Elevation Gain: 623m
Total Time: 3 hours 52 minutes
Date: November 11th, 2022
Jacob had reached out about doing a summit together on Friday as he had the day off as well. The original plan was to go for a peak in the Duffey area, but the forecast was looking marginal. I started to think about something closer to home that we could bail from and that’s when the idea of Mount Strachan hit me. I knew Jacob wanted to do the Christmas Gully route this year and this seemed like a perfect warm up in the winter season. My friend Geoff asked about doing a summit on Friday too, so we joined up for a three person team for Friday.
To avoid traffic we decided to meet at the Cypress parking lot for 7am and that’d give us plenty of daylight as well. Jacob and I left Vancouver around 6:20am and drove up the Cypress Bowl road under some unexpected rain cover. We were stopped half-way up by a ski hill closure, but it turned out the road just stayed closed until 7am. We only needed to wait 15 minutes or so and then we were on our way. Geoff was already in line waiting so we convoyed together to the parking lot.
From the cars, we took the familiar trail around Yew Lake and then up towards the HSCT. I’d done this route several times now for St. Mark’s Summit and Unnecessary Peak, but it’s entertaining enough in the snow. We followed a packed down path all the way to the base of the Christmas Gully or at least as close as the trail would reach it. The route up to the gully was untouched and with no trail broken, we decided to put on snow shoes. I then lead the way through the thin forest and into the gully entrance.
At this time in the year, the gully wasn’t quite filled in and the snow sagged all the way up the center where a creek normally runs. That meant some careful navigation along the sides to avoid post holing into the creek itself. The first 200m or so was tricky with some snow treadmilling and occasionally falling into a hole, but we made it through without much issue. The grade didn’t seem to exceed 30 degrees and felt quite tame overall.
The last section was a bit trickier. The grade steepened and the snow was such that most steps would sink to the knees or hip and you’d slide back again and again. Geoff lead us through several trenches of snow and up through a tight set of trees before finally reaching the ridge line. By now, I was fairly soaked from falling into the snow so often on the way up, but it was manageable. Finally the angle eased off and we cruised up the forest over a few tricky rock steps before reaching the summit. There weren’t any views at the top thanks to the cloud cover, so we just hung around long enough to have a snack.
On the return I took us around a slightly different path to the col to avoid the rock steps. For the return to the car we opted to go up the south summit to avoid descending the steep unconsolidated mess of the gully. From the col we ascended up the tame north side of the south summit. Here we reached the top of the Cypress Ski hill area and then followed a series of ski runs easily down to the car.
Christmas Gully made for a fun day out and perfect warm up to the season. We arrived early enough in the season that there wasn’t any real avalanche danger present, but I could see how some areas would generate them later in the year. All said, I’d go check it out for a tame adventure kind of day.