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Skiing 'Round Rockingham Creek

Difficulty: 
Moderate Ski Tour
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
20.3
Net Elevation Gain [m]: 
640
Total Elevation Gain [m]: 
840
YDS Difficulty: 
3
Bushwhackyness: 
6 Downed Trees on The Trail, Lots of Bush Above The Creek
Tripdate: 
Monday, January 15, 2018

Another weekend of not the greatest weather, and warming temperatures starting to wake up some of the less savory layers in the snowpack, meant a less aggressive objective was in the cards.  Back at the end November I rambled up the Fitzwilliam Basin Trail to Rockingham Creek and with "ok" snow then I hoped that things would be looking much better now.  If anything it is good to know how coverage is doing in that neck of the woods for plans later on in the winter!

 
Starting off from the trailhead on the shore of Yellowhead Lake is always a kind of strange experience.  The trail itself does not leave the road/pipeline cutblock corridor for about 750 m of distance so starting off traipsing down with trucks whizzing by is generally how the first bit goes.
 
After leaving the roadside there is about 6 km and 600 vertical meters to get to the BC Parks campground at Rockingham Creek.  While coverage on the trail was better than in November it was still by no means fabulous, and especially if coming down the trail the more sun-exposed sections are more akin to 'scraping your bases over very coarse sandpaper' than skiing.  That being said the majority of the trail is actually in fairly decent shape, and especially for skiing up progress is quite quick with the exception of a half dozen downed trees.
 

The start of the trail is always a bit odd, and traverses the pipeline cutblock.

 

One of several downed trees on the approach trail currently.

 

Sun in the winter can be quite lovely.

 

With a good swath of cold temperatures crossing creeks and lakes seemed like a more tempting option and sure enough the ice on Rockingham Creek itself held up to several crossings back and forth (which certainly helps to cross the vast willow-flats that lie to the west of Mount Fitzwilliam).  Without a firm idea of what I would do the following day I decided to set up shop partway down the willow-flats, glug down a bunch of hot chocolate and see what looked not too spooky.
 

Up at Rockingham Creek near the official campground.

 

Out on the willow flats below Mount Fitzwilliam (center), much nicer in winter!

 

A wee bit of surface hoar in some sections.

 

A fair bit of wind transport higher up.

 

While the views all around from the flats are pretty impressive (with Mount Fitzwilliam itself towering above to the east and the long swath of Glacis Ridge forming the skyline to the south), Mount Bridgland to the north certainly takes top billing.  Bridgland is known to be a pretty tricky peak to climb and by look is lives up to the reputation.  Being situated along the Yellowhead Pass area it also receives both colorful alpenglow and eveninglow, a good subject for pictures for sure!  After cooking dinner and waiting for the stars to reveal themselves I reckoned that a nearby unnamed ridge would probably be the best plan for the following day.  Fairly low hazard from a terrain perspective to reach the alpine and then possible to squeak by along the ridgecrest, just a lot of bush to get through...
 

Not a bad place to set up for dinner.

 

The star attraction of the area was the view of Mount Bridgland.

 

The unnamed ridge, GR 972520 that seemed a good objective for the next day.

 

A vast starscape over Mount Bridgland to the north.

 

Looking south towards Glacis Ridge.

 

One last star picture looking west.

 

The next morning Mount Bridgland did not disappoint for morning colors and I lost a big of efficiency focusing more on my camera than my stove to get breakfast going!  Heading up into the bush towards the ridge I aimed for the most gradual terrain which looked to be back on the northern edge of the willow-flats.  The bush was actually quite terrible for the first 50 vertical meters but thankfully the 750m/hour snail-speed pace quickly improved to a somewhat less tedious 2km/hour ish (still not open terrain by any means sadly).  The most interesting part of the day was skinning through a more open patch of forest and coming across the remains of an old trapper cabin.  A bit more snow and it might have been hard to pick out, but the pattern of a window frame and some iron nails could be seen poking through the snow.  With slower than planned progress after another 45 minute of travel I decided to turn around to avoid skiing down the Fitzwilliam Trail by headlamp.  The way down to the willow-flats was actually quicker than expected after coming across a small creekbed, that didn't show up on my map, which offered a slightly less bushy path (and would be a much better way to skin up too).
 

The next morning looking again north towards Mount Bridgland.

 

Very pretty alpenglow.

 

One of the less bushy patches heading up the ridge.

 

An old trappers cabin I stumbled into while heading up the ridge.

 

Above the old cabin a bit more snow would be nice to cover the deadfall.

 

After turning around, almost a good viewpoint in places.

 

On the way down things were actully less dense than on the way up!

 

By the time I got back to the flats the sky was starting to look kind of grim.  There was freezing rain in the forecast for the following day and it seemed like the weather might be moving in a bit early.  Gobbling down a bit of lunch while packing up my things it was time to head back down and see how spicy the trail would be on descent.  With the exception of one very sun-affected thin part the trail was completely skiiable (though with some delicate moves to get over some of the deadfall).  That being said another 5-10 cm of consolidated snow would go a long way to save your skis from some extra stress...
 

Getting back down to the willow flats the sky was starting to look pretty gloomy.

 

One last look towards Bridgland (left) and Monarch Mountain (right).

 

Almost looks like rain is iminent.

 

Some of the skiing down was a bit desperate with the thin snowpack.

 

Back down by the highway with Yellowhead Mountain on the right.

 

Zoomed in towards Yellowhead, some decent gullys to ski up there...

 

Not a bad quick trip.  With some better zoomed in pictures around Glacis Ridge there should be a return trip in the cards fairly soon. 

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