The Sphinx

March 25, 2016

2402m

Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC

The Sphinx is a striking objective guarding the famous Garibaldi Lake from its “backside”. The most common approach is by crossing the frozen Garibaldi Lake in winter/spring on skis. The standard route via SW Ridge from Sphinx Pass is nothing technical, but does involve some steep snow climbing.

The Sphinx was the primary objective in this past Easter long weekend but before tagging the summit, Alex, Michelle and I had already bagged the nearby Deception Peak for simple reason that it’s “right there”.

Ascent route for Deception, Sphinx and Glacier Pikes

Ascent route for Deception, Sphinx and Glacier Pikes. GPX DL

We had previously spotted a line that allowed us to traverse high from the shoulder of Deception Peak to Sphinx Pass without losing too much elevation. There were a few large crevasses en route but with Alex leading the way route-finding, none of them turned out to be troublesome. Once making to the Sphinx Pass we ditched most of the unnecessary gears and carried only the essentials up the peak.

Dropping down from the shoulder of Deception Peak.

Dropping down from the shoulder of Deception Peak.

Looking back towards Deception Peak

Looking back towards Deception Peak

Traversing towards Sphinx Pass

Traversing towards Sphinx Pass

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

The big slope from Sphinx Pass. It's much longer than appeared.

The big slope from Sphinx Pass. It’s much longer than appeared.

The initial 100 m or so elevation gain from Sphinx Pass was the crux – 40 degree or so and fairly sustained. The surface had turned slushy thank to the solar radiation but still, we could manage to skin most of the way up by some tight kick-turns. At one point I touched a spot where the top layer started to slide and offered literally no grip, and here’s where we all switched to boot-packing, but once this slope was cleared we put the skis back on again. The rest of the ascent to the summit was a pure slog and unfortunately we were engulfed in clouds.

Alex skinning up the big slope.

Alex skinning up the big slope.

Michelle skinning up..

Michelle skinning up..

Eventually we still had to boot-pack for a bit

Eventually we still had to boot-pack for a bit

The upper slope was also very foreshortening.

The upper slope was also very foreshortening.

Looking across the upper slope towards Isosceles Peak

Looking across the upper slope towards Isosceles Peak

Looking down along Pitt River towards Spire Peaks area

Looking down along Pitt River. Viking Ridge on right; Spire Peaks behind on left.

A zoomed-in view of the sea of peaks along McBride Range Traverse

A zoomed-in view of the sea of peaks along McBride Range Traverse

From the summit, we could see the very distinct Bookworms on Sphinx Glacier

From the summit, we could see the very distinct Bookworms on Sphinx Glacier

Looking back towards Deception Peak (foreground) with The Table behind

Looking back towards Deception Peak (foreground) with The Table behind

Another picture looking down Pitt River from the summit

Another picture looking down Pitt River from the summit

The steep north face and some huge cornices.

The steep north face and some huge cornices.

Garibaldi Lake barely in show.

Garibaldi Lake barely in show.

Me on the summit of The Sphinx

Me on the summit of The Sphinx

There’s no point lingering too long on the summit other than having some snack break and we soon focused on the skiing. The upper mountain was pretty fun to ski down but the big slope was a different story. The condition was horrible and the grade was a bit too steep for my like so I gingerly made my way down by some long traverses and kick-turns. Back to Sphinx Pass we re-packed and now it’s time to ski down south to Sentinel Glacier.

Partway down the mountain, Mt. Garibaldi finally started to show up again.

Partway down the mountain, Mt. Garibaldi finally started to show up again.

Me skiing down the big slope. Photo by Alex.

Me skiing down the big slope. Photo by Alex.

This section was a bit experimental as we didn’t have any trip report as reference, but just like what we expected from the Google Earth images the slope wasn’t very steep, although the snow condition was still not the greatest for skiing. Instead of dropping all the way down Alex led a traversing line down skier’s right over some steep stuff to reduce some unnecessary elevation loss/regain. Down to the low point we put the skins back on and carried on for another 20 minutes or so passing a yawing open crevasse before calling it a day. From this point it’d be a mere 1-hour plod to the summit of Glacier Pikes which we thought would be perfect for the next morning. Setting up the camp was fairly relaxing and for a bonus we got some good light at sunset time.

This is the slope we had to ski down south from Sphinx Pass

This is the slope we had to ski down south from Sphinx Pass

Our turns on the snow.

Our turns on the snow.

Michelle traversing with The Sphinx behind

Michelle traversing with The Sphinx behind

Skiing down to the low point on Sentinel Glacier

Skiing down to the low point on Sentinel Glacier

A look at the south side of Deception Peak's pinnacles

A look at the south side of Deception Peak’s pinnacles

My tent on Sentinel Glacier

My tent on Sentinel Glacier

Another picture of our camp.

Another picture of our camp.

A review shot of The Sphinx

A review shot of The Sphinx

Still some clouds engulfing Parapet and Isosceles Peaks

Still some clouds engulfing Parapet and Isosceles Peaks

Mt. Luxor

Mt. Luxor

The Table at sunset hour

The Table at sunset hour

Mt. Price with some neat evening colours

Mt. Price with some neat evening colours

Guard Mountain with some evening colours

Guard Mountain with some evening colours

Tired and a bit demotivated everybody went to bed early. I was certainly not looking forward to the 5:30 am wake-up call, but by that time Alex did manage to drag everybody out of their comfortable sleeping bags. There’s some high clouds and it was still pitch dark but as a peak-bagger it’s time to get ready for an ascent of Glacier Pikes.

 

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