Couloir aka NW Couloir
by Lee Lau. Pictures by Lee, Chris Kelly and Trevor Hawkins
Trevor, Chris and I went to Wedge. Hoping for a window of good weather the forecast went from good to bad then to mediocre. Nevertheless we decided to give it a try. We hiked up 1200m to Wedgemount Lake - described as one of the steepest sustained hikes in the Sea to Sky corridor.
Chris crossing Wedgemount Creek the first time. About half an hour into the hike
Nasty blowdown at about 1300m continues up the trail
Trevor on the final approach to the alpine - just another 150m to go
Lee on the final approach as the sun shines on the Pemberton Ice Cap to the W
Trevor and Chris approach Wedgemount hut
The hike lived up to its promise and we were pretty bagged after getting up to the Wedgemount Hut. No-one else was there so we spread out and took our time enjoying the views and sunset. Optimism was high for next day's project
Sunset at the hut and Wedgemount Lake
Moonrise over Wedgemount Lake
Chris gets artistic
Sunset then sunrise over the Pemberton Icecap
Conditions looked good and weather promising the next day early in the morning. We had discussed the idea of going to Weart and skiing off the N face but decided we didn't really have good route beta or an idea of how big the bergschrund would be at the base of the face. None of us had skied the Wedge (aka NW) couloir so off we went at 6.30am.
Sunrise over Wedge
Trevor and Chris starting up Wedgemount Glacier
Wedge pano - the Wedge Couloir is over to picture right
Lee after the switch to skins halfway up the glacier
The route is pretty straightforward. We hiked around the lake to the toe of the Wedgemount Glacier then made our way high on the glacier over to the Parkhurst - Wedge col. It would be easy to scramble to Parkhurst from there on a broad ridge. There is a ton of rockfall around this area and a helmet is recommended. We didn't need ropes or glacier gear - the part of the glacier we had to cross was relatively benign.
Transistioning to crampons on a slope prone to nasty rockfall just W of Wedge proper. The ridgeline scramble to Parkhurst is in the background
Bootpacking up the apron of the couloir - slope angle about 45 degrees
Cloud drifts in over the peak halfway up the couloir
As the clouds roll in Lee frontpoints up the steeper top part of the couloir - 55 degrees
Top part of the couloir
Chris gains the W ridge; still whited - out
As the highest peak in this general area, Wedge seems to attract its own weather. Today was no exception and to our dismay, clouds started rolling in. We started our climb up the couloir at about 10am and were up in about 11.45 climbing from about 2300m at the couloir base to 2790m at the top of Wedge's W ridge. If the weather had been any better, we were planning on hiking over to Wedge's summit while waiting for the icy snow on the couloir to soften.
We waited around hoping for a break in the weather for a little less then an hour but that break never came.
Chris making turns down the middle part of the couloir
Trevor on the middle couloir
Lee on the lower apron
Getting back to Wedgemount Hut at 1900m approx was very quick as were on skis most of the way. Frustratingly most of the surrounding lower peaks were clear - only the top 100m of couloir had been in clouds. The ceiling actually went a tad higher as we skied down off the couloir and the last half of the slope was in decent skiing shape - with edgeable snow.
We were back at the hut by 2pm and hiking down the trail by 2.30. Three hours later we were back at the parking lot at the vehicles; the top of the Wedge Couloir was still in clouds.
Lee glacier skips down to Wedgemount Lake
Warm and toasty at the base after a shin-splint and leg-burning downclimb
Wedge couloir still in clouds
GE and map tracks.