Colchuck Lake Hike, Enchantments
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Thursday September 15, 2011 at 11:04 am)

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Bridge crossing soon after junction

I write earlier about our climb of Prusik Peak and about the logistics of getting to Prusik Peak.

Here I’ll describe the easiest part of out trip: the hike to Colchuck Lake.

We started up the well-maintained trail to Lake Stuart to the junction at 2.5 miles, then turned left at the marked junction to Colchuck Lake. Past the junction, we crossed the log bridge above and then navigated through the boulderfield beyond it.

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Logs for creek crossing

After the junction with the Stuart Lake trail, the going got rougher and steeper. Instead of on bridges, we crossed streams on logs.The trail became steeper, requiring occasional use of tree branches to pull myself up.

The ranger at the Leavenworth Ranger Station had told us how hot it had been, and how much hotter they expected it to be.  I foolishly believed them and hiked up in my running shorts.

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Near the first campsites at Colchuck Lake

As we neared the lake, and saw the snowfields beyond, I began to suspect that my clothing was not adequate for the trip.

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Colchuck Lake, Dragontail Peak, and Aasgard Pass to left
The hike to the lake tired me: not only were we carrying camping gear such as a tent, sleeping mats, and sleeping bag, but additionally we had our climbing gear - ropes, nuts, boots,  and harness. (Note the omission of cooking gear - we didn’t bring any.)

We dropped our packs at the first possible campsite and continued partly around the lake to see whether we’d find closer sites, or better ones. After walking for five more minutes, we decided that our little spot was just fine for one night, and put up our tent.

Once the sun set, I got  really cold, and quickly jumped into the sleeping bag while eating. Having very little food (four bagels, some left-over lemon cake for lunch, and four energy bars), our dinner of a bagel apiece was quickly done.

It was too cold to get out of my bag, there was nothing left to eat, so, about 8 p.m., we decided to call it a night and try to sleep. I wore everything I’d brought - my thin top under my light-weight fleece top, and my down vest; plus my fleece pants with long underwear over them!

I hoped that this would be enough clothes for climbing the next day, telling myself that, after all, we’d be in the sun.

Prusik Peak logistics
Posted by sibylle in Uncategorized, Canada and PNW (Wednesday September 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm)

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Hiking toward Prusik Pass; Prusik Peak in back

My last post describes our climb of Prusik Peak; here I will describe the logistics of getting in to (and back out from) Prusik Peak.

One can access Prusik Peak from either of two trails: the Snow Lake trail, which gains 4,100 feet in 6.5 miles;  or the Stuart Lake trail to Colchuck Lake, which gains 2,100 feet in 4.75 miles.

Realistically, we picked the  trail for which we got a permit - hike in to, and camp, at Colchuck Lake, often described as one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Washington.


Colchuck Lake and Aasgard Pass

From our campsite at Colchuck Lake, we circled around the lake (1.75 miles) and proceeded up Aasgard Pass,  gaining 2,200 feet in about 8 tenths of a mile …  all before breakfast!

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West ridge and view toward Aasgard Pass

Atop Aasgard Pass we shared one of our two bagels, re-filled our water bottles, and headed to Prusik Pass. After 2.5 miles, we reached Perfection Lake and then headed up Prusik Pass.

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Snowfield on the way to Perfection Lake

I  fell when descending the  snowfield  to Perfection Lake in my lightweight running shoes, and right after that, Andy slipped and proceeded down the next section his derriere.

Any earlier in the day, when it’s still frozen, might require instep crampons to safely negotiate this slope.

Either approach, Colchuck Lake or Snow Lake requires about 10 miles of hiking before climbing Prusik Peak. Some parties prefer a 3-day trip, with one day for the climb, and the other two for the hike in and out. However, we had a permit to camp one night, and four bagels between the two of us, so a two-day trip it was!

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Perfection Lake
West Ridge - The Climb:

The route follows the ridge. See Mountain Project for a description with photos.


