Cirque Peak

Elevation Gain: 1336m
Distance: 13.14km
Total Time: 11 hours 29 minutes
Date: November 25th, 2023

Writing about failed summits is never particularly motivating, but those days in the mountains are still amazing in their own way. If only for the lessons learned or the views that were had. On this failed attempt, I was joining along with Elise’s plan to take a stab at north facing couloir on Cirque Peak. Another party had climbed it some years back and Elise had come across a photo and passed the inspiration onto us. Our group was some 10 odd climbers consisting of Alex, Jacob, Trevor, Sarah, two of Elise’s friends, Elise, Chris, Seb and myself.

On the 25th of November we were all gathered around the cars in the frigid morning air at the driveable end of Eight Mile Creek FSR. We packed our gear and started the walk down the lightly snow covered FSR. The road was easy travel until a creek crossing landed us into uncovered brush. From the creek we trended climber’s right up a small drainage system until we realized we had gone too high. Cutting straight across our contour line looked miserable so we reluctantly dropped down some 80m in elevation through dense alders. Then we had traveresed back up again hoping to gain the slopes to the couloir beyond a section of forest some 500m ahead.

Early morning start
Walking down the road, it was in surprisingly good condition
At the creek crossing
Off road now
Going up this drainage proved to be an error
Descending through alders
Lots of deadfall to negotiate

Looking around, I felt strongly that continuing up the creek to the base of the cirque was a much better option, but the lead trailbreakers were already too far ahead to change course. We fought a sea of alders for damn near a kilometer and our pace slowed to a crawl. At long last we broke free into some open forest and then finally onto to the base of the couloir.

Alders as far as the eye can see
even more
There’s some interesting lines up “Footstool Peak”
Out of the alders
Finally out onto open slopes

Locating the entrance was a little tricky as the start was a narrow constriction, but I figured based on photos I had from Marriott it was our left most option. This proved to be correct and we all funnelled towards the start. The constriction lacked enough snow to cover the short vertical step, so Jacob and I climbed up to have a better look. I went first and found a reasonably easy way through on some thin ice and a hook here or there. Jacob seconded up and we started the hunt for an anchor to bring everyone else up. The rock was all down sloping and offering little in the way of protection, but Jacob eventually spotted a horn to sling. We tossed the ropes down and everyone made their way up two at a time.

Looking over at the couloir entrance
Almost to the base
A look up at the thinly covered constriction
Myself and Jacob climbing up
Our anchor
Seb climbing up

The rest of the party lead the charge up the couloir while I cleaned up the gear and then followed up. The slopes were pretty straightforward, but somewhere around 2160m we traversed right when we should have stuck left. Our line ran out, so I lead an exploratory traverse climber’s left across the slope and found the couloir proper. Everyone followed over and then we continued climbing up. However, we were stopped once again when we discovered another vertical step at a constriction.

Everyone charging up
The steepest section, but it didn’t go much past 35
Amazing views on the ascent
The next constriction
Everyone traversing over

Now, each step on its own is not all that challenging but we had 10 of us. By the time the 10th person would be up, what little snow was there would be wiped leaving a trickier climb for the last of the group. That necessitated bringing the rope out and by now we had a mere 2 hours of sunlight left. Facing another 200m of climbing in the couloir and then a technical ridge to the summit, the call was obvious. We decided to turn around, having made it just above 2200m.

Time to turn around

Our descent was fast and we reached the vertical step at the start of the couloir where we setup for a rappel. All of us made it down without issue and then we had to decide how to get back to the car. Absolutely no one was keen to redo our alder traverse, so we stuck lower down along the creek system. However, it honestly wasn’t much better with heinous post holing and alder after alder impeding our travel. At one point, I looked down at a bottomless pit of alder held down by only a foot of snow. I navigated through the web mindful not to have them spring back in rapid fire.

Looking back down the constriction
It was mellow enough to face out for quite a bit of it
One short rocky step to get down and then we’re at the rappel anchor
Seb rappelling down
Steep terrain all around
Sunset over Marriott

Once we reached the old road again, our alder nightmare was over and we had a cruisy return to the cars. It’s probably no surprise in hindsight that we didn’t make it, given the huge group size and minimal daylight to work with. However, it was still an awesome day out and with a bit more snow this line will be undoubtedly fun.

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