November 21, 2010
It was a cold and miserable start to Sunday morning. I was still feeling tired from the previous day of skiing bottomless powder at Baker. We stepped out of the car at the gas station in Squamish, and contemplated heading over to Nick’s house for tea, guidebooks, icecream, pasta and climbing movies instead. Stefan and Bram thought it was going to be a short day, so they loaded up on powdered donuts, Gatorade, and other 7-Eleven delicacies. Bram had even told me the night before that we were going to go at a relaxed mellow pace. Meanwhile I wandered over to McDonalds to get a sausage egg McMuffin, since I knew I would need the extra calorie and fat boost.
We parked at the chain up area, we chained up right when the snow started. After walking up the road for a few minutes, we bumped into some familiar people, Kaja’s parents, who offered us a ride up to the parking lot. This was much appreciated as we had a long day ahead of us.
The skin into the Elfin Lake hut was mostly a faded memory to me, as I tried to keep up with Stefan’s long legs, and Bram’s fast gliding coltex skins. Who knew you could draft uphill. It took us over two hours to get there (2:06), including a stop at Red Heather to compare moustaches with Evan, Greta, and Chris who were also out for the day. We joked about getting Stefan a pedometer so he wouldn’t skin faster than 4km an hour.
I looked at the map in the hut, and realized that there was still another 2000ft to climb up, and plenty more distance too. Stefan and Bram didn’t believe me at first, and they were still convinced it was a short daytrip. None of us wanted to leave the warmth of the cabin first, as that person would have to break trail up towards the Gargoyle-Columnar col. I’ve never been out in this direction before, at least not up to the saddle, so I was quite excited about the potential for a new line on the map wall. Stefan and I took turns breaking trail up to the col.
We skied down a short run from the col, and then proceeded on the long gradual slog up to Little Diamond Head. It was frigidly cold (-20C) and then there was the bone-chilling wind. Our exposed ridgetop position didn’t help either. I was breaking trail in my softshell, primaloft puffy, balaclava, neck warmer and toque. Stefan and Bram were happy to stay behind me, as they claimed the photos of them from the front with the fog in Howe Sound looked a lot better than a shot of them breaking trail to the summit. There was something about them being tired and out of shape, but I didn’t believe it. They both offered to break trail home though.
We were in the clouds for a brief moment below the summit, and once we were on top, we tried to enjoy the spectacular views of Howe Sound, Mamquam, and Tantalus, while thinking of how the sun was setting and it was time to go home. That’s the beauty of November, you get nice early sunsets. The summit isn’t really a summit either; it’s just the natural stopping point before continuing along the loose scary south ridge of Atwell. But it’s a spectacular spot.
We descended creamy smooth snow off the south face, and then skied some thigh-burning sastrugi, and then made another climb back up to the col. While skiing down the buttery powdery snow off the other side, and gazing at the alpenglow over Mamquam, and I could only think of cheeseburgers at McDonalds. We climbed back up to the Elfin cabin, and warmed up everything inside while enjoying some tea and banana bread.
We slogged out to Round Mountain and descended the tracked out slopes down to Red Heather by headlamp and moonlight. We joked about trying for a sub-ten minute descent to the parking lot, but instead I opted to snowplow most of the way down trying to avoid numerous rocks. Stefan thinks I should get skis that do the work for me. We still had to walk another half an hour down to the car at the lower chain up area, while trying our best not to fall on the snowy road. While sitting in the freezing car, we unanimously decided to have dinner at McDonalds. I think we left the upper parking lot at 10:30am, and made it back to the car at 7:30pm.
Just another leisurely Sunday stroll in the local mountains. Highly recommended slog, but maybe start a bit earlier in the day next time. This trip actually seems quite similar to Fred, Greg, and Don’s trip here six years ago.