Take trail 1599, Lake Stuart / Colchuck Lake trail, for 2.5 miles to a junction. Turn left toward Colchuck Lake up switchbacks for about 1.5 miles. Proceed around the west side of the lake toward Colchuck and Dragontail Peak. The trail then ascends to the left of Dragontail Peak to Aasgard Pass at 7800’ after 2 miles. Descend into the Enchantment Lakes for almost 3 miles to the base of Prusik Peak.


Get permits for overnight use, June 15 - October 15, from the Wenatchee Ranger District.

A recreation pass for day use is available at the trailhead.

Dogs and campfires are prohibited.

Prusik Peak adventure (Enchantments, Cascades)
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Friday September 2, 2011 at 4:47 pm)

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Prusik Peak

The  dictionary defines adventure as:
That’s my definition of adventure: it involves risk and success is uncertain.  Most  of my adventures  included some discomfort or pain;  many were spontaneous.

Our Prusik Peak trip qualifies: it was unplanned, we weren’t sure we’d reach the summit, I was the coldest I’ve been years; it was my longest day in over 20 years, we ran out of food, and we hiked out at night.


Iceberg on lake near Asgard Pass

I was  climbing at Squamish when my climbing partner, Andy, suggested we drive to Leavenworth to climb Outer Space on Snow Creek Wall.
The next morning we stopped at the Ranger Station to buy the required parking permit.
“Do you have any permits for Prusik Peak?” Andy asked.
“We have a Colchuck Lake permit for one night only - tonight.” the ranger replied.
“We’ll take it!”  Andy responded.
Apparently, people wait for years camp at Colchuck Lake, finding a permit was like winning the lottery.
We quickly re-packed, adding a tent and sleeping bags.
We did not a lightweight backpacking stove, so we brought four bagels with cheese (four bagels total, not each.)  Andy suggested we hike in that afternoon, camp at Colchuck Lake, and the next day hike up Asgard Pass, then down and over Prusik Pass, climb Prusik, and hike out.
Hiking in went well. The ranger had told us how hot it was, so I hiked in my shorts.

It gets cold at night.  After putting on  tights and  lightweight fleece, I crawled into my sleeping bag to eat my bagel for dinner.

In the morning, I shivered while eating cold cereal with powdered milk.

We hiked around the lake, got lost once, and  started up Aasgard Pass.  The mountain goats made up for the rubble on  Aasgard Pass. Two hours later, we headed down the other side of Aasgard, across the Enchantment Basin,  and over Prusik Pass.

“We should try to be back to the tent by 8 pm,”  Andy suggested.

This was the first I’d heard of the length of the climb.  I  estimated: 13 hours of daylight  leaves 6 hours up, 6 hours down, and one hour to pack. We’d started at 7:15 am, and would need to turn back by 1:30 p.m.

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Goat overlooking Asgard Pass

Near the icy lake, we stopped to eat one of our two remaining bagels, and then hurried  up Prusik Pass, jogging on the flatter sections.

We reached Prusik Pass to find two other climbers  about to start up the West Ridge.  We passed them on the approach, and they let us climb ahead. We arrived at the summit by 1:00 p.m., within our original parameters.

Rappelling took longer than expected, putting us a little behind schedule. We ate our second bagel near the pass. Our bridges burned (no food left) we were committed to making it out (as well as no permit to spend another night).

By 5 p.m., sliding and stumbling  down Aasgard Pass (even worse than scrambling up through the precipitous scree) I was hungry enough that when I saw an almond on the ground, I  picked it up, ate it, and looked for other nuts.

At Colchuck Lake,  at 6:30, I explained toother  campers  that we were hiking out that night since we had no food.

“No food!” they exclaimed. “You want some food?”

Yes, we  happily ate their leftovers.

About 8 p.m., we started our hike out. Luckily, we brought headlamps. Hiking down a steep trail, full of scree, tree roots, and  boulders is not easy, even by headlamp.

We reached the car at 11:20 p.m., tired, sore, but successful. We’d gotten a rare chance to climb a jewel of the Cascades.

And, experienced  classic adventure  hallmarks:
I was very cold
we ran out of food
hiked out  in the dark
got lost

I don’t think  “Adventure Companies” will  sell  many “real” adventures.

