Wedge Mountain Mission
Let's pretend we were up at 1 o'clock in the morning to get an early mountaineering start on our climb up the North-West Couloir of Wedge Mountain. In reality, we were only awake at 1 am because we had just arrived at Wedgemount Lake and set up camp after a late 9pm start and some long headlamp-hiking in the dark. It wasn't ideal, but we'd all done the 3-4 hour hike up the Wedgemount Lake trail before, so climbing 1200m up this steep and rooted trail in the dark seemed like a splendid idea at the time. Tired and sweating in the dark at 1 am, we threw our bags down on the first somewhat-flat rock we found, and called it 'camp' for the night.
Not enough hours later (about 4:30 am), we heard neighboring campers packing their bags and starting their climbs. We knew it'd be a good idea to do the same, but it wasn't going to happen on 3.5 hours of sleep.
So when 6 am rolled around we got our acts together, and compared tales of how lame our sleeps were while we chowed down on oatmeal. It was also our first chance to take in the surroundings that we couldn't see the night before, and couldn't help but notice a slew of awesome, flat bivy sites all around us. Hmmm, guess we'll show up before dark next time.
At 7:30 we threw our day packs together and started the hike around lake to the Wedgemount Glacier. At the foot of the glacier we were greeted by the sun, which had already done an impressive job of warming things up around us. Skinning up the slushy low-angled glacier was no worries, but climbing up the couloir with a high rock fall hazard wasn't on the top of our wish list.
We raced the sun over to the couloir, threw on crampons and axes, just in time for the clouds and fog to roll in. It did an awesome job of cooling down the temperatures, but didn't bode well for a good ski run. But we kept on cruising, and even when we were a fewfeet from the top it still seemed like we were going to get skunked.
We only had time for a quick snack at the top before a beauty window of sunshine came over our area, and we dropped in one after another to shred some slush down the juicy 45-50 degree slope below us. Starting from the narrow top section, it wrapped around to skiers right, yielding a steep, wide open couloir for hundreds of feet to come. Sweeeeeeet. It was easily one of the best runs we'd hit all year, and it was July!
And just our luck, as soon as we bottomed out, we could already see nasty rain/storm clouds b-lining up the valley... through Whistler... towards us. There was no escaping it, so while we chilled out for lunch, we watched the storm pass through Whistler, imagining how restaurants with patios would be frantically herding their surprised customers inside.
We cruised down the glacier back to camp, and reluctantly hauled our heavy over-nighter packs and skis back onto our backs before the 3 hours of nasty hiking in the mud and pouring rain to come. Nobody really cared though, because we had just bagged an unreal couloir with of dreamy slushy snow and blue skies. Not a bad way to kill a day in July.
The turn off for the Wedgmount Lake trail is located on Highway 99, about 2 km North of Emerald Estates, the most northern neighbourhood in Whistler. The turn-off is well marked on the highway. Hang a right at the turn-off and follow the gravel/dirt road to the trailhead. A vehicle with high clearance is recommended, or just a car you don't care about anymore. From the trailhead, the well marked trail climbs 1200m to the hut at Wedgemount Lake. It's a tiny hut in a busy place, so bring a tent or bivy sack when you go. From there you're in a good loction to ski the NW couloir the next day, or to climb one of Wedge's many great mountaineering routes.