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Ascent of Wedge Mountain on 2009-06-14

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Edward Earl
Duane Gilliland
Date:Sunday, June 14, 2009
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Wedge Mountain
    Location:Canada-British Columbia
    Elevation:2891 m / 9488 ft

Ascent Trip Report

My friends Edward Earl and Duane Gilliland had already both climbed all the county high points in Washington, plus all the 5000-foot prominence peaks in the 48 states, so to find a suitable objective to interest them I had to look north of the border. Wedge Mountain, B.C. is a serious “Ultra” with 7378’ of prominence, and it is also the high point of a B.C. Regional District, which are county equivalents in that province.

However, when I prepared my initial B.C. Regional District high point list (http://peakbagger.com/list.aspx?lid=13002), David Olson’s keen map eyes noticed that the actual Fraser Valley High Point was located at a triple-divide point just a little bit southeast of the summit of Wedge. Since the standard route on the mountain is from the west, we knew we’d have to descend off the other side of the summit to find this high point.

So on Saturday 6/13/09 we drove from Washington State to Whistler, BC—this drive is currently excruciating, due to pre-Olympics road construction on Highway 99. Just 12 km north of Whistler a 2 km dirt road on the right leads to the parking area for the Wedgemount Lake trail, where we packed up and headed uphill in the afternoon heat. This trail gains 3750 feet over about 4 miles and is relentlessly steep in parts. Our full packs were a burden on this grind. The trail leads to beautiful Wedgemount Lake, elevation 6135’, where a small hut and several tent platforms make for a nice campsite with awesome views of surrounding glaciers and peaks. The tiny first-come first-served hut was full on this Saturday night, so we were glad we had our tents.

On Sunday 6/14/09 we left the hut area at 4:20 AM and hiked the trail along the lake to its east end and followed a snowy valley uphill, beneath some gray icy spots on the Wedgemount Glacier. Avoiding the ice, we turned right and soon roped up, even though the spring snow still covered the glacier and we saw no crevasses. The gentle slopes led past a scenic blue ice-water lake to the Wedge-Parkhurst col at 7595 feet.

Here we lost about 450 feet of elevation as we dropped down the other side and rounded the craggy northwest aspect of Wedge to gain the easier west ridge. After traversing talus and snowfields, we climbed a steep but short snow arête that brought us to the base of the west ridge, which is really just a huge 2000’ talus field. Based on percentage of rocks that moved when you stepped on them, this was about moderate, but still annoying. We tried some snowfields, but they were bottomless mush and we postholed badly there.

The rock slope led to the wide and gentle summit ridge of Wedge, and here Edward and I finally used the snowshoes we lugged all the way up there—but they didn’t help much. We were on the airy summit at 11 AM. There were clouds about, limiting views somewhat, but otherwise weather was fine. We were the only summit party of day—Duane spied some climbers far below on the more popular North Arête snow climb route, but they turned back well short of the top, perhaps because of mushy snow.

At the top Duane elected to rest while Edward and I descended the other side, looking for the fork in the southeast ridge where the Billygoat Creek drainage began, marking the Fraser Valley R.D. high point. The ridge was very craggy and knife-edged, and we kept thinking we’d turn around at the next bump we could see, but the rock was firm and we figured that descent was harder, so we’d have an easy time returning. Eventually we came to a bump where we had lost about 300 vertical feet and unequivocally saw the new drainage opening ahead. We scouted around and determined that a little ways back was the actual triple divide point, and my GPS confirmed we were in just the right place. We made a pretty through recon of the area and even identified the likely boulder marking the high point. The class-4 scramble back to the main summit was fun, and we had been gone for 45 minutes.

After a rest and summit photos we left the summit a bit after noon. Descent was mostly retracing our uphill route—the 2000’ of talus was pretty miserable, and we did some glissading down a snowfield to give us a break (including some unintentional glissading on my part when I postholed and tripped). We were back to the Wedgemount Lake camp by 4 PM. Tired after a 4200+ foot gain day over rough and varied terrain, we just rested, ate, and slept. We had the entire campsite area to ourselves, since the weekend crowds were gone.

On Monday 6/15/2009 we packed up camp and hiked the steep Wedgemount Lake trail downhill in 2.5 hours to the car, arriving by 11 AM or so. After lunch in tourist-thronged Whistler, we faced the Highway 99 construction traffic again on our long drive home.

Notes and Comments:

There is little technical difficulty in reaching the summit by the west ridge—it is a very long and circuitous route and this is a huge mountain, but overall I would rate it hard class 2 (with glacier travel and some steep snow) for this time of year. In late season, the glacier becomes heavily crevassed and poses a much bigger obstacle than the gentle snow slopes we encountered. The main issue is to be in shape for the 8143-foot gain and varied terrain.

One could perhaps do this peak in 4 days, taking 2 for the ascent—we saw potential campsites in a flat area on the trail below the final headwall, and at the blue lake below the Wedge-Parkhurst col. But Wedgemount Lake is the only legal campsite and a fantastically beautiful spot, so it might make more sense to spend day 2 of a 4-day trip resting there instead.

The southeast ridge from the summit to the Fraser Valley high point is considerably more difficult than the west ridge ascent. It is a class-4 knife-edge in many spots and those uncomfortable with exposure might want a rope and belay.

Wedge is a tough peak, but it is definitely one of the easiest and most accessible of the BC ultras or the BC regional district high points. The other peaks on those lists include the likes of Fairweather, Robson, Columbia, Waddington, Assiniboine, and many other truly serious mountaineering objectives.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2482 m / 8144 ft
    Extra Gain:180 m / 591 ft
    Route:West Ridge
    Trailhead:Wedgemount Lake TH  769 m / 2526 ft
    Grade/Class:Class 2, steep snow
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Rope, Snowshoes, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Part of Trip: 2009 - Wedge Mountain (2 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDate
1Wedge Mountain2009-06-14
2Wedge Mountain-Southeast Slope2009-06-14
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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