21-Oct-2006 -- There is something about the anticipation of adventure that sparks the imagination. The night we set out was filled with optimism as we made our way up the Fin-Tum Tum Forest service road. Even as the washout ditches threatened to swallow the 4Runner, nothing could stop us. Finally our Google Earth map got as far as we could make it for the night, we set camp, had some beer, a fire and went to bed.
There was snow on the mountains in the morning. But with pound of bacon and a dozen eggs for breakfast and conversation which sounded like: "We’ll be there and back by 5:00" and "Only 4.9 km to go, no problem!!" our day was under way. We estimated the distance to be 4.9 km and optimistically figured eight hours should be enough time to complete our journey from forestry road, gaining about 1200m of elevation, into the hanging valley that cradled our objective. We set off at a brisk pace but as the day progressed it slowly became clear that we might have carved out a much larger piece of adventure pie than we had originally thought. Our attempt at gaining elevation early in the day led us onto the side of a steep slope and a very difficult traverse. The detour did not discourage us as we trudged on; nothing was going to get in the way of our adventure!
As we traversed along the hill we encountered various types of terrain. A cut block to begin the day (icy and wet); thought that was hard did you? Then it was in to old growth cedar with lots of bluffs to get stuck on (and fall from). The forest gave way to a welcoming site of low easily passable shrubs. We soon realized that those low shrubs were in fact extremely dense sideways growing slide alder. The alder was growing at almost surreal angles, horizontally for about 4 feet then slowly arched upward to about 5 meters in length making it almost impenetrable. Having to alternately crawl under, climb over and slip between the unforgiving branches made for extremely slow going. It was around this point that Blue - our loyal K9 companion - began to look at us incredulously as if to say "You guys are crazy, you seriously want me to walk through this stuff?"
Alder gave way to rudimentary swift flowing creek which gave way to more alder. At first the creek was sweet relief to the tedious alder. Scrambling over wet, often loose, boulders deposited by rock slides only increased the danger of the awkward progress. It was getting to be late afternoon and by this time we knew that a significant portion of our return journey would be spent hiking in the dark, but none of us dared to suggest turning back. At that point, failure was not an option and we continued on optimistic that the return journey on the down slope would somehow be easier.
Side hilling (again) we made our way across a snowy scree slope, finally our GPS’s told us that we were 300 m away from the confluence. On any other day this would be greeted with excitement. None of that here as we looked up a very steep, very treacherous scree slope which ran to the base of a sheer cliff (will we even be able to make it to the confluence?) Our morale was low. The GPS indicated that we still had 70 m to go to reach our objective and the sheer rock wall could not have been more than 50 m away. We surveyed some possible routes that might gain us a meter or two and climbed towards the face of the rock wall.
Needless to say the view from the confluence was spectacular, perhaps it was because we were up so high (2033m) or the sheer cliff not 10m up hill from us. Successfully marking the confluence was the goal; the alpine lake and watching the sun set down the range were definitely rewards for a hard day’s work. THE SUN SET!… lets do the math, we started at 8:45am it was now 5:00pm that's eight hours hiking through less than ideal terrain. The sun was setting; the term screwed comes to mind. No time to think about that now, it was time to go!
Let’s say that the trip back really challenged our threshold for adventure. Here is the condensed version of our trip back – snow covered rocks, wet rocks (in the middle of a creek), alder (now its dark, imagine playing twister blindfolded without knowing the rules, it was harder than that), a rock field (finally broke out the 2 headlamps we had, it helped morale more than our speed of travel), into old growth cedar with lots of bluffs, more alder, more old growth, the cut block (turns out this was the easiest terrain of the day), a skid road (but not the right one), some more cut block, more old growth.
To say our trek was difficult would be an understatement. Walking through a 15 year old forestry cut block at night, not an enjoyable feat itself, was welcome relief after 13 hours of treacherous and unforgiving terrain. Scrambling through dense bluff filled forest, traversing rock slides of alternating alder and creek bed, and sheer snow covered mountain slope made you appreciate solid relatively flat ground.
Around 12:30am we discover what appears to be the same skid road that we hiked in on. None of us said a word but we were all glad. Three kilometers from the car but we were almost there, the hard stuff was over. Recognizing our scent from earlier, Blue took up the lead and led us back to camp. When we arrived, we were pretty much delirious. So much so that we decided to pack up the car and head home (what!). So we packed up the truck and headed out.
Strange things happen in the early morning on logging roads in the middle of nowhere. Lights, at this time of night! "I sure hope someone didn’t send the search and rescue out to find us." It was much better than this it was a pair of road builders. They had been partying all night. Instead of risking being late for work they were going to be early, really, really, early. They shared a bit of the party with us before we each headed on our own ill conceived missions.
We made it home at 9:00 on Sunday morning more tired than we had been in a very long time and just a but wiser. Next time (will there be a next time?) there may be a bit more planning and a touch less adventure but we wouldn’t change this one for anything.