Ascent of Ossa Mountain on 2020-07-04

Climber: Seán Caulfield

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, July 4, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Ossa Mountain
    Location:Canada-British Columbia
    Elevation:7418 ft / 2261 m

Ascent Trip Report

Ossa Mountain in a day car-to-car.

Car camped at the trailhead on Ashlu FSR, I arrived just after 10pm and was amazed to find around 100 cars from campers along the side of the road between the bridge and trailhead. Trailhead is easily reachable with any almost any vehicle, the road was potholed but those with smaller cars would just need to go slower.

Woke up at 6:30am and was on the trail by 6:40am after a quick breakfast of fruit. The first 800m were on an old logging road up to a sign board, from where the Sigurd Trail starts. The trail then followed a long-deactivated logging road for another few hundred metres before turning right up into the forest. After passing a huge moss-covered boulder and some massive old growth trees I reached the turnoff for Crooked Falls, a 300m detour.

There was clear signage at this junction, and again in another short while when the "Rose Trail" for Sigurd split to the right, with the Sigurd Trail clearly marked "to Ossa and Pelion". There was also frequent markers on trees and flagging in the bushier sections, overall the trail was very easy to follow.

After gaining about 900m over the first 7km the trail levelled off for a section (approx. 1km) and even descended slightly, eventually reaching Sigurd Creek at the site of an old washed out footbridge. The creek was easily forded 20m upstream, the water level was "gaiter high" on the way up and similar on the way down. Taking sandals for this crossing would have been a good idea, I chose to not take off my boots (it was only 5-6 steps in the creek) but my feet were then wet for the rest of the day.

After another short climb (some fallen trees in this section) the trail levelled off again for a time before ascending up to the moraine, where there was a group of tents. The glacier was just below the level of clouds and made for a great backdrop to the campsite. Here the route to Pelion continues to the left up a ridge, I headed right across the slide path / boulder field crossing a shallow stream. There were just enough markers to mark the most efficient way across this section and soon I was on snow (elevation 1,200m approx.).

Here I briefly lost the trail but this didn't really matter as everything was snow-covered and I made my way up to the trio of lakes, and beyond into the alpine. After crossing a small stream I caught up to and passed a group of 6 who were moving slowly, it was somewhere here I decided to put on my microspikes to give me more traction in the snow.

Microspikes were the right choice for me rather than full-on crampons as the other group had been wearing, the slopes were not steep or icy enough to warrant crampons in my opinion and microspikes are lighter and better on rock - I tried to follow whatever rocky bands I could as this was more efficient than walking up the snow.

After a never ending slog up the snow I eventually came to a point where a rocky ridge led upwards, unfortunately visibilty was not great now as the clouds had rolled in. I packed away the mcirospikes and hard some minor scrambling to do on the ridge before finally reaching the "business" part of the climb. I misinterpreted Matt Gunn's directions and after a short hop down a rock I traversed right to what looked like a "grassy ramp" past a small tower (this "tower" was like a finger with a smaller rock jammed between it and the rest of the mountain, making a small "window").

Instead of traversing right here I should have headed straight up, this led to a few minorly sketchy moves on wet grass and rock to get back on route before reaching the corner downclimb Matt Gunn describes, and the start of the crux scramble. The corner downclimb wasn't too bad, lots of holds, and after skirting around the gully I was on the "grassy ramp".

Here there were some exposed traversing moves, but all were on good holds. There was a short steep step or two on good rock up to an improvised rappel station (old 120cm nylon sling with a 'biner around a rock). From here it was an easy enough scramble the short distance to the summit, although this was made slightlier trickier by the fact that much of the rock was wet from melting snow - the top few hundred metres had received a dusting the day before.

I reached the summit 7hrs 15mins after leaving my car, longer than expected as I was slowed down by more snow than expected and having to take extra caution on the scramble due to fresh snow / wet rock and grass. The summit was unfortunately socked in with cloud but at least it was calm and the temperature was pleasant, I ate lunch and read some of the entries in the improvised summit register (bring your own pen and paper - the "register" is a small soda bottle).

After around 15-20 minutes on top (great cell service, texted my girlfriend, called my Mom, checked weather etc.!) I started the descent. Initially I took a wrong turn at a cairn and follwed footprints down the wrong gully before backtracking and retracing my ascent route. NAvigation was difficult in the near-whiteout. After finding the rappel station I briefly wished I had hauled up a rope & harness (I bet a 30m rope would be long enough), the crux of the day for me was the very short downclimb (1-2 vertical steps) just below the rappel station - but even this wasn't bad at all, especially when I found a hidden foothold a couple feet above the bottom ledge.

The traverse back to the corner felt much easier on the way back and I quickly scrambled up the corner. After a few more minutes headed down the ridge I caught up to the group of 6 from earlier - they had gotten as far as the downclimbing corner but decided to turn back. I briefly chatted to them (they were moving in pairs of two), then contiued ahead. I was able to do some long glissades, the ice axe was very useful as a braking device. I was now below the cloud level and got partial views of lakes and other peaks - these were the best views I got all day.

The rest of my descent was relatively uneventful, I chatted with some new campers at the moraine camp and gave them some beta on Ossa, and met another group at the Sigurd Creek crossing who were confused where to go with the bridge being out. After passing the turn off for Crooked Falls I was slowed down by idiots hiking the steep and muddy trail in Converse or other street shoes on a couple of occasions but eventually managed to pass.

I was tired and hungry by the time I reached my car, 12hrs 40mins after setting out. Glad to have done my first summit in the Tantalus, although it was a pity I had no view from the top. I can definitely see why most people choose to do this hike as an overnighter, the moraine or Trio of Lakes would both make great camps, but fast-and-light in a day is also another good option, especially had I given the snow another month or two to melt and picked a day when the forecast was clear.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8070 ft / 2458 m
    Extra Gain:423 ft / 128 m
    Round-Trip Distance:17.6 mi / 28.4 km
    Route:Sigurd Trail to West Ridge
    Trailhead:Ashlu FSR  194 ft / 59 m
    Grade/Class:Class 4
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Stream Ford, Mud/Swamp, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Low Clouds
Low clouds, whiteout on summit
Ascent Statistics
    Time:7 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 45 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Seán Caulfield
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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