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Author Topic: May 13, 2004, Mt Cayley (BC) from Brandywine Creek  (Read 5042 times)
Amar Andalkar
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May 13, 2004, Mt Cayley (BC) from Brandywine Creek
« on: 05/23/04, 06:09 PM »

After the previous day's misadventures on the roads to Mt Meager (see trip report), Matt and I were hoping to be able to drive right to snowline on our next objective, Mt Cayley. This volcanic massif lies just west of Whistler in plain view of the ski resort, and consists of several rounded lava domes and sharp eroded rocky pinnacles, all reaching about 7500-7800 ft. The standard approach to Cayley is from the Brandywine Creek FSR, which leaves Hwy 99 at 1800 ft about 10 miles south of Whistler. In winter, the road is not plowed and a huge snowmobile tour operation (located at the road's start) runs roughshod over the entire Cayley region. This time, we were hoping that most of the road would be bare and the snowmobile operation would be done for the year. Thankfully, it was. We drove 4 miles up the road to the Brandywine Meadows TH at 3100 ft (high-clearance 4WD useful), but a massive mudflow, 500 ft long and 10-20 ft deep, blocks the road completely just beyond the creek there. Ain't logging and deforestation just great?

We parked the car and hiked up onto the mudflow, surprisingly it was fairly dry and easy to walk on despite the numerous embedded trees and boulders. Back in 2000, the road had been driveable in my SUV another mile to 3700 ft (blocked by another mudflow), but now the road above 3100 ft is in bad shape, passable only in a huge truck or Hummer even if they ever clear the new mudflow (very unlikely). We hiked up to the switchback at 4000 ft, where the road was covered by 1-2 ft of solid snow. But the road beyond here leads nowhere useful, so we hiked down the clearcut into the valley, reaching the mostly snow-covered Brandywine Creek at 3800 ft. We skinned up the creek and valley all the way to the main saddle at 6100 ft north of Mt Fee. The upper portion of the basin was covered in dozens of snowmobile tracks, they had come in recently from the other direction (apparently via Cayley icefield from Callaghan FSR). Luckily, we neither saw nor heard any machines all day. We followed their tracks from the saddle onto the ridge which connects Mt Cayley and Brandywine Mtn, eventually topping out on a prominent knob at 6700 ft. From here, the route drops north onto the glaciers above a cirque lake and then heads west onto the plateau icefield which stretches north from Mt Cayley for over 4 miles. However, thunderstorms had been building all day throughout the region, and it was clearly raining just east of us near Whistler and Black Tusk. Coupled with lingering tiredness from the previous day, it seemed prudent to turn around here before committing to the nearly 1000 vft descent onto the glaciers and icefield.

We lingered a while on the knob, admiring the spectacular panorama of the Cayley massif (see photo below). We skied down at 3pm, finding good corn on most areas which were free of snowmobile tracks. Below 5500 ft, the snow became heavier and less consolidated, and skiing was generally sticky all the way down the Brandywine Creek valley to 3800 ft. We hiked from this point back up to the switchback on the road at 4000 ft and then quickly back down the road and mudflows to the car. Overall, it was a good day, despite the mudflow on the road lengthening access a bit, we got 2900 vft of skiing for 4000 vft of total gain. Not too bad a ratio for BC this spring given the low snowpack situation and generally poor road access.

Amar Andalkar
www.skimountaineer.com

This panorama (composited from 5 photos) looks across the Cayley massif from the 6700 ft knob on the east-west ridge connecting Mt Cayley to Brandywine Mtn. Powder Mtn is a lava dome at the eastern edge of the plateau icefield on Mt Cayley's north side. The cirque lake at 5000 ft is visible at lower right. Click here for an enlarged version of this photo, 3000 pixels wide.


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