Stein High Traverse

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Stein High Traverse

Postby Alex » Mon May 16, 2016 4:35 pm

I seem to have a fascination with the Stein. It's by no intentions that I continuously visit the area. First I tried to run it in a day a few years ago, then we went back and hiked it with some side trips last summer in a 3 day suffer fest (17 + 12 + 12 hour days). So when Rich suggested that we go ski it in the fall my interest was piqued. Not having much information I did some Googling and mapsturbating and drew a line on a map on the internet and sent it over to Rich. His reply, "That's interesting." Apparently there's a "traditional route" in John Baldwin's book, but not possessing (nor having an interest in possessing) a copy of the book I just drew what looked best to me via shaded topo lines and satellite images. I wanted to summit and ski Skihist, which besides being the tallest mountain in SWBC at 2968m also has a very attractive NE face that's only been skied once or twice (when the North Kwoiek Creek road was still a road). Rich has a bad habit of saying yes to my plans despite the fact that he usually knows better, but it's likely because he wants to witness me suffering when my poorly researched plan starts to unravel.

I should also add that I was a little worried about my shoulder, as I dislocated the left one 7 weeks prior to the start of this trip. It was the first time for that side and I wanted to keep it that way.

Anyway, we started off the trip all the way down near Lillooet Lake on the Lizzie Creek FSR. Someone had carved out a new trail to bypass the washout and the shitty trail that had become the washout bypass. But the new trail quickly ended (who builds the entrance to a trail and puts up trail markers before finishing a trail?) and we descended some steep and bushy choss to gain the road. I had forgotten something at the car and had to run back without my pack, but no big deal. At least 70 pounds of gear made the road a slow slog. It also made us rather top heavy:

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At some point we put our skis on and much to the surprise of no one my tele binding was already falling apart. Some swearing and bush followed

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It took us 8 hours to get to the Lizzie cabin, compared to the 3 hours it took us with light packs and no skis in the summer. We pushed on towards Caltha lake and were rewarded with beautiful light on the up and breakable crust on the descent. Much fun was had.

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Caltha Lake and our first camp with Petlush and Skihist way way off in the Distance

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Day 2 we had a lot of distance to cover and were moving at sunrise. We contoured around into what from a distance looked like easy terrain, but instead was icy micro-terrain. We side hilled and boot packed our way over to Figure 8 Lake where we then traverssed the ridge towards Vanguard. Figure 8 Lake:

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Vanguard:

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We summitted Vanguard, which had a moderately steep summit slope that quickly mellowed, but then half way down the face rolled over towards a lake that used to be glacier. Not being sure of what was below the roll, we went around to a mellow gully on skiers left. Looking up, it was good we hadn't skied straight off. The steep part below the roll was a mix of rock slabs, glide cracks, and thin ribbons of isothermal mush. We crossed the lake and skinned up to a ridge where we found shelter from the heat behind a giant boulder. We took the time to have a siesta in order to allow the sun to have time to cook us even more on our next climb. We booted and skinned up the the ridge till we gained the remnants of the Skook Jim glacier, which allowed easy skinning to the ridge and then further along to the summit. Great views lead to fantastic corn turns back to our packs on the ridge where we dropped down and gaped at magnificient views of the Nahatlatch Range.

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The best image to explain the next several hours is one from August. We traversed flat glaciers (from R to L) and climbed small bumps along the ridge to gain the summits of Crevasse Crag and Klackarpun.

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The setting was hard to beat and the never ending view the Nahatlatch was amazing. Maddy skiing off of Klackarpun towards Elton Lake in the early evening light.

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We ate dinner on the glacier east of Klackarpun and lounged in the late evening light. As the shadows approached we put our boots back on and shuffled up to the next ridge as the night engulfed us.

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We had to position ourselves for tomorrows low elevation south and east facing BS. In the dark and our tired state we dropped over the wrong part of the ridge and got to ski steep boiler plate ice above 1000m + of exposure. We traverssed through a small rock band part way down and gained the correct slopes. The hard conditions and big terrain convinced us to skin directly up slope to a ridge crest in order to make camp. We set up camp on the windiest part of the ridge and slept for a few hours.

