Posts Tagged 'snow'

9-Foot diameter igloo on Hollyburn Mountain

As the twenties decade approached, one of our old group championed the idea of making another igloo. The plan became to head into the forest about 9:30 AM on January 5, 2020, to build a 9-foot inside diameter igloo. We’ve done this before, but the weather, the quality of the snow, and the people assembled make each igloo unique. Because it involves several hours of teamwork, these events are somehow memorable.

9-foot diameter Igloo on Hollyburn Mountain built on 2020jan5 with the Icebox from Grandshelters
Site of 9-foot inside diameter igloo
with the entrance below the foundation of the igloo
click to see this panorama full size

It had been a wet week at sea level, but above 3000 feet in Cypress Bowl Provincial Park, above West Vancouver, BC, Canada, there was lots of new damp snow. This made for easy construction using the tool called The Icebox — a system that uses a plastic slipform for building the blocks of snow on the wall of the igloo.

We have been making igloos this way since our first one on January 23, 2000. More details about the new one are at the hikers’ forum, ClubTread. That post is part of a thread about several igloos we’ve made going back to the year 2006. The thread also includes some time-lapse movies of the construction process and a map of the location. Except for one day of rain, the temperatures up there have remained cold, and a huge amount of snow has fallen during the past two weeks. I would love a report on current condition of the igloo. If you plan to go, read that Clubtread post, and take a shovel.

Roe Creek Road is now driveable

Approaching the end of Roe Creek Roa

As we approached the end of the Roe Creek Rd. and had our first glimpse of the slopes we'd climb, we saw we'd be on snow most of the time

The guide book, Scrambles, by Matt Gunn described the logging road up Roe Creek as a horror. Water bars begin at 6.8 km, and at 9 km a washout makes it impassable. The last 2-1/2 km must be walked. And then the hiking begins with a bushwhack down to the creek, followed by a reported hair raising boulder-hop across the torrent. Last Sunday (Aug 7) we decided to reconnoiter. The good news is: the whole road is easily navigated with a 4×4. The washout has been graded and the water bars are gone.   The whole road is probably passable with a 2-wheel drive. The images are thumbnails — please click to see full size.

We parked just past the last cut block. We chose that because the trip down to the creek seemed shorter than the end of the road.

Easy rock-hopping at the head of Roe Creek

It was easy to find our way up Roe Creek to the snow

After some thrashing around, we found a very helpful path at 50º 02′ 09.6″ N 123º 13′ 24.6″. It leaves the road just past a little bridge and heads down through the old growth forest to Roe Cr.

The flow on that side of the main Creek was fairly benign, and all we had to do was rock-hop until we found enough snow to support us. Most of the rest of the hike was on sometimes-steep snow. Lovely, and no bugs.

Lunch Rock below Cypress Peak

Lunch Rock below Cypress Peak, view of Black Tusk

Reclining Balance Rock

Reclining Balance Rock enjoying the view

When we turned back we were only about 1000 feet below Cypress Peak. The top would have been a fairly easy destination if we’d started earlier.

Even without climbing to a summit, it was an enjoyable day in a beautiful location.

Walking towards the east aspect of Cypress Peak

Walking towards the North-East facing cliffs of Cypress Peak

A couple of last comments. I see that I now have posted 301 blog articles at this site. And, since this blog was meant to be a short-term experiment, I never imagined that I’d leave a trail that is this long.

I’ve been to Cypress Peak before. My story of a ski trip to that mountain, with an approach from the other side, is here: Tabblo essay.

If you live around Vancouver, you might think that Cypress Mountain is a hill on the North Shore. Actually, there is no such mountain by that name. There is a resort that calls itself Cypress Mountain because it is within Cypress Provincial Park. This is the real nearby Cypress Peak.

Return to Callaghan Valley

Callaghan Mountain and Callaghan Lake are at the head of Callaghan Valley – the location of some of the 2010 Olympics. In previous years it was the site for several of our backcountry adventures. We returned to see the situation on 2010 June 27.

Upper Callaghan Valley - Google Earth

Upper Callaghan Valley and vicinity

The blue line shows our ski track from where we left the car. The dirt road climbs rapidly from the Olympic area to Callaghan Lake, which is nearly at 4,000 ft. It is rough, but passable with 2-wheel drive. There are water-bars, but they are wide and gentle.

Fresh Snow on Hollyburn Mountain

It is wet spring day at sea level, but above 3,000 ft. in Cypress Provincial Park it is lovely, snowing, and winter. (Earlier today, 2010 March 13).

The advantage of skiing on a local hill is that we still had time for lunch: a bowl of soup at Pho 993, and then dessert at Thomas Haas Patisserie (double baked almond croissant and an excellent Caffè Americano.)

