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Mount Matier – Sunday, June 10, 2012

Leaders Need to Sharpen Their Skillz Too! (Part 2*)

Scouter Jody first learned his mountaineering skills during the Ford and Carter administrations.  Suffice to say, retraining was high on his list of priorities for the year!

Accordingly, he applied for and was accepted into the Alpine Club of Canada, Vancouver Section’s coveted annual Basic Mountaineering (BM1) training program:

Weekend 1 – May 26-27….Rock Climbing at Smoke Bluffs, Squamish.
Weekend 2 – June 2-3……Glacier Travel and Safety on Mount Seymour, North Vancouver.
Weekend 3 – June 9-10….Climb Mt. Matier (9,131 ft/2,783 m), Joffre Lakes Provincial Park (40 km. NE of Pemberton).

Here are some of photos and stories from the course’s final challenge – climb Mt. Matier:

*See this link for Part 1.

Nearing the summit ridge on Mt. Matier (9,131 ft/ 2,783 m) in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park on Sunday morning
with the Alpine Club of Canada, Vancouver Section.

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As we ascended the Northeast ridge of Matier we got a striking view of her sister peak, Joffre (8,927 ft/ 2,721 m) rising out of the clouds behind us.
All of the great peaks for miles in every direction around us appeared as islands scattered across a sea of clouds.

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Earning every step on the way up.
Falling chunks of dislodged ice would fly past us from above and then disappear quietly into the soft blanket of cloud hiding the Matier and Anniversary glaciers far below (one chunk the size of a football hit me in the shoulder and partially spun me around – it was comforting to be wearing a helmet).  Naturally, we were on the “don’t fall” (or drop anything) plan that morning.

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Looking east along the summit ridge.
Photo credit: Gillian P.

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Looking west along the summit ridge.
Photo credit: Gillian P.

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Climbing rope-mate John takes a moment at 9,000 ft. to enjoy the stunning view before we descend back down into the clouds.
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There was little time to enjoy the moment, however, when we began hearing the roar of avalanches in the mountains below us.
As we were ascending, the sun had been cooking the slopes below through the fading morning cloud.
Once we descended far enough we discovered that our ascent route on the north side of the valley had been wiped out by avalanches and was no longer safe to use. By then, the south side of the valley had also begun continuously avalanching.
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Ultimately, the decision was made to sit out the afternoon in a safe spot on an elevated rock bluff in the middle of the Anniversary Glacier and wait for at least five hours for the sun to go down and the north slope to harden up before finishing the journey back to our camp (which we could see about 3 kms. below us). It took a bit of ingenuity to devise snow melting “stills” to supply the team with the one necessity that we had all pretty much long depleted. Once we got the water production underway there was nothing to do but lay back and enjoy each other’s company during an enforced afternoon on the “beach” while we watched nature’s show of force as avalanche after avalanche crashed down the slopes on both sides of us.

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Marooned in the middle of  “Avalanche Alley”.
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♫  “Avalanches to the left of me…avalanches to the right. Here I am: stuck in the middle with you.”  ♫

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Chillin’ in the middle of a giant reflector oven and enjoying the company of a great group of guys and gals!
Nothing left to do but hydrate and wait for the sun to go down (and, no, I didn’t burn my nose).
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Once we felt the north slope was sufficiently firm, we double-timed it across the debris fields one rope team at a time.
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It was a long day…
We had an “alpine start” at 3:30 am and did not get back to our camp at 5,400 ft. until after 8 pm.
We quickly packed up and began the long hike down the mountain and out to the cars by 9 pm.
Hiking through the dark with headlamps we reached the cars well after 11 pm and then began the 3 hour drive back to Vancouver.
I didn’t get to bed until 3:30 am.  Tired, sore and happy.

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Here’s the last two teams making their way through the north side of “Avalanche Alley” as the sun is sets on Matier.
Use the size of the two rope teams going through the avalanche debris fields to judge the scale of the area.

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Here’s a picture of Matier that I took after our last rope team crossed from the top of that rock formation in the middle of the glacier through the avalanche debris fields to safe ground (where I’m standing). By sitting tight for the afternoon we were acting at the maximum level of caution.
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Many other groups would have opted to take their chances and make a run through the hazard zone.
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There’s an old saying:
“There are many bold climbers and there are many old climbers but there are only a few old, bold climbers.”
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Play safe and Be Prepared!

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April 13-15, 2012: Joffre Lakes Winter Camp V

Well, we had time for one last trip back to the ‘Joff before the winter snow begins slowly disappearing from the Mountains.

This time we had guests from Pemberton joining us: Jason Gadd and his son Ben.  They had such a good time that we’ll have to find a way of creating a Pemberton branch of the 5th West Van Mountaineer Scouts!

We also had 19-year-old Sam Lotzkar and his friend David join us.  They also had an excellent time winter camping for the first time in their lives.  Maybe we’ve got our first Rovers for our group?

Saturday morning we saddled up and snowshoed into the mountains.  We ate lunch in the sun at Middle Joffre Lake and then continued on to Upper Joffre Lake.

After five camping trips to the park since November, it was the perfect end of a perfect season to finally put our snowshoe prints into the snow on Upper Joffre Lake below the towering Joffre and Matier Peaks and the stunning Matier Glacier!

We took the opportunity to do a leader investiture ceremony on the lake under the glacier for our new leader, Scouter Alan!  What a spot for that ceremony!  It was like being in a cathedral with the rocks and ice towering all around us.

