Mount James Turner

A piece of history, originally uploaded by RichSo.

This trip was inspired by Dave Campbell’s article in the 2003-2004 VOCJ about places that capture the essence of the Coast Mountains. The idea was to follow Robin McKillop and Dave Campbell’s route where they climbed Oasis Mountain, Eureka Mountain, Mt. Neal, and Mt. James Turner over 2.5 days. Tim and I had talked about this trip before, but I didn’t think I should try it until progressing further on the “10 steps to getting fit with Fred” program yet. But on Wed during Frisbee, Tim couldn’t find anybody else who would want to go all the way out there to climb James Turner. Fred has already done James Turner in a 22 hour epic hut-to-hut. I should have realized at this point that I was going to be in way over my head.

We left Vancouver Fri afternoon, and carried our skis most of the way up the trail. We kept it to a rambling pace, so we wouldn’t tired ourselves out for Sat and Sun. After 3 hours of slogging up the trail, and skiing up the top part, we made it to the hut just after sunset.

Mt James Turner in the distance

Tim and James Turner.

The snow froze overnight, allowing us to quickly ski up to the Wedge-Weart col. The north arête was looking really nice and close, while James Turner stood far away to the east. Tim realized here that he had almost forgotten how James Turner looked like, and it was just a big remote peak in his mind, like Mt. Pitt. Most people make it to this point, but it’s only the gateway to numerous other peaks which are rarely climbed. The descent down from the col was fast over the hard snow, and we flew down the Weart glacier. Being on skis, on hard snow, is the only way to fly.

From the Eureka-Oasis col, we skied most of the way up to the summit, except for a short bit of easy scrambling. After a short nap and briefly naming all the peaks we knew, we skied back down to the col, enjoying some nice corn snow that was forming. Two weeks of sleeping, Halo, and eating doesn’t make a person fit, so I decided to cut my losses and napped in the warm sun. Tim continued up the northeast ridge of Eureka, mostly snow, and a steep sketchy rock section. The ski descent down the north face of Eureka looked really nice, but Tim continued to the col to make sure I wasn’t dead.

From here we skied up to the col south of Eureka peak, and then contoured high along the Needle glacier. It was only 2pm, so we set off Mt. Neal. From where we left our packs, we skied most of the way down the Needle Glacier, and up to the south ridge of Mt. Neal. From the ridge, we could see two sections of steep cliffs that didn’t look easy. We didn’t have the gear, or the balls for it, so we backed off the ridge and ski towards a south-facing gully to “check out the snow.” I was secretly hoping that it was complete slush, so we could just ski back to camp and eat dinner. But amazingly, the gully was filled with firm supportive snow and we bootpacked up to the summit. The first ascent of Mt. Neal was on Sept 6, 1949, by Arnie Ede, Heming McConnell, and Bob Nicholson, all VOC members. Somebody needs to bring a new pencil and paper to the summit, since the lead for the pencil fell out of the register into the rocks. By the time we made it back to camp, Tim was tired, and I was completely knackered.

The impressive north face of Mt. James Turner

The North Face. We did not climb that!

Since we were going fast and light, we didn’t bring a full tent. Instead, we only took the tent fly, and rigged it over a set of skis and ski poles, and then anchored it with our ice axes. It took some modifications during the night before Tim was satisfied with how it held in the wind.

Sunset over the Cayoosh

Sunset over the Cayoosh

We woke up early on Sunday at 4:30am to climb Mt. James Turner. There were ski plane tracks and boot prints on the upper Needle glacier; maybe Don Serl came in to try something on Fingerpost ridge. The north face of James Turner is impressive, it looks completely different than anything I’ve seen in the Coast Mountains, steep rock, ice, with rime covered runnels. From the Needle-Berna col, we skied down the Berna glacier, contoured around the Turner glacier, to the southeast face of James Turner. If you’re not a hardman or hardwoman going for the TD ice route on the north face, you have to ski around the entire mountain to climb it. We climbed up through a snow gully until it turned into waist deep slush, and then went onto the rocks. Tim was really enjoying the scramble on the rocks, but I was feeling a bit too out of shape to have fun. The views from the summit were amazing; we could see from the Manatee range all the way to the Cheam range and Baker.

Approaching Mt. James Turner

Approaching James Turner. Almost there.

The rock was a bit too terrifying for me, so we went onto the snow instead and went down in nice sluffs while roped up just in case. It took a while to get back to the Wedge-Weart col. We fried our brains out, and tried to pass the time by thinking of all the places that Robin has been and Tim hasn’t. The descent down from the Weart-Wedge col was quite nice, and I set a new record for myself with one fall per 1000ft (usually its one fall per 100ft or worse).
I was getting a bit delusional on the hike back down the trail and managed to walk off the trail in some parts, but I eventually made it back to the car, thinking that I should avoid trips as strenuous as this one (at least until I start doing regular exercise).

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