Goodbye smoke, hello rain.
After many gruelling days of inhaling smoke we will hopefully have some reprieve with the change in weather pattern this weekend. The air quality should improve somewhat as rain showers move onshore and mixes the atmosphere up a bit. Alas, the showers will also inhibit much of our rock climbing endeavours throughout the weekend. We may even see a dusting of snow at the highest elevations, with freezing levels around 2500m on Sunday. Overall it seems the air quality will be better along the Coast than in the Interior and hopefully the worst of it all is behind us now.
While glaciers are nearly at their driest so far this summer, generally speaking the levels of navigational complexity are still pretty low. In many places, crevasses and moats are looking more like mid-August than mid-September which continues to permit relatively easy and stress-free travel. However, we are still having to employ some more advanced techniques when transitioning from glacier to rock, often having to belay through these features and, in some cases, even rappel into overhanging moats where down climbing isn’t an option. As the ice continues to recede in this dry and smoky weather, newly melted out rocks overhead or underfoot remain a hazard.
With an increase in new mountain users this summer, there is also an increased hazard of having less-experienced climbers, or simply just more people in general, sharing the terrain. It’s a good time to have backup plans that won’t break your heart, making it an easy decision to not climb underneath or nearby other parties. If you don’t mind a little rain, hiking gentle terrain in less frequented areas is perhaps the best way to enjoy the mountains this weekend. And, perhaps, if the air quality does improve enough, going for a run in the alpine or getting on the mountain bike might be a good way to stretch the lungs and legs. In my experience this last week, the air quality has been better in the alpine than in the valleys but we have been hiking slow, checking in with each other often, changing our objectives when the AQHI was too high and generally just ratcheting our commitment levels back down.
And remember to consider the BC AdventureSmart app on your phone for having some contingencies in place should things not go as planned.
Looking forward to a smoke-reduced and showery weekend. And lotsa coffee!
Andrew Councell, IFMGA Mountain Guide