Zopkios, Zoa, Zum, Zupjok: No one cares about your Z-peaks, larva-breath

This was my second attempt at doing all the Coquihalla Z-peaks. Last time I failed because I got distracted by camelid-named peaks and dog poop.

The first half of the ascent from Zopkios brake check to the peak named after the brake check was nice and easy on soft snow. About halfway up it turned to an icy crust, intermittently breakable, with mashed potato snow underneath. Unlike last time, my ski crampon slot wasn’t jammed with frozen dog poop.

Visibility at the Zopkios summit was poor. At the top, the crust was icier but still occasionally breakable.
One could imagine following the ridge line from Zopkios to Zoa, but there’s a cliff section that would require a rappel or two. To avoid this, I was going to get into a bowl, ski it past the cliffs and work back onto the ridge.

On the newest John Baldwin map of the Coquihalla area, there’s a purple line, indicating a 45°-plus ski descent from the col to the west of Zopkios. There’s no skin track up to the col and no descent from Zopkios, either. Clearly if you want to do that descent, you need to teleport in from somewhere.

Descent without good visibility, lots of krummholz

The col is faintly visible below

There are numerous such teleport-access descents in the Baldwin maps. On at least one of them, rappelling is required. On most, there’s no rappel, but it’s either heinous or there’s a good chance of getting cliffed out.

I’m guessing that Baldwin realizes that he’s leaving gaps and that he expects people to find a way, one way or another, to the start of the marked descent, but doesn’t want to take any responsibility for whatever happens, so no line gets drawn.

Visibility was poor but not terrible. Maybe it would have qualified as terrible if there weren’t krummholz—tiny wind-stunted summit trees. The area was partially wind-swept, with rocks sticking out everywhere. The crust was slick, shiny, and occasionally breakable.

There’s challenging skiing that’s exhilarating and fun, and then there’s the variety that’s disconcerting and irritating. This was the latter, and ended with a short mandatory air, flanked by rocks, to reach the col. From the col, the purple line was relatively straightforward.

Looking up the descent from Zopkios to the col. Icy with exposed rocks.

Looking back up from the col

Open valley with fairly steep walls

The Zoa-Zopkios ridge is on the right, ending with Zoa in the distance, and Zum is at the left. The part of the Zoa-Zopkios ridge I skied down to avoid is on the far right.

Looking down on a switchbacking skin track

The skin track back up the the Zoa-Zopkios ridge

Zoa is a classic easy ski summit. I was expecting a crowd of people at the top, but there was only one set of fresh tracks and no people in sight. I could hear hooting and hollering, though, so I think the bulk of the invading hordes had just slept in.

Visibility was opening up, so I decided to make an attempt at skiing directly into Little Douglas Lake. That approach has the advantage of being way shorter than skiing off the normal side of Zoa and circling around, losing less elevation and being able to ski across a frozen lake instead of bushwhacking, but has the real possibility of getting cliffed out. Baldwin draws no lines anywhere.

Steep descent to a lake. Unclear if there are cliffs as the ground near the lake is obscured.

Does this go?

Steep, burshy chute to decend to lake

It was pretty crusty, so if I fell I’d rattle down to the lake. I decided to face in and kick steps when I got here

View across frozen lake with skin tracks. Cliff band with small snowy gully above lake.

Looking back across Little Douglas Lake at the descent from Zoa

From Zum, I had the option of following the ridge top to Zupjok, or dropping down towards Guanaco. The ridge had some up-and-down but was much less total climbing than dropping down to the valley. It would have been dramatically better views and been shorter, but I chickened out because it would have been pretty hard to get off the ridge if I was halted by a little cliff band.

Mountain top view, showing potential ridgetop traverse from Zum to Zupjok

View from Zum, with the potential ridge-top traverse on the right

This brought me into a slushy forest slog. I stopped to melt some snow for water and was annoyed by the amount of stuff floating around the water. Lots of it was needles and other bits that clearly came from trees, but there were also little things. I couldn’t decide if these were almost too-small-to-be-seen worms or if it was something associated with plant reproduction. I almost convinced myself they were squirming and then decided it was just convection currents in the pot. I drank some and it seemed fine, so I filled up my water bottle.

Zupjok involved a lot of mashing up slush, which quickly turned to a thick crust as I made it past the tree line. The sun was setting. I had some water and decided it smelled and tasted gross. A look back at the ridge I opted out of reassured me that I’d made the right call, as it would have been pretty terrible. Probably it would have had cleaner snow, though.

Ridge with steep, bare rock

Looking back at the ridge I decided not to do.

Sunset view of mountains from summit

Sunset from Zupjok

The ski down Zupjok was pretty terrible because the crust was so variable. I’d be on unbreakable crust, initiate a turn and find myself on breakable crust, then try to convert it into a jump turn but just push the skis down through bottomless goo instead of pushing my body up. Next I’d try to yank my feet up before my body fell down, get one ski free and turned while still catching the back of the other on the crust, transfer all my weight to the properly-aimed ski and complete the turn with one leg all out-of-whack. After a pause and a few breaths, I’d initiate the next turn, which would be no better, but with a different sequencing of crust hardness. It was thoroughly dark by the time I got back to the car.

When putting away my stuff the next day, I turned my attention to my water bottle. Was I drinking worms? I fished one of them out and got it under a loupe. Diagnosis: larvae. Taking a picture of a tiny thing with an eye loupe and a cell phone is really an uphill battle. The larva I fished out is on a piece of paper, circled.

Small larva on piece of paper

Pretty sure I drank a lot of those

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2 Responses to Zopkios, Zoa, Zum, Zupjok: No one cares about your Z-peaks, larva-breath

  1. Christian Veenstra says:

    Good call avoiding the Zum ridge… I once spent a weekend making sure it didn’t go: https://www.ubc-voc.com/2015/07/13/the-zum-peak-fiasco

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