Squamish—Millenium Falcon
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Tuesday August 30, 2011 at 11:42 am)

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The tree belay at the end of pitch 8

This past weekend, we climbed Millenium Falcon , a wonderful route in the Dihedrals are of the Chief, that goes to first to Bellygood Ledge and then on to the summit.

We climbed only as far as Bellygood Ledge, and hiked down from there.  Aside from the usual excuses, such as that it was getting late, and we’d been delayed by two groups in front of us on the route; I must admit that I was tired!

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Pitch 2 - my favorite one on the climb

The climb started out easy - a 5.8 chimney, not too steep, or strenuous. However, that didn’t last!

On pitch 2, the holds got a lot smaller. We quickly went from a thin corner to a steep layback with tiny holds.  The good holds to the side, for stemming, saved me here - allowing a rest periodically.

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thin cracks on Pitch 3

Pitch 3 was harder than pitch 2, with a thin finger crack to a stretch left for the next foothold, followed by a traverse left, on to another thin finger crack.

Pitch 4 was the one rated 5.11, supposedly most difficult of the climb, but I found pitch 3 as hard.

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Chimney on pitch 5

After three difficult pitches, the wonderful chimney on pitch 5 was almost relaxing! No hands rests, good holds, what a treat! It brought us to a wonderful, flat, grassy and mossy ledge where we enjoyed a quick snack.

After this , we traversed left across “Trichome Ledge”, one of the numerous sloping ‘ledges’ that seem to consist of mud, vegetation, and moss, and criss-cross the Chief in odd places. I always worry that the entire ledge will fall off (one did, when Tristan and I were on the Squaw), but he locals seem to trust them.

I’d not looked at the topo before starting up the route, and was under the delusion that we’d done the hard pitches, and climbing would now be easy - a romp to the top!

Boy, was I wrong. Pitch 7 was another 5.10d traverse to a sloping ledge, followed by pitch 8, which I thought was 5.10a.

It wasn’t. It was a steep crack, starting with small gear (1″, or red Camalots) and increasing in size to 3″ - that part was ok.  But then it kept getting wider, and was wet. I could no longer jam the crack (too big) and instead, had to layback the very steep corner.

That crack was very burly, and my arms felt like limp spaghetti. Tis pitch ends with the magic tree, which may have been a lot more useful as a climbing aid prior to several year’s worth of desperate climbers grabbing it to pull themselves up.

The last pitch, a layback going to a chimney, seemed pleasant, and if I’d been less tired (like, if it started on the ground!), I’d have  enjoyed it. As tired as I was, reaching the top was its own reward.

The route has 4 more pitches. We’ll hike up to Bellygood Ledge someday and start on those well-rested!

Elfin Lakes, Mamquam Icefield, Garibaldi Park
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Friday August 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm)

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Mamquam Icefield from Elfin Lake, 2011


Mamquam Icefield, August 2010

photo by Andy Cairns
I’d heard that the Mamquam Icefield  increased in size during 2011.
On reaching Elfin Lake,  I could easily believe that it grew.

We hiked 5 km  to Red Heather Meadows on relatively dry trails, but past Red Heather Meadows the trail became mostly snow-covered.

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Sabine on “trail”; Diamondhead in back

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Trail map posted at trailhead

Last year, we hiked to the Gargoyles. This year, I wanted to hike up toward the Opal Cone and  on to Mamquam Lake, but excessive snow cover made this an unrealistic plan!

Instead, we enjoyed a pleasant hike to Elfin Lake and back. Some year, after a less snowy winter, and a warmer, sunnier spring, I’ll be back!

Murrin Park—sport, and other climbs
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Friday August 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm)


Tom on “Beers Are Not Enough”

The threat of rain prompted us to head to Murrin Park,  an set of crags south of Squamish featuring some of harder sport climbs  in the area.

We started out on a smaller cliff, of which I don’t know the name, to warm up. After that we headed to the Petrifying Wall.

