (very) long plod but does have a sting in the tail. The reported “true summit” is 1-2 m higher than the tourist’s south summit and to get there a short, but exposed traverse is required.
The standard time to ascend this peak is in summer but the same route also makes a good winter outing. I chose spring time instead mainly because I didn’t find a good opportunity to tag it in this past winter. Due to some unexpected cancellation in my work schedule I got a last-minute window that’s roughly 24 hours long from Thursday noon to Friday afternoon. Checking the weather forecast I made a spontaneous decision to head out. Theoretically I could have pushed this peak as an “all-nighter” ascent but realistically I just had to have at least a “decent amount” of sleeping hours to not fall asleep during Friday’s work. To make that happen the only solution was to haul overnight gears and catch those hours of sleep in my tent high up on the slopes.
The drive was uneventful and I started the plod under a somewhat overcast sky. The trail was very easy to locate and well signed. After a few turns it started to gain elevation steeply and from there on all I needed was some extreme patience.. There was a somewhat flat bench around 1050 m but elsewhere was entirely an unrelenting plod up endless switchbacks. Hauling snowshoes, overnight gears and wearing rigid winter mountaineering boots did not make the trek any easier. After a long while I reached the supposed creek crossing (crossed on an awkward log) and soon enough that I started to encounter some patchy snow. The snow was awkward in the way that it’s soft/deep enough for some sort of post-holing, but never continuous enough for me to don snowshoes.
That kind of condition lasted all the way to the sub-alpine meadows at rough elevation of 1700 m where I finally hit the continuous snow. I strapped snowshoes on for the aid of some extra tractions and the heal-lifts but in fact, I could have get by easily without the snowshoes. Oh well… Since I hauled them up I just had to make use of them to justify the work I put into. Once onto the broad south rib I had to take the ‘shoes off as the upper slope was almost melted out to nothing but tedious rubble. Thankfully there was still some patchy of snow to utilize. Eventually I found a somewhat flat spot and called it quit for the day as otherwise the next “flat spot” would be on the false summit. Half an hour was spent setting up camp, having a well-deserved dinner and then it’s evening alpenglow time.
Unfortunately the wind picked up through the night and my tent was really tested for its “weather proof” design. The structure stayed strong but fearing to be blown off the mountain together with the tent I had to crawl out at least 3 times to move around some big boulders nearby. I never got the good sleep that I was expecting, but did manage to catch up hours here and there, and by 6 am it’s time to get going again. There’s no way my stove could work in that wind so I just skipped breakfast and went straight for the summit bid. Only an extra 100 m elevation gain was required to hit the south summit and from there I got my first view of the true one.
The traverse looked a bit more involved than expected, but I did come prepared with ice axe and crampons. The first part involved a bit of down-climbing on exposed snow on the edge of a huge cornice, and the middle part was balancing over a snow arete followed by a short, but exposed down-scramble with crampons on rock. The scramble up the true summit was straightforward by comparison but the wind was so strong that I didn’t bother to linger any longer than necessary up there. I soon made my way back across the ridge and then down the slopes to my tent.
Another half an hour was spent packing up (really had to think about the sequence of breaking camp in that wind otherwise I would lose more than one piece of gears). I bailed down the south rib for as fast as I could (but had to be cautious on those tedious rubble slopes), don crampons once hitting some icy snow and then into the forest. Crampons off at elevation of roughly 1600 m and then I re-crossed that creek at the same place (never able to find a bridge or some sort like that, but who cares)… Down the trail I again, went as fast as possible and I got down to the parking lot before 10 am.
The drive back home was a bit tiring but thank to my fast descent I managed to earn two extra hours before the start of my afternoon work. The nap surely felt nice but still, too short to fully get rested, but still, good enough so that I didn’t fall asleep during work. All in all I did all I could to squeeze a big summit in between two work-days. I’ve to say this was quite a productive peak-baggin’ method which I’m sure I’ll use more often in the future…