Torah Peak

April 15-16, 2022

2509m

Pemberton Icecap, BC

“Torah Peak” is the unofficial name given to a deep and remote summit in the heart of Pemby Icecap that also boasts over 300 m prominence. This peak is almost entirely glaciated on all sides. Using a snowmobile to sled a few hours in from Rutherford FSR is pretty much the only logical way of getting in. With some experience one can sled over 50 km each way and get to within an hour or two’s skinning to the summit of “Torah Peak”. There are some other methods of getting in for those without a snowmobile including a traverse up and over Exodus Peak from the south, but all of those would be multi-day fairs. I’m only aware of one group that summitted this peak sans snowmobile.

This peak was the primary objective when Eric and I sledded onto Pemby Icecap but we were a bit too optimistic about the sledding parts. After “Appa Peak” and Longspur Peak we realized we might not even have enough fuel for the whole mission. Running out of fuel on a remote icefield would not be an option, so we parked the sled and shouldered the overnight gears. We traversed over “Famine col” and tagged “Famine Peak” in mostly a white-out and then traversed to a key shoulder/col on the west side of “Famine Peak”. From there we would locate a key passage to connect to the main glacier of Pemby Icefield.

Appa, Longspur, Famine and Torah sled-and-ski. GPX DL

As soon as it made sense we ripped off the skins and started the 300+ meters of skiing down onto the icefield. The upper 1/4 had some challenging wind-affected snow but the lower slopes were much more sheltered and preserved some top quality powder. Even I was able to make easy turns even with the overnight pack. We rejoined the snowmobile tracks after descending onto the icefield and skid/skinned a few more kilometers towards “Torah Peak” before calling it a day. The evening was very cold but thankfully I had brought the trusty -32C Western Mountaineering Puma GWS bag for the night. Eric did the tent job while I played with the Reactor to melt snow. The fuel canister would go dead after a few minutes due to the coldness but we found a way or two to keep it running for the needs. Eric’s tent was a strong one, but not very spacious for the two of us, so the sleep was not very comfortable. I always thought my BD Hilight was the tightest 2-person tent but now I’d slept in a tighter one. There’s no way to get out of this tent without significantly disturbing the other’s sleep.

The skiing does not get much better than this.
Eric skiing onto Pemberton Icefield with “Torah Peak” behind on left
Me skiing down onto the icefield. Photo by Eric G.
Note the highway of sled tracks deep on the icefield over 50 km from the road
Dropping onto the icefield now and just kilometers and kilometers of plod
Our tent and the full noon.

We were tired so didn’t manage to wake up until 8 am in the morning and it was still brutally cold outside. Thankfully the sun beams were shone on us so the stoke level was high. None of us needed to cook anything in the morning so we quickly got going. I had brought some dehydrated meals (does not need to be booked) from a potential new sponsor to test them out and it was awesome. This really saved me from having to cook the ramen in the morning, which could be a real pain in this cold. We roped up for the ascent of “Torah Peak” as this peak had some large crevasses on the satellite images, even though most of the crevasses were filled in with the April’s snowpack. We followed the sled tracks for another 2-3 km before leaving them for our objective. The sled tracks all went northwards and stopped at a weird location with some flags probably for helicopters to land, so we suspected that must be a secret ice cave. However, peak-bagging took priority over curiosity.

Me just about to crawl out of the tent in the morning. Torah Peak behind
Eric getting ready for the slog in the morning
Looking back at our camp just when we were to leave
We firstly just follow the sled tracks for a few kilometers

Eric and I then took turns breaking trail up the north slopes linking up several obvious ramps. The route-finding was straightforward but the slog was never-ending and extremely monotonous. I had to call for one food break after about 3 hours of non-stop skinning. The summit started to seem “close” but we still had to ascend/traverse a few rolls and bumps to get there. Once skinning onto the final summit ridge we were greeted by some fierce and cold winds, that despite the awesome views we could not linger too long up there.

