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Whitecap Mountain [Attempt]

Moderate Scrambling
Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
Thursday, August 2, 2012

With very limited information about routes to  Whitecap Mountain we decided to decided to take Eric Coulthard's description of heading along the ridge from Eslpanade Mountain and see how that would turn out.  Going up to Esplanade Mountain with overnight packs was a fairly tiring experience and although the ridge is free of bushwhacking from that point there is a fair bit of elevation loss/regain to keep the trek from being too easy.  Up to our bivy site on the ridge overlooking the valley where Coral Creek starts there are few technical challenges on the ridge and terrain alternates between dirt/grass, loose scree, and the occasional slabby section.  Between one of the highpoints (which had very red colored rock compared to the surrounding peaks) we came across a half full (still sealed) oil drum sitting in the middle of the ridge, all that we could figure is that is must be a refuelling cache for a rescue hellicopter as no-one would have ever carried that up there!  After a late start we got to our bivy site around 8ish, cooked up some grub, and planned out our route for tomorrow.

Overnight I learned a valuable lesson about securing gear in the alpine overnight,  make sure its fully covered or critters will get at it!  A little bit after moonrise I heard something being tossed around near by bivy bag and it turned out  a bunch of squirrels/marmots (didn't get a good look at them other than eyes reflecting some light)  had dug out my helmet, chewed out all the straps and stolen my sunglasses which were beneath the helmet!  Suffice to say I was less than impressed when I worked out what happened and now my helmet was more of a hat (which would now fall off in a stiff breeze...).

In the morning we ended up waking up later than intended and quickly headed off continuing along the ridge which connected to Cliff Mountain.  This quickly turned into a scree bash up to the top of a highpoint after which the ridgecrest got a lot more knife-edged so we tried to traverse across the face instead (on some nasty scree on slab surfaces).  Passing over the highpoint we finally got a view of the (previously unknown)  slopes up to the Cliff/Whitecap access ridge which turned out to be a massive horrible looking scree slope.  After more time consuming traversing towards the large scree slope and then stopping to consider heading up to chance the sharp ridge we realised that at this rate there was no chance to get up to Whitecap and get back to the car before dark and then resolved to turn back.  Firmly sticking to the ridge crest here might be the fastest choice (and bypass the nasty traversing and scree below Cliff) but looked to be the (not so nice when already pretty tired) combination of technical and exposed.  After packing up the bivy we headed back down through the valley to get a better look at the other possible approach ridge to Whitecap and then headed down Coral Creek back towards the car to have steady access to running water in the ~28C weather.  The bushwhacking down through the valley was truly terrible until passing below the summit of Esplanade then things became less dense (and actually nice in places!).

Once the bushwhacking let up and there started to be a nice breeze flowing through the forest things seemed a lot nicer and we crossed back and forth between nicer terrain a bit away from the creek  curving back towards it for the occasional water break.  With about 1.5km to get back to the road we found out that we were not alone in enjoying the refreshingly chilly water of the creek as after passing though a clump of trees about 8 feet ahead of my was a very large grizzly bear!  At this point all I had time to say to Ken was "bear" and we hastily got as far away from the bear as possible (funny fact according to the GPS track our speed increased by 2.5x right after that!).  Luckily the critter seemed to be content lounging in the chilly water and wasn't to concerned by our unexpected arrival!

All in all it was kind of  sad not to get closer to Whitecap (or even get a better picture of the 'approach ridge' than I already had from Esplanade previously) but it was a pretty useful scouting trip and when I come back here at some point prior knowledge of the area will definetly be useful!


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