Slalok Mountain

January 9, 2016

2653m

Pemberton / Duffey Lake Road, BC

The beautiful Slalok Mountain is the 3rd highest in Joffre Group and boasts 3 classic routes for beginner/intermediate level mountaineers – the NE Ridge from Matier Glacier; the SW Ridge as described in Matt Gunn’s scramble book; and the N. Face that rises straight up from the upper Joffre Lake. After finishing Mt. Matier and Joffre Peak in a roll I was excited to put this one down. The North Face route was decided and to make the trip more aesthetic Alex, Ben and I decided to ski it. It’d be my introductory trip to “steep skiing”, which in my definition refers to ski terrain that’d require long section of boot-packing using ice axe/crampons, with serious consequence in case of a mistake.

Slalok Mountain ascent route via North Face

Slalok Mountain ascent route via North Face. GPX DL

There’s some delay in the morning and we didn’t manage to leave Vancouver by almost 6:30 am, and that meant hordes of people (hikers, snowshoeers, skiers and split boarders) were already on the Joffre Lakes trail. Apparently this is the most popular access trail on the Duffey and it’s my first time visiting. For obvious reason all three Joffre Lakes were frozen so I weren’t quite impressed by the views, but I do like the fact it’s a short approach. The trail was very packed down though (almost too icy at places), and the section just before the second lake was fairly steep. In over an hour we all made to the upper Joffre Lake with the North Face of Slalok looming in front.

Skinning up the Joffre Lakes trail

Skinning up the Joffre Lakes trail

Alex on the middle Joffre Lake, pointing towards our objective

Alex on the middle Joffre Lake, pointing towards our objective

Ben negotiating the bridge on the way to upper Joffre Lake

Ben negotiating the bridge on the way to upper Joffre Lake

Our objective ahead - Slalok NF!

Our objective ahead – Slalok NF!

The face appeared massive as we skin’d across the upper Joffre Lake in frigid temperature. Another group was ahead of us at this time but they went towards the Matier Glacier’s icefalls. One variation of Slalok’s NE Ridge approach does go through that icefall but we weren’t sure where exactly they were going. The route we took would be going straight up the N. Face – ascending the obvious central couloir then up the Stonecrop Glacier. Alex led a way skinning to the base of that couloir and it didn’t take long before we all had to boot-pack. We started without an ice axe nor crampons but halfway up the couloir it’s becoming increasingly icy so we took the gears out. I then took over the lead and the terrain steepened to 40-45 degrees near the top of this couloir as we exited it on climber’s right side avoiding an exposed patch of ice. We kept boot-packing up for another 100 vertical meters or so until the grade finally eased off on the Stonecrop Glacier. Looking across the glacier we saw the other group popping out on the NE Ridge.

Skinning towards the base of our objective

Skinning towards the base of our objective

Looking towards Matier Glacier's icefalls. An alternative approach is via that side

Looking towards Matier Glacier’s icefalls. An alternative approach is via that side

Bootpacking began...

Bootpacking began…

Me and Ben boot-packing. Photo by Alex

Me and Ben boot-packing. Photo by Alex

Looking upwards from roughly midpoint up this couloir

Looking upwards from roughly midpoint up this couloir

Alex climbing up

Alex climbing up

Some views from the couloir. This is looking towards Mt. Taylor side

Some views from the couloir. This is looking towards Mt. Taylor side

An ice patch that we had to avoid

An ice patch that we had to avoid

Me charging up the slope. Photo by Alex

Me charging up the slope. Photo by Alex

Alex exiting the couloir

Alex exiting the couloir

Ben exiting the couloir

Ben exiting the couloir

The terrain was still fairly steep and the snow was still wind affected and icy so ski crampons came out. A few long switchbacks later we arrived at the base of the final face. The bergschrund was easily crossed and then it’s time to boot-pack again. This time I thought about leaving the skis down by the bergschrund but after some second thoughts I decided against it just for “completeness”. The snow wasn’t in a great skiing shape but it’s a good opportunity for me to learn.. The grade for the final face steepened to above 40 degrees for a while, a convex roll was ascended and then we were on the upper NE Ridge just below the summit block.

Skis on again, but it's still steep

Skis on again, but it’s still steep

Alex skinning towards the final slope

Alex skinning towards the final slope

Could see Joffre Lakes way down there.

Could see Joffre Lakes way down there.

Skinning up...

Skinning up…

The last switchback before the bergschrund.

The last switchback before the bergschrund.

Then, it's time to boot-pack again...

Then, it’s time to boot-pack again…

Looking across the last rise on N. Face. Joffre Peak behind

Looking across the last rise on N. Face. Joffre Peak behind

Ben climbing up

Ben climbing up

Looking across the face towards the opposite direction

Looking across the face towards the opposite direction

The final block required some scrambling on rime covered rock but nothing overly tricky and in short time we all made to the summit. The views were incredible towards each direction and with the mighty Joffre Peak and Mt. Matier stealing the show – two peaks that I ascended a few days earlier. We waited for the other group to show up and they turned out to be Mark Jenkins (mj22 from ClubTread) and his friends.

The final summit block

The final summit block

Summit Panorama from Slalok Mountain. Click to view large size.

Summit Panorama from Slalok Mountain. Click to view large size.

