Oct 15-16, 2022
With each passing weekend dawned the ‘last weekend of sun’, and as a relative newbie in Canada and Vancouver, I was eager to get into the mountains with some locals before the end of summer – I felt this was my last chance. So I was stoked to be added to a group chat with a bunch of people I’d never met, who were planning a last-minute trip up to Exodus Glacier for some crevasse rescue practice. How good!
Friday eve came around, and meeting Anton, Anelia, and Nadia in town, we headed some ways up the Squamish FSR where we met up with Martin, Emily, Thomas, and Sumit. Al had some things to sort out and would meet us in the morning for 7am departure. We woke early to find no Al. 20 minutes later, still no Al. No cell coverage meant no way of communication between us, and after 45 minutes, and having run laps up and down the FSR in search of his car, we decided to make for the trailhead, in the hope of meeting him there. But as it turns out, Al was having his own little (big) adventure mostly involving a ditch, a 2wd, and some questionable navigation skills. You can read about it when he publishes his version of the TR.
Anyway, we finally set off from the trailhead around 9am, bush bashing our way up the mountain in the general direction of Exodus Glacier. The first stretch was rather thick and bushy, soon giving way to beautiful forest, blueberry shrubs, and as we gained elevation, pristine meadows most certainly enjoyed by bears. Our progress was steady, delayed only by our constant blueberry picking. Eventually, we began to master the art of picking on-the-go, involving delicate hand-eye co-ordination and precision. Mostly however, the blueberries offered a good excuse to rest on the steep ascent.
A few hundred blueberries later, the trees finally gave way to alpine terrain and spanning views of surrounding mountain tops basking in the midday sun. We plodded on up to the next knoll, hoping to catch a view of Exodus Peak and the glacier. No luck. Our progress was halted here for a while as Sumit suffered an apparently intolerable leg cramp, which called for exactly 90 minutes of rest. A common problem for Sumit we later found out, no amount of magnesium, electrolytes, or Voltaren cream seemed to do the trick. We had lunch, and I had a nap in the sun before the T3s finally kicked in. Spreading Sumit’s gear between us, we lightened his load and continued on towards where we hoped we’d find Exodus Glacier. Drugged up, Sumit seemed even more chirpy than usual.
After an hour or so, Exodus Glacier finally popped into view. Bare and dry in the late summer sun, the glacier covers a significant area creating a sort-of extended ramp up to Exodus Peak itself. We decided to head down to the toe and camp in a small rock clearing by the lake. Scrambling down the steep loose moraine, Thomas and I found ourselves a fair distance ahead of the rest, who wisely opted for a safer albeit longer route down. Hence ensued a painstaking game of seated rock throwing, where we entertained ourselves by trying to throw, from a sitting position, rocks at his ice axe attached to his pack some 20m away. As it turns out, we’re both quite stubborn. Finally, after about 500 attempts, and after completing the objective and having been re-joined by the rest of the group, we made our way across to camp. With dusk settling in, and the tents set up, some of us decided to head onto the glacier for a quick practice session. We successfully set up a haul system and headed back to camp under torch light.
It cannot be understated how beautiful Exodus is. The glacier is huge, and the mountains even bigger. But under the great expanse of glimmering stars, everything felt small. The calm air across the lake, interrupted only by the sounds of laughter and friendly jousting, made for an entirely pleasant evening. Sumit, still drugged up, reminded us for the umpteenth time that we’d still not figured out his riddle: “What do you need in pain and in pleasure that cannot be bought?” We respectfully reminded Sumit that we’d carried half his gear to get up here! At this, Sumit pulled out his tub of Nutella, and in defiance, refused to share. There I was sharing my cooker, pot and water, cooking his food for him, heck I probably carried that damned Nutella in the first place! Sumit admirably accepted a trade for a spoonful of peanut butter.
The topic of conversation slowly shifted to the following day’s plans. Thomas, who was eager to summit Exodus Peak, spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out exactly what everyone wanted to do. Anelia, who’d knocked her head earlier in the day, wanted to rest, that much was certain, but the others? No one could make up their minds. Eventually it was decided that Anelia and Anton would have a relaxing morning, while the rest of us would wake around 5am to hike up onto the glacier for sunrise, and perhaps some more glacier skills practice. This all decided, we hunkered down for the night.
The next morning, the six of us made it a fair distance up onto the glacier before Martin, Emily and Sumit turned back to meet the others for 8am camp departure. Thomas, Nadia, and I continued up the glacier exploring larger crevasses, confident in our ability to catch the others up. We watched in awe as the first rays of sun split the distant ridgeline, the ice shimmering all shades of pink and purple in the morning glow. On finding a suitable crevasse, we set up ice screw anchors and lowered each other down, using prusiks to self-ascend.
Next, in the hope of testing the strength of shitty aerated glacier ice, we built a V-thread anchor using a toothbrush as a sling threader. The three of us pulled the rope as hard as we could, but the anchor held fast. We needed more power. We placed an ice screw 10m away and set up a pulley system to provide a mechanical advantage of 3:1. Still, the V-thread held. The V-thread also withstood 6:1, before we decided we should probably pack up and get going before anyone got hurt.
At a good click, we headed back down to camp, and after a quick pack up, and an even quicker dip in the lake, we began the journey back to the car, making good time. We quickly caught up to the rest of the group on the previously unnamed peak where Sumit cramped up the day before, henceforth to be known as ‘Cramp Sumit’. We continued down together, navigating our way back to the car, filling our bellies with blueberries along the way. Thomas and Anton saw a black bear, but on hearing our crashing and smashing, and Sumit’s endless attempts to perfect my Kiwi accent, it naturally sprinted off into the woods.
We made it back to the cars in good time, meeting again in Squamish at Pizzalicious Donair. The food went down a treat, and the two cars parted ways stoked on a successful weekend with good people. Anton and Anelia kindly dropped me off on campus, and I was even able to get some late-night study in for a mid-term the next day. Great success!
To finish, I’d like to thank Martin and Emily for being the driving force behind the trip, Anton and Anelia for driving me to and fro, Thomas for welcoming me into his tent, Nadia for showing me that two prusiks are better than one, and Sumit for the endless riddles. Friends sure are needed in pleasure at least.
This is so cool!
smashing report !
Thank you for the trip report John, this looks great