Another sunrise and some fast and hard morning turns.

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We vetoed my foolish idea (created at a computer weeks before) for a complex ridge traverse and opted for perfect corn on ESE facing slopes at 9:30am

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We descended corn almost all the way down to the 1600m valley. That was good! We re-hydrated and had a chance encounter with a wolverine! Neato!

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We did some steep skinning to gain the series of lakes to the west of Crestline.

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It was easy skinning in oppressive still heat so progress was slow. Someone had turned the oven up to "cleaning mode". We gained the ridge of Crestline and took a quick break. Looking at the steep east facing slope below us I muttered something about having a siesta and waiting till the sun was off of it, but this was poo-pood and after some snacks we continued along our merry way. It looks so easy to get there... other than the 1000m drop in front of us

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The first bit was corn, but it slowly began to degrade as we lost elevation. This is around where it started to get questionable:

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Now this is where I may bitch a bit about excessive and unnecessary GPS usage. Rich was following way points and said there was some gully we had to find. We left a small island of safety and traversed across steepening slopes and knee deep slush towards the gully. I got to the edge of the gully first. It was 45-50 degrees with a couple glide cracks and I couldn't see over a roll, but it looked like a cliff. FUCK. We reversed direction, but continued a descending traverse cutting away from the gully. We ended up trapping ourselves above 100m+ cliffs on 35 degree slopes of isothermal death slurpee. This was not a safe place to wait till the slopes cooled, so we put skins on and cautiously retraced ours steps to a moderately safe rock outcropping where the slope split in either direction. We took our siesta here and waited for several hours until the sun had completely receded behind the ridge. We skinned up a bit more and traversed over to what looked like a possible snow ramp through the cliffs.

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We gained an obvious bench that did a descending traverse and crossed the gully. We skied down and shuffled over the moraine. There is ample reason to come back to this area:

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We decided to call it quits at Rutledge Lake. We had wanted to camp higher up the glacier but we were all feeling a bit fried from the heat and the stress of the death slurpee. Rich went for a swim to freshen up.

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The next morning we woke up late. Maybe it was from the day before, maybe it was because it was the 4th morning of waking up at 5am or earlier followed by long days with heavy packs. Either way, the late start is the reason for failure. We knew weather was coming in, and we were too destroyed to drag ourselves out of bed at a reasonable hour. We crossed Rutledge Lake, but had to shovel snow off of the lake and build ourselves a ramp off of the ice and over the slush at the edge. Then we rambled up to the toe of the glacier and slogged up the surprisingly broken up glacier (simply because it's flat... so it was surprising how many slots there were). We walked up a few solid pieces of glacier that split the gap between the many parallel crevasses. It was easy travel, but just surprisingly close to surprisingly large holes. As we climbed, the view of Mehatl beckoned us onwards:

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At the edge of the glacier we dropped our overnight gear and lightened our packs and headed for Mehatl. The weather was worsening and a storm was forecast for the afternoon / evening. We made it about 100m up the face of Mehatl before it started to rain on us. We decided to call it quits and turned around to continue along our traverse so that we could make camp somewhere other than a big open glacier. We re-packed and climbed up to the Kwoiek - Woodpile col. On the other side we saw more motivation for a future failure.

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We descended all the way to valley bottom, had a siesta in the mid-day warmth and skinned up towards a small lake just south of Nielsen. The moist nature of the snow increased the glide on the sticky side of my skins and the only cure was voile straps. We spent the next 36 hours hanging out in the tent, mapsturbating, playing with sticks, and swimming.

