November 3, 2015
Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC
Cinder Cone is a small dead volcano near Helm Pass at the heart of Garibaldi Provincial Park. It’s smaller than any other mountain nearby but does offer some great views. The pyroclastic rocks are super prone to erosion and in summer time there’ll be tedious slog on treadmill scree no matter what route you take, so the best time to ascend is in winter when covered by snow. I did it in early November combing with the nearby Empetrum Peak when the snow was just deep enough for snowshoeing. Later in the season those slopes would offer some great skiing too.
Since I approached via Helm Creek trail from Cheakamus Lake side I decided to attack its nearby NW slopes – a more direct, but much steeper route than the normal SW side. The plod was longer than appeared but the low Sun angle had made some interesting lightings on the snow ribs. There’s one flat plateau between the two major rises then I was on the true summit (the highest point of the crater).
More than 6 years ago I hiked Opal Cone by Diamond Head area and these two have quite a few similarities. The best way to explore a volcano was to circumvent the summit crater and I’m super glad I did so for both ‘Cones’. I opted to traverse clockwise and from the far side I got some exceptional views of the Helm Glacier. That brought back some memories from my 1-day Castle Towers ascent about half a dozen weeks ago.
Eventually it’s the time to head home as the Sun was getting low. I easily plunged-step down the soft powder beside by uptracks and in no time I was back to the Helm Creek trail. From now on it’s a pure slog to get back to the parking lot. Just before it’s time to take the snowshoes off I had to pull the headlamp out. Then ‘shoes strapped on my pack, down the switchbacks, across the Cheakamus River and finally the uphill plod.
Tired but satisfied. The Cheakamus River FSR was heavily pot-holed and I carefully negotiated my way back to Sea-to-Sky Highway and in less than 2 hours I was back home. Overall I’d highly recommend both Empetrum Peak and Cinder Cone to pretty much anybody looking for some great views. Garibaldi Park never fails to amaze me and I’ll be back here sooner than later for some of the other objectives.