December 30, 2015
Pemberton / Lillooet Lake Road, BC
Cloudraker Mountain is a glaciated massive, a fairly prominent peak dominating the SE side of Lillooet Lake west of the Stein Divide. The climb isn’t particularly difficult but the access has become tricky in the recent years. It seemed like the approach via Rogers Creek FSR and the long SE Ridge would offer the easiest way up this peak, and the traditional way from Lizzie Creek Cabin up the N. Face is a longer and more difficult, although more interesting option, but no matter what it’d probably require at least 2-3 days. This was the primary objective of our 8-day Lizzie Creek Cabin ski trip and Alex, Alan, Ben and myself managed to put it down on the 6th day, after an alpine start at 5:30 am followed by traversing up and over Famine Mountain and Hanging Mist Peak early in the morning.
There appeared no easy way down from Hanging Mist Peak to the glacier below but upon examining closely I found a spot where the cornice was the shallowest. We dropped down from there (only about 1 m of vertical snow) and easily descended to the glacier. The glacier was tame and easy to ascend with no obvious crevasse on our route and we reached the base of the north face in no time.
The north face appeared steep from afar and still looked fairly steep from just underneath. We had discussed various route options and I initially led a way boot-packing traverse horizontally towards the “lower break”, but the post-holing had become arduous about halfway across the massive face. I got tired of the post-holing and thinking given the stability we might as well do a more aesthetic line so started booting up diagonally up towards climber’s left. I had spotted a steep couloir feature on the face and that’s where we’d go. The couloir was a bit steep than I thought (probably max. out to 50 degrees) and the post-holing wasn’t getting much better, but oh well.. After clearing this couloir there’s still one short, but exposed traverse to the left to intersect the SE Ridge.
The other guys soon finished the couloir climb and the rest of the ascent via SE Ridge was an easy boot-pack, although we still had to be careful about the cornices near the summit. The views were great towards each direction with lots of peaks that I’d never seen before. We did spend at least half an hour on the summit but knowing it’s still a long way back we had to get moving soon.
We opted to down-climb where we came up which was pretty fun and then back to the skis we all enjoyed a great run down the glacier to Hanging Mist/Cloudraker col. We could have ascended Hanging Mist Peak via the direct SW ridge but decided to climb up and over that little cornice (just for more fun). We then kept the skins on descending the icy and crusty snow, down-scrambled that tricky rock step and soon we were back to Famine/Hanging Mist col.
From there we made the decision to bypass the summit of Famine Mountain on the south side as per earlier observation. We skin’d to the crest of its broad south ridge and then enjoyed a long run down to the valley between Shields Peak and Famine Mountain. The snow condition was a bit wind affected and crusty but manageable. I did trigger another small surface slab on a convex roll but everything seemed to bond well. A short ascent we were back to the skin tracks and easily followed it around the south side of Shields Peak to the broad Tarn/Shields pass. From there it’s a mere, albeit tedious plod back to Long Lake and finally, back to cabin.
Our round trip time from the cabin was about 10 hours which was just as expected. We did take advantage of the skin tracks and the relatively minimal trail-breaking on the alpine. The climb of the N. Face was for sure the highlight of this trip and I’m super glad we did manage to put this one down. Now with Cloudraker knocked down we were all tired and demotivated. Anemone, Tabletop, Arrowhead and Tynemouth are the remaining 4 in our immediate environ which Alex and Ben had already bagged two years ago. It’s apparent we didn’t have to stay the whole 10-day period and the ski-out on Day 8 was decided, but in my secret mind I was already counting on another big guy to come down once we come back to civilization and if weather indeed could hold till the supposed Day 10. But right now we just had to think one day at a time. For Day 7, I’d love to ascend the remaining all 4 but Anemone and Tabletop was right beside the summer trail (Stein Traverse) which I’d for sure some back for at some point, so the other two would be my priority. Ben agreed to join me on Arrowhead and Tynemouth while Alan and Alex decided to have a rest day.