Sunday, August 3, 2014

Augerpoint Trail

I think I'm going to lose a toe nail.  Or three.

It is my 'last chance' weekend in Strathcona Park before returning to my booked out summer calendar.  My 'Run the Park' mission is coming to an end.  August is here and all of my weekends are full of  pre-arranged fun right up until September.  Just when I was getting going, I am out of time it seems.  Although I have managed to tick off a few trails on my SPP bucket list, they were all relatively short days and have left me seeking much, much more.  Now that I have trekked up to the edge of the world I want to jump off and discover what lies beyond it.  

But that will have to wait.  I am already planning my 2015 summer...2 wide open months of epic days and fastpacking over nighters are in the works...that is a long way a way...I might have to learn to ski...

And so.

My final July SPP adventure was a difficult one to choose.  It couldn't be too long as I am only 2 weeks away from the Squamish 50m but I was itching to get up into a new area and put a few more pieces of the park puzzle together.  My dream for the summer was to complete the Augerpoint Traverse and run from Buttle Lake all the way to Mt Washington but the logistics did not allow for this adventure to be realized this month.  And so, I decided to head up the Augerpoint Trail for a little reconnaissance mission in preparation for the day that the stars to align (aka: I can get a ride at 4 am or a pick up at 4pm).

Augerpoint Trail

John and I drove out to Buttle Lake at 7am for a leisurely start as we were only planning to be on the move for a few hours.  It was a treat to have a lazy morning and a break from the 'alpine starts'.  The trick was the punishment of being exposed in the sub alpine at high noon.  Holy cooker.

The only way to reach the subalpine ridges from Buttle Lake  is straight bloody up.  All trails go from 300m-1200m in 5-6k it seems.  The Augerpoint trail was different, however.  It was even steeper than that.  Wowza.  The switchbacks were relentless.  The pitch shot up well beyond 100% slope.  The trail crossed loose avalanche chute rocks and fell away beneath us.  The light beyond the trees seemed impossibly straight up above us.  It was nothing crazy.  Just a very steep hiking trail.  But it took the steepest parts of the other approaches I had been on this month and combined them all into one posterior chain (muscles on the back of the old bod) training camp.  It launched us to the same elevation in only 4kms.  It was awesome.

40 minutes in

About half way to the sub alpine, the trail opens up on a sunny bluff and rewarded us with a fantastic view of the lake below.  It was the perfect spot to catch a breeze, catch our breath and catch the moment with a photo.  The viewpoint provided us with an idea of how much vertical we had actually gained in the first 40 minutes.  Human wheels never cease to amaze me...

Rested my backpack on this cairn...which was disguising a massive ant hill.  OUCH red ants!  Nice.

After about 90 minutes and a few wild blueberry snacking breaks (yum!) we made it to the first plateau and sub alpine lakes.  The view was fantastic across the lake and over to the Marble Meadows ridge.  I looked up to the plateau above us and knew the view would be better from there...

 I think I see my house!  Well, ok, maybe not.  But the ocean!

Another half hour of easy trekking and we were up on the ridge...with a view I couldn't believe!  It was the Salish Sea!  There was the ocean and the Valley!  I did not expect to see the coast when we popped up to the top, and it was an awesome surprise.  Once on top, the traverse to Albert Edward appeared before us as well.  It was so close.  In only a few hours I could be on Albert Edward...then running down to Mt. Washington.  I could literally see the route and knew how manageable it would be in a day...on a nice, clear day, that is.  Route finding is fun on a clear day but can be anything from challenging to deadly if the weather socks you in and blocks your view.  Strong navigation skills are a requirement for any such adventuring.  Leaving the 'trail' and moving along a 'route' should only be attempted by those with navigation, map reading and route finding skills.  Knowing how to read a map and use a compass and GPS is essential when travelling in the alpine and sub alpine.  There are no trails up there.  Be prepared.

We maxed out at 3 hours after exploring the 'other world' terrain of rocky knolls, stellar alpine lakes and tempting views of the distant peaks in the heart of the Park.  Another day, another amazing view for lunch.  I can't get enough.  Why haven't I been up here before?  Where have I been for the last 3 decades?  

My watch said we had to stop.  I was 'timexed' for the day and we had to head back the way we came before I turned into a freakin pumpkin (tapering sucks lol:).  It was torture to turn my back on Albert Edward.  He was stoic.  I was a mess.  A last look back and I told him I would see him soon...

I knew the switchbacks would be steep on the way down.  I didn't realize how the combination of crazy and relentless would add up in my sneakers.  Holy smokes!  Down down down down down down down...I see the lake!...down down down down...the lake isn't getting any closer!...down down down down...I should have trimmed my toe nails...down down down down...the lake isn't getting any closer!....down down down down...oh mother I am going to lose a toenail...down down down down...the lake REALLY isn't getting any closer...and so it went.  Awesome;).

We popped out at the car without even seeing the road beforehand and I rushed immediately to my cooler for an ice cold lemon aid.  The heat had been a challenge.  We had been up on the exposed rock during the heat of the day and the elements had given us a taste of their power.  Wind, sun and hot rock join forces to rob you of your hydration.  It was a good reminder of how to manage eating/drinking/pacing/cooling systems during the heat of the day as Squamish will more than likely be a hot one.  That lemon aid was as amazing as I had dreamed it would be for the past 45 minutes.  The little joys in life are all made so much sweeter with a little suffering beforehand.

Exploring the Augerpoint route was an awesome chance to get my bearings and put all of my new pieces of the Park together.  I have been on more trails, ridges, bluffs and routes in the Park over the past 3 weeks than I have in all my days.  It has been an amazing month of dreaming, planning and exploring this special gem that lies in the heart of the Island and a stones throw from own backyard.  

Something strange has happened to my 'list, however'.  There appears to be something wrong with my pen.  Every time I tick one trail off, two more appear.  Rather than shrinking, my list is growing right before my eyes and right beneath my sneakers. 

It absolutely kills me to have to put my Run the Park project on the back burner when my pot is boiling over with inspiration today.  Sigh... that is my life.  Too many adventures...too little time.  It feels fantastic, however, to know that I have a lifetime of world class adventures awaiting me a mere 90 minutes from my driveway.  And, if you are on the Island, so do you.

Happy Trails,

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