Mount Taylor

January 22, 2023


Pemberton / Duffey Lake Road, BC

Mt. Taylor is one of the smallest summits in the Joffre Group, the “mountaineering central” of Pemberton area of SW British Columbia. For some odd reasons this one had become the only officially-named peak in Joffre Group that I hadn’t done. I had climbed most of the other peaks in the period of 2016-2019 and all of them were done in winter conditions, so I also wanted to do Mt. Taylor in winter to finish off this mini project. The only problem was the insignificant nature of this summit as it’s rather a “bump” on the extended west ridge of Slalok Mountain. Most friends of mine wouldn’t prioritize such an objective, but that’s unfortunate as Mt. Taylor turned out to be a very worthy trip with incredible views. The ascent was also not nearly as “no-brainer” as one would otherwise expect.

The objective for this Sunday changed a few times thank to the not-so-great weather forecast. I was mostly looking at Stevens Pass area in Washington but Holly mentioned the Duffey Lake area of Pemberton was the only place within a few hours’ driving distance that had guaranteed chance of sunshine. I initially wasn’t keen to go north again given the questionable snowpack this year, but then I realized that I still hadn’t done Mt. Taylor and this should be a “simple enough” objective to do even with the current snowpack problems. Holly and I made the decision on Saturday morning and the group quickly grew to as many as eight. Vlad would come and ride with us even though he had done this peak 15 years ago. Raphael Smith had just come back from a trip in Mexico and immediately pulled the trigger to join. I told Raphael to drive separately as I feared he’d be too fast for this team given that he just landed in Vancouver after spending a week at high altitude. Silvana, Roxy, Jenn and Alistair would drive separately and form an independent “team 2”. Given the uncertainties on Sea to Sky Highway I really didn’t know how we should meet up in the morning, so I just told everyone to roughly show up at Joffre Lakes parking lot at 8:15 am. Holly, Vlad and I turned out to be the last group arriving half an hour later than the others at 8:25 am. Raphael was waiting for us and informed that the other group had already opted for a head start 20 or so minutes ago.

The secondary purpose of this trip was to test out and break into my brand new La Sportiva OlyMons 8000M boots that I’d be using in the Himalayas in a couple months. I bought them in April 2022, but never found that perfect trip to wear them in. I wanted to maximize the efficiency by combing this with peak-bagging and I needed a trip that’s entirely on snow, decently cold and meanwhile I wouldn’t be plodding at a racing pace. Mt. Taylor was shaping to become that perfect oppourtunity but I feared the distance would be too long for that purpose. To directly commit to wearing the brand new 8000M boots for the entire day would be too much of a gamble on Mt. Taylor’s success, so I needed back-up plans. I opted to carry my La Sportiva Trango Tech mountaineering boots as contingency, and to make sure I could fit all gears, including ice axe, snowshoes, crampons, avalanche gears and warm cloths for a pre-planned long summit stay comfortably into the backpack (including the 8000M boots if needed) I opted to wear the Mountain Hardwear BMG 105L. For a simple day-hike like this my pack was looking a tad bit too ridiculous.

Mt. Taylor winter route via Taylor/Tszil col. GPX DL

The lacing system of the OlyMons was excellent that I was able to put the boots on not much slower than the others and in short time the four of us, Holly, Vlad, Raphael and myself had started the plod up Joffre Lakes trail. This was my 4th time doing the Joffre Lakes approach and all 4 times were in winter. The ascent from the first to the second lake was as icy as I remembered, but the “climbing zones” on the OlyMons were too good. I was able to just tip-toe up the trail without much slipping. The others also managed the approach sans traction devices (spikes or crampons) but they kept slipping and sliding. Because the other team had started earlier the 4 of us did the approach in a timely manner. The original plan was to plod at a leisure pace but now we were back to our “usual” hiking pace. Thankfully the boots seemed to fit well that I was able to keep up without a problem.

