Mount Spetch

February 23, 2017

2579m

Pemberton / Duffey Lake Road, BC

Thank to the proximity to the three Duffey classics – Mt. Matier, Joffre Peak and Slalok Mountain in the heart of Joffre Group, this not-so-prominent Mt. Spetch seems overlooked in the mountaineering community. This is a bit unfortunate as Mt. Spetch is such a gorgeous peak and offers aesthetic routes on all sides. There is no walk-up route to the summit, however. For skiers two routes are commonly used – the NW Face which goes at a continuous 40-45 degree run from the summit down to Matier Glacier while the “NE Couloir” offers a steeper and shorter variation. The SE Ridge from Spetch/Hartzell col has also been used by scramblers and goes up “3rd class”.

For me the choice is simple. The NW Face is by any mean the easiest route to reach this summit and regarding skiing vs. snowshoeing I’d go with snowshoes as they’re much more robust for the peak-bagging purpose. Speaking the approach, Anniversary Glacier from Cerise Creek is the most obvious one but having already done it two times (for Mt. Matier and then Joffre Peak) I wanted something different. The Matier Icefall approach from Joffre Lakes is exactly what I was looking for. It’s a little bit more complicated and hazardous but on the other hand, it’d be more fun. Having made my mind at the last minute I left home at 2:30 am on Thursday morning and three hours later I found myself gearing up at Joffre Lakes parking lot. There were only two others cars parked there and it’s such a quiet scene comparing to what it usually is. It makes sense as it’s damn cold and still in pitch dark…

Mt. Spetch and Mt. Hartzell via Matier Glacier approach

Mt. Spetch and Mt. Hartzell via Matier Glacier approach. GPX DL

This was my second time doing the Joffre Lakes approach. On my first visit when going for the N. Face of Slalok there were some steep sections between the first and the second Joffre Lake and the trail was as hard-packed as one could expect. Knowing this in advance I opted to bootpack up the trail while carrying snowshoes. This was a good call as the trail was indeed very packed and in fact, it was almost too icy to hike without traction device. I was not in the mood to don crampons this early in the day so “tip-toed” most of the way up, and made to the second lake nonetheless. Onwards I skirted around the left (east) side of the second lake and had no issue following the trail to the third lake. The sky was finally bright enough at this point and I did the first gear switching of the day – swapping head-lamp for my camera. A mandatory food break was taken at the same time, of course.

Plodding across the upper Joffre Lake I soon strapped the snowshoes on. I did not have to at this point but it surely sped things up. Regarding the climber’s left side approach to Matier Icefall, the correctly way is by taking the crest of the obvious moraine up and then cutting a long traverse near the top. The main reason is to avoid the serac’s drop zone. The route I took is further to the climber’s right and the reasoning was to avoid that side-hilling higher up. It wasn’t obvious to me from my perspective in the faint morning light, but this was a poor choice as the terrain kept forcing me to go further to the right and this exposed me to the serac hazard from above. Ascending the debris was slow going and at sections I had to maneuver around some icy patches that even my Lightning Ascents couldn’t bite firmly. At the same time there’s that very cold katabatic wind blowing down and I did not like it at all. Around a corner I finally got myself out of the serac hazard but the wind only got worse. There were two more steep rises and both had to be overcome by cutting some tight switchbacks, before arriving at the plateau on Matier Glacier.

Above the upper Joffre Lake now, looking back at the tip of Cayoosh Mtn. catching morning glow

Above the upper Joffre Lake now, looking at the tip of Cayoosh Mtn. catching morning glow

Another shot looking back at the upper Joffre Lake and the morning horizon

Another shot looking back at the upper Joffre Lake and the morning horizon

Alpenglow on Cayoosh Mountain

Alpenglow on Cayoosh Mountain

Grunting my way up the climber's left access to the Matier Icefall

Grunting my way up the climber’s left access to the Matier Icefall

Looking down about partway up.

Looking down about partway up.

The view is very foreshortening here.

The view is very foreshortening here.

Here I reached the toe of the glacier. Looking sideways across towards Mt. Taylor

Here I reached the toe of the glacier. Looking sideways across towards Mt. Taylor

Impressive icefalls

Impressive icefalls

Another shot of the Matier Glacier icefalls

Another shot of the Matier Glacier icefalls

Needless to say it was a long haul from upper Joffre Lake to Matier Glacier but once there the scenery was really good especially looking at my objectives – Mt. Spetch and Mt. Hartzell. Neither of the two looked easy though but at this point I had already picked up a set of skin tracks and it seemed like they were leading towards the direction I wanted. The track weaved around a few large saggings and eliminated any route-finding issue for me. The rest of the glacier travel to the base of Mt. Spetch’s NW Face was straightforward but looking up I could see the tracks stopping about one third of the way up the NW Face. Upon close examination I could see that a small pocket soft slab was triggered by one of the skiers and that explained why they turned around.

Morning view looking at Place Glacier Group - Mt. Oleg, Cirque Peak, etc.

Morning view looking at Place Glacier Group – Mt. Oleg, Cirque Peak, etc.

A well-defined set of skin tracks leading onto the Matier Glacier

A well-defined set of skin tracks leading onto the Matier Glacier

Looking down at the Icefalls that I just passed by

Looking down at the Icefalls that I just passed by

Cayoosh Mountain

Cayoosh Mountain

Mt. Taylor

Mt. Taylor

The east side of Slalok Mountain. A popular access goes up the lower right of this shot

The east side of Slalok Mountain. A popular access goes up the lower right of this shot

Looking ahead towards my objective - Mt. Hartzell and Mt. Spetch

Looking ahead towards my objective – Mt. Hartzell and Mt. Spetch

Matier (L), Hartzell (C) and Spetch (R) from Matier Glacier

Matier (L), Hartzell (C) and Spetch (R) from Matier Glacier

Another shot from the glacier.

