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.
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.
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.
Looking east along the summit ridge.
Photo credit: Gillian P.
Looking west along the summit ridge.
Photo credit: Gillian P.
Climbing rope-mate John takes a moment at 9,000 ft. to enjoy the stunning view before we descend back down into the clouds.
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.
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.
Marooned in the middle of “Avalanche Alley”.
♫ “Avalanches to the left of me…avalanches to the right. Here I am: stuck in the middle with you.” ♫
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).
Once we felt the north slope was sufficiently firm, we double-timed it across the debris fields one rope team at a time.
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.
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.
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.
Many other groups would have opted to take their chances and make a run through the hazard zone.
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.”
Play safe and Be Prepared!