Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Ultimate Everything - Upper Echelon Finish (16 pitches, 5.9)

The Ultimate Everything is a 10 pitch trad route on Echelon Wall that starts above the apron and makes its way to the top of the second summit of the Chief. Most pitches are in the 5.8 to 5.9 range with the final pitch being 5.10. Kyle was feeling really solid after a good season of climbing and a great warm up day at the crag, but wasn't very excited about leading the crux at the end of 17 pitches of climbing. To avoid that last 5.10 pitch, we opted to finish the route on the final two pitches of Upper Echelon, which go at 5.8.
Dotted red shows Ultimate Everything. We climbed St. Vitus Dance to the right of south gully then followed memorial crack up the apron

Route up Ultimate Everything with our traverse to Upper Echelon drawn in red
Upper Echelon in red with Ultimate Everything drawn in white (our traverse dotted white)
We started from the bottom of the apron at 7:15 am. It was a nice warm September day and there was nobody on the route above us. We climbed St. Vitus Dance (5.9), followed by Memorial Crack (5.9) to the top of the apron. St. Vitus Dance was the crux of the day, with the 3rd pitch (5.8) being a long, sustained hand crack that really tested my stamina. Kyle led the whole thing like a boss.
Jenny cleaning on St. Vitus Dance
Kyle working his way up Memorial Crack in the shade
Memorial Crack was a nice alternative to Broomstick Crack and was much more direct. We got to the top of the apron and started hiking up through the forest, following the trail for the Squamish Buttress. There was an obvious fork to the left that we followed to traverse the South Gully. The start of the Ultimate Everything is marked by a bolt at the bottom of the first pitch.
Kyle at the base of Ultimate Everything after the traverse through South Gully on an obvious trail
Looking up at the first peak of the Chief
The first pitch was bolted slab followed by some crack climbing. I took the second pitch up a left facing corner, but got off route by heading too far left. After a bit of freaking out I got back on route and continued up to the top of the pitch. Pitch 3 was another bolted slab pitch up to a ledge. The whole route went from ledge to ledge, so I never felt much exposure on the climb. There was some forest walking too, and it was strange being up high on the chief yet walking through the trees.
Kyle at the bottom of pitch 2 on the Ultimate Everything
Beautiful day in Howe Sound
Scrambling up to the base of pitch 3
Pitch 3 slab
Other climbers on Squamish Buttress
Kyle checking the beta at the "Lunch Ledge"
The upper pitches were a little bit more interesting, with some hand cracks and dyke climbing. However, despite being called Ultimate Everything, I don't think this climb was the ultimate of much. Most of the fun pitches were actually down on the apron, but it was a still a really fun day out and a mellow way to get to the top of the Chief. I think it was a good alternative to Squamish Butt Lite, with less exposure.
Pitch 5 
Pitch 6
High above the highway and finally into the sunshine
Finishing off the dyke pitch (7) with a ledge walk
After pitch 7, we left the Ultimate Everything by traversing left down a ledge (~50m) to join up with Upper Echelon. We had to clamber over and under a big tree that was down and looked like it could slide off the ledge at any time. The last 2 pitches started up a bolted slab from the landmark of a shoulder-high bolt. We cruised to the top and enjoyed awesome views of Howe Sound, Squamish and Diamondhead.
Tree scrambling to traverse off Ultimate Everything and over to Upper Echelon
Looking up from the bolt that marks the start of the Upper Echelon pitches (route heads left)
Two pitches of 5.8 slab takes you to the top!
Diamondhead in the distance
Top of the 2nd peak of the Chief
Happy to have the climbing shoes off! Sore feet or dye from the Anasazi Moccasym??? A bit of both
Rack rainbow - trying to be artsy

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Harrison Hut and Meager Creek Hot Springs

How much activity and how little sleep can one fit into a single weekend? I feel like I have tested this theory on a few occasions in the past and our trip to Meager Creek Hot Springs was no different.
The Harrison Hut
Kyle and I flew into Vancouver Friday night on the late flight, which was delayed because of a light bulb that needed to be changed (how many pilots does it take...?). Pat, Rebecca and Peter picked us up in Rebecca's Subaru, which was already completely full. We spent a few minutes repacking so we could fit in our massive amount of luggage. We were arriving for a week and had all the gear for the hiking trip, a trad rack and other climbing paraphernalia, stuff for a wedding and Kyle's ski boots! Needless to say, it was a very cosy ride. Originally we had planned on staying in Vancouver on the Friday night but someone had the foresight to check and discovered that the Gran Fondo was starting early Saturday morning, closing the Sea-to-Sky for many hours. Late night drive to Whistler it had to be! An accident at Porteau Cove trapped us on the highway for three hours and we rolled into Creekside at 4:15 am. A few hours later, we were back on the road heading up to Pemberton. From Pemberton, it was a wet 2 hour drive up the valley, mostly on logging roads, to the Harrison Hut trailhead. We only got lost a little bit thanks to my poor directions and the car's odometer being in miles rather than kilometers.

