30th Sep – 2nd Oct
After seeing the weather forecast, plans for the weekend were a bit up in the air; shall we stay or shall we go. Amin, the trip organizer was desperately trying to organize lifts, check people had the appropriate gear and seeing if anyone wanted to bail because of the weather that was due. After much kafuffle the general consensus was that we were going to do it. In fact, people were psyched – having rented all the kit we were going to do this hail, rain or snow.
The first part of the trip was getting ourselves across the Squamish river so that we could start our hike up to lake lovely water. Most people chose to pay a local boat owner to give them a lift, however I did not quite have the same idea. In an attempt to stay as frugal as possible, myself and four other VOC members (Jack, Alice, Bernt and Justin) chose to leave a day early, camp the Friday night and cross the river early on Saturday morning the money-free way.
We left UBC late on Friday evening, Kayak on top of the 4X4 and Jack at the wheel, the five of us set off towards our Squamish campsite. After stopping to get a (possibly) unnecessary bottle of whiskey in downtown Squamish, we arrived at the camp where we were greeted with the most extraordinary view of the milky way: a clear-black, star-spangled sky with a white, cloudy glow straight down the middle. I set up my tarp as soon as we arrived and laid out my down bag and bivvy. I didn’t expect to need the tarp that night but as they say, ‘expect the best, prepare for the worst’. After a quick, stove-cooked dinner and a chat with a couple of nice polish people camping nearby, I hopped into the scratcher and let myself nod off as I stared off into the vista above, head just peeking out above the tarp. The others chose to simply set up their bivvies’ on the ground.
:-: Wire cable tight-rope crossing, 150 meters over the Squamish river :-:
Around twelve that night I felt the first drop. And it didn’t stop. At all. I was seriously glad that I set up that tarp. We slept in a good bit past our 6AM wakeup and ate our varied breakfasts in the pissing rain. At about 10 we set off to find our way across the Squamish river: A Tyrolean crossing on the wire cable used for logging transport (this is somewhat frowned upon). After much dilly-dally and hullabaloo we finally found the cable and bumped into three other VOC’ers! (Crystal, Vincent and Emily). After some more faffing around we were finally ready to cross. We chose to do a tightrope walk rather than a Tyrolean in an attempt to save time. Harness donned and with two slings and carabiners attached I started my traverse along the wire. In fact, there were three of us on the wire and it made for a rather unstable, wibbly-wobbly crossing. While we were crossing, Jack was bringing each of our backpacks across the river on his kayak, one by one. And then when all the backpacks were on the other side (of which there were many), he started to bring across the people who had not yet started the tightrope. *Jack you’re an absolute star man, could not have done it without you.
:-: A waterfall running continuously from lake Lovely Water (1164m) to sea-level :-:
When we were all safely across and ready to go, it was just about three O’clock, a lot later than expected. In a hurry, we quickly set off along the long trail up to lake lovely water. We had almost 1’200 vertical meters to cover, 15kg on our backs and it was raining cats and dogs – on top of this, time had now become an issue. After about half an hour the group split, with the faster folk taking the lead. Small talk swiftly came to an end as we started up the gruelling, poorly-marked trail. The pace was good, Alice took the lead and pretty much stayed there for the duration of the hike. There were few stops, a handful in total and only for the bare necessities (water and the occasional mars bar). After three hours I was a walking zombie. ‘One foot in front of the other… Keep going’. I felt faint and my eyes were half-mast, longing for a rest. After nearly four hours and two back-to-back grouse grinds later, we hit the hut.
:-: The view over the lake as seen from the hut :-:
I stumbled into the hut, dropped my bag and immediately collapsed onto a seat. After some moments rest and a brief chat with some of the other hut-dwellers I started making food. About an hour later when it was pitch black outside and my belly was satisfied, the rest of the VOC guys stumbled in having just been out on a second hike up to Russian camp. Most of them were knackered, it was their second hike of the day and it late now. We had not expected to stay in the hut that night, many of us had brought tents or tarps up with us but when it’s that miserable outside there’s nothing you want more than to crawl into a warm, cosy cabin. There was some fun to be had that night, some drinks, food and talk, but for the most-part everyone went to bed early; Sophia, the last person up, hit the hay at 10PM.
:-: Early morning view – The sun, setting the mountains alight :-:
We woke up at 5AM on Sunday, or at least the people who stayed in the cabin did; there were a few brave souls who actually camped, and a couple others (Alice and Jack) who were up at 3AM to climb mount Alpha. After a rather elongated breakfast and a ‘little bit’ of faff we finally left the cabin at 7. The plan was to summit mount Pelops and then on to mount Niobe. We were blessed with the weather, there were only a few scattered clouds in the sky. We set off on the trail around lake lovely water. A little bit lethargic at first, our sluggishness soon wore off as our cheeks were frost-nipped and our minds blown by the beauty of the surroundings. Really, I can’t tell how incredible a place it was: An icy-smooth glacial lake encompassed by blood-red autumn trees and snow-topped alpine peaks looming above. There were many photos taken as the rising sun lit the mountains on fire. Truly breath-taking.
