Friday, 7 September 2012

Willingdon Attempt 2012

Sept 1-3, 2012

It was set to be Ross and Deanna's excellent adventure.  You know the story; big plans, long weekend and great weather forecast.  We knew it wasn't going to be text book when we arrived at Mosquito Creek parking lot Saturday morning shortly before 9 am to torrential rain and wet snow.  Hmmm!  We sat it out in the car for an hour and sure enough, a sucker hole of blue sky spurred us into action.

Off we went at 10, basically following the trail to Mosquito Creek campground for an hour until a bit of a trail to the left just before the 3rd bridge.  We followed this trail which follows the left hand side of the creek for another hour and a quarter.  A little tougher going and we managed to get soaking wet from the branches grabbing at us.

We then headed up through sparse bush as per Bill Corbett's directions and made our way up to a bit of alpine meadow.  The weather was coming and going with a bit of snow and grapple but not enough so send us home.  Our goal was to pass through Quartzite Col which is just to the right of my head below.

We managed to make the col in 5 hours from the car, not bad for a guy recovering from a broken ankle and a girl that doesn't climb (apparently Cotopaxi doesn't count!).  We traversed into the col from high and spent more time in awkward blocky terrain, could have saved time and energy by entering the amphiteatre lower and heading straight up to the col.  We managed to make the col in the middle of a particularly energetic storm cell, I was happy not to hear any thunder.

Deanna may have mentioned once or twice that she wasn't happy with the weather but we elected to carry on.  Fortunately, just after we did the cloud lifted and we could at least see our way down to the Siffleur valley.  Descending the other side of the col is pretty steep, we found some passable terrain well to the climbers right of the col, an alternative would have been to descend a steep snow slope right under the col.

Once down onto the Siffleur the terrain was stunning, not much of a view of the mountains but interesting terrain and soft under foot.

A bit undulating and a few creek crossings later we picked up the horse trail coming in from Pipestone valley and made our way up to Clearwater Pass.  Unfortunately, shortly about then it started to snow in earnest.  At about 6 pm we were getting a little weary and hid under some trees, ate something and agreed to carry on for 1/2 an hour and if we didn't find Devon Lakes we would just camp wherever.

Funny enough, as soon as we got back on the trail the snow eased enough for us to realize we were 40 metres from the lake and right beside the creek we were looking for!  We quickly set up camp as it continued to snow and found a clump of trees to cook under.  After a 9 hour day with a little over 1,000 metres of elevation gain in a raging blizzard it was good to be in the tent.

The snow and wind continued through most of the night and it was pretty obvious we weren't going to get up any mountains however it cleared enough in the morning to allow for a great view of the start of the route on Willingdon to the right of the nipple on the ridge below.

We had a bit of a relaxing start to the day and elected to take the long way back and spend another night out.  We packed up and headed towards Pipestone Pass at 11 am.  It stayed cold and windy but the cloud cover came and went enough to get some great views.

Two and a half hours got us to Pipestone Col which was pretty spectacular albiet chilly.  A little scotch out of the wind helped us to forget about the cold.

Carrying on down the Pipestone valley was spectacular.  We carried on for a little over an hour and just before Moose Lake headed up and over to shortcut back to Mosquito Creek. 

The route up and over takes a line of least resistance just before the large face of snow on the right above a green bench.  Given all of the obvious bear territory and no other people around I was surprised not to see any wildlife.  The climb up to the unnamed col was pretty straight forward as you can see below however we found more hoof than boot prints.

On the other side was a descent of about 200 metres to a little lake that we elected to set up camp beside.  It was still cold and windy so we spent the evening wearing every bit of clothing we brought.  In fact we had to heat up the box of wine to get it up to room temperatures!

In all it took us 7 hours to get here from Devon Lakes at a pretty pedestrian pace and there was 700 metres of elevation gain.

The next morning we tore down camp with threatening skies but managed to get out without getting wet.  It was beautiful terrain on the way down to Mosquito Creek.  At one point we were following bear tracks through a meadow with lots of signs of digging however the lack of steaming scat kept the heart rate down.

We left at 9 am, joined the trail after an hour and a half and made it back to the car in three and a half hours including a few rest stops.

Probably the most fun I've had without climbing a mountain.