Duffey Peak

March 3, 2019


Pemberton / Duffey Lake Road, BC

The officially-named Duffey Peak shares the same name as Duffey Lake Road but this peak itself is rather topographically insignificant in the region. This is the westernmost summit in Joffre Group and is overshadowed by the bigger neighbours, but the approach is somewhat challenging in its own way. The direct access is a painful bushwhack up the NW Ridge while the longer but more scenic approach traverses over Tszil Mountain from Joffre Lakes. The scenic ridge route has been done on a regular basis in summer by peak-baggers, but upon examining various maps and my own photos I decided to challenge that. I had been wishing to ascend as many Joffre Group peaks as possible, if not all of them in winter time and that would have to include Tszil Mountain and Duffey Peak. My plan was to bag Tszil Mtn. via the winter route (Tszil Glacier) before making a long traverse over to Duffey Peak. The plan hadn’t materialized until the very last minute. I made that spontaneous call on the summit of Tszil Mountain.

Tszil Mtn. and Duffey Peak via Tszil Glacier. GPX DL

From the summit of Tszil Mountain I dropped directly towards Tszil/Slalok col. On hindsight I should have retraced my steps back onto the uppermost Tszil Glacier. The punishment for taking that direct short-cut was the need to take snowshoes off in trade for crampons. The ridge was steep, icy and full of boulders in wind-blown zone. I continued bootpacking down for a while wearing crampons. The initial descent off Tszil/Slalok col down its south side was probably 35+ degrees but soon the grade eased off and the post-holing took over. I made a quick transition to strap the snowshoes back on. The descent from Tszil/Slalok col down to that very small (frozen) tarn under Two Goat Ridge involved more than 300 vertical meters of elevation loss. The snow was not the most pleasant for downhill snowshoeing thank to the recent cold temperatures and strong winds. I made there in good time nonetheless.

Slalok Mountain from partway down Tszil Mtn.

Ahead would be the 300 m drop into the bowl south of Tszil/Slalok col

A sideways view across the south face of Tszil Mtn., from partway down the slope

From the low point I made a gradual ascent onto the flat, undulating Two Goat Ridge and followed it up and over several small rises due south towards Duffey Peak. Thankfully the trail-breaking was not too bad as otherwise this stage would take forever. The objective never seemed to get any closer but my perseverance paid off eventually and I got to the base of Duffey Peak. The NE Ridge of Duffey Peak looked more serious than I was hoping for and I was glad to have packed ice axe and crampons despite the fact I wasn’t expecting to need them. To my surprise I came across a set of skiers’ tracks that were probably a few days’ old coming out of nowhere. I followed the somewhat faint set of tracks zig-zagging up the steep start of Duffey Peak’s NE Ridge until the ridge narrowed down to a couple meters wide. The tracks transitioned into a short bootpack track and sure enough the skiers had dropped in a seriously steep line on the NE Face. I was back on my own. The ridge was too narrow for snowshoeing so I ditched them and donned crampons and took the ice axe out. On hindsight I should have carried the snowshoes over this narrow stretch.

Ascending onto the undulating Two Goat Ridge

Looking back at a couple unnamed peaks south of Mt. Matier

A review shot of Tszil Mtn. and Slalok Mtn. and the route I took

Mt. Spetch and Mt. Matier

The north face of Twin Goat Mountain

This is my objective – Duffey Peak and its NE Ridge on the right

There were several steep rolls along Two Goat Ridge

Fast forward. Partway up the NE Ridge of Duffey Peak looking at the bootpack part

Snowshoes were ditched and time to do some snow climbing.

The exposed part was short-lived and post-holing took over soon after that. I thought about going back to get the snowshoes but decided to just suck it up. I swore literally a ton for making that stupid mistake, but I was only 100 vertical meters below the summit so how bad could it be. There were a few spots that I wallowed up to my waist, but averagely speaking it wasn’t too bad. Near the summit I had to be careful with huge cornices dangling over the north face. The slope angle increased again near the summit but the climbing was easier than it looked. It took me 6.5 hours to reach the summit of Duffey Peak from the parking lot by traversing over Tszil Mtn. and I decided to award myself by a half-an-hour break, even though there wasn’t much daylight time left.