Directions below from the VOC Harrison Hut Trail wiki page Harrison Hut Trail Info. We were able to find the trailhead with minimal difficulty, but things change frequently due to logging and new forestry roads. Do your research before you go!
KMRoadDirection or Monument
0.0Lillooet South FSRSign "End of Public Road"
8.9Lillooet South FSRGo Right
18.9Lillooet South FSRGo Left
23.7Lillooet South FSRGo Left (2WDs park here)
26.0Pika Spur (Perkins Main)Go Right
28.0Pika Spur (Perkins Main)Go Right
29.0Pika Spur (Perkins Main)Go Left
29.1Pika Spur (Perkins Main)Go Left
29.6Pika Spur (Perkins Main)Trailhead
Harrison Hut Trail info from the VOC Harrison Hut Wiki Page
The Meager Creek Hot Springs used to be a popular camping destination as it was vehicle access via the Lillooet River FSR and a bridge across the river. In 2010, the bridge was wiped out by a huge landslide off Meager Mountain and currently there do not seem to be any plans to build a new one. The hot springs are still there, but are much harder to approach. You can get to them by crossing the Lillooet River then walking in on the old access road 7 km, but some reports say that this involves crossing significant landslide debris Meager Creek Hot Springs Info. The new Harrison Hut Trail allows you to access the hot springs (9.5 km one way) and does not involve any river crossings. It was built by the VOC and completed in 2014 and has become notorious for epics. I had heard that the trail was a bit challenging, but was interested in checking out the hot springs as well as the VOC Harrison Hut
A soggy start after far too little sleep
 Having left the coast for the rockies 5 summers ago, I had become accustomed to being well under suggested hiking times and can reliably hike 4-5 km per hour in most terrain with a full bag of mountaineering gear. The hike into the Harrison Hut reminded me that hiking is actually really hard! Our plan was to hike the first 6 km towards the hut, then make the 3.5 km detour to the hot springs for an afternoon soak. We figured it wouldn't take more than a couple hours to hike the 19.6 km (including the detour) to reach the hut, but boy were we wrong! The first 6 km of the trail undulates through the forest and cut blocks and it is VERY slow moving. We were averaging about 2 km/hr and we were not dawdling. It didn't help that we had left the car just after 1 pm. Hiking in the pouring rain isn't super fun at the best of times, but as we brushed past the dense foliage, we were getting soaked to the bone.
One thing the trail does have going for it is amazing markings. You may not make it to the hut, but you won't lose the trail!
Slippery when wet
One of many log crossings
Trail markers seen every ~15 m helped us find the way
A bit more like a jungle than a trail
Getting up out of the wet cut block
By the time we hit the turn off for the hot springs, we were getting concerned that we were going to be hiking in the dark. We skipped the springs and forged onwards and upwards on the remaining 6.5 km towards the hut. It got steeper and steeper. Trail signs at each creek crossing reminded us how much elevation we had left and how few kilometres we had to go. Surely we were almost there, right?
Crossing Pika Creek
Lightening the packs with about 6 km to go
Chains helped on steeper terrain
Barr Creek Bridge had been smashed up. A work hike was heading up the following weekend to do some bridge work
Final ascent to the hut. It's got to be less than a kilometre now!?!
I spy a hut!
 Finally, we made it to the hut! It had taken almost 6 hours to hike 12.6 km. We stripped off our wet clothes and started a fire to warm the hut. Rebecca has taken most of the group gear and refused to share so was a little ways back with Patrick. By the time they arrived, it was almost dark and the hut was basically a sauna. After a few glasses of wine, we had all partially forgotten the misery of the hike in. We somehow managed to finish all the wine and beer we had carried in with us and stayed up way too late.
Getting warm and cooking amazing stirfry
 Morning came too soon. The clouds had lifted slightly, allowing us a view of the surrounding area. There is plenty to see and explore around the Harrison Hut and it would make for an amazing destination on a longer trip. Alas, we had to get back to civilization and we still hadn't got to soak in the hot springs.
Hut hog joined the trip
Views of Earth Peak (?) and the glaciers above
Crossing the Madhorse Creek beside the hut, an easy boulder hop
 The hike back down to the junction was a bit more manageable as the rain has stopped and we were losing elevation. At the logging road, we turned down the hill, following large arrows made from rocks for 3.5 km to access the hot springs. Once we arrived, the hot springs were deserted. All the picnic tables, change rooms and toilets are still there and functional. The big pools were also empty so we had to close the drain and allow the tub to fill before we could properly soak. There are signs asking people to drain the tubs after use to prevent algae from growing. We found some pools that had not been drained and they did not look very nice. Our big pool filled with amazingly clear hot water (probably ~102 Fahrenheit) and we were able to relax for a few hours with the occasional jump in the river to cool off. There are also signs saying that the area is closed and no camping is allowed. There are obvious areas that people have been camping and I think that it makes more sense to do that then to stay at the hut if you want to really enjoy the hot springs.
Made it to the hot springs!
Pat and Rebecca lounging as we fill the pool 
Happy Kyle
Cooling off in the river
The hike out was much more enjoyable after a nice hot spring. Rebecca went ahead while we finished at the springs and saw 3 black bears! We got back to the car and hit the road. It was dark by the time we got back to Pemberton and we saw a large moose on our drive out. What a weekend!
On of the many logs on the trail