The weather began socking in and it starting snowing so…with heavy hearts after only a short visit to the “Joffre Cathedral”…we had to turn around and head back to basecamp.

But you can be sure we’ll be back and next time…let’s camp at the Upper Lake!

With all the Scouts in bed on Saturday night, the adults sat in our carved out snow living room and chatted about the day’s adventures.

At 11pm our conversation was interrupted by a sound from high up in the mountains that crackled like rolling thunder for over 5 seconds…something very large, heavy and hard broke loose up there and crashed down the mountain…this was no mere avalanche…it sounded as if half the glacier had broken off.

A good reminder for us to be ever vigilant out there and to take the mountains seriously every time we go out.

UPDATE – 04/16/12:   I just got this wonderful message from Jason Gadd regarding this weekend’s trip up in the mountains:

“HI Jody – Thanks for having us.  Ben said that Saturday was one of the best days of his life!  It was pretty great.”

March 10-11, 2012: Joffre Lakes Winter Camp IV

Welcome New Scout Leader: Alan Dudley

My old friend Alan Dudley has agreed to come on board as a leader with our Scout group!  Alan and I went through Cubs, Scouts and Venturers together back in the stone age.  He attended CJ’77 in PEI with my younger brother, J.P.

Alan brings a sensible, conservative approach to the backcountry and will be a considerable asset for our group.

Before agreeing to join us, Alan wanted a private weekend up at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park to get his winter camping “sea legs” back.

While not able to attend regular weekly meetings since he lives in Ladner, Alan will be able to come with us on our weekend outings.

I’m happy to report that Alan had a wonderful time and is looking forward to getting all his registration paperwork done and joining us on some of our adventures this year.

Alan's first day back at winter camp in...oh, maybe 25 years...let's make this easy for him!

Alan's immediately loving being back in the mountains! Scout Simon did an excellent job sculpting out a very comfortable living room and kitchen for us for the weekend.

We were supposed to get hammered overnight and instead we just got a light dusting of snow.

Everyone loves feeding the WhiskeyJacks!

We had time on Sunday for a nice snowshoe hike before having to pack up and head back to the city. It must have snowed at least two feet since we were here just two weeks ago.

Welcome back to Scouting Alan! You're going to have the best time with the 5th West Vancouver Mountaineer Scouts. I promise!

Joffre Lakes Winter Camp III

February 17-19, 2012 

Note:  Click on a photo to start a full-screen carousel slide-show with captions.
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What view will you have from your tent this weekend?

There’s less than 19 hours remaining on the countdown timer on the front page of our website!

This will be our third trip up to Joffre this year.

The BC Highways web camera shows plenty of new snow.  Who’s getting excited?

We will be out of cell phone coverage for the weekend but we’ll post photos and stories as soon as we get back!

Last chance: Anyone else want to join us?

Upper Joffre Lake, Joffre Lake Provincial Park, B.C.

Joffre: November vs January Snow Levels

Mother Nature sure was busy at Joffre Lake Provincial Park since our last camp up there in November.

To see the difference in the snow level at our campsite at Lower Joffre Lake, compare the two photos below of the branchless tree stump that sits at the back of the main camping area (yeah, it’s that little knob in the foreground of the picture on the right).  There was about 3-4 feet of snow on the ground in November and another 3-4 feet of fresh pow on top of that during our second trip.

Snowshoes are going to be mandatory for all our future backcountry camps.

November 19, 2011

January 22, 2012

UPDATE:  Well, as of February 17, 2012…..the stump is basically covered by the accumulated snowfall:

See you in the Spring, Stumpy!

Joffre Lake Winter Camp II

January 21-22, 2012

Since last fall when we heard that there was to be a  North Shore Area Winter Camporee at the Cal-Cheak forest service camp just south of Whistler scheduled for this weekend, our troop had been looking forward to getting out in the snow with other scouts from our area.  Unfortunately, that camp failed to materialize.

We planned an alternative two night camp for Mount Seymour only to have the weather turn on us; the freezing level raised above the height of all of the north shore mountains and heavy rain was forecast.

Not to worry, Joffre Lake Provincial Park is always ready to greet us with perfect snow conditions!

Unfortunately, as the weekend came near, many of the troop were struck by illnesses and some had conflicts with their commitments.

In the end, Scouter Jason and I decided to head up Saturday morning with Scouts Simon and Max for an overnighter.  The normal almost three-hour drive up to Joffre took nearly five hours that day due to the traffic mayhem caused by the overnight storm on the Sea to Sky highway.

We were rewarded for our perseverance, however, with perfect conditions!  Mild (-5° c degree average) temperatures, loads of fresh powder snow and blue skies above the mountains greeted us upon our arrival.  On Saturday night, the skies cleared totally and we extinguished our headlamps to witness a fantastic night sky above the mountains accented by shooting stars.

Simon and I had new MSR mountaineering snowshoes to making trail blazing and campsite stomping a much more efficient exercise (totally needed with the nearly 4 feet of powder snow that had fallen on our campsite since our last visit in November).  Even with 30″ snowshoes on, I sometimes found myself sinking up to my knees in the fresh pow.

Our only complaint was that we didn’t have a second night to enjoy our campsite and the chance to hike higher up into the mountains.

Oh well, that’s what next time is for…

Note:  Click on a picture to start a full screen carousel slide show with captions.


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Joffre Lake Winter Camp I

November 19-20, 2011

Introduction to Winter Camping:

Note:  Click on a picture to start a full screen carousel slide show with captions.
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