Mount Tinniswood

July 21-22, 2020

2606m

Clendinning Area, BC

Mt. Tinniswood, the remote, triangular-shaped giant isn’t the highest in its immediate vicinity (Mt. Boardman to the north is higher), nor the most difficult from technical aspect, but is surely the most sought-after objective in the Clendinning area in what I consider the “heart” of South Coast. This is probably John Clarke’s favourate peak and the climbing history dates back to his time. To me, someone that grew up in a foreign country and earned the earlier climbing days in the Rockies, the history and culture of climbing and mountaineering in SW BC always seems bizarre and in fact, I couldn’t even recognize most of the names in the register but regardless how much I don’t like the culture here, the tales all suggested some hardcore pushing through that I give full respect. I’m sure a few dozens of parties had made attempts in the past several decades, but not that many ended up signing the register. It seemed like the most common entry point was from Mt. John Clarke, which was ascended either on foot from the north, or by a boat in Princess Louisa Inlet, but several parties, particularly in earlier season had traversed from Meager Creek to the north, or by a direct bash up Sims Creek valley. Most successful trips ended up being 7-10 days but some ended up even longer, like 2-3 weeks. The objective of those trips were solely Mt. Tinniswood and maybe with one or two bonus summits.

Alex had been planning to visit this area for several years and had made one half-heart attempt in spring time on skis from Ashlu-Elaho Divide, that ended up bailing with two weeks of food left in their packs. Alex and I had been talking about this area to traverse a bunch, if not all of the peaks in the headwaters of Sims Creek for almost a year. The summer of 2019 ended up being too rainy that we determined there wasn’t a prime window. Vlad boarded the game and made the commitment months ahead and the three of us was essentially on-call to climb these peaks in July 2020. The window eventually came but wasn’t prime neither with several days of questionable weather in the middle of the stretch, but we pulled the trigger anyway as we figured this might be as good as it could ever get. Contrary to the previous explorers to climb just one peak (Mt. Tinniswood) in a span of that many days is considered inefficient in my theory of peak-bagging and I also don’t quite understand the “joy” of putting significant effort into the below-treeline zone. In this modern era with advanced technology and availability of helicopters it made perfect sense to skip the first day or two days’ misery and start directly in the alpine. I can sort of understand the importance of pursuing a purist’s fashion for one’s most important peaks and I can also see how Mt. Tinniswood or Mt. Judge Howay is that “most important peak” for many mountaineers living in the coast, but for me, that would always be the Rockies, like Mt. Robson or the 11,000ers list. These coastal peaks are by no doubt very cool, but lack the technical challenge that is definitely more desirable than the access difficulties, at least for me as I’m more of a bagger than an explorer…

The section from Hammerstein Peak to Loquilts Peak

It’s essentially Alex who made the entire plan of the horseshoe traverse from Mt. Willson towards Ashlu Mountain across the headwaters of Sims Creek. I did make some slight revision of the plan but for the large part I agreed with Alex’s itinerary. The three of us pulled the trigger at the last minute, scrambled to pack up our 10 days’ food and confirmed with the pilot. We were dropped off near the summit of Mt. Willson, traversed into the heart of Clendinning area while bagging a bunch of peaks. We did one major detour down to 1000 m zone with significant bushwhacking and then made an ascent of Mt. Boardman. We then traversed the entire stretch of Ross Ridge then to Inaccessible Pass. Then on the 4th day, we climbed Mt. George Edwards that turned out to be my 1000th summit, and descended the upper Tinniswood Glacier in some full-on white-outs. The weather lifted briefly as we approached the base of Mt. Tinniswood that suddenly boosted our stoke level. We plodded all the way to the very bottom of the peak to set up a late camp, cooked dinner in dark and turned in at midnight. To take advantage of the morning weather window we set the alarm at 3 am. I did get a couple hours’ sleep but Alex and Vlad almost got none.

The weather cleared up briefly as we descended Tinniswood Glacier

View to the west. Still too cloudy to figure out the peaks though…

Vlad seemed very excited about our brief visibility window

After another while of plodding here’s Alex approaching our camp

At this point we were losing elevation again on the glacier plateau

Mt. Casement was still soaked in..

