Words by Lee Lau. Pictures by Lee Lau and Jonathan Armstrong
It’s impossible to describe the sheer joy I feel waking up in the mountains.
To get out a tent, look on a huge face or a big glacier and to smell that cold, clear air. I’ve given up trying to put that feeling into words or pictures. You either feel it or you don’t.
Morning view from camp of the Sir Richard group
Jonathan making his way through the forest – Diavolo to Iago to Naden Glacier in the background
OK – not quite such smooth sailing through the first of many tight tree sections
Looking down on upper Cheakamus Creek towards the Lecture Cutters – Sir Richard is hidden behind the ridge on picture left
Bluebird mornings. Full breakfast with bacon. Long days. Fast snow. Spring touring is pretty darn cool. Just a bit of a false start as we head a little too high on the bank of Cheakamus Creek and have to drop down. Soon we’re back on our way up.
View from the bottom of upper Cheakamus Creek – the Lecture Cutters are the peaks in picture centre
Looking down Cheakamus Creek to Outlier Peak
Heading up to the Lecture Cutters – note Lee’s fashionable “capri” pants
Just a side note that skiing off the N face of the Lecture Cutters is NOT recommended after a big avalanche cycle. Leaving behind ski crampons when ski-touring is also NOT recommended. We wasted a good deal of energy finding that old slide paths had messed up the decent snow off the Lecture Cutters. There is also no way to stay on the ridge from the Lecture Cutters to the Ubyssey-McBride col and instead we had to drop back down from 2300m to 1900m to the McBride Glacier.
Fortunately travel on the McBride Glacier is an “escalator” and in what seemed like a short time, we were making our way up to the col.
Jonathan wishes he had brought ski crampons
View looks down to Nannygoat Peak from a bench below the Lecture Cutters
Coming down from the Lecture Cutters was disappointing – the slopes were destroyed by remnants of wet slides
Jonathan contouring SE towards the McBride Glacier
Stunning views from the McBride Glacier
Jonathan having a “tiny moment” on the McBride Glacier
The col to the right of this small ridge divides the Ubyssey and McBride Glaciers
Jonathan approaches McBride-Ubyssey Col. Mt Sir Richard is the peak behind – to the NE
Winds were howling at the col and the temperatures which had been shirtsleeves and warm dipped alarmingly quickly. That was a shame as the views from this vantage point were gorgeous. Unfortunately our little diversion and wasted time at the Lecture Cutters meant that we couldn’t summit Sir Richard. It doesn’t matter in any event as Jonathan and I both were already discussing many places to set up ski-mountaineering camps in this fantastic terrain of summits and icefields.
Another stunning view – this time from Ubyssey-McBride Col. It might be possible to get here from Diavolo Glacier. The runs dropping down to this drainage (Diavolo - Cheakamus Creek) look superb
Oh god – the views just get better and better as you make your way S down the ridge on the west side of the Ubyssey Glacier.
Judge Howay and Baker – almost 160kms or so SE from our vantage point
The N face of Cheakamus is another prized ski – descent
From the ridge viewed running SW from the Ubyssey/McBride col there is a small un-named peak that sits astride the ridge. This is called the “Gatekeeper”.
You can descend a col just to the east of the Gatekeeper to the Ubyssey Glacier and then to Wolverine Pass. We elected to drop in off the gentle slopes a little bit before this col and dropped in direct to the Ubyssey Glacier. We then had to contour sharply west across some other slide paths then bootpack a small slope to hold our elevation and gain slopes just SW of the Ubyssey Glacier - not dropping all the way down to the valley of Tuwasus Creek further to the south. As it was getting dark we then headed further down the slopes past Wolverine Pass ( ~1800m) and camped on a knoll at about 1500 m just N of the steep ramp coming off the Snow Bowl Glacier. There is running water nearby this knoll.
For reasons that will become apparent, our decision to camp low and then travel high turned out to be a good one.
We didn’t have much daylight so made our way down the Ubyssey Glacier quickly heading to Wolverine Pass
… but there’s always time to take more shots of stunning scenery – this looks east from the midpoint of the Ubyssey Glacier.
Day 2′s journey
Day 2′s elevation profile