Mount Garibaldi

March 17, 2016

2675m

Garibaldi Provincial Park / Squamish, BC

Mt. Garibaldi is that giant dominating the backdrop of Squamish’s skyline and certainly one of the most aesthetic peaks along the Sea-to-Sky corridor. This volcanic massive is relatively more broken and rugged compared to those down south in Washington. It’s actually a cluster of 5 named summits (Mt. Garibaldi, Atwell Peak, Dalton Dome, The Tent and Diamond Head). Among these, Atwell Peak is by no doubt the biggest prize but Mt. Garibaldi is definitely the most sought-after objective for simple reason that it’s the highest point.

The standard route via NE Face does involve some steep snow up to 45 degrees, a broken glacier and a yawing bergschrund that often creates problems later in the year, but from mountaineering perspective this is a relatively straightforward route as long as you time it in the right conditions. The easiest approach is via a system of logging roads on Brohm Ridge. The challenge for a winter ascent is the added distance on the logging road plod (if not applying snowmobiles) but for tough parties that wouldn’t be a deterring factor.

The weather had been shitty for a few weeks already but it eventually cleared up for this past Thursday and I managed to gather a last-minute group, with Al (Spectrum) on snowshoes, Alex (sandu) on skis and myself also on skis. We together only had 1 day so to make it happen we had to apply that famous “all-nighter” method which I had been practicing previously on Wedge Mountain a few weeks earlier. We left Vancouver by midnight and after getting confused briefly by the logging road branches we did correct ourselves and parked at just below 700 m elevation on Brohm River FSR. The road was in a rough shape with many water bars but Al did a great job 4×4-ing up his truck. By 2 am we all had started the plod, and apparently it’s gonna be a long day ahead…

Mt. Garibaldi ascent route via Brohm Ridge

Mt. Garibaldi ascent route via Brohm Ridge. GPX DL

In about 200 m up the road the snow had become continuous so I ditched hiking shoes and the long skinning plod began. And of course that gear transition took a few minutes. Alex and Al had set up a blistering pace and by the time I finished transition they were nowhere in sight. Long story short it took me close to 3 hours to catch them up at the snowmobiler’s chalet and we regrouped from there. My right foot had developed two big blisters thank to the faster-than-normal skinning pace, but I tried to not let that slow me down by much. Thankfully it didn’t seem to get worse for the rest of the day, although it was quite painful from time to time. Following the snowmobile tracks we hit the broad Brohm Ridge. There were quite a few up-and-downs and micro-terrains to choose from.

Earlier in the trip we had decided to avoid that “Brohm pinnacle” by skirting around on its left side, but as we got closer and closer we started to have some second thoughts. The snowmobile tracks had stopped at this point. The left side appeared like a massive elevation drop (at least 100 m) and none of us was keen on that, so up the pinnacle we went. Near the top Alex and I had to remove our skis and carried them up and over. There were some narrow places but nothing troublesome and soon we were back to the skinning plod. The next section to hit the edge of Warren Glacier was very foreshortening but thankfully we were rewarded by some incredible alpenglow views.

The purple/pink horizon above Tantalus Range before alpenglow time

The purple/pink horizon above Tantalus Range before alpenglow time

Alex traversing over "Brohm Pinnacle" and ready for the plod ahead

Alex traversing over “Brohm Pinnacle” and ready for the plod ahead

Al and me traversing over the pinnacle. Photo by Alex

Al and me traversing over the pinnacle. Photo by Alex

Looking back at the Brohm pinnacle

Looking back at the Brohm pinnacle

Pink horizon over Howe Sound

Pink horizon over Howe Sound

Alpenglow on peaks on Ashlu - Elaho Divide

Alpenglow on peaks on Ashlu – Elaho Divide

Alpenglow on the rugged Mt. Tantalus

Alpenglow on the rugged Mt. Tantalus

And, alpenglow on the Sky Pilot Group

And, alpenglow on the Sky Pilot Group

It’s apparent that Alex had led up a line higher than necessary so once onto Warren Glacier we had to lose some elevation. The plod across Warren Glacier was uneventful other than that cold head wind forcing us to keep up the pace. And then the next section was to ascend a steep headwall to gain the North Pitt Glacier. Here I led a long diagonal traverse ascending towards climber’s left before Alex taking over the lead switchbacking back to the right, and now the NE Face was finally displaced in front of us, and at the same time we finally got treated by some sunshine. The head wind was still brutally cold though so the sun didn’t help much.

Alex ascending towards Warren Glacier with the massive peak in the background

Alex ascending towards Warren Glacier with the massive peak in the background

Another picture of Mt. Tantalus

Another picture of Mt. Tantalus

On the flat Warren Glacier, looking at some very steep terrain

On the flat Warren Glacier, looking at some very steep terrain

BOOM... A size 3 avalanche coming off the NW Face of Dalton Dome...

