Mount Benson, a Snowy Day

–submitted by Bil Derby

On a foggy damp Sunday morning, the six of us met at the Witchcraft Trail Head, made introductions, tidied up the necessary paperwork, and offered our hopes to the weather gods before getting underway at 08:10.  Veering right away from the “tourist route” at the first trail junction we climbed upwards to cross McGarrigle Creek at 460 meters, more or less, to follow the Outer Route.  A brisk uphill from there led us to a brief stop at the first bluffy viewpoint just above the climbing wall. From here on the trail gets a bit bushy and there may have been a word or two about the use of hiking partners as dewatering tools for the salal.

We picked up the snow at something close to 700 meters which made route finding a bit challenging at times as this trail get very little use in the winter – we were making first tracks for the most part.  Snow deepened as we traversed along the old road before turning upwards again towards the north-west ridge line. On making the ridge we were greeted with, despite the weatherman’s best advice, brightening skies and sunshine.

Turing south-east we followed the ridge sometimes finding challenges with route finding in ever deepening snow before gaining, with some difficulty the 914 meter hump just north-west of the summit – drifts were deep enough that snow swimming became the order of the day for young Trevor as he assumed the trail breaking up the 30-degree slope.  The heavier among us (namely me) quickly confirmed snow depths by sinking in to belt buckle depths from time to time – laughter was faintly heard. From here to the summit was easier by comparison as snow depths on the more exposed faces shallowed considerably improving traction and pace.

With a clear sunny sky, we lingered on the summit for a bite to eat and photos before heading down the more conventional route to Witchcraft.  More laughter was heard as I demonstrated a classic tuck and roll having precisely inserted both feet in one post hole in the snow……nothing hurt but my pride and my glasses. On the way down, I think we were all surprised by the relative shallowness of the snow on the east side of the mountain and by how quickly the snow disappeared from the trail bed.  We were back at the cars by 14:30 having spent a beautiful day in the hills.

Thanks to those that attended for their patience and good humour as route finding led us astray a couple of times and as we waddled our way through more snow than I anticipated.  And a special thanks to Karen for carrying an extra cliff bar and figs somehow knowing that my delicious tuna fish sandwiches were safely ensconced in the fridge at home to be enjoyed another day. All in all, a great day in the hills with a great group of friends.

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