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I'll continue with the last half of the trip in a couple days. It's become obvious to me that I'm not very good at being brief...
Alex
 

Re: Stein High Traverse

Postby skykilo » Mon May 16, 2016 6:35 pm

Already epic, despite not reaching the end yet. The terrain looks stellar. But no thanks to isothermal snow in big terrain! Wolverine and ESE corn shots are very nice.
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skykilo
olikyks
 
from Santa Fe

Re: Stein High Traverse

Postby Alex » Mon May 16, 2016 10:17 pm

Rich's pictures are good. Dance party at 2pm in Lytton! https://flic.kr/s/aHskwCsE3y
Alex
 

Re: Stein High Traverse

Postby Alex » Fri May 20, 2016 2:25 pm

After the weather day we awoke to some snow flurries which prompted some snoozing. We eventually got ready and packed up camp. The snowpack had not frozen much from all the rain and dusting of new snow was sitting on a very saturated top foot of snow. I had wanted to go up and over Nielsen, but we decided to go around and check out the north face from there.

A view of Kwoiek from the south side of Nielsen:

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We had some fun turns on the still firm schmoo all the way down to the lake that is NW of Nielsen:

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Maddy and Rich curve around Nielsen with Blowdown Pass area in the distance:

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I was convinced to resist my urges due to the saturation of the upper snowpack

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We went up to a col just east of Nielsen and dropped down the far side where we zig-zagged back NW towards Doss.

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We skinned and then boot packed up the south ridge of Doss. This side of the range starts to get dry and so we were just walking up scree for the entirety of the ridge. At the summit of Doss Rich poked his head down the north face as we lazed about on the summit. He thought it was too steep for said saturation and we descended the ridge back to a shady corner of the east face. I clicked in on the summit and skied a narrow ribbon of snow that I had confirmed was not just remnants of a cornice, but I had to stop and walk the last 50m of vertical down to where we'd drop in from.

Maddy ascending the ridge. This is roughly where we came back down to in order to ski the east face.

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East face goofery:

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I triggered a small wet slab lower down over a steep roll, so I guess the conservative line choice was the right one. It was small and trivial and easy to outrun. We descended further towards Skihist until we hit a creekbed that we followed up to some meadows where we called it a day and prepped for an early start the next morning.

Day 7 we woke up early (not quite alpine start though) and enjoyed pre-dawn light and sunrise on the surrounding peaks as we skinned up to the south gully of Skihist. Maddy, Rich, & Greg with Nielsen and Doss in the background:

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Everything had frozen very solid and so the moment it got past being able to skin straight up, we switched to crampons. The ascent up the gully was very efficient and we gained a lot of elevation very quickly. We gained the summit ridge and were greeted with warm sunshine and quite a bit of wind. Maddy ascending towards the summit.

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We were quicker than we thought we would be and so gained the summit just before 8am (we had assumed 9am). We hung around on the summit for a bit, but it was pretty windy and we assumed that it may not soften up very much even if we waited. For some perspective, here's the NE face from below. It's 600m from summit to the bottom of the icefall.

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I tried to volunteer to go first, but Rich wanted first dibs and clicked in before me. The snow was indeed firm and the slope was steep. He traversed skiers left a bit and then without any hesitation and while still moving executed a right turn. When he landed his turn his balance was thrown off on the shit snow and he lost his balance backwards and fell. We watched in horror, none of us clicked in, as he attempted to awkwardly self arrest himself. One of his skis popped off and the leash broke, which helped him stop himself. We then watched his ski accelerate towards the bergschrund. It casually glided over the schrund and slowed down a bit on the glacial bench below, but there was no stopping it, it went straight off the biggest part of the cliff, just skiers left of the glacial ramp on skiers right. There was some swearing and Rich began transitioning to boot packing on the steep face. He'd tweaked his shoulder a bit, but was other wise alright. Greg skied in next and side slipped / traversed his way down to where Rich was traversing.

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Maddy and I had a quick discussion and we decided it was best for her to downclimb given the conditions. I belayed her the first 30m till she ran out of rope, by which point she was nearly at Rich's set boot pack. I then clicked in and began the cautious descent. It was gripping just being on skis on the surface. The 1" of softer snow that had been scraped off by Rich and Greg yielded some pretty hard ice. "When was the last time I'd sharpened my edges?" Ah, that's right, never. I quickly and cautiously made my way over to Maddy and then on to Rich and Greg. We were all happy Rich was still with us. We decided to get off the sunny face as the more east facing slopes were starting to soften (summit slope was still windy and cold). Instead of taking the glacial ramp like I had wanted, we decided on the "mellow" north glacier. We took a foolish route that involved some steep and exposed traversing boot pack. In hind sight, it'd be safer to gain the ridge and scramble down the ridge to drop in.