Onto the untracked powder now.
Me taking over the lead briefly. Photo by Eric G.
Looking back at Eric with some unnamed peaks behind
Looking back onto the main part of Pemby Icefield
Eric leading one of the steeper rolls on the upper ridge
Summit Panorama from “Torah Peak”. Click to view large size.
Exodus Peak to the south is much easier to access, from Elaho River valley
Mt. Tinniswood is the most iconic peak in this area, bagged in July 2020
Ring Mountain in the foreground looks literally like the table from this angle
“Little Ring” in the foreground is reported to be a tougher climb than Ring Mountain
Mt. John Clarke has some history, bagged in the same trip with Mt. Tinniswood
Overseer Mountain far to the north is the highest peak on Pemberton Icefield
Wedge Mountain in the far distance, highest peak in Garibaldi P. Park
Elaho Mountain to the west is one of the greater summits in the general area
Me on the summit of Torah Peak.

The skiing on the upper route was mostly on wind-affected snow but the slope angle was gentle enough that I had no issue making some turns. And then the lower slope was a long but fun run. The few flat and slight-uphill stretches were annoying but other than those we had a blast descending to the icefield. Eric was keen to check out that secret ice cave while I was not interested in. I said I would ski back to camp to wait and lazily pack things up and a few minutes later Eric also decided to just ski back to camp. I hadn’t checked the time yet so I naively thought we still had enough time for another objective, as otherwise I probably wouldn’t be too opposed to that 2-3 km detour. People pay massive bills to helicopter companies to check that thing out so it had to be good.. Once back to camp we realized that it was almost 1 pm so we would be lucky to have enough time to slog back to the sled before dark, let along to bag another peak… While packing the overnight gears I also melted more snow and cooked the Ramen. I had brought that for breakfast but it also could be served as lunch. In about half an hour we were able to get going again.

Eric skiing down the upper, wind-affected slopes
Down onto the fun powder now

The most direct way to get back to the sled would be to reverse what we did a day earlier on “Famine Peak” area but such was complicated. We decided to take the long way around following the sled “highway”. This would double the distance, but did not need much brain power. It was a massively long plod to the “divide point” on the main icefield which is also the prominence col for Longspur Peak and from there we skied northwards down towards a frozen lake, losing over 300 m hard won elevation. We then wrapped around eastwards. The plod up the next glacier back to the sled would require over 500 m elevation gain and I was downright exhausted at this point. I could feel multiple blisters on each foot but the weather was closing in, the time was ticking and Eric was leading in front out of sight at times so I just had to suck it up and tough it out. Eventually Eric started to lead a short-cut to ascend the final 150 m to the snowmobile and the total distance we had covered on skis was about 34 km.

One last look at “Little Ring” and Ring Mountain
Some weather systems were moving in at a rapid pace…
Skiing down towards that frozen lake, another low point of the trip
Me making turns. I finally could make some turns without borrowing Eric’s pole.
Wrapping around the direction we could see peaks by “Famine Peak”
The summit of “Famine Peak” looks somehow like some Peruvian giants…
Looking ahead to the 500-m grunt on that never-ending glacier
The start of the long ass grunt onto that glacier. I really struggled here.
Skinning in flurries and white-out again…
Me and the sled. Finally no more skinning…

The weather had magically cleared although it was still overcast. We got our visibility window to sled up and over that broad pass near “Appa Peak” so we had to hurry up for it. About halfway up that 300-m regain we somehow lost the balance and Eric started to sled horizontally. I had to jump out of the sled to prevent it from flipping. Eric eventually regained the balance but I had to post-hole a ways up the slopes to get back onto the sled. We then had no further issue traversing over that high shoulder down onto Appa Glacier. The long descent was a tiring game for me as there’s nothing to stop me from sliding forward except for the piece of sling on the seat. I eventually found a way but grabbing tight to the sling but also fisting onto the seat. The worst riding was the section between the toe of Appa Glacier and the emergency shelter as the terrain was mostly not flat with some side-hilling and some steep rolls of descents. The descents were definitely the worst. We eventually got back to the groomed tracks. We were told the grooming was done for the season so the final 20-ish kilometer of riding was a bit bumpier than on the way in. With some rushing here and there we did manage to beat sunset to finish the trip and that was not bad at all.

A view looking back from nearing that high shoulder/pass west of Appa Peak
Down to the groomed trail now
Eric, the snowmobile and the Emergency shelter
The sleds were built for gravel, right?
Loading the sled onto the truck. This is a somewhat complicated process…

The loading of Eric’s snowmobile took a while but we eventually also finished that and drove out of the FSR before dark. We then drove southwards to Whistler for a massive dinner in Splitz Grill before resuming the drive back to Squamish. I had some worries of my car parked in the McDonald’s parking lot but it was still there when we got back. I eventually got back home after 1 am in the morning.