April 9, 2016
The glaciated Powder Mountain is a mere glorified “snow dome” west of Callaghan Valley near Whistler. In many ways it’s similar to the real Snow Dome on the Columbia Icefield but this one is a bit smaller in nature and a lot less intimidating speaking the crevasse hazard, though a bit more remote I’d say. Powder Mountain is often tagged on snowmobiles (as we discovered), or as part of the Powdercap Traverse, but Alex and I opted to ascend it as a side-trip on top of our primary objectives – Mt. Fee North Tower and Mt. Cayley.
Earlier on Day 1 we’d approached from Brandywine FSR, made a sketchy ascent of Mt. Fee North Tower and now back to where we ditched overnight gears it’s time to re-pack and plod towards our second objective. For this section we’d follow the main branch of the snowmobile highway, also the Powdercap ski traverse route. We gained another bench on the west side of Brandywine Mountain and followed it to a low saddle and the next section was an uninspiring 300-m elevation loss. The skiing was pretty decent though but the elevation re-gain was not so much.
The plod up the glacier felt like forever and Mt. Cayley just never seemed to get any closer, but with some good attitude it eventually did get closer… The highway of snowmobile tracks led us up and through a heavily crevassed “headwall” section and after that we were right underneath Mt. Cayley’s route and called it quit. No more heavy packs and it’s time to set up camp. About 1 hour later everything was done and time to put ski boots on again (painful). Fighting the temptation of being lazy was difficult but we did manage to get going.
The snowmobile tracks continued all the way up the Icefield and towards every direction. The main branch followed the most obvious route up to the summit of Powder Mountain so there’s no route-finding for us whatsoever. It’s a simple matter of putting one foot in front of another, albeit a very long and tedious process. The summit actually seemed to “fall behind” and that moment (skinning plod up a snowmobile highway up a rounded dome of snow) reminded me greatly the plod up the actual Snow Dome last year… This time we didn’t bother to wonder around on the summit and instead we took a lengthy break regathering some strength.
Now it’s time to ski back to camp. The sun was setting but the snow was still in a good shape (for most of the descent anyway). We flee down the gentle slopes in no time but once entering the shaded part underneath Mt. Cayley the surface had re-freeze a bit and become crusty. We snow-powed the rest of the way back.
We cooked some dinner and went to bed and that’s it about our first day – 15 hours long. I was not keen to wake up early at all but Alex still managed to drag me up at 3:30 am, and now it’s time to climb Mt. Cayley…