Here’s the description by Mountain Project:

“a long crag of rope-stretching, dead vertical climbs on super compact fine textured granite. The climbs are mostly sport, but a few of Squamish’s best trad lines are here. The sheer number of high quality hard sport climbs on this one crag is impressive: at least 6 at 5.13, 25 at 5.12, 21 at 5.11. There are few 5.10s, but not many and they aren’t popular.”

Wemanaged to find at least three of the 5.10s, two of which are new I believe, and also struggled (me) on a climb called “Beers Are Not Enough”, which is not a sport climb, but is steep and long.

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Photo by Andy Cairns

The climb consists of a number of laybacks around steep corners and over slight bulges, providing plenty of challenge for me!

It’s on excellent rock and seems to have been recently cleaned.

Icy Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Provincial Park
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Thursday August 25, 2011 at 4:56 pm)

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Oh really? Swimming not allowed?

When Sabine and I hiked  to Elfin Lakes, I was surprised by the amount of snow on the trails—and the ice-covered lake.

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Elfin Lake, Aug. 19, 2011

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Elfin Lake,  August 2010

One year ago, we hiked in to Elfin Lake and then continued, on dry trails, on to the Gargoyles.

I’d heard that British Columbia, and Squamish , suffered a very cold, snowy winter  and wet spring into July, but experiencing the deep snow on what last year was a dry trail brought home the truth of that.

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Elfin Lake

I’d hoped that we could hike further in this year, but experiencing the deep snow quickly changed our plans.

Squamish: Slot Machine, Manana, Bulletheads
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Monday August 22, 2011 at 10:00 am)

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Tristan on pitch one of Slot Machine

Tristan and I hiked the short distance from our tent to the Bulletheads area—one of the things I like about Squamish: the campgrounds sits a  five-minute walk away from the climbs on the Chief and the bouldering area.

We climbed Slot Machine, a pleasant hand crack rated 5.9, but with a tricky, bouldering start. The first moves are definitely harder than 5.9, and not crack climbing, but on small face holds.  You can protect the move with a 0.5 (purple) Camalot.

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Tristan encounters the start of the tree root

After the first move into the crack, the size varies from 0.75 Camalots to #2 Camalots, with occasional nut placements possible.

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Surmounting the root

“I don’t like this,” Tristan commented, when committing fully to the root.

“I didn’t like it either,” I replied. “You have a toprope!”

We both found climbing the root at the tree belay the most insecure. I placed gear before the root, but once on the root, you have to rely o the root for handholds (rounded and smooth) and very slippery footing.

The tree provides a nice belay spot and anchor. From here, one can either climb the second pitch  (we did) or rappel ( I don’t know if this would require more than one rope, since we did not rappel).

From the top of Slot Machine, we walked across to climb Manana. Andy and I had climbed Manana, a thin layback and finger crack  before, but Tristan had never been up to this beautiful crack.


Manana, Bulletheads

When Tristan was leaving, I asked him what his favorite climb this year was.

“Manana,” he replied.

Since he’d come to Squamish unsure if could climb at all, after breaking his leg ski racing this winter, and retaining the titanium rod in his tibia, his lead of  the thin layback on Manana was a wonderful answer to that question!

Squamish: Europa— more about the climb
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Saturday August 20, 2011 at 11:42 am)

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Belay at the end of Pitch 5

I discussed rating in previous post.

Here, I’d like to give more information on gear needed, belays, and how to find the climb!

Yesterday, when we went  to climb Millenium Falcon, we encountered a party of three climbers on the first pitch.  However—they thought they were starting up Europa!

Europa starts uphill and to the left of Arrowroot and Rutabaga.

Millenium Falcon starts downhill and to the  right of the two cracks climbs above.
Overall, Europa felt burly for its rating. Many pitches were long, with steep sections of laybacks, stemming, and chimneys. Pitch one had two short crux sections—the first, I jammed and stemmed past, and the second required a bit of laybacking to switch corners. It felt insecure, and in the morning shade, the wall  and holds felt damp from the humidity.