BOOM… A size 3 avalanche coming off the NW Face of Dalton Dome…

Here we ascended steeply up the headwall to gain North Pitt Glacier

Here we ascended steeply up the headwall to gain North Pitt Glacier

Looking back across the flats on Warren Glacier

Looking back across the flats on Warren Glacier

Great view towards the "unclimbable" The Table with The Black Tusk behind

Great view towards the “unclimbable” The Table with The Black Tusk behind

It’s also apparent that the coverage on this glacier was much better than the previous year. All the crevasses including the bergschrund was nowhere to be seen. Alex had incredible energy breaking trail all the way to above the bergschrund initially up a “ramp feature” on climber’s left followed by a few large switchbacks, and then I took over the lead bootpacking up the face. Al (on snowshoes) had done a great job keeping up with us. The face climb was a brutal exercise wallowing up the waist deep powder and certainly one of the worst post-holing I’d encountered for a while. I had to “arm swap” first followed by “kneeing it down” before finally able to lift my legs up, only to sink back to waist deep… We probably spent closer an hour wallowing up that 45-degree section.

Here we go.. The NE Face of Mt. Garibaldi

Here we go.. The NE Face of Mt. Garibaldi

Alex was the machine breaking trail for most of the way

Alex was the machine breaking trail for most of the way

It's getting steeper and steeper

It’s getting steeper and steeper

Alex leading some massive switchbacks up the face. As you can see, I couldn't even keep up..

Alex leading some massive switchbacks up the face. As you can see, I couldn’t even keep up..

Garibaldi Lake started to show up below us

Garibaldi Lake started to show up below us

Now, time to boot-packing up the face

Now, time to boot-packing up the face

Me and Alex wallowing up the waist deep snow. Photo by Alan

Me and Alex wallowing up the waist deep snow. Photo by Alan

It's steep...

It’s steep…

Al cresting the summit ridge. Exhausted..

Al cresting the summit ridge. Exhausted..

With good perseverance we eventually cleared the face and crested the summit ridge. I thought it’d be a cake walk to the summit from there but I was wrong… There’s still considerable amount of distance and the post-holing soon took over again. A creative method came across my mind and I started crawling since the ridge was relatively flat, and it actually worked fairly well. The summit was soon attained – very exhausted but very satisfied. We abandoned the idea of bagging The Tent so took a long break on the summit soaking in the views.

Cresting the summit ridge at a low col.

Cresting the summit ridge at a low col.

The post-holing was still terrible. Photo by Alan

The post-holing was still terrible. Photo by Alan

Still fair a bit of ways to go...

Still fair a bit of ways to go…

Here's the "SW Gully" which can be used to traverse to Dalton Dome

Here’s the “SW Gully” which can be used to traverse to Dalton Dome

Summit Panorama from Mt. Garibaldi. Click to view large size.

Summit Panorama from Mt. Garibaldi. Click to view large size.

Looking down at the city of Squamish and Howe Sound

Looking down at the city of Squamish and Howe Sound

A zoomed-in view of the jagged North Ridge on Atwell Peak

A zoomed-in view of the jagged North Ridge on Atwell Peak

Mt. Alpha and Serratus Mountain on right - part of Tantalus Range

Mt. Alpha and Serratus Mountain on right – part of Tantalus Range

Mt. Dione / Mt. Tantalus massive

Mt. Dione / Mt. Tantalus massive

Mt. Sedgwick on right with some peaks by Sunshine Coast behind

Mt. Sedgwick on right with some peaks by Sunshine Coast behind

The undulating ridge by Helm Peak and Corrie Peak in the foreground

The undulating ridge by Helm Peak and Corrie Peak in the foreground

The Black Tusk in the foreground

The Black Tusk in the foreground

Another look at Atwell Peak.

Atwell Peak – high on my “list” now but apparently needs the best of the best conditions.

Cathedral Mountain et al. in the North Shore Mountains

Cathedral Mountain et al. in the North Shore Mountains

Happy to have Mamquam Mountain bagged in September last year

Happy to have Mamquam Mountain bagged in September last year

In the foreground are Spire Peaks and the "super couloir". Behind is the Misty Icefield area

In the foreground are Spire Peaks and the “super couloir”. Behind is the Misty Icefield area

Mt. Sir Richard on the remote McBride Range

Mt. Sir Richard on the remote McBride Range

Mt. Pitt is probably the most remote giant in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Mt. Pitt is probably the most remote giant in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Peaks on Fitzsimmons Range behind Mt. Carr and The Sphinx

Peaks on Fitzsimmons Range behind Mt. Carr and The Sphinx

Wedge Mountain rises behind Castle Towers

Wedge Mountain rises behind Castle Towers

Me on the summit of Mt. Garibaldi

Me on the summit of Mt. Garibaldi

Our group shot

Our group shot

One more panorama. Click to view large size.

