Elevation Gain: 829m
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.