Northwest Ridge of Joffre Peak

Aug 27-28, 2011
The Joffre Group and Duffey Lake
A view of Matier and Joffre Peak from Gott Creek. The northwest ridge is the long right skyline. 

The weather looked great again for yet another weekend of this short summer, so Chris Krystil and I took full advantage of it to spend some time in the mountains and also at the crags. We drove up to Pemberton on Friday night, indulged our inner foodie with dinner at the Pony Espresso, climbed the northwest ridge of Joffre Peak on Saturday and relaxed with some cragging in Squamish on Sunday. The two days contrasted strongly with each other, one day involved a lot of hiking for a few metres of climbing and the other day required only a few minutes of walking and lots of climbing. 

We waffled for awhile trying to decide how much technical equipment to bring on this trip to make the hiking enjoyable. Between the three of us, we brought a light rack of nuts and tricams, two pickets and iceaxes for the glacier descent and one 60m half rope. Chris is old school, so he wisely insisted that we leave our climbing shoes and springy cams at home. This made sense as there were only a few technical sections on the ridge that required protection. 

The northwest ridge is a long ridge that rises five kilometres from the Duffey Lake road, with some short sections of technical difficult near the top. We camped at the Joffre Lake parking lot and woke up at 5am to begin our bushwack up through the steep and forested lower ridge. This area is also known as Joffre Shoulder to most backcountry skiers who frequent this area for steep tree skiing and fun pillow lines in the winter. The bugs were horrific, easily the worse I’ve experienced all summer. We plodded up for two hours into the alpine at a steady pace, never stopping for long, racing up into the alpine for salvation against the mosquitos. Another hour of meadow rambling brought us within view of the scrambling on the ridge proper. 

Most of the ridge consists of easy 3rd class scrambling. The technical difficulties lie in the notches that divide sections of the ridge, generally requiring some 4th class climbing On the hardest notch, we made one rappel off an assorted collection of slings around a chockstone and Chris rope gunned us up the opposite side. We continued scrambling through more short sections of difficulties until the final borad ridge walk to the summit. From the summit, the view was as spectacular as I had imagined. I’ve done many trips in the area, summer and winter, but never made it up to this point before. After lounging on the summit, we continued down the Aussie Couloir. We considered descending the standard southeast face down to Cerise Creek but opted to go out via the Matier icefall so Chris and Krystil could see the picturesque Joffre Lakes. The descent down the sunny couloir was slow and tedious, requiring careful kick stepping most of the way down due to the firm snow condition. I wish I had crampons at this point. From the top of the Matier icefall, we pounded our knees down the steep moraines to the Upper Joffre Lake. This wouldn’t be a very enjoyable way to reach the Matier Glacier (I’ve done it before once too!) We stopped for a swim in the Middle Lake before finishing off the hike to the car for a total of 13 hours roundtrip. This was a fun day out, a good objective for anybody who enjoys covering a lot of varied terrain with scenic vistas thrown in. If you think of this as a good scramble with some technical difficulty mixed in for extra fun, then I think you’ll have a great time. 

The price of admission, two hours of easy bushwacking in the forest. It was different to see all the trees and bushes here without a few metres of snow. There is no trail here but as long as you keep climbing up through the forest, you should reach the alpine within 2-3 hours. From the Joffre Lakes parking lot, we walked east along the highway until reaching an overgrown logging road on the right. We followed this road for 100m as suggested by the guidebook without seeing any obvious spot to crash up into the bush (it was partially dark still). The start is the steepest, and things get better higher up. 

Krystil stoked to finally start the scrambling. 

Krystil crossing a snow patch on the northwest ridge. 

The Stonecrop Face of Slalok Mountain. 

Exposed crevasses on the Matier icefall. 

A wonderful morning to be up in the alpine. The clouds dissipated later in the morning. 

Great views of the Matier Glacier. The tenth annual VOC mountaineering camp was held here on the following weekend and VOCer’s were able to climb every peak in the area. Of note was the “Other Joffre Enchainment” completed by three VOCers (Nick, Nick and Piotr) climbing Hartzell, Howard and Spetch in that order. 

More snow on the ridge.  The south side of Chief Pascall looks like great skiing in the right condition. 

Chris belaying Krystil across and then down one exposed section. 

Krystil and Chris scrambling along the northwest ridge of Joffre Peak. This is the typical terrain on most of the ridge, easy blocky scrambling with some exposure on either side of the ridge. 

More easy scrambling along the ridge. The highway is visible below. 

Krystil rappelling down one of the notches on the northwest ridge. It might be possible to downclimb some exposed features on the north side of the ridge, but it looked frightening. We rappelled off a slung block that looked pretty good. 

Chris silhouetted in one of the notches on the northwest ridge. 

Krystil climbing out of the notch. The first two moves off the ground were thought-provoking in boots. 

Stoked to be on the summit with fabulous weather. 

Chris scrambling over towards the Aussie Colour, with Matier Peak in the background. We did not see any other climbers that day. 

Chris lowering Krystil down the Aussie couloir. 

Glacier walking with Chris and Krystil. 

Descending down towards the turquoise Joffre Lakes. We descended to the end of the snow and then scrambled down ramps and slabs on skier’s right to gain the moraine, well away from the overhead hazard of the Matier icefall. 

Wildflowers along the Joffre Lake trail.

A last view of Slalok Mountain. We went for a dip in the lake just before the sun disappeared. The water was cold. 

The next day, Chris and I climbed the wonderfully fun Bullethead East and Wire Crack to compensate for the lack of technical climbing from the previous day. 

Chris hanging out at the bottom of Pitch 3 of Bullethead East. A five minute approach through the campground lead to the base of the climb, which was followed by an hour long wait at the base for the party ahead to climb the first pitch. 

We walked over to the Wiretap area to join Jules and Krystil who were also climbing here. Chris climbing the first pitch of Wiretap. This is a pretty good place to climb on a hot day.

The memorable belay seat with a great view of Howe Sound. 

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