I feel an energy in my legs that I haven’t felt for days. Familiar shapes of the devils range now impose themselves as the black jagged skyline to the south. This view is like an apparition affirming that this will be our last slog up wet, energy zapping snow and that beyond this last col, there is a trail. For the past week, Micha and I have been toiling in a true wilderness where help or any kind of road is a minimum of 3 days away. Attempting one of the first summer traverses of the Valhalla Mountains in South Central BC, we were both glad that our adventure is nearing an end.
We began with high hopes of connecting a series of alpine ridges running almost continually from north to south - creating the backbone of Valhalla Provincial Park. But, as we crested the first of many mountain passes, we were met by an impressive sheer granite cirque with a seemingly vertical snow slope clinging to the far wall. It was the only way through and we decided to wait until morning, hoping the snow would solidify enough for our crampons and ice axes to bite into it. What had we signed up for??
The Valhalla range is comprised of real mountains. Unlike most of the Coast Range, each peak is purely its own entity from steep summit pyramids to alder choked valleys. Beautiful solid granite typical in the south, abruptly diminishes to an unconsolidated chossy mess of rock in the north. Steep loose snow and rock intermingled making for exciting ascents leading to tediously nervous descents. We did find some of our idolized alpine ridges with snow drenched peaks stretching in all directions to the curved horizon.
Inevitably though, the view was tainted with the ability to see our daunting route ahead with no options or alternatives. Each summit attained meant an arduous side hill bushwhack to the next one descending two to three thousand metres in between. Forcing a path through this uncooperative virgin wilderness. Our bodies constantly ached and nerves were constantly frayed with each difficult route finding decision.
Meals were the best time of day as it meant our packs were slowly getting lighter with each bite. Our campsites were sublime, set beside an unnamed river or alpine tarn without ever seeing another trace of human existence. It is incredibly hard to stay in a negative state of mind in a place like this even drenched in sweat with so many blackfly bites, you don’t even bother to swat them away anymore. The pure immersion in nature is too strong to deny and a primeval connection is all that remains. With that being said, I still was looking forward a burger and a beer at the end.
- July 2008