Serratus Mountain

May 18, 2019

2321m

Squamish, BC

Serratus Mountain a rugged, substantial and highly visible summit on the main stretch of Tantalus Range. Despite the close proximity to the great Mt. Tantalus this peak still sees fair amount of traffic mostly because it locates right next to Jim Haberl Hut. The access to Jim Haberl Hut can be done in the purist’s fashion, one long day via Lake Lovely Water by crossing Squamish River on a tyrolean traverse, but most modern climbers, myself included, prefer to take the regularly served, 10-minute helicopter flight. From the hut the ascent of Serratus involves mostly 3rd and 4th class scrambling but I’ve heard more than a few parties running into 5th class terrain. It’s either because the route is sandbagged, or because of the route-finding challenges. The west side scramble route is irrelevant to me though as my preferred way is the north face on snow. In stable conditions the north face can be done by 300-meter, 40-45 degree snow which is something I’m more comfortable about. The north face can also be done in summer but I prefer winter or spring when the monster-sized crevasses and bergschrunds haven’t opened up yet. I also prefer to climb on snow instead of ice.

The decision among Alex, Andre and myself was spontaneous because the weather forecast wasn’t 100% promising. Alex and I agreed to hit Serratus Mtn. as soon as a 1-day window formed after our previous weekend’s multi-day trip in Whistler area. The forecast improved a little bit towards Sunday afternoon. I gave it 70% but we booked the flights anyway, which we were glad to be available at such last minute. We both emailed a bunch of friends but only Andre was on board, and the next morning we met in Squamish Airport at 6 am. The pilot told us at the last minute that a local legend would fly with us. This certainly made my day because I wasn’t expecting to share a trip with someone that I had only been admiring on Facebook. The weather was overcast when we drove northwards into Squamish but the clouds were clearing and the pilot said the flight to Jim Haberl Hut would have no problem.

North Face of Serratus Mountain from Jim Haberl Hut

A while later we were dropped at the hut. Alex and Andre decided to ski instead of snowshoe but I only had one choice. To access the north face we had to lose over 100 m elevation so I went ahead plodding on snowshoes. Alex and Andre caught up and past me in no time and we regrouped at the bottom of the face. It appeared that the whole lower face had slid in the last several days. This meant our climbing would be safer, but the size of those debris was humbling. There would be no chance of survival if getting caught in that. After a bit of post-holing we hit the harder surface and over 100 vertical meters of continuous, 40-degree front-pointing that made us glad to have an ice tool. The transition onto the bench had a section of steep (45+ degrees) and soft snow, but once onto the upper bench the condition improved again and the grade eased off to around 35 degrees.

Lake Lovely Water covered in morning fog

East Face of The Red Tusk, one of the most difficult summits in Sea to Sky

Morning sun behind the valley fog

The misty west aspects of Serratus Mountain

The heli pad right next to Jim Haberl Hut

The north face of Mt. Sedgwick

Jim Haberl Hut with Mt. Dione behind

Alex and Andre ready to rock ‘n roll

Andre skiing down Serratus Glacier

Alex skiing the morning corn on Serratus Glacier

Cloudburst Mountain pokes above the valley fog

The morning sun and Mt. Garibaldi massif

Alex and Andre look small compared with Alpha Mountain

Alex starting the boot-pack

Thank to post-holing we soon merged onto the debris…

Alex and Andre plodding up this massive debris field..

As you can see, the whole north face of Serratus slid…

Me climbing up. Photo by Alex R.

Andre on the front-pointing sections

From front-pointing to soft snow. Photo by Andre

Climbing onto the upper shoulder after some steep and soft snow

We took turn breaking trail in the breakable crust but in short time the grade picked up to around 45 degrees again. The summit wasn’t far away but the exposure picked up and we also needed to be cautious about the cornices dangling on the left side, that we couldn’t tell where the boundaries were. Once the steeps were eventually over we traversed the easy summit ridge to the highest point, with fabulous views towards all directions. We texted a bunch of friends who missed out this trip for whatever reasons with pictures of Mt. Tantalus and The Rest Tusk and Alpha Mountain.

Alex boot-packing the upper face.

Alex continuing charging up

Passing this sub-summit

Alex and Andre on the summit push.

Me and Andre climbing up. Photo by Alex R.

Alex on the summit ridge now

Me traversing towards the summit. Photo by Alex R.

Alpha Mountain in the foreground should be another quick grab with heli

This is looking south down the drainage towards Lake Lovely Water area

The west side view into some remote places behind Sunshine Coast

Partial Summit Panorama from Serratus Mountain. Click to view large size.

Partial Summit Panorama from Serratus Mountain. Click to view large size.

Alex and Andre traversing the summit ridge

Alex with Mt. Tantalus/Mt. Dione behind

Omega Mountain and Mt. Niobe/Mt. Pelops in foreground

Lydia Mountain, The Red Tusk and Mt. Pandareus in foreground

The north face of Mt. Sedgwick

Dione Glacier and Mt. Dione/Mt. Tantalus

Mt. Garibaldi/Dalton Dome and Atwell Peak behind

A closer look at Mt. Dione and Mt. Tantalus

“Mt. Gustavson” etc. behind Clowhom Lake

Sky Pilot Mtn. rises behind Mt. Niobe/Mt. Pelops

The Red Tusk in foreground with Howe Sound behind

Rainy Mountain and Tetrahedron Peak at center shot

Omega Mountain in foreground

Me on the summit of Serratus Mountain.

Another photo of me on the summit of Serratus Mountain

Because of the rapid warming-up we didn’t have a ton of time to kill up there. I started the down-climb but soon Alex and Andre caught up and passed me on their skis. They managed to actually ski the slid zone as well as the avalanche debris lower down on the face too. For me the down-climbing above slid zone was sketchy on some soft and rotten snow. The slid zone had softened a bit since an hour ago, but still required mostly front-pointing facing into the slope. The walking out on those avalanche debris wasn’t so fun neither but at least it wasn’t a long one. At the gear transition the others decided to ski for a run down Serratus Glacier. I had nothing else to do so just followed them plunging down on snowshoes, and then slogged all the way back to Jim Haberl Hut.

Looking west while down-climbing the upper north face

Alex skiing the upper north face on a light dust of fresh snow

Alex skiing the north face of Serratus Mountain

Skiing with Mt. Tantalus in the background

Me walking down the mellow middle section. Photo by Alex R.

Alex and Andre skiing

Alex trying to make a turn here.

Skiing with Alpha Mountain as a backdrop

Me finishing the down-climbing. Photo by Alex R.

A closer look at Alpha Mountain

Skinning up Serratus Glacier

Andre and I skinning/snowshoeing up in front of Alpha Mtn.

Me plodding up Serratus Glacier. Photo by Alex R.

A review shot of the upper north face of Serratus Mountain

Me doing some tourist’s stuffs at Jim Haberl Hut

At the hut I borrowed Andre’s boots and skis for a short run to try out the G3 bindings and the lightweight skis and then Alex and Andre did another run down Serratus Glacier while I stayed at the hut with the local legend. I got some pretty useful beta and updates. Another hour later, at 11:30 am the helicopter came and picked us up. Ten minutes later we were back to Squamish, and two hours later I was back home. I had about 40 minutes to take a shower and cook a meal before the exhausting afternoon/evening work routine. I had to work from 2:30 pm to 9:30 pm. I ended up using my dinner time to take a much-needed nap. The trade off between tiredness and hunger helped a bit but nonetheless, this was another uber-productive, but exhausting-as-fuck day as always.