Last Cypress Bowl Ski before Olympics

Tomorrow, for security reasons, we backcountry skiers will not be permitted in Cypress Bowl until after the Olympics. Hollyburn Mountain is not a venue for the games, so that beautiful old growth forest will belong only to the security goons with guns. Today, the weather up in the bowl was mild (as everybody in the world seems to be learning) and foggy… but backcountry travellers are supposed to be able to handle anything (except lack of snow for skiing). So, we went there. The altitude where we start to ski up is about the same as most of the Olympic events. I have never seen so little snow at this time of the year — it looks like very late spring.

Hollyburn Mt. Trailhead - Cypress Bowl, BC

Snow conditions at the Hollyburn Mt. Hikers' Trailhead

Things improved with a bit of altitude, and above the Water Boards (top of the nordic trails) there was even some fresh wet snow.

On the Hollyburn Mt. summit trail, above the Water Boards

On the Hollyburn Mt. summit trail, above the Water Boards

There were very few people up there today. Instead of fighting churned up snow to the summit, somewhere above this point we headed off into the woods looking for some smooth glades.

The place to remove skins and start skiing

The place to remove skins and start skiing

We were alone in the woods. It was dark and foggy. And no other ski tracks. Somehow we missed our planned line and were heading into the unknown. So, we put skins on again and doubled back.

Suddenly we found ourselves on the slope we were seeking.

The slope to ski

The slope we wanted to ski

The only person who’d been here before us left a single snowshoe track. I don’t think I’ve  ever been the first to ski this pitch. It wasn’t powder… but I learned to ski in this lovely, soft, damp, west coast snow. It was marvellous. There was several inches of fresh snow over a firm base.

Last ski of the season above Cypress Bowl

Yesterday we had to walk a ways up the ski runs from the parking lot  to find snow. On the upper slopes and glades we could find some lines to ski. I’m not holding the camera in the gnarly bits — I needed my hands for the ski poles. So the moving ski stuff is fairly tame… but this will give you a sense of what is left of the winter up there. Next week if we want to ski we will have to go into the higher hills up North. This filthy snow gummed up the base of the skis. If we go to bigger mountains and above the tree line in the days ahead we’ll probably have cleaner snow.

Winter on Hollyburn Ridge

The Dark Season has been particularly gloomy lately. We have received lots of precipitation. There is no snow at sea level, and not much below 1,000 feet. Above 3,000 feet there is now lots, and all of the upper trails on Hollyburn Mountain, in West Vancouver are above that. For days we had been watching a bubble of high pressure moving in from the Pacific Ocean. It arrived Monday night, and we planned to ski on Tuesday. I’m glad we did. That one day of blue sky was spectacular on the hill. (The pictures are thumbnails).

Backcountry trail on Hollyburn Mt.

As we begin to ski up the backcountry trail on Hollyburn Mountain, the high altitude old-growth trees are heavy with snow and ice. The temperature is just above freezing, and the trees drip on us as we ski beneath.

Since it is the middle of the week there are not many people on the path. Everyone seems in a good mood, and no one passes without a friendly greeting.

weather damage to trees

It looks as if this is a rough winter for the forest.

The heavy burden on the branches and the recent winds have brought down many branches and whole trees.

Looking down from Hollyburn Mt. to Vancouver

The hikers’ backcountry route meanders up and to the west of the groomed  commercial nordic area on Hollyburn Ridge. The top of the  nordic is known locally as The Water Boards. I’ve never known what that means. It is at that loop below us. Here the backcountry trail climbs an open swath in the forest and we have our first views of Vancouver and Georgia Strait.

A view of the Hollyburn Summit route

Higher up, the air is colder, and the trees are no longer dripping. The summit of Hollyburn is the dome to the right.

When I look at these pictures I don’t have the sense that we are climbing.  It is not very steep, but it is uphill!

View to the east and northeast

Up here it is possible to see the mountains to the east and some of the distant wilderness to the northeast.

I think the peak is Crown Mountain.

Trees snow and shadows on Hollyburn Mt.

It seems that lots of snowshoers are heading up to the summit.

We decide to find some fresh snow, and solitude, in the forest to the left of the route.

Icy Forest

That wide open swath didn’t feel like the backcountry.

Here in the forest, with the brilliant sun, the encased trees, and the dark blue sky, it is magic.

Glimpse people on the summit route

At one point I could look through the trees and glimpse the route to the summit. It was not far away and I could just hear laughter and squeals of delight. It sounded like a playground. Folks were enjoying the mountain.

Although the trees look as if they are plastered with snow, that is really ice-hard.

Ready to ski We arrive at a high dome. There is a couple of inches of wind driven powder over a hard base. The snow is sparkling in the sun and we have a fine view of Vancouver and the Salish Sea. The trees in this forest are spaced so that skiing among them, and finding the easier glades will be fun. To check the depth of snow, I plunged my avalanche probe straight down, and at 240 cm, there was no bottom. We took the skins off and skied down.

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