Thar Peak Dec 2001
Words by Chris Wilson
Last weekend I was nervously facing the gauntlet that Paddy had thrown down, to race against him in the Dirty Duo, a 25km trail run followed by a 30km trail ride. Then, out of the blue, friend and neighbour Sharon Bader threwme a lifeline... "wanna go backcountry skiing on Saturday?". I eagerly accepted, and left Paddy to his early season suffering!
Chris on the climb up
Lee and Sharon on the climb up
Sharon making her way up an icy patch
Chris on Thar Peak
I joined Sharon and her fiancee Lee Lau, and we left early,
driving east into the orange dawn, heading for Thar Peak and the last exit before
the Coquihalla toll-booths. For those familiar with the Coquihalla Highway,
there is a massive slab of steeply sloping rock above the snow tunnels on the final climb up the highway called Nak Peak, and Thar is behind it. We arrived at 1200m (4000'), geared up, headed into the woods, did our beacon
checks, and started to climb an aggressive line set by Lee. The five days of sunshine had created a hard crust, and we moved fast. However, after 2 hours of climbing, the ice crust continued thicker and harder, and occasionally a chunk would break free and go skidding down the slope. I found myself looking downslope, wondering how I would arrest a fall should it happen. At noon, we concluded that we were not going to find the soft stable powder we were looking for, so we stopped, ate lunch, stashed our skis and continued to climb with boots.
More summit shots
and another Summit shot - Nak is the background
Yak ridge from Thar Peak
Backside of Yak from Thar Peak
Again Lee lead us up, kicking boot holes in the hard surface that gave us a strong, safe climbing platform. After another 40 minutes of climbing, we summitted Thar Peak, at around 1900m (6300').
Chris approaching the Peak
The view was superb, 360' of rugged peaks and steep slopes, with ridges, bowls and cornices. The precipitous north face of Thar made me feel dizzy, and I found myself clinging to a small tree as we looked down almost vertically on Falls Lake. To the North is Zoa Peak, another popular touring spot, while the Nak Peak towers above it's bowl. Across the highway to the south was Needles Peak, and I have promised myself a trip there this year.
Lee on Thar Peak
Lee on the descent
We headed back down toward our skis, clicked in and traversed
under the steep pitch of the north face, finding 3 beautiful meadows of soft
snow, that had been protected from the melt-freeze cycle. Lee and Sharon carved
up the powder in graceful telemark turns, while I enjoyed the fixed heel control of my AT gear. However, this pitch soon steepened toward a cliff over Falls Lake, and the trees thickened. We were forced to traverse toward the east slopes, back into the ice crust which made for some comedic skiing after our turns in the powder. Lee guided us out of the trees and we kicked
backed to the highway at 3pm.
What a cool spot! Thanks to Lee and Sharon for helping me to build on mynovice skills.
Sharon and Lee at the base of the climb - heading home