August 8th & 9th 2018
It started with a request from super client Jonas, can we go to a place away from the crowds where we would see nobody, he asked. So I suggested a few options, including a old dream of mine to Climb the North Ridge of The Sphinx (2402m) deep into the Garibaldi Provincial Park in an overnight push. The idea was to paddle across Garibaldi Lake with packrafts; these relatively new types of half kayak and half raft have become an amazing way to access remote zones in the summer like never before. Some of them weighting as little as 4.9lbs and come with a pump bag, inflatable seat and a repair kit, hoping not to ever have to use. They are made of highly durable Ballistic Nylon, in which you give 100% trust when half way across the Lake, hundreds of meters from the shore, in order to climb the sphinx the next day. Anyone conscious about weight would also opt for the carbon fiber paddles.
So, we scrambled some packrafts kits from Valhalla Pure in Squamish and packed for an overnight out into the unknown. Jonas is young and fit so we powered up to the lake with heavy backpacks in 2.5 hours. Which, I thought was very impressive.
Once at the lake we inflated our rafts and secured our packs onto the bow of our kayaks. Taking extra care packing ice axe, crampons and anything sharp far away deep inside our packs. The crossing is 4km and took us 1.5hours and slightly shorter on the way home. Thanks to the katabatic winds; a localize effect of large glaciers pushing cold air downward. We bivied on top of the moraine at Sphinx Bay closed to the VOC hut to keep the bugs away. The Milky Way was out of this world!
Summit day started with multiple alarms set for 245am, double shot coffee and high protein eggs. We left camp at 4am with headlamps and the will to climb. It took 2 hours to gain the edge of the sphinx glacier at 1800m contouring below Guard Mountain trough easy open glacial waist land. From there we transitioned to Glacier travel. We took 3.5 hours to reach the base of the North Ridge. The glacier travel was straight forward but the bergschrund at the base of the North West face was impassable and access to the ridge was only possible near the towers to the north. It was now 830am.
The next 3 hours was spent climbing beautiful granite diorite alpine terrain with sustain climbing the higher you got at 5.8 witch felted like 10.a with mountaineers boots. We summited at 1130am and had lunch before descending the south west ridge.
It was an easy scramble back to the glacier and easy walks down to camp. We loaded our packraft and headed for home like horses heading for the barn. All in all, what a great trip. The weather cooperated, the gear didn’t failed, the stars lined up and our route plan was executed. The essence of a true adventure!