October 30, 2013

Trip Report - Wedge Mountain Scramble - A 3100m / 10,000ft Day Out

Wedge Mountain - 2892m / 9488ft

Party: + Mark Fearman

Conditions: Beautiful mid Sept day. Shorts and t-shirt weather with a light jacket as we climbed higher. No snow on the route.

Timing: 13h30m non-stop timing. We spent about twenty minutes at the Elfin Lakes shelter talking to a few campers and about twenty minutes on the summit. Our ascent time was 7h20m and our descent time was nearly six hours, though we were slowed significantly when one headlamp died within five minutes of turning it on. Always check the batteries I guess :)

Total Distance: 15.5m / 25km

Total Elevation Gain: 3125m / 10,250ft

Pace - Easy/Honest/Intense: Honest. We started out with a good brisk pace but as the day wore on my partner who had just flown in from Australia was showing signs of rust on his mountain legs. On the descent we also had one headlamp malfunction and were slowed further as we shared one beam of light. No dilly dallying along the way and only twenty minutes on the summit. It's a long day via this approach no matter how you slice it.

Technicality: The route is nothing but a very long slog with 75% of your time spent on shifting rocky footing. My core muscles were actually a wee bit sore the following day from simply being off balance for the better part of 9+ hours.

Gear Used: Basic trail running gear, collapsible trekking poles, and full emergency supplies including emergency bivy, fire starting kit, headlamps, etc

As a side note you get full 3g phone service from atop both Parkhurst and Wedge. It's worthwhile to pack along a phone as an additional safety device.

To The Trailhead: Drive time from Lonsdale in North Vancouver was 1h45m at 5am with no traffic and a slightly heavy foot.

Access: You can drive right to the Wedgemont Lake parking area in a 2WD. There is a large signboard with full map and bathroom access.

The Route: Straight forward as listed in the Scrambles in Southwest BC. Once you arrive at Wedgemont Lake there is hut, camping and a pit toilet.

As you gaze across the lake in a southeasterly direction you catch your first glimpse of Wedge as it's the distant glaciated summit. Make no mistake that Wedge Mountain from this approach is a long day out. The summit proceeding Wedge is Parkhurst and that's where your approach to Wedge officially begins from.
Circumnavigate the lake in a westerly / counter clockwise direction to cross it at its drainage. If you decide to proceed in a easterly / clockwise direction ensure you are aptly trained and prepared for glacier travel. Your target to gain Parkhurst is the Southwest ridgeline.

An Addendum To Info In The Scrambles Book: which states "From directly below the col, climb a snow slope / gully between two cliff bands. The snow slopes here are steep and have bad run outs; an ice axe is recommended. Above the cliff bands follow a long snow slope / bench that traverses right until it is possible to ascend a snow slope / ramp back to the left...."

We encountered none of this as the near decade since this information was gathered has taken its toll on the glacier. I should say that our Sept 11th approach was near the culmination of one of the sunniest summer's on record. There is the chance that earlier in the season may still hold snow on the route but here's what we personally encountered; The crux of our route was the very first scrambly bits at the far side of the lake as you initiate your climb up to the Parkhurst / Rethel Col. There was mud sliding over the remaining ice near the initial bits of snow on this listed route. It was slick and sketchy but brief with only a few hundred meters to navigate. Once through this, at the 90 degree right turn up the slope to gain the first cliff band, we were through the snow entirely. On our return journey two small sections of this listed crux had slide into the water below. It won't be long before this scramble route will be completely free of all snow in the late fall season.

A note re the top of Parkhurst: After a six foot tall summit rock cairn you expect more of the same along the route, we saw next to none. From this limited vantage point we were nearly deterred from continuing by the incessant and significant rock slides occurring off of Wedge itself. We continued on with increasing doubt that we'd be able to safely complete our route on the day, only to discover that the rock slides were filtering into a large basin acting like a baseball glove. All this to say that there is a very safe route even if it doesn't present itself from the top of Parkhurst.

Assessment: A very long slog of a day in the mountains. Not to be attempted in one push by unfit and unprepared parties. At 2892m Wedge is the highest peak in Garibaldi Park, which in and of itself makes it a very worthwhile target. The views from the top are of course some of the most spectacular you'll get in the area, and you are seemingly surrounded by a sea of glacial ice in all directions. The scramble itself however leaves much to be desired. We guessed that most parties terminate their Wedge aspirations from atop Parkhurst as the views from Parkhurst are plentiful and the summit of Wedge still looms high above. If you're true target is Wedge, be prepared to overcome these thoughts and push onward and upward. Gaining Parkhurst twice, inbound and outbound, is a bit of a bitch though you won't regret doing so in the end.

GPS via Movescount: click here

Summit Video: Since it was three days before I got married we decided to have an improv bachelor party


The trekking poles were packed away immediately following this pic
Alpenglow anyone?
Now if only both of our headlamps were working


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