Raphael and Vlad negotiating the increasingly icy Joffre Lakes trail
Me at the second lake with my 8000M boots
Vlad found that famous Insta-log covered in snow…

Instead of following the trail around the 3rd lake we opted to follow skier’s tracks to plod across the lake. To do that we needed to strap the snowshoes on. I had previously tested the fitting of the OlyMons boots to my snowshoes at home but in the coldness the rubbers were a bit too stiff to extend. It turned out that I barely managed to fit the boots into the “Paragon” binding system. For reference my boot size is 41.5 and my snowshoes are women’s 25′ Lightning Ascents. Any larger sized boots would definitely not fit and this could be used as a reference for those (myself in particular) planning to climb Denali and/or Vinson on snowshoes. Snowshoeing in these boots was actually not as terrible as I thought so I didn’t slow down the team after all. We quickly picked up the other group’s snowshoe tracks meandering among trees and in short time, after a bit of bushwhacking we were in the alpine. I noted that the other team had ascended a rather large moraine on climber’s right and Holly said that’s the summer route. I had no idea about where one should go in the summer but I knew the correct way to ascend to Taylor/Tszil col in winter was by simply plodding up the middle of the valley, so we abandoned their snowshoe tracks and started breaking trail in our own. The trail breaking wasn’t actually too bad so in short time we caught up to Silvana’s group. The only difference was our positions with respect to the moraine. They were up there and we were down at the bottom. Over the next hour the 4 of us ascended to Taylor/Tszil col but Silvana’s group was nowhere in sight anymore. A group of 3 skiers followed our tracks, caught up and told us that the other team was having troubles on some steep steps and needed to backtrack.

Already out of the trees now after some bushwhacking
We finally spotted the other group now but way up there on the moraine
Roxy, Silvana, Alistair and Jenn with the summit of Mt. Taylor behind
Vlad, Holly and Raphael following me up the valley
Vlad taking over the trail-breaking duty for the ascent to the col
After a few hours in the cold we finally tasted the first sun beams of the day
Vlad traversing the final steep slope to Taylor/Tszil col
Holly and Raphael about to ascend the final slope to Taylor/Tszil col
Me approaching Taylor/Tszil col in my OlyMons 8000M boots…
The first view of Duffey Peak, from Taylor/Tszil col
Holly and Raphael on that final steep slope
Raphael taking in the views

Instead of waiting for them at the col we decided to break a trail to the summit. I knew there were two ways to attack Mt. Taylor from Taylor/Tszil col and one is the skier’s way by traversing onto the south slopes. Instead of doing the simple way Holly suggested us to take the summer route by directly ascending the south ridge. Sure, why not as we were ahead of schedule. The ridge was scoured as predicted so I made us to boot-pack while carrying the snowshoes. In retrospect we could have just ascended on snowshoes but I wanted us to do more post-holing for exercise. Meanwhile this would allow Silvana’s team to catch up. At times we were wallowing waist deep into some weak spots but we had a lot of fun. Some 3rd class scrambling was also required. About halfway up the steepness eased and we switched back to snowshoeing. The ascent was definitely not no-brainer and required lots of route-finding in micro-terrain, and was overall much more enjoyable than I anticipated. The view from the summit was also a killer. The group of skiers then showed up after taking their skier’s way, followed by Roxy and finally Silvana, Jenn and Alistair. The skiers left and the 8 of us lingered even longer. Holly later told me that our summit-stay was 1 hour 20 minutes.

Me leading one of the vertical steps on the south ridge
Team work required to haul up some of those steps
Another view of Duffey Peak
Vlad soldiering up with Tszil Mountain behind
Holly pulling up yet another challenging step
This chimney feature was the crux with some exposure
Starting to get some unobstructed views of Slalok Mountain
Holly taking over the trail-breaking duty for a brief moment
We had a brief misty moment in the incoming fog
Our group traversing the upper plateau with Slalok Mountain behind
Holly with the misty Duffey Peak behind
Me finally nearing the summit of Mt. Taylor
A head-on view of peaks in Place Glacier Group – Oleg, Olds at center shot
Duffey Peak brought back one of my solo missions in 2019’s winter
Holly on the summit of Mt. Taylor, arriving in bluebird conditions
Roxy approaching the summit now
Wedge Mountain and Mt. Weart – both bagged solo, in 2015-16 period
Nivalis/Sir Richard on the horizon brought back the 4-day mission in 2017
Me on the summit of Mt. Taylor in my OlyMons boots…
Summit Panorama from Mt. Taylor including the party. Click to view large size.
Joffre Peak across Matier Glacier
The upper Joffre Lake in foreground with Mt. Caspar behind
The aesthetic Cayoosh Mountain – also climbed solo, in Jan. 2017
A wider horizon on the northern peaks in Garibaldi Park – James Turner etc.
Mt. Currie looms above Pemberton Valley
Vlad, Holly, Raphael and myself on the summit of Mt. Taylor
Our entire group shot on the summit of Mt. Taylor
Saxifrage Peak with the tiny tip of Cassiope Peak in front
Slalok Mountain in its glory
Raphael and Vlad opted to start descending earlier
Twin Goat Mountain in foreground with Cloudraker Mtn. behind to the right
One last look at the gentle slopes of Tszil Mountain
Silvana posing on the summit of Mt. Taylor
Action shot for Roxy
Roxy posing for an obligatory shot on the summit
Roxy and I posing for a shot before starting the descent
Roxy and I and the late-afternoon sun