Above the narrow section, looking back.

This is looking over the top of Duffey’s SE Ridge

Almost at the summit now, looking back at the Joffre Group peaks

Summit Panorama from Duffey Peak. Click to view large size.

Cloudraker Mountain to the south. I ascended it in Dec. 2015

Gunsight Peak in the foreground with Nivalis Mtn. behind

Wedge Mountain and Lesser Wedge Mountain

Meditation Mountain is that rocky fang. To its right is Lindisfarne Mountain

Priory Peaks

Asherah Peak

Snowspider Mountain

A zoomed-in view of Twin Goat Mountain (foreground)

Slalok Mountain and its SW Face

Cayoosh Mountain and Mt. Marriott across the road

This is looking into Pemberton Valley, with Ipsoot Mtn. behind

A wider view looking south over Twin Goat Mtn.

The frozen summit cairn. I don’t see this peak seeing a lot of winter ascents

Lillooet Lake and Lillooet River Valley to the south

Me on the summit of Duffey Peak

Another photo of me on the summit of Duffey Peak

To my surprise there was cellphone signal on the summit so I did one last thing before descending – a live update on Facebook… My fingers froze after typing a few sentences and I was glad the phone didn’t die in that -20 degrees temperature… So down I went. Retracing my own steps down the NE Ridge went by easily and fluently. I made another quick transition to swap crampons for snowshoes, and enjoyed a fast plunge down to the flat Two Goat Ridge. Plodding back across the ridge was tedious as fuck, but I had to face it. Before regaining that 300 vertical meters to Tszil/Slalok col I took another energy break. This time I didn’t bother to sit down, but rather trying to maintain the momentum. After eating a pie I was soon back in the game. I set the new goal as to beat sunset time to get off Tszil Glacier and in order to do so I had to push harder. It turned out that I got back onto Tszil/Slalok col minutes before the evening alpenglow. The descent off Tszil Glacier following my own tracks was painful thank to the breakable crusts but manageable for an experienced snowshoer. I eventually had to take the headlamps out while plodding back out of the “Taylor/Tszil valley” towards the upper Joffre Lake. Once rejoining the main Joffre Lakes trail I took the snowshoes off. The steep, packed and slippery trail was much easier to manage without snowshoes.

Off the steepest stretch on Duffey Peak’s NE Ridge. Looking back

Ahead is that narrow, corniced ridge section

Back onto Two Goat Ridge now, time to plod the long ways back

This is such a gorgeous area to explore

My lone set of snowshoe tracks.. In the background is a sub-summit of Duffey Peak

A zoomed-in view of Mt. Matier – the highest in Joffre Group

Another shot of the couple unnamed peaks south of Mt. Matier

Tszil Mtn., Slalok Mtn., and Tszil/Slalok col

This is looking at Mt. Taylor and Tszil Mountain

Back to the basin south of Tszil/Slalok col now. Ahead was the big grunt

Undulating but gorgeous terrain.

Partway up the huge grunt, looking back.

Twin Goat Mountain behind Two Goat Ridge

The last sun rays on Duffey Peak (foreground), with Mt. James Turner behind on skyline

Meadow Dome and Priory Peaks in evening colours

A wider view looking south in the evening glow time.

Once crossing to the north side of Tszil/Slalok col I could see this face of Slalok Mtn.

Mt. Marriott on evening glow

A sea of ridges in the eastern Duffey zone.

Part of the west face of Slalok Mtn., view from partway down Tszil Glacier

My round trip time was 10.5 hours which was not bad considering I was breaking trail the whole way from below Tszil Glacier all the way to Duffey Peak and back. I wasn’t pushing super hard but my pace was steady throughout and all transitions were done as efficiently as I could handle. The route was super scenic but required a long haul and certainly required ascending/traversing all aspects of serious avalanche terrain. A stable snowpack is a must to get this one done safely. All in all this was another awesome day in the mountains. The drive home was uneventful and I eventually got back by 11 pm, almost 18 hours after waking up in the morning.