Like before, after an hour or so the group split up into several posies. Myself, Tobias, Amber and Brandon took the lead. We had the intention of summiting today and once again time was of the essence – I really did not want to cross the high wire in the dark. We definitely stopped for the occasional photo or two but in all kept up a really good pace. After a little while we hit the ‘meadow’. It was picturesque, something out of a fairy-tale. Small, crystal-blue rivers running lazily through, large erratics scattered around and a glacier encroaching above. It was a green basin at the foot of Omega, Iota, Pelops and Niobe. This little hide-away was where the marked trail ended, from here in we were to find our own way.
:-: Traversing the glacier, leading up to the Pelops-Niobe col :-:
After an hour or so of easy scrambling we had gotten ourselves to the bottom of the glacier at 1500 meters, just below the Pelops-Niobe col. We took out our ice axes and clipped on our crampons, for most of us this was a first. Stepping out onto the glacier, we began our ascent up to the col. The glacier was in good condition, it’s still early in the season and snow had yet to start falling heavily. The crevasses were evident and mostly higher up the glacier – higher than our exit point. It was easy going as we worked our way across and up the left side of it, getting off the ice after about half an hour.
:-: View of the three peaks from the top of the glacier; Iota, Pelops, Niobe :-:
We were back on the rock face again, sad to be leaving the ice which allowed us to gain altitude so easily. The scrambling had become a little more technical and the rock was sun-shaded and wet as we ascended the north face. Soon enough though we made it up onto the col and were immediately bathed in sunlight. It was gorgeous, the sun heated our bones and the view from there was something else. We had climbed up to a small glacial pond surrounded by a 360-degree view of the coast mountains and beyond. We could see mount Conybeare, mount Sedgewick and Alpha, which was now cloudless (Unfortunately Jack and Alice had had to turn around earlier that morning because of the freezing, damp conditions).
:-: Summit of Iota :-:
After taking some more photos and gawking and oogling the views we forced ourselves to move on, up towards the goal of Iota; The first peak in a series of three. We walked along the col, and started our ways up. It consisted of a little bit more scrambling and after breaking through the snowline we finally made it to the top of Iota after about three and a half hours. The views only got more breath-taking, now completely unobscured I could look north-west and see my goal of mount Pelops. The four of us looked down and in the distance below we could see the next part of the group navigating the glacier. Further down still I could see a yellow canoe gliding across lake lovely water.
We started our way down the far side of Iota and towards Pelops. It got hard fast, and stayed that way. After about five minutes of trying to descend down a steep, snow covered gully, Brandon chose to stay behind. I don’t blame him; he was trying to do this with a very expensive camera hanging around his neck. So there were three of us. It was a mixture of sliding and grabbing on to trees and if you were very lucky a rock hand-hold. A little bit ugly to be honest. After a short while and a couple small falls later, we made it through the trees and down onto the small Iota-Pelops col.
At the base of Pelops we strained our necks upwards, looking up a near vertical rock face. There were several routes up this, we were just trying the discern the best one. After making the decision we started our way up. Parts of it would have been grade 4 or 5 and we were ropeless, a keen sense of balance and a good grip was essential. ‘Always remember your three points of contact’. About halfway up the face it was getting tricky, there must have been a seventy meter drop straight down onto the glacier. Amber decided to bow out, not feeling comfortable with the situation (understandably) and headed back to Iota.
:-: Photo taken from Iota: The summit of Pelops (I’m the tiny figure on top) :-:
Myself and Tobias continued on our own towards the summit and after the last dodgy rock manoeuvre were on the snow-covered trail up the summit. For the most-part it was easy-going, except I did learn one thing that day: Snow covered heather is the worst! We slip-slided around on it and a couple times had to perform ‘heather self-arrest’. Soon enough though we finally hit it. My first real alpine climb: myself and Tobias had managed to summit mount Pelops.
:-: Descending the glacier. And below: lake Lovely Water :-:
We looked south from where we had come and waved over to the rest of the VOC gang who were standing at the top of Iota, looking over at us. After a summit photo and a short rest, we started our way back down towards lake lovely water. By the time we hit Iota again, everyone had already gone. We were making phenomenal time; our pace must have been double what it was on the way up. At the top of the glacier we bumped into Amin, Malou and Harleigh who had been late leaving the summit – enjoying the view. We descended the glacier with them which was easy enough as the sun had now made the top layer a slushy texture. I tried to practice self-arrest on the way down but the slush had made it impossible to slide.
