January 4, 2017
North Shore Mountains, BC
Mt. Windsor is one of the northernmost peaks along the Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT). While thousands of hikers attempt the various portions of the HSCT, not many people venture up this peak despite the fact there’s actually a smaller trail leading that way. To tag Mt. Windsor itself the most logistic way is by Deeks Lake Trail from Porteau Cove and the majority of the ascent is nothing more than just a forested plod. The tame nature of this peak also suggests a straightforward winter ascent and the various trip reports on ClubTread help to confirm this.
Towards the tailing end of this Arctic high pressure system Al and I decided to combine Mt. Windsor with the nearby Deeks Peak to make a loop traverse. A few sections of the route would be steep but given the recently broken set of tracks there’s little to worry about. However, it’s still a big day with around 1800 m cumulative elevation gain so we had to make an alpine start. It was a bit of slow going in the morning considering this was the 3rd day in a roll of peak-bagging for me, but we did manage to start the plod by around 5:30 am from Porteau Cove.
There’s not much to document about the initial 3.8 km walk up Porteau Road other than putting one foot in front of another for about an hour. Snowshoes were strapped about halfway down the road but then were taken off once the road ended and the Deeks Lake Trail started. There’s a dry stretch along the lower portion of this trail with lots of roots and rocks and I didn’t feel like wrecking my ‘shoes. After what seemed like quite a while the post-holing took over again so we once again, donned the ‘shoes, and then the sky had become bright enough to not require head-lamps. More mind-numbing plod were followed, then the trail had become increasingly steep and started to make some large switchbacks, and the next thing we had arrived at Deeks Lake. Following the previous set of tracks we walked around the left edge of this lake and soon enough it’s time to enter the forest again.
Thank to the previous group breaking the set of snowshoe tracks there’s not much work left for us to do other than again, putting one foot in front of another. The section from Deeks Lake to Deeks/Windsor col was much longer than what appears on topographic maps and seemed to drag on forever. A food break was taken somewhere along the way but then it’s getting cold so we had to keep moving. Near Deeks/Windsor col the terrain finally opened up a bit. Leaving the set of tracks we soon started the Mt. Windsor’s NW Ridge and that had a few steep rolls.
Biting firmly on the surface utilizing our Lightning Ascents the 35-degree slopes were easily attacked head-on. The terrain levelled a bit and a flat bench dumped us below another steep rise and looking ahead we made the call to aim for a lower break. The snowshoes once again, bit firmly on the hard surface and were worn right to the ridge and then we turned left. I led the way cutting a few hard switchbacks up a short, but steep forested stretch and then Al took over the lead and broke trail straight up the final push. I had to say it’s a wee bit steeper than I was expecting before this trip. We were glad to have stable conditions and then it’s time to take a well deserved summit break.
To our great surprise there’s actually very minimal wind on the summit so we spent at least a good half an hour soaking in the views, but eventually it’s time to move on as we still had a long ways to go. Plunging down the upper NW Ridge was fast and furious and once dropping into the shaded lower section it’s a different game. I decided to just take the snowshoes off and walk/post-hole down to the col as otherwise the hard surface would be too hard on the knees. At least without the ‘shoes I could just plunge.
Now back to Deeks/Windsor col it’s time to take another break before preparing for an ascent of Deeks Peak via the connecting ridge. Regarding Mt. Windsor itself I’d definitely recommend as a winter ascent for the views but thank to the forested slog I don’t think many will come visit this thing twice.