Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Buller Pass/Ribbon Lake

elevation gain 3000ft roundtrip 20km
Trip dates: Oct 2(snowline@ pass) and Oct 13/14(snowline @ hi-way)

I first hiked up to this pass in the first week of October to recon it for a longer backpack trip later that month. The trip begins like so many others at the shore of Spray Lake and climbs up between Mt Buller and Mt Engandine. You are quickly launched into the alpine zone and at this time of year, treated to a buffet of golden larches.

a river of larches draw you up to the valley

Looking back down the valley through the apocalyptic scenery. The bowl here is massive , creating a disorienting visual field. As I plodded through here, point release avalanches were shedding rocks so vigorously that it sounded like a bowling alley with a constant overlapping echoing of tumbling rock. Yet with all this activity, the walls were so deceivingly far that I couldn't see any falling rock.

click on this picture for a better sense of scale


Two weeks and much snowfall later, my friend Jim and I climbed up Buller and down into the Ribbon Lake valley system. I was quite glad I poked around this valley before the snow fell so I had a bit of a clue of the topography. It was amazing to see how a blanket of snow changes the mood of the mountains. Certainly the day I first went it was a cold fall day but with a couple feet of snow and without the comfort of seeing scrubby grass or other signs of life, this landscape went from austere to misanthropic. When the sun is shining and you're standing at the top, its easy to enjoy the surroundings. But when the clouds roll in and the snow begins to blow, one can easily anthropomorphize the weather's intentions.

This is a great day trip to the pass and back but camping on the other side opens up routes to hike out Ribbon valley or Guin pass back to hiway 40 for a great multiday hike.