Black Tusk (with a bit of White Out)

~ submitted by Bil Derby

September 14-15, 2018

With trip planning spanning several months, complete with no shortage of shenanigans with the BC Parks reservation system, and the usual last-minute evolution of attendees, the trip date arrived. As an added bonus feature, we had an up to date weather forecast that suggested a “wee bit” of rain and some snow accumulations below the summit elevation, which cast some doubt on the potential for a summit as well as on the state of mind of those hardy hikers who stuck to the plan.

As we made introductions on the ferry Friday morning we also discussed the expected trail conditions, and I shared the Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C should the snow come to fruition.

Off the ferry and on to the trail head where the congestion was not as expected and, thankfully, the great gaggle of high school students was departing not arriving.  We were soon underway up the trail to Taylor Meadows, arriving 15:15hrs to set camp in rain and ……. hail.  The group split up a bit and a couple of folks ventured off to visit Garibaldi Lake while the balance lingered about camp snacking and sharing stories of other adventures, some undoubtedly even true, and postulating on the weather. We interviewed two young fellows who had summited and they assured us that their time on the summit was without a view and only light snow showers – surely it wouldn’t stick they said.

Saturday, we awoke to a lower than expected snowline and we left camp in drizzle and worked our way up through very pretty sub alpine meadows to the “outhouse junction” before soon turning uphill onto the slightly more rustic trail towards the Black Tusk.  Snow started in earnest at 1750m and, by the time we arrived at the end of the maintained trail, it was accumulating on the ground nicely to depths up to 4 or 5 inches. At this point, it was agreed that the summit was a no-go but the ridge route out to the Helm Valley remained an option so we continued upwards to the ridge crest. Visibility was “variable” as we continued to ascend – at times losing the skyline as cloud and snow become one backdrop.

After some slipping and sliding we arrived at the ridge crest below the face where my quick solo recce out onto the ridge that leads back down to Helm Creek confirmed the route unsuitable for the group given the low visibility, snow conditions, and exposure. A few quick photos and we retraced our route back to camp.

Our decent introduced us to the folly that comes with a large urban population so near to the mountains – a steady stream of woefully unprepared hikers (think yoga pants, tee shirts, running shoes with little teeny packs) heading purposefully to “tag the summit”.  We talked with a few groups who, against the obvious indicators, remained committed to ascending.

Snow switched to rain and we arrived to a sodden campsite for hot lunches in the lovely enclosed shelters.  One by one folks headed to their tents to rewarm and talk soon shifted to “let’s get out of Dodge”.  With agreement all around we hastily packed camp, beelined for the vehicles, and made the 20:00h ferry home, a day early.

All in all, a good adventure in the hills and, for a couple of folks, their most challenging day afield to date. For me personally, the camaraderie of the group and their willingness to be in less than ideal conditions meant for a rewarding day.

The trip is a worthwhile repeat for next fall.

Trip Data:
7.5 km one way from trail head to Taylor Meadows campground with 800 m +/- of elevation gain
5 km from Taylor Meadows Campground to our turn around point and back with 660 m of +/- elev gain
Total trip distance = 25km
Total elev gain = 1,400 m +/-

Photos courtesy of: Bil D, Kristy D, Phil D, Sue C, Ted C, Julianna W, Mike H, Bryan S, and Carmen Z

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