November 11, 2014
North Thompson Corridor / Valemount, BC
After a few weekends in a roll of unstable weather, an Arctic high pressure system finally arrived at this past Remembrance Day bringing guaranteed bluebird sky but also extremely low temperature (below -25 degrees in most part of the Rockies). Most of my friends decided to stay home but Ben and I are hardcore. In the previous two years I also managed to get out in similar conditions and the views from Canoe Mountain and then Elysium Mountain were simply mind-blowing. This time we’d aim at a similar ascent, kicking-off the snowshoe/ski season by driving far west into the Monashees, more than 30 km past the town of Valemount.
Stargazer Peak in an unofficially named peak sitting right on the ‘divide’ of Northern Monashees, near the much-more-prominent Mt. Albreda. My first time seeing this peak was from Mt. Milton earlier in this year, just across North Thompson Highway in the Cariboos. Right-away it bumped up my to-do list as an off-season or shoulder-season ascent. To access it one needs to drive or snowmobile (or walk if you’re unlucky) about 14 km on Clemina Creek FSR. Obviously timing this ascent in mid November we fully expected to be those “unlucky” guys, but it turned out better than expected. Ben did an excellent job driving up the first 9 km even with a thin layer of snow coverage.
Due to the coldness we didn’t start as early as planned. But on the other hand, we just shaved off 9 km one-way so we were not too far behind schedule. After walking about a few hundred meters or so up the road we soon don snowshoes. The snow coverage wasn’t quite deep enough for the ‘shoes but they did provide extra traction making easier and faster travel. As we slowly gaining height the snowpack became thicker and thicker gradually. It was about 30 cm deep by the time we left the Clemina Creek FSR. It’s quite arbitrary as where to leave the road but we came across a “Morning Glory” sign. We thought it must be a snowmobile trail and we were hoping for a clear-cut or some sort like that.
This “Morning Glory” wasn’t nearly as easy to follow as expected. We lost it for quite a few times and eventually we completely lost it so started bushwhacking. Thankfully the bush wasn’t nearly as bad as what I’d typically expect for a BC forest. It’s surprisingly open. What actually slowed us down was the post-holing. The November snowpack wasn’t deep but it wasn’t very supportive neither. But on the other hand it’s overall not a long trek to the treeline so we were getting there pretty quickly. It just felt a wee bit longer than expected. As the forest got thinner we started to get better and better view of Mt. Albreda looking back. Towards west more and more Cariboos started to show up.
Once getting out of the trees wind suddenly picked up. Given the air temperature below -15 degrees it was more than just a bit frosty… We had to immediately put all layers on and it was still very cold. The best way to stay warm was to generate heat by ascending aggressively the steep slope ahead. The ascent up Stargazer’s south slope was steeper than appeared and at a few sections it was almost too steep for snowshoeing. And there was still lots of post-holing involved as well. We thought the ridge would be wind-blown but it wasn’t the case. Well, I forgot this was in Interior BC, not in Rockies’ front ranges…
Nonetheless with good perseverance as well as the desire for a kicking-ass view we kept marching up, step by step. The slope turned out a bit longer than expected, but once cresting the top we were treated with a bit WOW moment. The long, greenish Kinbasket Lake and the king, Mt. Robson surely stole the show, but other giants such as Mt. Sir Wilfred Laurier were trying their best to compete. Towards east were a full panorama of Selwyn Range in the Rockies, a range that desires more exploration. Despite the coldness we stayed for quite a while on the summit wondering around taking hundreds of pictures.
Eventually it’s the time to leave these views behind. Retracing our steps back down the ridge was fast but required caution. Some sections were quite thin and we didn’t want to damage our snowshoes by hitting the rocks. Once getting down to treeline the rest would be simply putting one foot in front of another. Descending soft snow on snowshoes is certainly fast and furious. We originally thought about wondering around on some nearby unnamed ridges but given the lateness we didn’t bother with that. Well, we’ll leave that for another trip in a different season, as some of the alpine lakes nearby would be supreme bivy spots.
We finished the trip by about 4:30 pm which was quite reasonable. But given the lengthy drive back home it’s certainly not early. Ben managed to drive down the slippery logging road without incidence and then we took turn driving back home. Eventually we made back to Edmonton after 11 pm. Overall, this was a very satisfying trip, and once again, we picked an excellent objective taking advantage of the high pressure system. I think in the future given similar forest we’d do more BC trips for sure.