Beating the Moody-ass Dead Horse on the Elk River Trail and Mount Albert Edward
So yesterday I set off from Victoria around 10am in the morning with the intention of meeting up an ACC trip with Tom Carter leading, headed up Mount Colonel Foster, SE Summit. Things did not pan out as I had planned at all but I suppose it turned out to be a good learning experience for yours truly.
When I set of from Victoria the sky was blue and the wind was nil. After a 4 hour drive, I was coming into Campbell River. I took a turn right and headed inland and then it started raining. (I suppose I should have expected this on the North Island). I had only a tarp with me and little in the way of rain gear. The idea was to bivy out with the VIACC group and then go up to the South East Summit with them the next day, after that hike out that evening. When I got to the Elk River Trail parking lot, it was really coming down.
My mood quickly changed. I was super bummed. I actually haven’t been this bummed about a trip in a while. I think it was the combination of the fact that it was very clear and nice in Campbell River, the fact that I was really really uncertain if it would clear up or not (I was like really 50/50 on the weather) and the fact that I was alone. To that last point: I was not scared or worried about being alone but more just lonely. I wanted someone to bounce ideas off of and it made me feel strange that I didn’t have anyone. So, I waited for and hour for the rain to “stop”. I ate some food and walked around a little.
In the end I choose not to go. I felt like the rain was going to last and that if it did, I would be having a really rough time, be very damp and possibly cold. So I left.
I left with a very strange feeling. It felt like I was letting myself down. Yet at the same time I was asking myself how I could be letting me down when I was the one who made the choice to leave. Make sense? Prolly not. I guess to summarize, I was just disappointed. I was disappointed because I really want to “get” this mountain. I first scouted the mountain out with Josh in the early winter in about 2003 before leaving to go to Italy for 5 years:
I came back in the summer of the following year from Italy with the goal of climbing the mountain as one of the specific reasons for coming back for a visit from Italy. It was just a short visit back from the boot. I saw friends and family and made a try at the mountain :). Josh and I tried in August. We were strong rock climbers (still are.. sorta..) but we made the mistake of not doing any planning or research and went with about three lines of route description that we found online.. I rack this up to the fact that we were twenty at the time (not thirty ;) and that we were just inexperienced at trying to do alpine rock climbs. We had lots of rock climbing experience, but no real mountain experience. So we kinda just charged up a line that we thought looked good and was kinda close to what the little blurb on the internet said to do. We didn’t get too high on the mountain before we were constructing a sketchy 6-point anchor out of some really dinky looking heather bushes in order to rappel down to the snow field with our tails between our lakes and smoke some weed by the “Iceberg Lake”, our camping spot. Sorry, no photos of that trip. I think that they were taken on someone’s cell phone.
So, it wasn’t until this year (my 30th on this Earth) that I decided that the mountain needed some more attention. I decided that a hike up the Elk River Trail to Landslide Lake was in order to checkout the mountain. Who knows, maybe even we’d get a chance to head up to the South Col and really get a good look at the South Gullies in winter conditions. Well, as we all know: Conditions are everything. Let me just say that again…
Conditions are everything.
Ah, there, now maybe, one day, I will remember this!!!
When Joe and I arrived in the area in March 2011 (big big snow year) the snow was really coming down. Not just snow, wet damp slush snow that would stick to your jacket and melt. It was really cold and windy and WET.
We made it about 3 or 4 km by snowshoe down the trail before we had a “chat”. Over some beef jerky we chose to bail. It was really so cold and wet and the snow was still really soft making advancement really hard. Also, we were hearing avalanches coming of off nearby Puzzle mountain. My mind flashed to something I had heard about the avalanches easily reaching the trail in the wintertime. We turned around.
This time was supposed to be different! I feel kinda pathetic never even making it into the valley…. twice. It’s prolly why you’ll notice my negativity in these videos.
Hmm… OK. Time to start the drive home to Victoria. On the way my mind was reeling. I wasn’t expected back until the following night around 11pm. Now that I was already up-island, is there something a little drier that I could get up without having to drive all the way South again? South Strathcona came to mind and soon I was hell-bent on the vis being clearer and summiting Albert Edward the following day. I would walk in tonight to Circlet Lake and then head up tomorrow morning and then walk out at around 3pm the next day. The plan was perfect! Or so I thought…
I arrived in the Paradise Meadows parking lot at around 5:45. I got out of the car and was not super enthused to start walking. It was raining here as well… I checked the weather on the old phone-a-roo and saw that tomorrow looked promising. Well, I stood there for a long time next to the van just watching the clouds move and the listening to the rain come down. It looked like a wet night ahead. I (again) wasn’t really prepared for that. Even though I wasn’t feeling it, I ignored my instincts and headed out anyways towards the lakes after taking a photo of the sign on my camera as I didn’t bring a map of the area.
I made good time and was at Lake Helen-McKenzie in under one hour. I stopped quickly for water and kept moving. I actually made it almost all the way to Circlet before this really strange feeling was consuming me.
It’s not that I felt scared or even alone. In fact, I just felt lonely. This is a feeling that I’m not used to, especially in the woods. I’m almost always out there with a good friend or two. I realized this when I was about 3 hours deep into my hike to Circlet Lake. I ignored it and kept on. I almost made it to Circlet before I turned around. I missed company. It was strange, I have been on lots of solo kayaking trips. I never felt this way. I turned around and got quickly back to the car with minimal use of my headlamp. I jumped in the van and downed my Starbucks and pointed South.
I was wondering if I had made the right choice. The weather was clearing up, even as I was walking out. I was kicking myself and calling myself a little bit of a pussy. I didn’t understand the feeling I had been having. I just had to tell myself that, “I’ll be back.”
Driving down Mount Washington, I came into a wall of fog.
I tried to tell myself that I had made the right choice not to go. There would be no getting up Albert Edward and certainly no view if there was this much cloud the next day. I felt kind stupid for turning around so I was trying to rationalize it all.
So, I don’t even know what the moral is here anymore. I think that it would be to trust my instincts more and just go when the goings good. Certainly something to try on my attempt of Colonel Foster #3… I think I have a lot to learn from the harder (older than 30 years old) climbers that have come before me. “I’ll be back!”