Coast – Sessel Glacier and Peak 8600

Words by Lee Lau. Pictures by Lee Lau, Sharon Bader and Chris Kelly unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved

I had spied trip reports about Mt. Sessel from earlier beta from ski-tourers completing traverses in the area. A lot of the reports had shown approaches from its SW and S aspects. A quick check of the maps showed that the contours were consistent and steep – ie lots of bootpacking and possible use of ski or boot crampons. It would also take a long time to approach as we would be coming in from the N side. After looking at more maps and getting more shots of the peak from earlier in the week we thought we’d give the peak a go by approaching from the N side.

E face of FASP in morning glow then in later morning during our daily glacier walk

Top picture is Mt. Meager. Bottom picture is Plinth Peak

As before, the day starts with a huge breakfast, then a skin up from our base-camp to the col seperating the glacier and North Creek/Hurley River drainage to the south. We didn’t bother with an early start (which in retrospect we didn’t need anyway), left at about 9am and were preparing to ski down the drainage east to the toe of the Sessel glacier.

Our objective – Sessel – from the top of the glacier overlooking the col to North Creek

Skiing this route actually turned out to be a good thing for us as it gave us a good look at one of two routes possible for skiing out from our camp and back to logging roads. The route we used approaches the Hurley River drainage and can be prone to avalanche danger as there is a bit of a terrain trap where the route pinches between S facing slopes and Sessel itself and then benches out as you enter the Hurley drainage proper. This wasn’t too much of a concern this early in the morning and we were off skins and down to the lake and moraine N of Sessel in no time at all.

Top picture shows the view east down the Hurley drainage and the end of the moraine from the lake just N of Sessel. Bottom picture shows wet slides coming off S faces adjoining the Hurley drainage.

Although we would have had time to summit Sessel we didn’t really try that hard. You can’t really get a good view of the glacier N of the peak without being in the Hurley drainage and when we saw the navigation problems and crevasse hazard we decided to try another time when we had rope, harnesses and rescue gear. Of note, the approach via glacier east/lookers left is steepish. The approach via glacier west/lookers right looks fine but then you have to traverse the central glacier icefall to get to the logical ascent route which is on glacier east at a bench at about 2400m elevation. There is also a bergschrund protecting the peak itself off the logical ascent route – the schrund looks ok to ski but questionable for ascending

Interesting couloir is NNW aspect off the ridge E of Sessel

View of the main Sessel glacier on the skintrack approach

Potential approach route on lookers left

Top picture – Objective hazards off approach to logical glacier bench @ about 2100m on the ridge to W of glacier. Bottom picture – icefall at glacier centre and possible approach route on lookers right.

We had a fun descent via the glacier and then climbed back up our down-route to the col from which we had descended. We took our time – lazing in the sun a bit and taking in the warm rays. We reached the col at about 4pm.

Lee glacier-skipping

Kevin porpoising down the slopes.


Chris with gentle turns

Glacier skipping at its finest on Sessel – view looks east down Hurley drainage

Chris and Lee found a slightly steeper pitch off the moraine

Mt Castle Greyskull looks like a lot of fun

After the col, Sharon headed back downslope. Chris, Kevin and I headed up to Pk 8600 which looks deceptively close. We had about a hour and a half to get there to get in a reasonable descent without headlamps – we made it by 5.25pm de-skinning in alpenglow. From Chris’s watch – avg ascent rate of 9m/min – covering 633m in 1 hour 10 minutes!

Back again to Pk 8600

Whistler Mtn and Wedge Mtn from Pk 8600

We were rewarded with pretty good N facing snow – descending from 2635m to 1440m and covering a lot of ground very fast. Turns were good all the way to valley bottom. We then made it back to camp and stuffed our faces with food to end a nice touring day.

Lee and Kevin skiing off Pk 8600. One point two vertical km’s and 15 minutes later we were at valley floor.

Sharon’s elevation profile for the trip. It misses Chris, Kevin and I heading up to Pk 8600 at end of day for the additional 850m of climbing for 2120 total for the day.

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