Springer Peak wasn’t our first objective for the day, but when I took over leading the trip, I felt that the snow conditions were too questionable to continue with our original objective. When I suggested using Bill’s Trail, a section of the route used for the annual Kusam Klimb race, to summit Springer Peak, everyone was gung-ho to strap on some snowshoes and have a great day.
Total Distance: 11.4 km
Starting Elevation: 55 m
Maximum Elevation: 1609 m
Elevation Gain: 1583
Total Time: 9 h
I was confident that our group of six hikers would have little route-finding, because the trail is well-established. I have hiked it on two separate occasions, (1st one here) including a summit of Springer Peak itself. The biggest challenge ahead of us was the gruelling elevation gain. Bill’s Trail starts well under 100 metres above sea level; to attain the summit, we would need to gain more than 1400 metres, on snowshoes.
The early morning conditions were perfect for snowshoeing. We walked up the first section of the trail with boots, but as we crossed a section of logging road, the time came to don the snowshoes and continue up the steep trail. Overall, the snow made the route easier. On my first trip, conditions were very icy; on my second trip, there was too little snow. Today, the snow provided good traction, and reduced the level of difficulties in a number of places.
Keta Rock often causes problems in slippery conditions, and in conditions with just a skiff of snow. But today, the snow lay thick on top of the rock. We arrived below the rock bluff and cut an easy line to the top of the rock. We were all smiles as the group gathered atop Keta, where the forest thinned out and we were able to get a better view for route-finding. Even though I have hiked the route before, and we had a line marked on a map, the winter conditions still confused us. We took a wrong path once, but still reached the ridge walk below the final summit block with just enough time to make it to the summit.
This final push was where we met our biggest challenge. A wicked wind kicked up, driving snow into our eyes and chilling our hands. My ski goggles were a welcome tool today, as were the multiple pairs of gloves. Fortunately, the snow conditions were fine enough in most places; but in one particularly exposed area, the wind left only a skiff of snow atop iced-up rocks. The trouble, of course, is the exposure to our left. If our footing gave out, it was a short runout to a long drop into a gully — death for sure. We took our time to carefully place snowshoes, and when we were each atop the short, challenging section, it was a straight shot to the summit.
We lingered longer than I think most of us would have liked, huddling at the repeater beacon to take shelter from the wind. Despite the near-total lack of visibility, we enjoyed the moment and revelled in the accomplishment of the day.
When we finally made it back to the car, we were all beat! It was a long snowshoe day with a lot of elevation. I’m happy I chose this location as a backup. I’m sure the others weren’t disappointed, despite the lack of view.