Stonewalled, again! I'm getting tired of writing reports that end with a failed attempt on some peak or other. So far this winter we have been turned back on more than 4 different peaks! Mount Myra is the latest peak to turn us back and be added to the list.
|The long but quick road home. |
We expected good weather and we weren't disappointed. Excellent visibility, cool temperatures, and light snow wouldn't be the undoing of our attempt. An incredible accumulation of recent snow would accomplish that.
Total Distance: 12.5 km
Starting Elevation: 331 m
Maximum Elevation: 1161 m
Total Elevation Gain: 926 m
Total Time: 8 hours
The route consists of two different sections: the long walk up an old bulldozer route to Tennant Lake; then, crossing the hilly terrain to a gully which leads to the upper ridge. Though the conditions prevented us from making it to the ridge on the massif, it didn't stop us from having a great day on the mountain.
On Sunday January 31st, unsure of the conditions, and wanting to take full advantage of the daylight hours, we left Nanaimo just before 5:00 am. We made only two stops on our way to the trailhead: a quick stop near Coombs to pick up Chauncey; and a quick stop at the Buttle Bluffs logging road route to recover a lost piece of my snowshoe. Each cost us a little time but neither would have an impact on our failure for the day. We arrived at the parking area, beyond the Nystar Mine, shortly after full light.
|Crossing Tennant Creek along the only bridge|
We left the parking lot (360m) at 8:30 am, making our way down the service road and over the bridge, then turning left up the route leading to Tennant Lake. We had a GPS route, and Phil has hiked to the lake in a previous trip, but with snow the route looks very different. Somehow, we missed the main route; we hit the watercourse and started up the pipeline. Within a few minutes, Phil directed us back toward his original route, onto the old bulldozer road.
Once on the bulldozer road, routefinding was unnecessary; the road switchbacks up the Tennant Creek water course, heading south first, and eventually west. From the car we were already walking on patchy snow, but around 500 metres the snow reached ten inches in depth. We put on our snowshoes, but were forced to take them off again shortly after, because the route was bare down to the rocky road several times. Regardless, we eventually needed to use our shoes to climb up snow piled over two metres.
|Walking the road to the lake|
Conditions for snowshoeing were poor: significant soft depth, poor ability to pack, and lots of effort required to take each step. The higher we climbed, the deeper the snow became. Additionally, the bulldozer road to the lake requires three water crossings. In the summer months, it’s possible to cross over the water pipelines, but today there was more than a metre of snow piled on top and they were impossible to use. We were forced to use stepping-stones at the water's surface to cross, then climb the high snow on the edges of the watercourse. Just after the one and only bridge crossing, Chauncey accidentally found a hollow section below the snow. To his surprise, he was suddenly up to his armpits with his feet dangling below him. Fortunately, it took only a little effort to pull him from the hole.
|Carefully considering: up high, or down low?|
|Chauncey found a hollow!|
The three of us slowly worked our way up the route. At the higher elevations, the snow collapsed as much as 20 inches with each step. Phil and I are no spring chickens; I am grateful that Chauncey was with us, bringing a well of youthful exuberance and unending energy to walk through the deep snow toward the lake. We arrived on the berm around noon, ate a quick snack, and examined the snow-covered landscape that surrounded the frozen lake.
|From the berm at Tennant Lake, Mount Myra shrouded in mist|
From the lake, we crossed the frozen water and worked our way over a series of snow-covered bumps toward the east ridge, visible from the lake. It was evident that to gain the upper ridge, the route follows close to a bluff and up a copse of trees to along the side of the ridge. Ultimately, we didn't find the exact route: we ran out of time, and the weather turned on us. As we scaled the east side of the ridge, snow fell, slightly obscuring our view of the surrounding low-laying tarns.
|That difficult moment when we chose to turn around|
There is always a discrepancy between the time spent climbing and the descent. Today, we climbed for six hours before we turned around. It was a hard choice, choosing to descend before reaching the summit ridge, but we had reached our predetermined turnaround time, and we stuck to it. At 2:00 pm we turned downhill and descended back to the car.
|Beating a hasty retreat back tot he car!|
We spent the better part of the day ascending an easy route through challenging conditions. The trip back to the car was fast, just over two hours. We arrived back at the car before 4:30, with an hour of light to spare.
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