Another shot from the glacier.

Looking back..

Looking back..

Getting closer to my first objective now - Mt. Spetch

Getting closer to my first objective now – Mt. Spetch

A zoomed-in shot looking at the distant Mt. Marriott

A zoomed-in shot looking at the distant Mt. Marriott

This is the NW Face of Mt. Spetch. Route basically goes straight up the face

This is the NW Face of Mt. Spetch. Route basically goes straight up the face

The E. Face of Slalok Mountain

The E. Face of Slalok Mountain

A bit hesitating at this moment but any instability was only on the very top layer, and it’s soft and dry. Swapping snowshoes for ice axe and crampons, and then up I went. I stayed to the left of the skier’s tracks and went more-or-less straight up the face but trending a bit to the left, being extra alert on any presence of wind slabs. The steepest part was actually near the bottom (40-45 degrees) and quite short-lived. The middle section was fairly mellow and for the upper face I had the option to either merge onto the ridge or keep going up the face. I opted for the latter and after another steep, but short pitch I arrived at the broad summit.

Going up the face now. This sideways view shows the slope angle.

Going up the face now. This sideways view shows the slope angle.

Boot-packing up the lower face

Boot-packing up the lower face

Looking up the upper face

Looking up the upper face

Looking back down at the shoulder of Slalok Mountain

Looking back down at the shoulder of Slalok Mountain

A full view of Slalok Mountain

A full view of Slalok Mountain

Almost on the summit now, looking down.

Almost on the summit now, looking down.

The last push.

The last push.

Summit Panorama from Mt. Spetch. Click to view large size.

Summit Panorama from Mt. Spetch. Click to view large size.

Mt. Matier and its NW Face

Mt. Matier and its NW Face

The north face of Mt. Hartzell. My route would go up from the backside.

The north face of Mt. Hartzell. My route would go up from the backside.

These are the bunch of peaks in the "East Duffey" area - Elusive, Tigger, etc.

These are the bunch of peaks in the “East Duffey” area – Elusive, Tigger, etc.

This is looking down the Duffey Road towards Lillooet direction. Mt. Brew is the highest.

This is looking down the Duffey Road towards Lillooet direction. Mt. Brew is the highest.

The majestic Joffre Peak

The majestic Joffre Peak

Whitecap Mountain dominates the skyline looking that way.

Whitecap Mountain dominates the skyline looking that way.

Hibachi Ridge (L) and Mt. Currie (R)

Hibachi Ridge (L) and Mt. Currie (R)

Wedge Mountain (L) and Mt. Weart (R)

Wedge Mountain (L) and Mt. Weart (R)

A whole bunch of peaks by Spearhead Traverse

A whole bunch of peaks by Spearhead Traverse

Mt. Sir Richard et al. by the remote McBride Traverse

Mt. Sir Richard et al. by the remote McBride Traverse

This is looking at Cloudrakar Mountain which I had fond memories with.

This is looking at Cloudrakar Mountain which I had fond memories with.

A wider shot looking down the Lillooet Lake valley

A wider shot looking down the Lillooet Lake valley

Twin Goat Mountain in the foreground

Twin Goat Mountain in the foreground

A wider shot looking at the panorama of peaks in Garibaldi P. Park

A wider shot looking at the panorama of peaks in Garibaldi P. Park

This is looking down the SE Ridge of Mt. Spetch - reported to be a good scramble in summer

This is looking down the SE Ridge of Mt. Spetch – reported to be a good scramble in summer

A zoomed-in shot of Duffey Peak

A zoomed-in shot of Duffey Peak

Me on the summit of Mt. Spetch

Me on the summit of Mt. Spetch

Another shot of me on the summit of Mt. Spetch

Another shot of me on the summit of Mt. Spetch

Another panorama from the summit of Mt. Spetch. Click to view large size.

Another panorama from the summit of Mt. Spetch. Click to view large size.

The views were incredible towards all directions with Joffre, Matier and Slalok stealing the snow, but having another objective to do and knowing the weather was going to turn later in the day I didn’t do much lingering on the summit. The soft snow had made some easy plunging down the upper mountain. Nothing really moved except for some small sluffing. For the steep section near the bottom I turned my face in and easily plunged down.

Another shot of Joffre Peak before going down

Another shot of Joffre Peak before going down

The lower flanks of Slalok Mountain, looking down the north side.

The lower flanks of Slalok Mountain, looking down the north side.

Big crevasses on Matier Glacier

Big crevasses on Matier Glacier

Looking down the upper NW Face of Mt. Spetch.

Looking down the upper NW Face of Mt. Spetch.

This is the lower NW Face

This is the lower NW Face

A sideway view from the lower face

A sideway view from the lower face

My boot tracks.

My boot tracks.

Two skiers on their way up Slalok Mountain.

Two skiers on their way up Slalok Mountain.

One last look at Joffre Peak before going for my next objective - Mt. Hartzell

Another view of Joffre Peak before going for my next objective – Mt. Hartzell

Grabbing my ditched snowshoes I continued boot-packing down for a while until the grade became flat. A few minutes were then spent swapping gears and then I immediately turned my attention to the nearby Mt. Hartzell. Regarding the peak I just ascended I’d say it deserved more attention. Although it’s considerably smaller than Matier, Joffre or Slalok it offers some equally-exciting mountaineering opportunities.

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