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Pitch two — more corners

A flat, large belay ledge rewarded me for perservering. Andy’s next pitch started with a hand and fist crack heading up to a tree belay. My third pitch again required laybacks over blocks to another large tree.

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Our belay tree at the start of pitch 4

We simul-climbed the next two pitches, an easy traverse to the right, into the next corner system. At the top, we finally were in the sun— and also in the wind, which kept us cool.

Pitch 6 featured a short bolt ladder, which we climbed with our many slings.

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A short aid section starts pitch 6

And to top it off - a long chimney to the top!

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Last pitch to the ledge

Where we ended up:


Bellygood Ledge

Our chimney is behind the bush (left of the corner)


Pitch 1: big ledge, small nuts in crack.

P2: tree

P3: ledge with tree

P4 and 5: block at base of bolt ladder, chockstone

P6: awkward, in chimney

P7: tree at top


We brought doubles of Camalots 0.5 to 2, and one #3 Camalot. If you’re comfortable on hand and fist cracks, you can dispense with the #3. I placed it mainly to get rid of it,a nd could have done without it on my pitches. Andy placed it on the hand to fist crack on pitch 2, which is short.

We also brought Camalots 0.3, 0.4 and Aliens (green and yellow); plus many small to medium nuts and many long slings. The rock takes nuts  well, which saves gear weight. Bring lots of slings both for the bolt ladder and to avoid rope drag.

Squamish: Europa, in The Dihedrals,
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 3:57 pm)


Europa, Dihedrals, Squamish;  photo from V.O.C.

Yesterday Andy and I climbed Europa in the Dihedrals area of Squamish Chief— one of the most interesting, exciting climbs I’ve done here this year.

I really enjoy getting up high on the Chief - and this route goes as high as Bellygood Ledge—the long horizontal ledge that crosses the Chief from near the top of the Grand Wall over to the Dihedrals area.

From this climb, we had spectacular views of the Black Dike crossing the roofs, and looked down on various parties starting up on the Grand Wall.

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View from the top of pitch three

The rating of Europa, a fairly recent climb,  remains controversial. Kevin McLane, in his book  Canadian Rock, calls it 5.9 and rates pitches 1 and 3 as 5.9, whereas  Mike Teschke on Mountain Project rates both pitches 5.7. He also calls the final chimney 5.6, while McLane calls it 5.8.

I personally go with McLane’s rating, and wonder how many 5.8 (max) leaders have done this route?
The Varsity Outdoor Club of the University of British Columbia  gives Europa  the same ratings as does Teschke, but at least they admit that,  while “anyone capable of climbing sustained 5.7 with a bit of 5.8 could second the route”, they suggest that “The leader should be somewhat experienced.”

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Andy on pitch 1 of Europa

I felt that Europa pitches 1 and 3 (which I led) where much harder than other 5.7s, like Laughing Crack, Klahanie Crack,  or Davy Jones’ Locker; and somewhat more difficult than 5.8s I’ve led, such as Pixie Corner or Phlegmish Dance; and as hard as Picket Line, St. Vitus’ Dance,  or Snake (all 5.9).

Andy led pitch 2, rated 5.8 by Teschke and V.O.C., but I’d agree with McLane’s rating of 5.9. It seemed comparable to Slot Machine, which we climbed a few days ago.

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Pitch 3, where the next move involves laybacking left around the flake / block and then getting on top of it.

My goal here is not to merely be controversial, but to warn climbers who may venture on to this route after reading the description and then find themselves in over their head.  Check McLane’s description  in Canadian Rock.

We found  rappel anchors atop pitch one, which Andy said hadn’t been present a year ago when he last climbed the route.  Perhaps climbers have optimistically tried this supposedly easy climb and found it harder than expected?

In Teschke’s defense, his profile states that he climbs  5.11 on gear, and 5.12 sport, which is harder than I currently climb. It’s hard to rate climbs that are so much easier than one’s own level, when they seem so much easier than the 5.11 one climbed yesterday.

But — the climb is really fun, and if you’re comfortable on old-style, steep corners, laybacks, and chimneys, then I highly recommend the route!

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