December 28, 2015
Pemberton / Lillooet Lake Road, BC
Shields Peak is rather impressively looking, but in reality it’s just a bump along Famine Ridge that extends north-eastwards from Cloudraker Mountain. In summer time one often traverses up and over this summit en route to Cloudraker Mountain but on skis it’s often bypassed on the south side. On the Day 4 of our Christmas – New Year ski trip Alex, Ben, Alan and myself decided to tag Shields Peak as a separate trip from Cloudraker Mountain’s ascent, so after traversing over Tarn Peak we started plodding towards this objective.
The broad ridge that runs from Long Lake, up and over Tarn Peak to Tarn/Shields col appeared super easy on the topo maps, but in reality it’s far more undulating and complex. In summer I’m sure the terrain would be quite bluffy and in winter we had to deal with lots of steep rolls and up-and-downs in the micro terrain. Some low clouds rolled in too obscuring our visibility and we were back in the game of white-out navigation in no time. Alan decided to turn back as he’s having some issue with his ski boots but Ben, Alex and myself continued on. With good attitude and lots of perseverance we managed to overcome this confusing terrain and by the time we hit Tarn/Shields pass the clouds lifted up and we knew it’s going to be a good day ahead.
Our original plan was to attack Shields Peak via the direct NE Face but upon inspecting closely we decided against thank to a massive cornice hanging above the face. We opted for the easier, albeit longer option – around the east face and up the south slopes. We made a straight line traverse due south for roughly 1 km crossing numerous big slopes and then ascended up and around a bench. We then made to the broad south ridge so now the game became simply plodding up, although the terrain appeared fairly steep from below. There’s really not too much to say about the ascent via south slopes. The grade was fairly sustained and got steep about 2/3 of the way up. We opted to ascend a gully feature to overcome the steepest band and after that we made to the broad upper plateau.
There’s still fair amount of distance and elevation gain to reach the summit despite the appearance. We got to ascend another roll but then we broke through the layer of low clouds. The reward was the first set of incredible views of this trip as we traversed the narrow and corniced ridge towards the true summit.
We briefly considered the nearby Famine Mountain but the descent down to Shields/Famine col appeared very steep and it’d be white-out navigation again so we’d rather get back down the south slopes before any clouds rolling in. Flat light skiing sucks and I was especially not looking forward to that. Down we went the skiing was awesome on the soft powder and in no time we were back to the long east face traverse. Alex and Ben dropped a super steep line down to our skin tracks which was too advanced for me so I just went back the same way we came up. And after that it’s the long and tedious plod back to Long Lake. This time we explored a better route option in good visibility bypassing Tarn Peak that’d serve as our skin tracks for the next two days.
The rest of the descent was uneventful back to the cabin and Alan had already made a good fire and some hot water. The exciting moment for this evening was when I got my Delorme inReach message saying the rest of this trip would be all sunny and avalanche condition L/L/L. We’d follow our schedule for the next day up Haven Peak and Beacon Mountain but at this point I was really expecting something major to come down in this trip.