Stargazer Peak

November 11, 2014

2411m

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.

Stargazer Peak ascent route from Clemina Creek

Stargazer Peak ascent route from Clemina Creek. GPX DL

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.

Morning colour shone on Mt. Milton

Morning colour shone on Mt. Milton

We drove to as far as we could (~ 9 km up the road)

We drove to as far as we could (~ 9 km up the road)

Strapping snowshoes on soon

Strapping snowshoes on soon

Snowshoeing up the forestry road

Snowshoeing up the forestry road

There was just enough snow to keep snowshoes on.

There was just enough snow to keep snowshoes on.

The logging road. In summer we could shave another 5 km off.

The logging road. In summer we could shave another 5 km off.

Our objective. We ascended the right-hand skyline ridge

Our objective. We ascended the right-hand skyline ridge

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.

Following "Morning Glory" snowmobile run for a while

Following “Morning Glory” snowmobile run for a while

Now, post-holing started. I like the snowy trees though.

Now, post-holing started. I like the snowy trees though.

Near treeline now, with our objective in front

Near treeline now, with our objective in front

One of the many unnamed peaks nearby

One of the many unnamed peaks nearby

Looking back, this is the majestic Mt. Albreda

Looking back, this is the majestic Mt. Albreda

A closer look at Mt. Albreda - it's certainly on my to-do list!

A closer look at Mt. Albreda – it’s certainly on my wish list!

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…

Looking west into the Cariboos

Looking west into the Cariboos

At places trail-breaking got quite tough

At places trail-breaking got quite tough

And, the slope was quite steep

And, the slope was quite steep

Marching up!

Marching up!

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.

Panorama from the summit. Click to view large size.

Panorama from the summit. Click to view large size.

Panorama of the Rocky Mountain Trench from the summit. Click to view large size.

Panorama of the Rocky Mountain Trench from the summit. Click to view large size.

The mythic BC summit green tower!

The mythic BC summit green tower!

Ben approaching the summit

Ben approaching the summit

Bigger peaks in the northern Monashees. I think it's near "Mt. Charlotte"

Bigger peaks in the northern Monashees. I think it’s near “Mt. Charlotte”

"Jag Peak" in Selwyn Range. Most of the names in this area are from bivouac.com

“Jag Peak” in Selwyn Range. Most of the names in this area are from bivouac.com

Behind "Jenette Peak" on the left skyline we could see the Ramparts

Behind “Jenette Peak” on the left skyline we could see the Ramparts

Looking way south towards the Northern Selkirks

Looking way south towards the Northern Selkirks

Mt. Sir Wilfred Laurier, highest summit in the Cariboos

Mt. Sir Wilfred Laurier, highest summit in the Cariboos

Mt. Longstaff, Whitehorn Mountain and Mt. Phillips

Mt. Longstaff, Whitehorn Mountain and Mt. Phillips

Mt. Robson the king, and Resplendent Mountain

Mt. Robson the king, and Resplendent Mountain

Mt. Geikie, highest peak in the Ramparts

Mt. Geikie, highest peak in the Ramparts

"Jenette Peak" - highest summit in the Selwyn Range

“Jenette Peak” – highest summit in the Selwyn Range

Way in the distance is Mt. Fraser, with Mt. Edith Cavell on the right skyline

Way in the distance is Mt. Fraser, with Mt. Edith Cavell on the right skyline

Peaks on Hooker Icefield - Mt. Scott on left; Mt. Hooker on right

Peaks on Hooker Icefield – Mt. Scott on left; Mt. Hooker on right

Mt. Blackman just across Kinbasket Lake

Mt. Blackman just across Kinbasket Lake, with Mt. Clemenceau on left skyline

Mt. Karlurk is another super sexy peak

Mt. Karlurk is another super sexy peak

Dunkirk Mountain - what a peak... We also got some temporary low clouds scenery

Dunkirk Mountain – what a peak… We also got some temporary low clouds scenery

Mt. Monashee - highest in Monashees

Mt. Monashee – highest in Monashees

A bunch of peaks in the Cariboos, mostly unnamed

A bunch of peaks in the Cariboos, mostly unnamed

Way in the distance we probably could see Mt. Chown and peaks by that area

Way in the distance we probably could see Mt. Chown and peaks by that area

Kinbasket Lake and Rocky Mountain Trench

Kinbasket Lake and Rocky Mountain Trench

Shadow of Stargazer Peak on Kinbasket Lake

Shadow of Stargazer Peak on Kinbasket Lake

The Northern Monashees

The Northern Monashees

One last look at Mt. Robson.

One last look at Mt. Robson.

Ben on the summit soaking in the views.

Ben on the summit soaking in the views.

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.

Descending the steep slope. I certainly want stable snowpack for this ascent. There's no "gentle" route up this peak.

I certainly want stable snowpack for this ascent. There’s no “gentle” route up this peak.

No wonder why snowmobilers like Clemina Creek area. Would be prime ski terrain too!

No wonder why snowmobilers like Clemina Creek area. Would be prime ski terrain too!

Looking back

Looking back

The classic BC tree mushrooms

The classic BC tree mushrooms

What a day!

What a day!

Retracing our tracks, with big terrain all around

Retracing our tracks, with big terrain all around

Winter is here!

Winter is here!

Descending through the trees

Descending through the trees

Back to lower elevation

Back to lower elevation

Ben enjoying the trip

Ben enjoying the trip

Mt. Albreda from roadside at the end of this day

Mt. Albreda from roadside at the end of this day

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.

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