Wedge Mountain, Safety Patrol

26-28 June 2008

How refreshing: something written by someone other than me! It's a strange coincidence that I just bought a bottle of Jager and put it in the freezer before I decided it was time to finally post this. Salud!

Story by Cécile

ne arete The North Arête of Wedge Mountain

sunset Lovely evening alpenglow in the Wedgemount zone.

Though Sky and I met in a refuge in the Alps, our skiing together so far is "all American." On my first trip to Seattle, he decided we should go to Wedge Mountain, in Canada. Once he'd informed me, after almost 2 hours driving, that they might not let us cross the border into Canada, I felt that I was in good hands: what's life without surprises?

Everything worked out well, and we ended up parking at 9.30 pm at the end of the Wedgmount Lake road, north of Whistler. We started headlamp-hiking up the rooted trail around 10 pm. It climbs 1200 m in 7 km to the hut at Wedgemount Lake, and the path is supposedly well marked. After a few branch-clinging-mud-bathing episodes, we reached by 1 am the tiny hut, which was luckily empty. Since no alarm clock was set, we had a 10 am breakfast in the sun, with a great view of the lake, and spectacular scenery all around.

top of nw couloir Top of the couloir

We started the hike around the lake about an hour later, heading up to the Northwest Couloir of Wedge Mountain. We skinned up the glacier, and booted up the couloir, which was packed with warmed up slushy spring snow. The least pleasurable part was actually the quite long rocky walk to the summit. We had a great all-avocado lunch up there, with a panoramic view of the Whistler-Blackcomb-Weart-Garibaldi area. Skiing the couloir down was awesome: it began as a 45° degree slope, narrow at the top, widening further down to an open couloir. The snow conditions were very good, only a few small sluffs started at the bottom of the couloir. We cruised down the glacier, making it back to the hut around 7 pm, watching the sun set above the lake.

ski nw couloir Cécile skis the Northwest Couloir of Wedge Mountain in superb condition.

ski nw couloir It's referred to only as Wedge Couloir in Baldwin's book: a rather unsatisfying and ambiguous name, when one considers that there are other splendid couloirs on Wedge.

After a chilly night, we didn't rise very early on the next day. Leaving the hut around 11 am, we headed towards the North Arête. After about an hour skinning up, Sky chose a direct approach, straight ahead on the north face of the glacier, with a short icy part requiring crampons. He noticed very politely my lack of practice in this area, and helped me through it. Then back to skins until we reached the ridge. As we booted along it to the top, Sky noticed potentially dangerous areas of unstable snow.

stoke Round 2

ne arete climb Near the top of the arête, Weart in the background

We summited around 3 pm (using the same lovely rocky path) and had another avocado snack. We then spent a good amount of time scrubbing Sky's skin glue from his skis. Heading down the ridge, Sky noticed that I also needed some private jump turn lessons. He cut the east-facing slopes atop ridge, making all the unstable snow slide down. We crossed to the other side of the ridge and repeated the safety patrol protocol. The-now cleared slope offered a perfect riding area, and we delivered a few sweet turns. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and we soon reached the lake, meaning the end of this very fun run down. Walking back to the hut, we met an enthusiast Romanian camper, and other hikers getting ready for a sportive week end. Facing this new crowd, we decided to get ready to go back to the car. Before leaving, we had a nice apero (Jagermeister is lighter to carry in your stomach than in the bottle), and left the hut around 7 pm. We reached the car by 10 pm, after a somewhat strenuous muddy hike. Strained but stoked, we drove back to civilization with a grin: this cabane au Canada trip was one of a kind (and there was some Jager left to celebrate!).

Merci de ta bonne écriture, C'! Cécile omitted an important aspect of this trip: we ate well.