Garibaldi Provincial Park is one of those incredible places that is worth a trip from wherever you call home. It's huge, it's gorgeous, and it's overrun with peaks ranging from hiker friendly mellow walk-ups to straight up terrifying.
When I lived in Vancouver for a bunch of years, I probably spent just about every other weekend hiking. scrambling or skiing in Garibaldi Provincial Park. I was fortunate to get up a bunch of different peaks at different times, but one that perpetually eluded me was the Park's namesake - Mount Garibaldi.
I've tried to get up Mount Garibaldi a few times over the years and each time I failed. It was always for a different reason, but it just never seemed to come together. A couple of times I was doing the Garibaldi Neve Traverse and had aspirations of tagging the summit on the way by. The thing is it's a 400-500m elevation gain detour which is a big ask when you're already covering a ton of distance in a hurry and I just never had a group with me that agreed that this was a great idea. Another time we attempted the East Face route which Alpine Select called "the easiest route to the summit". Well, this Bivouac report should give you a an idea how it went. Here's a lovely excerpt from the write-up.
Well, that's information that would have been useful before we slogged up to the base of a choss pile not one of us was keen to throw ourselves at.
So long story short, I have a bit of a history with this mountain and before I ever successfully climbed it, I moved to the Rockies and it got relegated to the unfinished business pile.
But then, opportunity struck. I was flying out to the coast to chase some mountain fun with my ridiculously awesome partner Christine and we realized that the forecast for Garibaldi was perfect. Added to that, Christine has finally recovered enough from her concussion that we could try a bigger weekend. It's not a super technical objective, I was just tired of not having put it in the win pile. One last try, get it this time or quit thinking about that stupid thing.
The plan was to get up high via Brohm Ridge, set up camp and then summit the next morning. We hit a snag immediately. Christine, who lives in Vancouver (hurray long distance relationships) drives a Honda Fit. It's a great vehicle in a lot of ways. That greatness doesn't include driving up logging roads. The result is that we parked at the Cat Lake parking lot and didn't even try to get higher. Starting at 350m elevation. Amazing.
With packs hoisted, we started up the Cheekye FSR on foot. I'm not going to lie. The road is a fucking slog. There were a few dirt bikes on the road, but they were all super friendly and respectful about passing us.
Once we gained the upper ridge, we followed a mostly snow covered road that meandered through rolling hills towards a huge gendarme that straddles the ridge.
At about 1900m there's an excellent camp site just before it - perfectly flat on soft, cleared dirt and we even had a large snow patch nearby to melt water. It's right on the edge of Park but not quite in it.
We set up camp, melted some water, ate some food and then crawled into bed. It was not a long night. We were up at 3:30am and then moving at 4am.
That might not sound like the earliest of alpine starts, but for Christine and I, this was huge. Christine and I used to do alpine starts all the time. We don't burn the candle at both ends, we throw the whole damn candle into a bonfire. But then Christine got a concussion and for the last two years fatigue, headaches and generally feeling like shit made long days have been impossible. Short walks were a cause for celebration. This was our first alpine start together in TWO YEARS. She killed it.
Camp to Summit to Camp to Car
From camp it's about 5km and 800m of elevation to the 2675m summit. You actually have to climb up and over the gendarme which is a bit of a bushwhacky scramble before dropping down to a talus ridge you follow up to about 2000m. It keeps going but you can contour straight across and gain the Warren Glacier and save yourself some unnecessary elevation gain.
As dawn broke, we crossed the Warren Glacier towards the looming icefalls that cascade off of Garibaldi. The plan was to contour around the shoulder of the glacier and then climb a ramp that would get us onto the upper glacier plateau that leads to the headwall. It was peaceful, beautiful, and a perfect, quiet morning.
Gaining the upper plateau is steeper than it looks in the photo above and we'd had a solid overnight freeze so losing our footing would have come with consequences. Christine busted out an ice axe, but I had my trust BD Whippet which I like for self arrest in easy conditions. We had crampons on and were using deliberate footwork to safely work our way up.
The upper plateau was straightforward in that it was relatively flat and the crevasses were easy enough to navigate.
As things get steeper, the crevasses get more prominent and eventually we doing a fair bit of zigzagging to work our way through things. Not terribly tricky, just time consuming. The bergschrund is the traditional crux of the route. It was still in great condition for us so it was super straight forward to get past it on the climber's right side.
Above the bergschrund, it was a final bit of steep snow climbing and then a bit of scrambling (swimming?) through some of the chossiest sand/rock/mud I've ever seen. And suddenly, just like that, at very long last, after three or four failed attempts, I was standing on top of Mount Garibaldi, watching as Christine signed the notebook in the summit register.
After soaking in the views, we retraced our footsteps. By this time the snow was softening up so we could heel plunge our way down. The downside was that we were extremely aware that the snow bridging the crevasses was also softening, so we were cautious with our route.
Once off the glacier, we scrambled back up and over the gendarme and made our way back to camp. There, we started melting more snow so that we'd have enough fluids to get us back down the to the car without keeling over in the heat.
Sitting there in camp, getting ready to go, thinking about the 16km and 1600m of elevation loss ahead of us, I briefly contemplated how tired my feet were and how little I was looking forward to what lay ahead. With nothing to be done for it, we again hauled full packs onto our backs and slogged out.
All in all, it was roughly 26km, 900m of elevation gain, and 2500m of elevation loss from camp to summit to camp and back to the car. Not a small day and I was bagged by the time we reached the car. Christine was a happy ray of sunshine right up until we hit they highway when she crashed like a ton of bricks.
It was so, so nice to get this peak in bag after all of the history I have with it. I've spent more time in Garibaldi Provincial Park than I can count and I've crossed below that summit a ridiculous number of times. Every time you drive through Squamish, there it is.
Finally, we stood on top.
Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.