March 25, 2016
Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC
Deception Peak is nowhere to qualify a “major” summit, but surely an “interesting” one behind Garibaldi Lake. It appears like a series of pinnacles and the true summit is on the far west side. The usual approach is by a long march across Garibaldi Lake on skis and the peak can be fairly easily ascended from the north side via Sphinx Glacier. However, thank to the small nature of this objective comparing with the peaks nearby (The Sphinx, Castle Towers, Mt. Garibaldi to name a few), there’s virtually no trip report available online.
The weather and condition for this past Easter long weekend was not the greatest, but “above average” nonetheless. After tossing around some ideas it was Alex, Michelle and myself planning a 2-day adventure behind Garibaldi Lake for some peak-bagging. Our primary objective would the The Sphinx but to make the trip more productive we’d bag the nearby Deception Peak along with Glacier Pikes. There’s not much technical challenge involved but to squeeze them in a mere 2-day period was fairly physically demanding. The task for the first day was to tag both Deception Peak and The Sphinx and carry our heavy loads up and over Sphinx Pass to camp on Sentinel Glacier.
To make the trip happen we had to practice that “alpine start” on the first day. It wasn’t an “all nighter” approach but close enough. My alarm went off at 1:50 am and a few hours later we were all gearing up at the Garibaldi Lake trail-head. I left my driver’s side window open thank to the “fame” of this parking lot and in short time we started the long march. The first few kilometers were snow free and we had to carry our (heavy) skis. Alex and Michelle convinced me to just wear ski boots for the hike and it was actually not as bad as I thought. It was not pleasant for sure but on the upside that saved me a few kilograms of hauling the ski boots. At around 4 km we finally could start skinning and the rest of the switchbacks to 6-km junction was uneventful except for it seemed to drag on for a long while.
From the junction we took the right hand branch which led ~3 km towards Garibaldi Lake. We easily followed the skin tracks down and across Barrier Lake and then it’s time for the mess around Lesser Garibaldi Lake. I had never done this approach before (from the “inward” direction) and here Alex led a line traversing above the lake shore following a faint set of skin tracks. This dumped us much lower than the summer trail and by the time we reached the opposite side of Lesser Garibaldi we came to a dead end. After messing around for a few more minutes we made the call of bailing steeply uphill to intersect the summer trail. Indeed, that’s where the major set of skin tracks went. We had no further issues to reach the entrance of Garibaldi Lake but this trail was quite undulating…
There’s a layer of fog hovering just on the lake surface as we started the long (5 km) plod across. There’s literally nothing to describe this lake plod so musics on, and off we went. It’s all about perseverance and in just over 1 hour we reached Burton Hut on the opposite side. Another group was gearing up for their touring of the day and they seemed quite shocked knowing we just approached all the way from the parking lot. Not making any unnecessary stop in the hut (could be an energy sucker) we resumed the plod towards Sphinx Glacier.
Here Alex led a line staying more to the climber’s right and we then took a rising traverse line to overcome the steep roll at the start. Further up the valley between Deception Peak and Guard Mountain we also stayed high on climber’s right side before eventually taking a traverse line to hit Sphinx Glacier. The plod up this glacier was as straightforward as one would expect, but did feel very, very foreshortening especially given the duty of trail-breaking while carrying the heavy pack. We aimed more-or-less towards the broad Deception/Guard col but cut back over towards climber’s left underneath a rock outcrop, and after that we were right underneath the north side of our first objective.
At this point Alex and I had some worry that a high level traverse from Deception’s ridge towards Sphinx Pass (where the route of The Sphinx started) might not go, so to check it out we aimed for a saddle on the ridge at about 200 vertical meters below the summit. Thankfully we were happy about the appearance of the other side. After ditching our entire backpack we resumed the ascent, and a few more switchbacks later we arrived at the summit pinnacles. It was difficult to tell which of the two was the true summit but the left side one appeared more aesthetic (a short, but steep snow climb versus the other one which was a slog up semi-covered boulder fields).
From the summit of the snowy one it was still difficult to judge which of the two being the “true summit”, but we all felt it was good enough nonetheless. After reversing the short snow climb it’s time to ripe off the skins. The run down to where we ditched backpacks was short, but very fun.
Now with some weather rolling in we had to hurry up to get our next objective – The Sphinx.