Snazzy Peak

Elevation Gain: 2,014m
Distance: 25.14km
Total Time: 17 hours 3 minutes
Date: February 4th, 2024

It was 8am east coast time and I was half asleep getting ready to fly home from El Potrero Chico. I had spent the last 6 days out there climbing as many routes as possible and was pretty exhausted from it all. I was planning to rest for one day and then needed to start my new job on the Monday. However, I was keeping tabs on the forecasts and it came to my attention that Sunday was expected to be bomber snow conditions. Apprehensively, I reached out to Alex, Trevor and Jacob to see if they were planning anything big on Sunday. I wanted to gauge how good of a time I’d be missing out on. Trevor responded first with Silvertip N. Ridge. Shit… I wanted to do that one really badly too. Then followed up with maybe Snazzy Peak redemption. Uh-oh… now the gears are turning.

You see, we had attempted this peak about one month prior and had to turn around less than 100m from the summit. As far as I know this summit had never received a winter ascent. Although in the world of old school BC mountaineering it’s not unlikely someone quietly took that honour already. Nonetheless a chance for redemption was presenting itself. Andrea and I originally had plans Sunday too, but when I messaged her about bomber snow conditions she didn’t hesitate to free up the day and let me have a go for it! Okay, so no rest day Sunday and my flight arrives at 10:30pm in Vancouver. We’d need to leave at 2:30am at the latest. 2 hours of sleep paired with some stoke is doable. I messaged back to everyone, that I was in and so began our second crusade for a winter ascent of Snazzy.

We pulled up to the trail head around 5:15am, packed up and headed down the long monotonous Whatcom trail. The approach to Snazzy is around 12.5km one way and even longer if you take the wrong junction as we had on our first attempt. This time we kept our eyes peeled for the correct turn off and followed the obvious trail through patchy snow out of the treeline. Somehow, this part didn’t feel terribly long and we escaped the trees just below Punch Bowl Pass. Perfect timing as the sun had just risen; albeit obscured by low hanging clouds.

At the trail head
Some minor alder bashing on the way in

To our right several size 2 avalanches could be seen on the north faces and it was clear that a big avalanche cycle had ripped through one or two days prior. Great news for us as we’d have to cross several huge paths on the way to Snazzy. We exited out of Punch Bowl Pass and traversed for almost 2 kilometer along the north side of Snass Mountain to the col of an unnamed peak. From there we had to drop 50m into large bowl and then ascend 150m back up to the south face of Snazzy Peak.

Avalanches on some of the north faces
Punch Bowl Pass
Passing around avalanche debris on the north face of Snass
Big slide paths on the way in
A size 2.5 avalanche further in
Snazzy Peak obscured by clouds
Trevor and Jacob with Snass Mountain in the background

By 10:20am we had reached the base of Snazzy Peak; just under 5 hours from the car. Thanks to a bulletproof crust, we had been spared from the same heavy trail breaking that slowed our first attempt. Alex lead us up to the west ridge and we stopped for a bit to ditch gear and get out the crampons and ice axes. I then lead us under the west ridge and scrambled up to our first section of pitched climbing.

Alex leading up to the ridge
A look the exposed ridge ahead
Jacob reaching the start of our pitched climbing

Alex was keen to get a lead in and I had done this pitch on the last attempt, so it was his for the taking. In the summer time this section is exposed class 3 scrambling and the later sections involve a class 4 ledge traverse and some more 3rd class before the terrain eases off. That is to say, the climbing is not all that challenging in the summer, but with an icy winter coat the difficulties start to rise. As a result, we came prepared with a single rack, two ropes and a tag line to get us through the most challenging sections.

With that Alex negotiated a short traverse on the east side of the south ridge and then gained the ridge proper before disappearing out of sight. We did our best to stave off the icy winds until Alex called out that he was secure. Trevor seconded up on a traxion and then Jacob and I followed shortly after. This section was familiar to all of us and mostly involved careful scrambling around hidden loose blocks and a healthy dose of exposure.

Trevor belaying Alex on our first pitch
Alex higher up on the ridge now
Trevor seconding up now
My turn
Jacob coming around the exposed corner

The next pitch Jacob had climbed before as well, albeit from slightly higher above our current anchor. He offered to take it this time too. We knew from before that 60m should take us to the class 4 notch after which there were plenty of unknowns about how the route would unfold. Jacob racked up and then negotiated a short down climb before ascending up a steep snow finger and then dipped beyond view. 45 minutes passed and we heard nothing. Even our crappy jokes weren’t distracting from the cold anymore and Alex radioed out to get a progress update. Jacob replied that was on the hunt for an anchor, but the options were scant. The wind was really biting now, but we held our breaths and 20 minutes later we got the radio call we had all been hoping for. Anchor located and Trevor could start climbing up.