At the bottom of the glacier, Tobias and myself decided to go ahead and make it to the hut. I really wanted to get a little rest before descending down to the Squamish river. We cut across the meadow and walked around the lake (missing the path a couple times in our hastiness). We stumbled into the hut about ten minutes after the rest of the VOC had arrived. It was glorious weather, the sun was shining and everyone was in a jolly mood after the day. There had been different adventures: some had been bouldering in the meadow, some had taken a canoe out on the lake and others had just chilled out.
:-: Probably my favorite photo of the trip; Canoes on lake Lovely Water :-:
It was such a sunny afternoon I decided to take a couple of canoes out and have my lunch out on the water. Myself, Sophia and Tobias were in one canoe and Jack, Alice and Amber were in another. We lazily drifted around for about half an hour while I ate my cold rice and chorizo and decided to go back in as the sun set behind a cloud. A couple guys went for a skinny-dip in the icy cold water. I can’t say I did the same, the old ghoulies would have shrivelled up inside me.
:-: Taking a dip in the ice bath :-:
After packing our bags, we finally left the hut at about four O’clock, making our way down to the river. The was no rain and it was far easier going on the way down than it was on the way up, 1200 meters has never passed by so fast and after 2 hours we were at the beach at the side of the river. We left most of the VOC at the beach to be collected by the motorboat and myself, Jack, Alice, Justin and Bernt crossed back along the cable crossing, making it across just as it got dark: perfect!
Amin’s party of eight who tried to cross the Squamish River via motorboat had quite an interesting story of their own. They were supposed to meet AJ, a First Nation fisherman and boat-owner at 6pm to have them cross the river. He showed up at 6.20 pm on his boat, but oddly he paddling and the engine was off. He said that he had had trouble with the engine, and needed to go downriver to his fishing spot (where he keeps his tools) to fix the engine. He promised to travel upstream after that and get everyone across as planned. Amin joined him to help and they both paddled down the river passing under myself and Justin as we crossed the cable car and passing Jack as he was kayaking. When they reached the fishing spot, they saw a wolf and a black bear, attracted by strong fish smells in the area and trying to find food. The Wolf and bear ran away as Amin and AJ made noises and landed on the shore. The two guys, tried unsuccessfully to fix the engine for about 45 minutes. Desperate and cold, they gave up and called for help from some other First Nations. Impossible to paddle up the river again, they decided to carry the two canoes up, alongside the river and go back to the stranded hikers on west side of the river. They hiked a distance along the river and waited for the trucks, which arrived about half an hour later.
:-: Amin’s group, waiting for the jetboat to show up :-:
** All Photographs, courtesy of Brandon Everell **
While Amin and AJ were waiting for the trucks, a huge male grizzly showed up to play. Scared to death, they both ran away and hid under a treehouse, making constant noise and literally praying to God for their sins. But Mr. grizzly, ignorant of the fact that grizzlies are not even supposed to be in the area, was hanging out in the shores and enjoying water and fish leftovers, ignorant of their terror. It was around 8pm and almost dark when two trucks of the First Nation people finally showed up. It took them a lot of noise, honking, shouting and shenanigans to grab the canoes and put them on the trucks, while keeping an eye on the grizzly that was watching them about ten meters away. They drove back quickly and eventually got everyone across at around 9.30pm, in the dark and cold from west side of the river. Apparently the stranded group of seven had a lot fun waiting for the boat, there was music and the party was on (thanks to the portable sound system of Brandon – priorities of Alpine hiking). The First Nation people greeted and apologized for the wait and tried to cheer them up by giving them beers. They were really great people and were happy to help.
I talked to Amin earlier on the hike that weekend and asked him if he had seen any bears in his time in Vancouver; He is a very outdoorsy guy and has been living here a long time. He said that in his eight years here he had only seen one bear (and that was from inside his car), I can only imagine the sheer fear and exhilaration of seeing two bears (one of which, a Grizzly) and a wolf within a two-hour period! Truly an incredible weekend and I encourage everyone capable to give lake lovely water a shot, you will not be disappointed!
List of Trip-goers: Amin, Aziznia, Shane Monks O’Byrne, Amber Blair, Harleigh English, Alice Butler, Justin Krawetz, Sophia Schwamborn, Malou Windeler,Jack Boyd McCutchan, Emily Kuang, Brandon Everell, Bernt Kristian Flekstad Vik, Crystal To, Jack Skelley, Tobias Huxol, Vincent Chan-Ying