Lucky for Rich I had pre-cut strips of tape for my shoulder that I hadn't used yet. I had just left mine on from the beginning.

Rich is going to join Tinder just so he can use this picture:

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Another view of the full NE face. Want (in softer conditions)

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The North Glacier was not quite as mellow as the map let on. Rich wasn't going to mono-ski it and Maddy opted to downclimb it. Greg gets ready to drop in:

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It was 45+ at the top and sustained 40+ for the remainder of the face. Which felt like the maximum steepness for the conditions, my edges, and skill level with an overnight pack. The ski surface still left much to be desired. Note we started between the cornice and the rock. The turns from the top were engaging and required composure and balance. The turns after this picture were a bit easier and more casual.

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You can see tracks if you zoom. A high quality back up plan.

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We dropped our gear on a rock below Summer & Spring Peak and Rich and I went for a jaunt to go see if retrieving his ski was possible. It was easy to get a view, at which point we couldn't quite make out anything that was FOR SURE his ski. There were a couple maybes and one of those was just above the schrund that was underneat the icefall. We would have had to wait till early the next morning, get to the same spot and then downclimb a 55 degree couloir, go up under the icefall and hang out on a bergschrund and then retrace our steps. All of that for a possibly broken ski / binding combo. Being about a day from the end of snow, Rich decided it wasn't worth it.

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We rejoined Greg and Maddy and packed up our stuff and continued down to curve around Autumn Peak and then climb up to the Petlush - Winter col, which ended up being a slog in mank, choss, and breakable crust. Maddy gaining the col, Autumn Peak in the background:

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We skied fun corn down to the headwaters for Earl Creek where we made camp for the night.

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The next morning we skied fast and hard snow down till where Earl Creek curves north. At which point we turned uphill and crossed over the ridge.

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We skied down to 1600m and had a break on a nice rock. What followed was several hours of this:

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I tried to entertain myself by seeing how much speed I could get in order to cross small ponds. Very entertaining. We stopped often and snacked a lot in order to keep morale as high as possible. Then we crossed the creek roughly around where the "trail" started. That's when stuff went downhill. Attempting to ski sucked. The post holing was worse. And the blowdown was awful. BC Parks trail maintenance at it's finest:

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When we finally made it to the cabin at the junction of the 2 forks of Stryen Creek, we were exhausted and it was getting dark. We quickly swam in the creek to clean the bush off of us and then passed out. The next day we hiked out the part of the trail that is actually maintained and then walked the 12km to Lytton. But we did get to cross this neat suspension bridge that was built for a water pipeline:

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We got the Lytton pub / hotel / restaurant / dance club / chinese restaurant / cafe and proceeded to eat cheap greasy food and drink Kokanees until the Greyhound showed up.

Later that night I found a tick burrowed into my calf. I had checked all the usual spots, but the fucker crawled up my long underwear and couldn't get past my calf. As a precaution I've been taking anti-biotics for the last 10 days and I've been "enjoying" the fact that the drugs kill all the good bacteria in your gut. Better than Lyme though.
Alex
 

Re: Stein High Traverse

Postby skykilo » Sun May 29, 2016 8:59 pm

How did I miss the second installment?

Stunning photos! I might have to revisit that ski traverse stuff one of these years.
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skykilo
olikyks
 
from Santa Fe

Re: Stein High Traverse

Postby Alex » Mon May 30, 2016 11:18 am

I try to make traverses as up and down as possible (less side to side). I think with the Log Creek access it could be very up - down (with dropped bags). I'll check it out this summer and see if it goes. The Stryen Creek trail also needs some lovin, but it wouldn't be hard.
Alex
 


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