The descent was much simpler than the ascent that we all managed to just wear snowshoes without having to do any boot-packing. A few spots required caution but nothing’s overly difficult. I had previously ditched my Trango Tech boots as well as a bottle of Gatorade at Taylor/Tszil col and the Gatorade had turned into a smoothie. I shared the smoothie with everyone else and then we plunged and glissaded back down into the valley. The 8000M boots were excellent that I was still feeling fine wearing them, so I put the Trango Techs back into the backpack and carried them down to the upper Joffre Lake. By this point the secondary goal of this trip was a success and I felt like I needed to justify carrying the second pair of boots for the whole day by using them. I spent 5 minutes to swap footwear and then jogged down the icy trail in my Trango Techs. A few icy stretches were particularly difficult without microspikes but that’s okay. I sat down on my ass and glissaded the trail in a pure tourist’s fashion. Our round trip time was about 8 hours 15 minutes.

Roxy descending back into some intermittent mists
Descending the steep stretch on the south ridge
Back to Taylor/Tszil col, looking over towards Duffey Peak
Silvana learnt from me to pedal while glissading
Holly leading down the approach valley
Holly and Silvana with Slalok’s Stonecrop Face behind
Already back down to the second lake now
Descending the icy trail with a bit of evening alpenglow behind
Alistair plodding across the first Joffre Lake
We got back to the parking lot in time for a pink show
I opted to drive the Taco instead of the Corolla and glad I did that.

The four of us then decided to have dinner in Whistler for simple reason of why-not. I’m not the eat-at-home kind of person and both Holly and I voted for the Splitz Grill. Finding a spot to park proved to be the crux for the whole day and we eventually opted to park at hotel’s basement after paying 3 dollars for one hour. The dinner turned out to be more than 2 hours long, but thankfully I didn’t receive a parking ticket. The rest of the drive was miserable. I had to let Holly to take over from Squamish to Vancouver as I needed a short nap to survive the 1 hour work at midnight. After dropping Holly off I drove to Richmond to drop Vlad off, then eventually got back to White Rock at 11:15 pm. I barely had enough energy for the hour-long work and eventually went to bed at 1 am, exhausted but satisfied.

Finally here’s the list of my Joffre Group winter project. I had now bagged all peaks here, but yet have not seen the snow-free Joffre Lakes.

  1. Matier – Jan. 2016 with Alex R.
  2. Joffre – Jan. 2016 solo
  3. Slalok – Jan. 2016 with Alex R. and Ben S. Ski descent Stonecrop Face
  4. Chief Pascall – Jan. 2016 with Alex R. and Ben S.
  5. Vantage – Jan. 2017 solo
  6. Snowspider – Jan. 2017 solo, overnight
  7. Spetch – Feb. 2017 solo
  8. Hartzell – Feb. 2017 solo
  9. Howard – Dec. 2017 solo, overnight (hardest in Joffre Group)
  10. Duke – Jan. 2019 with Alan B. and Cheyenne R.
  11. Tszil – Mar. 2019 solo
  12. Duffey – Mar. 2019 solo
  13. Twin Goat – Mar. 2019 solo, via SE Gully
  14. Caspar – Feb. 2020 with Jake R. and Selena E.
  15. Taylor – Jan. 2023 with Vlad, Holly, Raphael, Roxy, Silvana, Jenn and Alistair