Winding down winter break at Garibaldi Lake

Post by blogger | January 10, 2013      

(Editor’s note: Lisa and I are at the Dynafit press event in Europe, up in the Dolomite. We’ll start filing reports soon. Meanwhile, Louie got us off the hook here so we can enjoy another stein and chat up the locals. I’m getting all sorts of good backstory on all the new products. Stay tuned. Lou)

School starts today, and I’m looking back on an incredible winter break. It started with wonderful, decidedly non-PNW powder in the Selkirks. Back on the coast, a small high pressure system settled over the region during the last few days of break. Kirk and I decided to head up to the Burton Hut on Garibaldi Lake, in BC.

The Burton Hut, on the shore of Garibaldi Lake.

After border hassles, and a shopping stop in Whistler, we made it to the trailhead at 10:00 am. The trail in was exciting, as the sun warmed the trees, icy tree bombs started dropping on the trail every few seconds. One hit me square in the head, but we managed do dodge the majority.

By the time we reached the lake, the sun was setting. The slog across the lake was flat, cold, and much longer than it looked. We reached the hut, and met a few other folks, from Washington and Canada, who had been skiing in the area the past few days (thanks for the skintracks!).

With clear weather the next morning we decided to explore the peaks near the hut, above the Sphinx Glacier. The lake gathers cold air in the basin, so I woke up and started out bundled up in almost all my layers. Soon enough the sun hit, and it warmed up a bit, although the air temp was still nice and cool. Lucky for us, the temps would hopefully keep the cloudless sky from creating wet slides in the afternoon.

The first sunlight of the day, climbing Mt. Carr above Garibaldi Lake.

Climbing through deep pow to the upper slopes of Mt. Carr. Garibaldi lake can be seen in the background. The Burton Hut is on the closest shore.

We climbed to the top of Mt. Carr, and quickly skied down onto the Cheakamus Glacier, in order to climb Castle Towers Mountain. We briefly looked at the steep NW face, but the early season conditions of the glacier convinced us otherwise. Instead we skied back down to the Cheakamus Glacier, and headed over to Mt. Davidson. Using our last bit of light, we made it to the top of Davidson, a steep face rising straight above the glacier. We were treated to excellent views of the Spearhead Range, Cheakamus Lake, the Garibaldi Neve, and many other regions of the Coast Mountains. At the top we quickly changed over, and skied wind buffed pow back down to the basin. Soon the sun set, and the cold air hit us like we opened the freezer door. We made our way up to a point on the ridge between Carr and Castle Towers, named Phylis’ Engine. From there we found a small slot in the rocks, and skied down back to the hut, through intermittent pow and sun-crust.

Kirk nearing the top of Mt. Davidson, with the lower Cheakamus Glacier behind.

Skiing of the top of Mt. Davidson.

Myself cranking some turns at the bottom of Mt. Davidson.

Encouraged by the stellar blue skies of the day, we planned to head out further, and ski Mount Garibaldi the next day. Garibaldi has been on my list for a while, as it is one of the most prominent peaks in the area, and during summer climbing in Squamish, you are staring right at it. However, I’ve never given it a try.

We started the skin across the lake early, and as the sun rose the skies were mostly clear, with a few clouds here and there. When we reached Sentinel Glacier col, and got our first glimpse of the peak, the clouds began to move in. Hoping for a break, we kept going. The scattered clouds and fog made for beautiful scenery, and I always enjoy exploring new areas. When we reached the col between the summit of Garibaldi and the Tent, it was obvious the clouds had moved in for good. We were mostly whited out, so we simply followed our tracks back down.

Skiing toward Mount Garibaldi and the Sharks Fin, as the clouds move in.

Climbing above a cloud layer, with the Sharks Fin behind.

Even though we didn’t summit, we still had a nice, long tour, but got back to the hut well before dark. The next day we woke to zero viz and blowing snow. We went back to sleep, slept in a bit, then decided to head out and see what we could ski. We wandered up Mount Deception, following some old skin tracks (thanks again!). We reached a group of rocks that, in the whiteout, appeared to be the top, and headed back down. Eager for some tree skiing, we decided to head across the lake to Mt.Price.

Skiers purgatory: blindly wandering on a vast, completely flat lake. With the help of a GPS and compass, we eventually reached the warmth of the cabin.

As the evening drew closer, and we encountered some fresh, touchy wind slabs, we decided to turn around from just below the top of Price. Once we entered the trees, the skiing was great; bouncing through pillows in the fresh snow. Darkness, and a more intense blizzard hit once we got back onto the lake. It was nice to finally hole up in the cabin for the night. About a foot of fresh had fallen by morning, and the bad weather continued, so we decided to head out. After another surreal whiteout lake crossing we skied the fast and death-defying trail back to the car.

I’ve wanted to get up to the Garibaldi Lake area for a while. It always looks enticing from Whistler, and it certainly was!


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8 Responses to “Winding down winter break at Garibaldi Lake”

  1. Lavina Jahorina January 10th, 2013 4:49 pm

    Lovely storytelling, I can feel the excitement of the adventure. Awesome photos also, I enjoyed reading the post.

  2. Ansh January 11th, 2013 11:34 am

    Wow! this sounds so fun. Going on an adventure like this must be great. The tempretures mustve been crazy cold. The location of this cabin is probably awesome. Some questions: How many miles did you guys walk all together? How cold was it when you guys hiked? I’ve wanted to get up to the Garibaldi Lake area for a while. I will have a blast when I go there. I really enjoyed reading this experience you had!

  3. SB January 11th, 2013 4:13 pm

    I see you are using a BD mission pack. How do you like it for skiing?

    I really like the pack, but not so much for skiing, since I haven’t figured out a good way to carry a shovel on the outside.

  4. Louie January 11th, 2013 8:49 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the read!

    Kirk’s the one using the mission pack, he seems to like it. I think he just throws the shovel on the inside. Maybe he’ll chime in.

    I think the total distance is about 14 kilometers. It was cold, especially near the lake, but it wasn’t too bad, with good winter gear.

  5. JasonG January 11th, 2013 10:41 pm

    Great trip Louie! We were the group you ran into on your first night in the hut, hopefully I didn’t keep you awake with my snoring! That is a stout day to summit Carr, Castle and Davidson- strong work!! I have a bunch of photos from the trip on an online album, shoot me an email if you want some more shots of the cobra juice!!

  6. Lee Lau January 11th, 2013 10:57 pm

    SB why would you want to carry a shovel on the outside?

  7. Kirk Turner January 12th, 2013 2:46 pm

    Yeah I just put shovel and probe on the inside, doesn’t seem to be a big deal, it also compresses down pretty well with glacier gear, some clothes water etc. for a day out, thought I wouldn’t use on just a day trip I don’t think. I had a 45L Jackal from a few years ago that I overloaded constantly and the shoulder straps were just too thin and tore my shoulders up. The mission seems to handle 50lbs or so very well. Only complaints? The slit on the sternum strap seems to allow it to come off occasionally, I’ll need to tape it, and although I though it was corny a mesh helmet carrier on the top can be nice when your loaded with like 6 days of food, but personal preference I guess. Also the movement in the waste belt seems to work well, another silly feature that actually seems to deliver….

  8. Zap January 12th, 2013 7:14 pm

    Enjoyed the tour. We did a Garibaldi Neve Traverse and climbed Mt. Garibaldi and spent a few nights at the Sphinx area skiing. We carried a tent because even in April 1999 the Burton Hut was not seen with all the snow pack.:)

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