Joffre Peak

January 7, 2016

2721m

Pemberton / Duffey Lake Road, BC

Not to be confused with Mt. Joffre in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country which I bagged a few years ago in late June, this one is the second highest peak in its namesake group up the Duffey Lake Road in the Coast Mountains. Although not as mighty as the Rockies’ Joffre, this one still stands out and appears like a formidable fortress from all angles. From my limited research this is probably the hardest summit in Joffre Group (by easiest route) and among the dozen routes it boasts, only two are within my technical ability – the route described in Matt Gunn’s Scrambles in SW British Columbia guidebook (one of the most difficult in that book and goes “semi-technical”), and the southwest gully (or commonly known as Aussie Couloir) that goes at 40-45 degree snow climb for 400 vertical meters.

Either of the two would work for me but since I just ascended Mt. Matier a few days ago and had the Aussie Couloir in sight for hours I knew I had to climb it as soon as the condition’s in. Fortunately for me I didn’t have to wait for long. The supposed low pressure system didn’t dump much snow to the mountains and the condition stayed M/L/L for Thursday and L/L/L afterwards. I knew something would have come down over the weekend so Thursday worked better for me, but as usual for a week-day trip a solo ascent was in the order.

Joffre Peak ascent via Aussie Couloir

Joffre Peak ascent via Aussie Couloir. GPX DL

A 2 am wake-up call, a familiar drive up the Sea-to-Sky Corridor and the Duffey Road and by 5:40 am I was already plodding up the Cerise Creek approach route.. Unlike a few days ago, I opted for snowshoes this time and I have to say that after a full month of skiing it felt a bit strange to strap the ‘shoes on again. The motion felt entirely different. Due to the (much lighter) gears I could plod at a faster frequency but then there’s no glide for every step forward. But nonetheless I made good progress following the highway of tracks. Again, there’s lots of post-holes created by hikers although I wouldn’t complain this time. For snowshoeing the “lower glacier” route offers the better approach option (versus the Keith Hut and Motel 66), as it avoids side-hilling for as much as possible. But unfortunately for me, the skin tracks all went towards the hut leaving me breaking trail alone starting pretty much from the bottom of the moraine. I plodded up through the “gate” of the two big lateral moraines and then up the lower glacial tongue. Towards the obvious rock outcrop I veered right up a gully feature and joined the other route just after “Motel 66”.

Joffre Peak as seen from the lower Anniversary Glacier

Joffre Peak as seen from the lower Anniversary Glacier

Very much like a few days ago, the sky had become brighter at this stage and I took a short break switching headlamp for camera. The difference was that there’s a layer of clouds rolling in from the north. The lighting was still good at this point but a few hours later I wasn’t so sure. Still no track as I ascended onto the upper Anniversary Glacier and being on snowshoes I just broke a set of tracks aiming straight up the slope towards Joffre/Matier col. This section of the plod was very foreshortening and took me a good while. I felt tired probably due to the trail-breaking but as I timed myself I managed to make to the col actually slightly faster than my Mt. Matier’s trip, so apparently I was doing good.

Morning colour over Vantage & Duke

Morning colour over Vantage & Duke

First light shone on Joffre Peak's cliff face

First light shone on Joffre Peak’s cliff face

Looking ahead to the upper Anniversary Glacier

Looking ahead to the upper Anniversary Glacier

Looking across the face of Joffre Peak

Looking across the face of Joffre Peak

Already higher than Vantage Peak, looking towards the eastern Duffey area

Already higher than Vantage Peak, looking towards the eastern Duffey area

Near Joffre/Matier col, looking at Joffre Peak

Near Joffre/Matier col, looking at Joffre Peak

Looking down at my tracks on Anniversary Glacier

Looking down at my tracks on Anniversary Glacier

Slalok Mountain from Joffre/Matier col

Slalok Mountain from Joffre/Matier col

I'd descend in this depression zone to Aussie's entrance

I’d descend in this depression zone to Aussie’s entrance

Around the col I dropped into a depression zone and plodded down to the entrance of Aussie Couloir (losing some elevation along the way). The couloir appeared insanely steep but I knew it’s always not as bad as appeared. I spotted a protected place about 50 m up the couloir so kept my ‘shoes on till that point. Ditching the shoes, switching to ice axe and crampons and then taking a short energy break I immediately focused on the climb ahead. A small moat was easily crossed and the lower couloir went at 40 degree or less. The middle section felt flatter than 40 degrees but as I approaching “the funnel” the grade steepened again.

