November 10, 2012
It’s been a month since my last trip in the mountains and now came the November long weekend, and weather 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. The city of Edmonton got about 40 cm of dump on Wednesday and Thursday, and roads got covered with a layer of ice so the crux would be the drive out of my neighbourhood. The road condition improved dramatically near Hinton but still, it took me much longer than anticipated and I eventually arrived at Valemount by 1 am. 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. It could be a challenging day ahead…
Canoe Mountain is a “fat” mountain at roughly 15 km south of Valemount, in the Monashee Range of Columbia Mountains. It’s the northernmost summit of the Monashees. Towards west across Kinbasket Lake are the west slopes of Canadian Rockies. Towards east is the Cariboo Range. The location guarantees great views from the top. In summer people can ATV up the access road all the way to the summit. In winter, for folks like me now owning a snowmobile, it would be 1850 vertical meters of trail-breaking on snowshoes or skis… My mom came along for this trip but I figured there’s now way she could make to the summit, so we decided to go separately. I would plod ahead solo while she would go as far as she wanted following my tracks.
The access road (trail) is 15 km south of the Valemount’s main street, according to the info I found. However, there are several other branches nearby which caused some confusion especially for folks like me not having a GPS unit… I forgot to take a photo of the entrance, but I remembered it being almost exactly 15 km south of the A&W. Due to the snow, I couldn’t drive in so I just parked on the shoulder of the highway.
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 the nearby Mt. 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 when avalanche is more of a concern, you probably want to traverse towards climber’s right to aim for the least steep area. Another big wow moment was waiting for me once I made to the summit ridge. The other side fully opened up. I took hundreds of photo before continuing my way to the true top. There was still a good amount of work to get to the true summit, mainly because of the post-holing…
It took me 6 hours to get up. But 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. He turned out to be Reiner Thoni, an extreme alpinist based in Valemount.
I rejoined mom lower down and we barely made back before head-lamp time. Our round Trip Time was 10 hours. Overall, this is 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..