Mt. Matier which I bagged last weekend. Spetch and Hartzell in front

Mt. Matier which I bagged last weekend. Spetch and Hartzell in front

Joffre Peak which I bagged only 2 days before this trip.

Joffre Peak which I bagged only 2 days before this trip.

Looking towards the giants south of Stein Divide - Kwoiek, Kumkan and Mehatl Peaks

Looking towards the giants south of Stein Divide – Kwoiek, Kumkan and Mehatl Peaks

Petlushkwohap Mountain and Skihist Mountain - two highest peaks in SW BC

Petlushkwohap Mountain and Skihist Mountain – two highest peaks in SW BC

A closer look at Joffre Peak. The classic Aussie Couloir isn't visible

A closer look at Joffre Peak. The classic Aussie Couloir isn’t visible

That big peak on left skyline is Elusive Peak.

That big peak on left skyline is Elusive Peak.

Melvin Peak is the highest out there by Downton Creek drainage

Melvin Peak is the highest out there by Downton Creek drainage

Mt. Seton and Saddlebag Peak are the two highest peaks out there

Mt. Seton and Saddlebag Peak are the two highest peaks out there

Some unnamed peaks and ridges in the interior side of Coast Mountains

Some unnamed peaks and ridges in the interior side of Coast Mountains

Mt. Marriott in front on left, with Whitecap Mountain rising behind

Mt. Marriott in front on left, with Whitecap Mountain rising behind

Mt. Truax is another SW BC's tall peak

Mt. Truax is another SW BC’s tall peak

Cayoosh Mountain in the foreground with Birkenhead Peak rising behind its left shoulder

Cayoosh Mountain in the foreground with Birkenhead Peak rising behind its left shoulder

Cirque Peak in the Place Glacier Group in foreground

Cirque Peak in the Place Glacier Group in foreground

Mt. Oleg and Mt. Olds in the Place Glacier Group

Mt. Oleg and Mt. Olds in the Place Glacier Group. Mt. Sampson rises behind on left skyline

Cassiope & Saxifrage in foreground with peaks on Manatee - Overseer - Dalgleish area behind

Cassiope & Saxifrage in foreground with peaks on Overseer – Dalgleish Divide behind

Wedge & Weart are always the eye-catching giants

Wedge & Weart are always the eye-catching giants

Looking over Mt. Matier's south side into the Lillooet Lake valley

Looking over Mt. Matier’s south side into the Lillooet Lake valley

Another view down to Lillooet Lake Valley. Twin Goat Mountain in foreground

Another view down to Lillooet Lake Valley. Twin Goat Mountain in foreground

And, looking into Pemberton Valley showing this peak must be visible from Pemberton

And, looking into Pemberton Valley showing this peak must be visible from Pemberton

The other group approaching the summit from the NE Ridge side

The other group approaching the summit from the NE Ridge side

Crevasses on Matier Glacier

Crevasses on Matier Glacier

Me on the summit of Slalok Mountain

Me on the summit of Slalok Mountain

Our group shot.

Our group shot.

Another panorama from the summit. Click to view large size.

Another panorama from the summit. Click to view large size.

After some short summit celebration time it’s time to ski down the face. I wasn’t sure how well I could do given the steepness and the shitty snow quality, but without facing it there’s no way to know. While the other 5 guys all managed to ski down the upper face in good style I had to do a few kick-turns and some very long side-slipping. I couldn’t commit to a turn until much lower once the grade eased, but then the run down Stonecrop Glacier was pretty awesome. For the couloir we had to avoid that ice patch and that involved some dedicated side-slipping. I wished I had an ice axe at this point, but oh well. Watching the other skiers struggling on the side-slipping and the jump-turns lower down didn’t help my confidence neither, but again, I just had to face it… Although it took me a good while I did manage to descend the entire couloir without taking the skis off, so that’s fine.

One last look at Joffre Peak before going down

One last look at Joffre Peak before going down

We teamed up for the descent

We teamed up for the descent

The other group dropping in the upper face

The other group dropping in the upper face

Ben side-slipping into the lower couloir

Ben side-slipping into the lower couloir

Looking back after finishing the couloir

Looking back after finishing the couloir

A look at Matier Glacier's icefall. The other group went up that way

A look at Matier Glacier’s icefall. The other group went up that way

A review shot of the route we climbed and ski'd.

A review shot of the route we climbed and ski’d.

And then there came the super duper icy and steep trail down from Joffre Lakes. I took a crush at some point descending from the upper lake to the middle lake and after that I decided to just boot-pack the rest. While I could manage steep grade or even shitty snow in some way, I do absolutely need open space. For trail like this it was much faster for me to just walk down rather than risking for another crush… At least this time I didn’t have to put the crampons on like my Youngs Traverse trip last year… Once the grade finally eased I put the skis back on and enjoyed a fast run down to the lower lake, but then I had to remove them again for the final uphill slog back to the car.

This trip turned out a bit longer and a bit more involved than I was expecting. The climb was pretty normal given what I’ve been doing in these couple years but the skiing was definitely one of the most challenging I’ve committed to yet. But then I felt pretty good to have Mt. Matier, Joffre Peak and Slalok Mountain knocked off in just one week in early January, and with good weather persisting through Sunday we wouldn’t go home yet

 

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