December 16, 2015
Pemberton / Duffey Lake Road, BC
Mt. Rohr is a popular early-season ski objective immediately north of Cayoosh Pass (the highest point on Duffey Lake Road between Pemberton and Lillooet). On a clear day this summit offers some unobstructed views of the north side of Mt. Matier and Joffre Peak just across the highway, so with a very brief high pressure ridge dominating over the SW BC on this past Wednesday I was keen to head there as I hadn’t done any peak nearby the Joffre Group yet.. The problem was, I had to be back in YVR picking up my dad by around 4 pm so that limited what I could do. However, after some research (and some helps from ClubTread) I figured with a 5 AM start I could still get back in time. But of course the long drive (3-4 hours) meant I’d have to get there the previous night and sleep in my car.
The road was a bit slippery as expected but didn’t impose too much of a problem to my small 2WD and I made to the parking lot by 10:30 pm. The sky was clearing up but apparently it’s gonna be a cold night (-15 degrees). After catching up a few hours of sleep I woke up with a some truck sounds and high beams from behind. My first reaction was some trail-head theft going to smash my windows but in another few minutes another truck came by and they started to work around the Ministry of Highways salt shed. It’s getting close to my supposed wake-up time anyway so I just quickly ate the (cold) breakfast, and started my day at just before 5 am.
There were quite a few sets of skin tracks near the start and I immediately picked a wrong one. It led me into the bush and checking my GPS I quickly correctly myself. The correct route follows a logging road that starts 100-200 m west of the parking lot. Once onto the road it was mostly cruise sailing although a few open creek crossings were a little bit interesting on skis… I didn’t have to take my skis off though but doing so involved some risks of getting my skins iced up. About 2 km into the trip this road ended, but the trail was still easy to follow. There were at least 1 or 2 markers/flaggings for every 20 meters, so it’s nearly impossible to get completely lost. In short time I arrived that Rohr/Aspen junction sign (which I didn’t know what “Aspen” was referring), but I didn’t care as I’d follow the “Rohr” side. There were about 2-3 sets of skin tracks and I just picked the most obvious one (which actually deviated slightly from the GPX track I was using). But in the end they all led to the base of that famous boulder field so it didn’t really matter. The boulder field was fairly steep and open but the skin track was easy to follow and the next stop for me was Rohr Lake. I wasn’t 100% sure about the ice quality at this time of a year but the track descended onto the lake, so I just followed across (which looked to be much faster than skirting around). Towards the far end I lost the tracks probably due to the blowing wind and by this time it’s already getting a little bit brighter on the horizon.
From here on the route-finding became easy as I just had to follow the broad valley upwards and onwards due south-east towards my objective. There’s one large bowl with a slight dip towards the end of that valley which I bypassed traversing on the left side without having to lose any elevation. I then went straight up the foreshortened slope on climber’s right side before cutting back left on a bench. The views were already amazing at this point and the only downside was that constant head wind plus the cold temperature. My camera failed and I had to warm it up inside my jacket which basically told it’s at least -20 degrees if not colder…
For the upper mountain I ignored the direct west ridge as the north slopes looked more skier friendly, although it’s steep at places. There’s enough snow to cover most of the boulders and I managed to skin right to the summit cairn. I went down the south side for a little bit in search for a sheltered spot. I didn’t eat nor drink anything on the ascent so I greatly appreciated the 1-hour summit stay to regather my strength in the sunshine.
But eventually it’s time to get going. I hit one boulder on the upper mountain but overall the skiing quality was amazing. It’s even better than Iago Peak which I did a few days ago, although it’s not as steep as that run. In no time I was back into the bowls and looking at the time I decided to do another run. I figured given the perfect snow I just had to make the most use of it. The slopes just to my right on Rancherie Peak looked very inviting so that’s where I’d go next. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time left otherwise I’d for sure go all the way up that peak as it’s looking fairly straightforward via the S. Ridge. But nonetheless, the skiing was super fun.
The next stage of the return through those bowls and Rohr Lake involved fair amount of flat terrain which kinda sucked, but then it came the boulder field descent which was just as fun as the alpine part. Into the trees the terrain was a little bit too icy, steep and tight for my like so I didn’t cruise down that fast. The road slog near the end wasn’t that fast neither thank to the many flat (and even uphill) sections. As a result I didn’t finish the trip until almost 1 pm which was a little bit later than I thought.
At the parking lot I was welcomed by a whole bunch of guys making some kind of movie or TV shows that explained the two trucks earlier in the morning.. The drive down Duffey Road and through the Sea-to-Sky Corridor was fast without the weekend traffic, but once into the Lower Mainland it’s a different story. There firstly came that 1-hour traffic delay by Lions Gate Bridge followed by the Downtown gong show. I ended up late by almost 1 hour to YVR but that’s still fine. But then from Richmond back to Surrey across that Alex Fraser Bridge I was caught in traffics again.. Quite a frustrating way to end an otherwise, perfect day spent in the mountains.