Golden Ears-Blanshard Needle Traverse
A strenuous scramble/bushwack with some good exposure.
||25.0 km (return)
||Loop - Complete
Starting on Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge, turn north on 232 Street and follow it for 2.3 kilometers. Immediately after passing alongside Maple Ridge Park, turn right on Fern Crescent. Continue another 3.5 km to the Golden Ears Provincial Park gate.
Drive 11 km from the park entrance, passing the turnoff for the campsite. Shortly after the road changes to gravel, turn left into the West Canyon parking lot.
A parking pass is required for the area - either an annual BC Parks pass or a $3 daily permit.
This is an extremely ambitious day trip which requires a high level of fitness, experience and comfort with route finding, exposure and technical travel. A good option would be to plan to bivy and take two days.
Starting at the West Canyon trailhead follow the well marked, well traveled trail to the Golden Ears summit. At some point on this route you will encounter snow, with the final push to the summit being a steep permanent snowfield. Proper equipment and training is strongly recommended. Once at the hut a small terminating sub-ridge extending east off the summit of Golden Ears is visible. Climb the snowfield aiming for a wide notch/saddle between the most eastward "lump" of the ridge and the summit, here you will find a trail which follows the crest of the ridge to the summit of the east ear. If you reach the summit before noon you can consider tackling the traverse, if you have summited later than 1200 and attempt the traverse you may end up being locked in the park overnight.
From the Golden Ears summit descend back to the notch/saddle and pick up the ridge which extends roughly North-South between Golden Ears, Edge and Blanshard. Take the crest of the ridge which involves scrambling, exposure and bushwacking (often simultaneously) until you reach a 15 meter vertical wall close to Edge Peak. Here a steep gully forms to the left (east) of the wall approximately 10 meters below the ridge crest. Make your way down to the top of the gully which begins abruptly as a narrow chimney. From here an awkward step across the top of the chimney to a small (1' X 4') ledge brings you to an 8' vertical section, often described as the crux of the scramble. This short wall, which has good holds but also has serious consequences, leads up to a sloped ledge where a vague trail can be picked up. From this point head around to the northwest aspect and scramble to the summit of Edge. If you find yourself on exposed rock requiring technical climbing you have missed an easier route.
From the summit of Edge head south towards Blanshard and pick up the deeply serrated ridge. There is no trail to speak of from Edge to Blanshard and the route is challenging to say the least, again owing to exposure and difficult bushwacking. Having 50 M rope and harnesses to rappel a few sections is recommended. Along the ridge are a series of smaller peaks which are best negotiated by staying on the west side close to the crest. The one particular exception is when you encounter a rock wall which would need to be lead climbed to get out of a notch between the second and third ridge peaks past Edge. At this point a steep gully forms to the west which is approximately 50 meters down to a large snowfield on the west flank of the ridge. Here a rap station is set up in the form of a sling around a tree with another half way down. Rappel down to the snowfield and skirt the sub-peak to an obvious shoulder to the south which will get you back on to the crest of the ridge. Once the ridge has been regained carry on trending down toward the last and most impressive tooth between Edge and Blanshard. From a distance the route up this small sharp peak is not obvious but has a beautiful almost perfectly flat section of ridge leading up to its north face. Take this walkway directly to the face and find, quite literally, a goat trail up the only treed route along an otherwise vertical face. Once you have gained more level ground contour around the tooth on the west and drop down slightly to the last saddle before Blanshard.
By this point you will be tired and tattered from all the battling through scrubby little trees, but it's not over yet. The last push from the ridge up to the Blanshard summit, though rarely exposed, does require some scrambling. More worthy of mention is the steep bushwacking, sometimes requiring belly sliding. Pick your way up the northwest face by using a series of short chutes and steps which are generally covered with vegetation to the summit.
To descend Blanshard head south and downclimb/rappel to the ridge to Alouette Mtn. Pay attention to following the poor trail as heading too far east or west on your descent will bring you above some very large cliffs. At least two rappel stations are set along the way and will make the descent much more pleasant. Once on the ridge, stay just west of the crest and pick up the trail to Alouette Mtn. The quickest route down, and likely only way to finish the loop in a day, is via the gully to Evans Creek. This is the steep chute between Blanshard and Alouette. This gully is best attempted before July when it still has snow to the bottom. Without snow it is treacherous and unpleasant as it is steep and subject to severe erosion and landslides. Once in the valley roughly follow the drainage down scree to a creek bed which is often dry. Another significant drainage in the valley comes off of Edge Peak and "Y's" into this creek just where the valley becomes more heavily forested. At the point of this junction a trail begins in the forest to the right (south) of the creek and heads east back to the West Canyon Trail. Once back on the WCT it is a 20-30 minute walk back to the parking lot, with a little luck it won't yet be 2300 hrs when the gates are closed.
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