Vlad coming to the camp under the south face of Mt. Tinniswood

A zoomed-in view of Mt. Pearkes, that we also ascended in this trip

Alex and our camp under Mt. Tinniswood

The alarm went off and we forced in some cold breakfast and up we went, in the thick and humid mist. The peak was completely soaked in but I was hoping for some partial views as we got higher. From camp we ascended a section of 35 degree snow and trended climber’s right to intersect the long east ridge of Mt. Tinniswood. There are multiple possible entry points on the ridge and it really doesn’t matter. We went a bit too high that resulted in some unnecessary scrambling but on hindsight it didn’t cost us extra energy nor time. Once onto the east ridge we enjoyed a while of cruise-sailing on easy snow. The east ridge is divided into two big steps with the lower step much simpler than the upper step. The connection between the two steps is a stretch of flat but corniced ridge that required some caution. The upper ridge was where the fun and steep snow climbing started. The term “steep” here is relative, as the steepest stretch was no worse than 45 degrees and were all short-lived without much of exposure.

Alex and Vlad ascending the lower east ridge of Mt. Tinniswood

We had traversed over the flat, corniced section now

Vlad posing somewhere on the upper east ridge.

Towards the summit pyramid we finally could turn off the headlamps and the clouds finally started to break a bit revealing partial views. The summit pyramid looked insane but was actually easy with only some class 2 scrambling on loose blocks on the climber’s left side. Due to the moving clouds and in-and-out views we opted to stay almost an hour on the summit and did manage to get some views. The register was full on history and was fun to read.

Vlad scrambling the last few minutes to the summit

Alex was stoked to find the register on this one….

It was a great team work!

Me doing my Instagram thing on the summit of Mt. Tinniswood

Alex and Vlad celebrating our primary objective in this trip…

Partial Summit Panorama from Mt. Tinniswood. Click to view large size.

Brief view to the west showed a bit of Mt. Alexander

Mt. George Edwards and the upper Tinniswood Glacier plateau

Another photo of me on the summit of Mt. Tinniswood

The view down the east ridge

Eventually it’s the time to descend. The best photos I got was from descending the upper East Ridge as the sun poked through. A few short stretches required us to down-climb facing into the slopes but for the most parts it was just a walk-off following our tracks. I think we got back to camp in only an hour after leaving the summit. Due to the incoming weather we decided to push on, so we packed camp. The next thing we were descending the not-so-pleasant section to bypass Mt. Casement while losing an additional 700 m elevation. This stretch would be enjoyable on snow, but we had to deal with rubble and talus along with some icy snow that’s too difficult to plunge on. There was also some minor route-finding issues but at least at this point we were back onto the “known” terrain. Previous parties had all gone through this stretch and we knew it would go. There’s one more obstacle near the base of Mt. Casement that we had to take the boots off to cross a freezing stream, which actually felt fairly refreshing.

Vlad and Alex starting the descent

The clouds came in and out creating some misty feel

Another view of Mt. Casement. This time it’s out of the clouds

Alex posing on the upper east ridge of Mt. Tinniswood

Vlad down-climbing the east ridge of Mt. Tinniswood

One of the few steeper rolls required us to down-climb facing-in

The horizontal section of the ridge ahead

The view towards Mt. Oswald cleared up now

Vlad plodding down this flat and corniced section

A sideways view across the east face glacier of Mt. Tinniswood

Vlad on the corniced section.

Me with the upper East Ridge behind. Photo by Alex R.

Another photo of Mt. George Edwards and Tinniswood Glacier plateau

Alex and Vlad descending with Loquilts Peak ahead

Me looking small on the east ridge of Mt. Tinniswood. Photo by Alex R.

East Ridge and South Face of Mt. Tinniswood

Another photo of descending with Loquilts Peak ahead, our next objective

Almost back to our camp

We were tired at this point but had to press on. No rest for the wicked..

Alex leading the way descending around Mt. Casement

Vlad with the south face of Mt. Tinniswood behind

Linking up several snow ramps was the key in this zone

Vlad took a glissade on some icy snow that I barely able to boot-ski

Our aim was that low col between Loquilts Peak and Mt. Casement

Mt. Casement and its reflection in a small tarn

Not the most pleasant terrain. This is Vlad’s terrain now.

Vlad posing in front of the creek crossing…

After the creek crossing we took a long break and then traversed some very shitty choss towards Casement/Loquilts col. To reach the col we had to gain more than 50 m elevation which certainly felt annoying. It’s a trade-off between side-hilling on shitty terrain versus regaining elevation and we picked a combination of both. The weather still held at this point, so we had to press on towards Loquilts Peak.

Vlad fording the cold creek. We all went bare feet…

There’s still fair amount of unpleasant terrain to hit Loquilts/Casement col