Mount Moresby : Early Season Conditions

Well it’s that time of the year again. The colours change from green to more green and the leaves slowly paint the skyline in hues of orange and yellow. For backcountry skiers and split boarders this is the time of the season to get excited and up to date with your mountain. At this point keeping track of the mountain environment and freezing levels is paramount. Having the ability to make better decisions in the backcountry can easily be the difference between life and death. Having noticed the freezing level dropping and the precipitation rising, I decided to get up close and personal with Mount Moresby for the first time this season, without a board.


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Oct 24 2015

The sun makes its move onto the horizon over the gentle rise of Moresby Camp. This is the estuary that rests at the base of the Pallant Creek system that drains from Moresby Mountain. Here the seals feast on Salmon all day during the run, catching them off guard in the non-tidal waters of the creek. I have only about 2km more of driving before the trailhead.


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It began around 5 degrees celsius. Cold, but not cold enough. The road was littered in dead fall. Next time I absolutely need to bring a chain saw.  Driving over second growth trees cannot be good for your vehicle. The beginning of the trail follows an old logging road littered in small alders. Essentially the route at this point is following the Pallant creek system along the side which means there are plenty of small creek crossings and a couple major ones.


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This part is basically trekking and navigating along the Pallant. Nonetheless it is hauntingly deceitful. I placed a ton of yellow tape to manage the line of sight. Most of the flagging tape left out years ago is now on the forest floor.


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The creek crossings begin to all look the same. An easy mistake to make is to underestimate the mystery of the rainforest.


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After the crossing above you enter the deep dark canopy of the forest. It’s seriously awesome in here. There is no forest floor, just layers and layers of moss and nursing logs.


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From here the idea is to connect back onto an old logging road and get to the falling boundary. Once you have reached the falling boundary there is another creek crossing which leads to the approach of the mountain.


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Now this is where things get heavy. If you are not into climbing a dripping rainforest followed by a classic rocky summit, then this is where you should turn around. Your current elevation is 71m. In the next 1.63 Km you will gain 900m elevation. This is a serious section which is not only as steep as humanly possible but is also a graveyard of deadfall. There is climbing, crawling, sliding and serious upper body strength involved in moving through the treeline to the alpine.


This is the part I LOVE. It reminds me of some of my favourite mountains. No switchbacks or relief, just a hard slog to the top. For the most part you will not be able to tell where the trail is. Stay on the flags and if you don’t see one go back to where you were. At the climax of the climb there is a double rope section up a rocky headland covered in slimy moss and dripping dew. This is roughly the 500m zone and the temperature is cooler and the ground is wetter.


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After the two rope sections the trail continues straight up with a promising view point.


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The terrain in the high alpine is unforgiving and has a lot of exposure. I found the summit and ascent  to be very pleasant. There are some good hard big rocks but a lot of scree. In these wet conditions when you are approaching the freezing level you should never underestimate the mountain in any way. Take it slowly and always have a back up plan or anchor for your next footing.


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Now comes the rise to the false summit on the north face. There is a lot of exposure with luscious hues of green and heather above the treeline.


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The fog and mist rolled over the mountain giving me almost zero visibility. There seemed to be a lot of promising terrain on the south face of the mountain. Softer features reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands.


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I managed a few shots before the fog fully enveloped the summit. I had no intention of staying up here for pleasure as I was terrified about getting back down in the cold. It’s so much easier when you just ride down. I inched my way down the summit and over the dead fall with absolute regret for not bringing crampons. I will never make that mistake again. The fog had turned into a misty rainfall and the temperature was just right for any kind of mistake to happen, especially when you cannot see your footing. The forest floor is alive, thick and moving at all times. It drips and drains constantly down to the Pallant which is the home and spawning ground for millions of salmon.


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The hardest part of this mountain is navigating the route and going down. Losing your footing through the moss into a fallen tree while climbing straight down isn’t an option yet odds are it is going to happen a few times. I will be back with crampons, stiffer boots and my new board. My next pre-season adventure is to make a trail out of the south aspect that joins the existing trail. Then I can go up the dead fall and ride down to the lake and waterfall.


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