Alpen Mountain

GPS recording available here:

Elevation Gain: 829m
Distance: 11.65km
Total Time: 4 hours 25 minutes
Date: May 1st, 2021

Due to work obligations, I had a one week hiatus from tagging peaks and was back and ready for the weekend of May 1st. Saturday was looking to be hit and miss with the weather and Sunday was looking clear and sunny. Unfortunately, I had commitments on the Sunday and so had to pick an objective based on where there were expected clear spots for Saturday. I searched around for awhile, but everywhere looked mainly cloudy, except close to Vancouver and Squamish. With that in mind, I settled on Alpen Mountain near Squamish as the goal. Oddly enough, it’s a mountain that’s been on my list for awhile, despite the fact that it’s only ~1711m and doesn’t boast any particularly exciting terrain. I just liked the idea of tagging this summit since it’s a bit more off the beaten path and has nice views.

Once again, I found a willing summit partner in Jacob and we planned for an 8:30am departure from Vancouver. On the Saturday, weather was nice in Vancouver and became progressively more cloudy as we drove into Squamish. All that being said, there were still plenty of blue patches and it looked promising. We branched off to the Mamquam FSR for a few kilometer before reaching the spur road to Alpen. The FSR was in good shape, but there was no shortage of water bars. A high clearance vehicle is most likely needed to get past the majority of them. We managed to drive all the way up to 877m in elevation before hitting snow. I was pretty happy about this because it cut down the total trip distance and elevation gain significantly.

By 10:30am, we were started down the FSR on foot. The snow was firm and we didn’t bother putting on snowshoes. We continued on for about 4km, before reaching the end of the FSR. Here we finally decided to put on snowshoes and then started breaking trail through the forest. The first section after the FSR was a steep forest ascent, but it wasn’t sustained for long. Afterwards we broke out onto a sort of open meadow where we could see the col between a small lower summit and Alpen’s summit block. At this point, the clouds had all but closed in and it looked like the chances of getting big views were vanquished.

Parked at 877m. It was snow from here on out.
Jacob walking along the FSR
The snow pack was still quite deep on the Northern aspects
Anif Peak (L) and Mount Mulligan (R) making an appearance

We pushed on through the meadow and then traversed in between the lower summit and Alpen. There we had a good vantage of the summit ascent options. The North Western aspect was quite steep and had a lot of wet loose activity, so we opted to go further West into the trees. From there it was a straightforward push up to the top. The Western aspect had much firmer snow from the weeks of sun activity and dry rock outcroppings were making the appearance once again.

Jacob coming up the small steep section after the FSR
First view of the summit block from the snowy meadow. Lots of previous snow mobile activity around here
Ledge Mountain made a brief appearance on the way up
Getting closer to the summit now
Looking towards this lower sub-summit. The last patch of blue we’d see for the rest of the ascent.
Panorama of the summit block. There were some old tracks through here, but they faded out shortly after. We headed for the trees instead of going straight up the steep slope.

Around 30m below the summit we had the option of going up a near vertical snow roll or scrambling up some dry rock. Not wanting to miss the first opportunity of the year to scramble on dry ground, we ditched the snow shoes and headed up the rock face. It was a small pitch of class 2, but a nice break from the months of snow nonetheless. After that it was more snow towards the top. Finally on the summit ridge we saw two high points. The one on climbers right appeared to be the highest so we headed for the rocky outcropping the marked the apparent top.

Looking up the final summit slope
More and more rocks showing themselves on the Western aspect
A lot of terrain like this below the summit
Jacob scrambling the first dry rock of the season (for us).

After hanging around for 10 minutes hoping for a view, I decided to head over to the other high point to double check the elevation. There was a bit of post holing involved but it was otherwise trivial to reach the other section. From there I confirmed with GPS that this high point stood at ~1704m while the one we correctly guessed to be the summit was ~1711m. I headed back to the true summit to join up with Jacob. We hung around at the top for another 15-20 minutes hoping for a break in the clouds. Instead the clouds got thicker and we started getting a light dusting of hailstones. Finally, we decided to cut our losses and head back down.

The correctly guessed summit at climbers right
The second high point that we’d visit after for confirmation of the summit
There wasn’t much to see sadly
I headed over the second high point to confirm by GPS which was the true summit. Even visually I could see the summit was higher.
A quick summit photo while we waited for the views that would never come
Jacob heading over to check out the lower summit after me
Jacob in the mist
Elevation from the true summit. I didn’t take a photo on the lower summit but it was 1704m.

The slope down was really fun to descend as we sort of half-skied half snowshoed all the way back to the col between the false summit and Alpen. With the funnest part out of the way, it was a boring plod back to the truck. We made it back round trip in 4.5 hours, which is not too bad considering we spent around 30 minutes at the top.

Looking back at the route up.
A little bit of blue sky on the way down. The summit never seemed to come out of the clouds though.

All in all, a pretty fun outing for a mediocre weather day. The long FSR walk is definitely a dampener on the effort to reward ratio though. The summit block is an enjoyable ascent, but no major thrills to speak of. On a sunny day, I can imagine the views make it all worthwhile however.

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