An early morning departure was the order of the day, the morning of January 25th 2015. Phil Jackson contacted me late on Friday evening with an offer to do a winter ascent of Mt. Moriarty. This trip marks my third summit of this peak in twelve months, I climbed Moriarty twice in 2014. Readers of my blog will agree, I was incredibly busy throughout the summer. It was full of amazing advendtures with great folks. I was hoping to continue my adventures into the winter of 2015. So far I'm disappointed.
I was keen to trade my in my kayak and summer garb and strap on my crampons and snowshoes, winter is here! Moving through familiar landscapes gives a surreal expeience. The snow covered landscapes are transformed into altered versions of themselves. The familiar routes and terrain become something new and unfamiliar. So far this year, my trips into Strathcona have been less than amazing. The low snow-pack leaves me walking half through the summer route and struggling to get over a thin skiff of snow on steeper sections, unable to kick steps. I was still hopeful for Moriarty! I was excited to get out to, the fun part of this hike -- the longish plateau that leads up the final summit.
Horizontal Distance: 8.5 km
Starting Elevation: 907 m
Max Elevation: 1619 m
Elevation Gain: 807 m
Time: 5.5 hours
We reached the parking lot at Labour Day Lake by 8:00 am . The ground had the tiniest patches of snow, it can't even really call it snow. We had no need for snowshoes, we loaded our snowshoes on our backpack and started to walk down the last stretch of logging road. By 830 we had reached the trees and followed the booted and flagged path upward. The air temperature was very warm. Even at this early hour it was nearly 8 degrees Celsius! We were down to our t-shirts in no time. I regretted wearing pants..... so hot.
Even though, I made this hike two times in the past 6 months, the trail looked unfamiliar. There is an incredible transformation of the trail due to rain and wind. Even Phil remarked that the trail looked a bit different, I'm sure its an aesthetic difference. For the most part the route remained the same, confirmed as I compared my GPS routes.
Our first taste of snow came at near 9 o'clock and 1250 metres, as we moved off the first major hill toward the creek that leads up to the shoulder below the main plateau. We attempted to man-handle our way through it, unfortunately, we were up to our knees. I really didn't want to stop and put snowshoes on. I had a feeling that once we past this short section and back in the trees that there would be little snow. I was right.
Phil, telling Rick where to go!
We kept our snowshoes on as we ascended toward the shoulder at 1450 m. We picked our way through the trees, the creek was flowing quick and had little snow on it. It was easy to find our way, until we were at the shoulder, where the trans formative properties of the snow took hold. Everything looks different in the snow. I was confused about our location. It took a minute or two to discover the scrambley route up to the plateau. The snow levels out the ground obscured the route.
Once at the hill, we removed our snowshoes, stowing them in our backpacks as we scrambled up. The hill had very little snow making the scramble up the bare rock easy, though disappointing that there wasn't more snow for a proper snowshoe outing.
A view from the plateau overlooking the southwest ridge of Mt Moriarty
At the top we bore our shoes ones more and walked toward our goal. In a heavy winter it may be possible to make a beeline to the summit. today we marched somewhere between a winter route and the summer. Once on the plateau, the condition of the snow were ideal for snowshoeing; firm but not crusty and able to hold our weight. There was no need for trail breaking, therefor we were quick to the summit.
As we traversed the plateau we chuckled to ourselves at the conditions. So often when we have time to the conditions are overcast, obscuring gorgeous views. Other times the fog sets in thick and heavy providing only 5 metres of visibility on the route. Today was a combination of overcast and light fog until...... we were 10 minutes from the summit. The sky split, clouds parted and sections of blue sky became visible as the sun blazed through the cloud cover.
By the time we reached the summit the clouds were sunk in defeat, and were running in fear of the sun, veritably racing by us. The sun was shinning! We ate lunch and posed for photographs. Phil made a misstep. He removed his snowshoes and when he moved close to the large rock upon which the register sits, he punched through up to his waist! As though this was not enough, once freed he moved to take his turn on the summit rock and he punched through again... up to his neck!
The situation wasn't exactly dire but he was completely stuck, unable to extricate himself under his own power. Rick came to the rescue lifting rick out of the hole. With the moment behind us, we were able to joke about it and enjoy our lunch before heading home.
A view of our snowshoe tracks, from Mt Moriarty's summit
We made it safely back to the car at 1:30, about 8.5 km horizontal distance and about 700 metres of elevation gain. I'm always happy to get out but let's get some snow already!