At the end of P1
Jacob down climbing
Going up that narrow snow finger
Now Trevor’s turn

I followed second and climbed out of the short steep snow section to an easy snow traverse for some 40m. The roped curved left around some trees and there I had my first look at the source of the anchor dilemma. Jacob had made it to the notch and decided that it was better to rappel than an awkward down climb. Thus, the issue was finding a solid anchor close enough to get into the notch. Thankfully with some ginger snow covered climbing he had found a large boulder to sling a few meters above the traverse ledge. It all made sense now and rappelling did appear to be the fastest option to get all of us down.

Above that snow finger the terrain is easy
Reaching Jacob’s station
Three of us sorting out the plan for the third pitch

Getting back up looked doable, but I decided to save time we should leave a fixed line and simply jug back up on the return. Everyone was in agreement. Since it was my pitch next, I rappelled down to find an anchor at the base of the notch and Jacob followed down to start belaying me. In the mean time Trevor and Alex would finish up there rappels while I got a head start.

Trevor rappelling down while Jacob and I get ready for the next pitch
Looking back up from where we rappelled
Massive couloir on the south east side

My pitch involved a narrow exposed snow ramp with some rocky steps higher above and then unknown climbing further beyond. I climbed up the snow finding some great bucket steps and then an scruffy scramble over some krummholz to get below the rocky ledges. I placed a few pieces along the way, but this section wasn’t all too difficult in the end. The steps were dispatched with using a few stemming moves and some hooks and then I had a view of east side of the summit block. I continued traversing around the east side on exposed but not too steep snow before I got a call about 3m left of rope. I could see the summit was in sight with no need for another pitch if I could just get to the ridge.

This narrow ramp I’ll take to the summit
Myself part way up
Looking back down the route

I stretched the rope out and found a mediocre anchor. One bomber offset blue wallnut, a terrible 0.75 and a half banged in piton. I weight tested the piton and it held… good enough for seconding up! Everyone climbed up one by one and we piled on to the final north ridge. We ditched the ropes and kicked bucket steps up to the final exposed snow ridge of the summit! The top at last!! It had taken us 5 hours to get here and now we had 2 hours to get back before sundown. An unlikely affair, but we might as well get through most if it while there’s some daylight.

Jacob rounding the corner to the belay station
Myself at the anchor
Climbing up the last section to the summit
Myself, Jacob and Alex on the summit! Trevor behind the camera
Looking down the south ridge

We downclimbed from the summit and then Jacob went ahead to scout out rappel options. Trevor and Alex followed while I cleaned up the anchor and waited behind to manage the ropes. Part way around the summit block, Jacob found a horn to sling so cleaned up the ropes and followed down. All of us rappelled into the notch and then Jacob and I stood by while Trevor and Alex ascended the fixed line to the anchor. I came up next while Trevor belayed Alex across the ledge system to a suitable anchor. Jacob didn’t have any ascending device so I just put him on belay and he seconded up the steep mixed steps to the station.

Starting the downclimb
Trevor and Alex downclimbing the exposed top of pitch 3
Down climbing to our rappel station
At the first rappel
Alex rappelling into the notch
Hauling myself up the notch on a nano traxion and gigajul

I then ran a prussik on the line after Trevor to where Alex awaited for us and then Jacob cleaned and down climbed to us while on belay. It was just about dark now, but the final section of ridge was in sight. I had Trevor put me on belay and I climbed back down our first pitch up to the rappel anchor we had used in our first attempt a month ago. The anchor was still in great shape so I got setup for our final rappel. Alex joined with a rope and we were soon off the ridge all together. Trevor and Jacob followed not long after.

Almost to the rappel anchor from our last attempt
Nice views in the dwindling light
Alex heading over to meet me
My silhouette just barely visible at the rappel anchor
Looking back up the ridge with Alex coming down
Alex and I at the rappel station
Alex rappelling down in the dark

The sky was now pitch black and the stars were shining with their full intensity. We were keen to get into the trees after a long affair exposed to icy winds. All of us scrambled down one last short section of ridge and then grabbed the gear we ditched. From there we descended all the way down to the bowl west of Snazzy before stopping to swap out gear and get the snow shoes out.

Last photo of the trip. Off the technical terrain now

Now came a long section of tedious side hilling on bullet proof crust until we were back in the forest. We then ditched the snowshoes once and for all and made the long journey back to the car. The last 3km stretched on forever as each section of trail looked the same as the last. Our trail was covered in soft snow with only rock hard boot prints to follow in. After 17 hours on the move we reached the car at last! Alex took on the herculean task of driving us all home after and I promptly passed out for the whole car ride.

One thought on “Snazzy Peak

  1. Camera is taking great pictures. Congratulations on your winter ascent. Proud of your abilities and talent.

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