A large crevasse on the glacier

A large crevasse on the glacier

Starting to see my objective

Starting to see my objective

Looking back at Mt. Matier and the col that I came through (lower left)

Looking back at Mt. Matier and the col that I came through (lower left)

Aussie Couloir properly displaced!

Aussie Couloir properly displaced!

Mt. Spetch

Mt. Spetch

A zoomed-in shot of Aussie Couloir's upper slopes

A zoomed-in shot of Aussie Couloir’s upper slopes

Starting to climb

Starting to climb

Looking upwards. It's like this for 400 meters!

Looking upwards. It’s like this for 400 meters!

Looking across to Matier, Hartzell and Spetch

Looking across to Matier, Hartzell and Spetch

And, looking towards Hartzell, Spetch and Slalok

And, looking towards Hartzell, Spetch and Slalok

Gaining height rapidly, looking down

Gaining height rapidly, looking down

Unfortunately for me the cloud layered rolled in and I entered the world of white. No wind nor precipitation but I lost all the views. The funnel involved some sort of front-pointing on hardpacked snow up to 45 degrees and I cleared it soon. The summit ridge didn’t have massive cornices as described by other trip reports nor did I have to do a tricky traverse. I managed to stay almost entirely on the ridge crest (scrambling with crampons on) and made to the summit in short time. I waited for about 20 minutes but there’s no sign of improvement in weather…

Entering the mist higher up...

Entering the mist higher up…

Kicking-step doesn't get better than this!

Kicking-step doesn’t get better than this!

Exiting the "funnel" and onto the summit ridge

Exiting the “funnel” and onto the summit ridge

The summit in sight

The summit in sight

Looking down the super duper steep E. Face. Is that the Central Couloir??

Looking down the super duper steep E. Face. Is that the Central Couloir??

Looking back along the summit ridge

Looking back along the summit ridge

Me on the summit of Joffre Peak

Me on the summit of Joffre Peak

The summit ridge was easily descended and just before dropping into the couloir I spent some time tightening my shoe lace and taking out the ice tool. I brought it up so might as well use it anyway. With the ice tool the funnel was an easy down-climb with a bit of front-pointing here and there, and once into the main couloir it’s a fast plunge (albeit facing inwards) all the way down to where I ditched gears. Another minute or two was spent switching gears and then the couloir was cleared. The plodding back up to Joffre/Matier col felt tiring but once there I knew the rest would be a simply putting one front in front of another.

Ready to down-climb the couloir

Ready to down-climb the couloir

Me down-climbing.

Me down-climbing.

Looking back

Looking back

Almost done

Almost done

A review shot of Aussie Couloir

A review shot of Aussie Couloir

Back to Joffre/Matier col, looking back towards my objective

Back to Joffre/Matier col, looking back towards my objective

The soft powder on top of the hard old surface had created the ideal down-hill snowshoeing conditions especially for not-so-steep grade, as for each step down I could slide a feet or so forward without impacting too much on the knees. The best way to do it was plunging down side-by-side with my uptracks (not using the uptracks) and in no time I was off the upper glacier. The gully feature was easily descended and then the lower glacier was easily plunged and the next thing I realized I was already down by the moraine. The rest of the return along Cerise Creek wasn’t as fun as skiing but then I didn’t have to curse those uphill rolls.

Plodding down Anniversary Glacier

Plodding down Anniversary Glacier

Looking back at the upper Anniversary Glacier

Looking back at the upper Anniversary Glacier

Down the glacier, looking back at Joffre Peak

Down the glacier, looking back at Joffre Peak

The return along Cerise Creek

The return along Cerise Creek

Joffre Peak's central couloir is a much-more technical climb (and has been ski'd)!

Joffre Peak’s central couloir is a much-more technical climb (and has been ski’d)!

That logging road section

That logging road section

The bridge crossing Cayoosh Creek.

The bridge crossing Cayoosh Creek.

Back to the car my round trip time was just under 9 hours. Despite the overcast sky the visibility was good on Anniversary Glacier and the lighting was okay (no flat light) so on hindsight I should have ski’d it. Timing wise I believe it’s about the same but skiing would have been more fun, although it’s only 4 days after my Matier’s trip so it’s also good to experience the same approach in a different way. And now, with the 1st and 2nd highest peaks in Joffre Group down in a roll, you get the pattern of what’s going to happen next

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