One more panorama. Click to view large size.

Plunging down the summit ridge was fast and just about to plunge down the face I accidently triggered a size 1 loose dry slide. The slide went towards our ditched skis and snowshoes but thankfully didn’t bury anything. The face was then easily descended and now it’s time for some well earned turns. The powder was in a fantastic skiing conditions and Alex and I both thoroughly enjoyed the run. It also provided a fast plunge on snowshoes for Al. Back to the flat Warren Glacier we put skins back on and aimed for a lower point on the opposite side before enjoying another run down the moraine. Now below the “Brohm pinnacle” the next few hours wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

Time to plunge down the face. Note the slide that I triggered

Time to plunge down the face. Note the slide that I triggered

Alex and Alan plunging down

Alex and Alan plunging down

Me making some nice turns. Photo by Alex

Me making some nice turns. Photo by Alex

Onto the North Pitt Glacier flats, looking across Warren Glacier

Onto the North Pitt Glacier flats, looking across Warren Glacier

Another look at Castle Towers

Another look at Castle Towers

Our tracks down the steep roll

Our tracks down the steep roll

Back across Warren Glacier, ready for another run

Back across Warren Glacier, ready for another run

The Brohm Ridge down there

The Brohm Ridge down there

Me skiing down a narrow spot. Photo by Alex

Me skiing down a narrow spot. Photo by Alex

Time to scramble up and over “Brohm Pinnacle” first and to do so we had to remove skis (most post-holing).. Down the other side the broad Brohm Ridge was too undulating to provide a fast skiing return. The solution was to keep skins on, but in short time the afternoon heat took over and the wet snow started to ball under my skins. I had to take the skis off and clean the snow in a regular basis. That was exhausting and super frustrating.. Up and over the last bump I removed the skins and enjoyed another great run down to the snowmobiler’s chalet where Alex was patiently waiting. Al showed up in about half an hour later and during which we also ran into Alan Lerchs and his brother on their way up. They were planning to 3-day Mt. Garibaldi and it’s certainly a small world out here!

Ahead is the "Brohm Pinnacle"

Ahead is the “Brohm Pinnacle”

Alex boot-packing up

Alex boot-packing up

The upper portion. I started to slow down considerably at this point...

The upper portion. I started to slow down considerably at this point…

The pinnacle is somewhat exposed

The pinnacle is somewhat exposed

The Howe Sound was in sight for pretty much all day!

The Howe Sound was in sight for pretty much all day!

Looking back at the pinnacle (left) and Dalton Dome massive

Looking back at the pinnacle (left) and Dalton Dome massive

Neat terrain with snow coverage on Alice Ridge

Neat terrain with snow coverage on Alice Ridge

The Mt. Garibaldi massive from Brohm Ridge

The Mt. Garibaldi massive from Brohm Ridge

A zoomed-in view of Dalton Dome

A zoomed-in view of Dalton Dome

Lots and lots of snowmobile activity on Brohm Ridge

Lots and lots of snowmobile activity on Brohm Ridge

Lots of up-and-downs too....

Lots of up-and-downs too….

Another look at Mt. Garibaldi massive

Another look at Mt. Garibaldi massive

Here's the impressive Atwell Peak close-up shot. The infamous Siberian Express is on this face...

Here’s Atwell Peak close-up shot. The infamous Siberian Express is on this face…

Finally could ripe off the skins...

Finally could ripe off the skins…

After a well needed break we resumed the return. There’s still one major uphill plod just before the yellow gate (buried under the snow) and nobody was looking forward to that. But we had to face it, and at least the downhill sections was fast and fun. Back to the “connector” the road became flat with some up-and-downs. I was super exhausted already and the painful blisters didn’t help neither, but what else I could do other than sucking it up. Eventually I heard some snowmobilers sounds from behind and there was Al catching a ride zipping past me. The other snowmobiler offered me a tow but considering my tired legs and the fact I’d never been towed before I opted to resume the return on my own. It’s the final 2 km anyway but the last few hundred meters was exceptionally painful. All the snow had melted out so I had to remove the skis and walk…

Skiing down the road..

Skiing down the road..

It goes on and on and on...

It goes on and on and on…

Back to the truck I was completely beat. Our round trip time was about 16.5 hours which was a tad longer than expected thank to the above-average post-holing effort.. This was also my first time “all nighter” approach on skis and I did prove that I’m physically (and mentally) capable, but comparing to my performance on snowshoes (Wedge NE Arete trip a few weeks ago) I do realize that my “fitness percentile” on skinning/skiing isn’t nearly as high. But in the end I’m very glad I picked skis this time to enjoy some great run down that glacier, and I have to say that I never get tired of the views from Garibaldi Park.

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