After an early start on Saturday morning (October 15th) the entrainment group started from the trailhead parking lot northwest of Pemberton. This was at an elevation of about 1380m. The group decided to set a high tempo to reach the campsite as soon as possible and left the other members of the Locomotive trip behind. The weather was very nice with not a single cloud in the sky and it was rather warm with the packs, which included too much gear (even though there’s never such a thing as too much gear, in this case there really was too much gear, such as: snow shovels, probes, snow anchors, ropes, crampons, beakons, and even ice screws). After setting a strong pace the campsite was reached in less than an hour. This was at the Semaphore lakes, a beautiful campsite along a small glacier stream overlooking Locomotive Mountain. There was already a bit of snow on the ground where the tents had to be pitched, this turned out to make sleeping for some a very cold experience. The camp was at an elevation of about 1655m. The 300-meter elevation gain from the parking lot made a big difference in terms of snow and temperature.
After about 15 minutes of setting up tents and re-distributing packs a group of 7 set out to do the entrainment. The group took a large amount of gear in the packs such as the avi-gear and crampons. This made for a heavier haul, although it probably would have been smarter to pack more water instead because this ran low at the end of the trip. It was decided to climb “Face” mountain first which was the highest peak at 2480m. This meant that we had to make an elevation gain of 825m over about 3.15km. After leaving camp it soon became obvious that there was a considerable snow cover on the mountain.
The snow proved to be both advantageous and a struggle. In some instances the exposed rocks would be covered in a thin layer of ice or in other instances, the loose rubble was too unstable for scrambling, in these times the snow covered areas made it easier to ascend the mountain. However, in some parts the snow was very deep so people were periodically rotated to trudge a path through the snow at the front without letting one person get too tired.
After an ascent with a few tricky areas the summit of Face mountain was reached around 3pm. The views were absolutely stunning and it was quite remarkable how steep the mountainside was on the north side. Here the rock face plunged straight down for a few hundred meter which made hanging off the edge quite an experience. From this point forward it was decided to cross the glacier to the other mountain peaks to the south. Once on the glacier, 3 member of the group decided to return to camp while the remaining four pressed on. It became obvious that headlamps would eventually be required as there were still 3 peaks to traverse. The glacier had a heavier snowpack and required a lot of work to cross, even though the terrain was rather smooth.
In the interest of time and possible safety concerns related with the darkness of nighttime it was decided to skip the ascent of the Faceless peak and to continue to Caboose, Tender and Locomotive. Caboose was at about 2350m and was relatively easy to reach. From Caboose the group hurried to Tender in order to take some spectacular sundown pictures.
Tender was reached just past 6pm and some of the most beautiful pictures of the trip were taken on the summit of this peak. The peak was only slightly higher than Caboose, around 20-50 meters, however a descent from Caboose had to be made before the ascent of Tender was made.
After many pictures the group headed on to climb Locomotive Mountain which was the second highest peak of the day. The summit was reached at nightfall. At this point it became quite a bit colder, however the wind died down which made it more pleasant. The lights from the basecamp could be seen below and to the southeast the lights in the Pemberton valley sparkled from the farms and houses.
Some interesting night shots were taken on top of Locomotive Mountain such as the VOC symbol using headlamps, flailing arms, a high camera exposure, and a little teamwork. This picture should be available in the VOC image gallery. The peak of Locomotive Mountain was about 100 meters below the peak of Face Mountain.
At around 7:15pm the group left the peak and followed the tracks down the east side using the tracks from the rest of the group who had scaled the mountain earlier that day. The headlights were used to follow the track and the powdery snow allowed everyone to lunge and slide down the mountainside. This was done in 45 minutes and we arrived back at camp just after 8 pm.
At this point we were hungry, thirsty and ready for cheesecake, beers, hot wine and eventually sleep. Overall the trip offered incredible views, exceptional weather, large amounts of snow and a total vertical climb of about 1600m. At times everyone wished they had ski’s to enjoy the beautiful snow and the overall consensus was to try this trip again in mid-winter to explore the skiing possibilities.