Elevation Gain: 1,348m
Total Time: 8 hours 23 minutes
Date: April 15th, 2022
Jacob and I were keen to get out for the Easter long weekend and the weather was looking mediocre in most of the usual places, but Pemberton showed some promise. On top of that all the Sea2Sky was showing L/L/L avalanche conditions so it was shaping up to be an awesome weekend. Coming fresh off of a summit of Mount Hood, we were hoping to get more time out on some steep snow. Thankfully there’s no such shortage of these types of objectives in the Pemberton area. Adding to that a new friend, Ashley, was interested in joining us. I was really struggling to pick a summit out given the abundant options, but at the last minute we landed on Cayoosh as it also happened to be on Ashley’s list as well.
The standard route on Cayoosh involves a glacier traverse (generally tame in the late winter) and short but steep set of snow pitches to gain the summit. It sounded perfect for all of us, so we made the plan leave Vancouver around 5:30am and reach the base for 8:30am or so. On the following morning I experienced a “high gravity day” (my favourite expression of Jacob’s) and it took some serious will power to force myself out of my bed.
I drove over to Ashley’s first and then Jacob’s and we made a quick coffee pit stop before heading towards the Duffey area. On the drive up we passed through several towns in the throes of rain and snow, so our fingers were crossed the Pemberton forecast would hold up. Thankfully that reprieve in weather finally came as we drove through Mount Currie and the sky opened up to reveal a perfect day around the Duffey Lake area. We pulled up to the parking lot not long after and then crossed the road on foot to put our snow shoes on the start of the ski touring highway.
The first 3km or so was on a packed down service road and then the route veered up through an old cut block and onto an avalanche gully. We followed tracks up the gully to about 3/4 of the way up and then turned right into the trees where the trail continued. Just beyond the short section of trees was a small valley with a frozen lake at the center. Again we just followed the existing tracks and those eventually took us west when we reached the lake and up the moderate forested slopes above the mini valley. After a few 100 meters of climbing we broke out of the trees and onto the semi permanent snow/glacier fields of Cayoosh.
Out in the open now there were a lot of route options, but I honed in on an existing set of snow shoe tracks. We followed them up for another 400m or so before we finally spotted the trail breaker. They were still a ways ahead, but we were definitely thankful to have some tracks to follow in. As got further along in the glacier, everything looked nicely filled in so we continued towards the trail breaker ahead of us going up some moderate slopes and a few steep rolls. I finally caught up with them around 2300m and then took over the trail breaking from there. I head up alongside the summit ridge running about 100m above me and traversed climber’s right across a steep slope before reaching a flat plateau below the summit.
Before me was a steep slope about 100m high that looked about 40 degrees in steepness. The route funneled up through a small break in a large cornice that ran the length of the summit ridge. A slip on this slope in theory wouldn’t present too much of a problem as it would just run out to the flat plateau. I waited for Jacob and Ashley to catch up and then we all ditched our snow shoes and brought out ice axes to start up. The first 20m I had to wallow through waste deep powder, but as I passed a ski track from some skiiers just above us, the snow firmed into perfect boot packing conditions. We caught up with the skiers shortly and followed them up and over the break in the cornice.
There a 4m 50-55 degree step needed to be overcome to gain the tamer summit slope ahead. The snow was a little less kick step friendly here and none of us had bothered to put crampons just yet. As a result, I had to spend a bit more time securing foot placements, but all went smoothly. Ashley and Jacob followed up with ease. We continued up behind the skiers and reached the small summit area a few minutes later.
For the descent Ashley and Jacob donned some crampons while I took Ashley’s microspikes as a trade to make the descent a bit easier. We down climbed a small roll below the summit and then I faced out and headed towards the steep wall before the corniced ridge. Ashley and Jacob made their way down not long after and down climbed some big bucket steps I kicked into the steep wall. Then we made our way past the break in the cornice and down climbed with ease until we were back at our snow shoes.
We gathered our gear and then made a sort of tricky traverse back across that steep slope before reaching nicer terrain. To our fortune, the snow was perfect for a mix of glissading and boot skiing and we breezed down the upper sections of Cayoosh. As we neared the forested section, the snow hardened to a crust and we had to descend more carefully. Once in the forest proper the snow was pleasant again and we had an uneventful return all the way to the car.
Another great day out in the mountains with awesome people. I felt super fortunate to have amazing weather and company along with some fun technical sections to gain a cool summit.