Inspired by the recent Mt Karl Heller east ridge in winter trip report, Damien Kelly and myself decided to come to grips with the locally infamous Vulcans Thumb, last unclimbed summit remaining in southwest BC (or so they say). Over the years the full spectrum of the local alpinist diaspora has hurled themselves at this beast, like austrians at the Eiger or lemmings off a cliff. Well actually 99.9% usually took one look from afar and immediately thought of better things they should be doing, wisely i might add. I myself had 30 years previous embarked on such a noble quest under the tutelage of such alpine luminaries as Bob Milward (first winter sideways ascent of Ben Nevis) Peter Shackleton (voted best Marty Feldman impersonation 4 years in a row) and Greg "Bricks" Shannan (First levi denim ascent of the Cassin Ridge).
Back then, The thumb was a remote and austere mystery. It took us 2 days just to get a distant look at it before blisters, bong hits and frozen jeans forced a retreat.
These days no such mystery remains. In fact our approach involved no more than a 1/2 hr screaming rip on 900 cc sleds up a groomed double wide sled road right to the base - and we weren't alone. In fact the whole area was buzzing with mechanical hornets and smelling like a fuel farm. Threading the gauntlet of stray kids, ausies and camera tripods we presevered to the ridge crest for our first view of the beast.
Not ones to defy tradition we took one look and decided there were other fish to fry (so to speak - not literally, even if it did look like a fish). Fortunately there was a good plan B handy - Mt Cayley. The drive to within spitting distance of the summit and its ski slope incline was deemed more suitable to our delicate palate - nor was it fishy. We left our vehicles with the courtesy valet service and skinned up to the crux headwall, stepping carefully over various photo shoots and sled repairs along the way.
Being modern alpinists we elected to leave all essential items behind like the rope. But being from squamish we took the beer. This proved fortuitous as it provided both "bottled courage" as it were, as well as the old "empty plant" which proved critical in overcoming the one technical impediment standing in our way - a rock. This pitch we rated M1 and we are sure that it is a new variation.
Above this Damien demonstrated his prowess at the balling crampon technique. another beer was in order here to overcome his internal dilemma and there was still some left by the time we summited
Unfortunately we confronted this, the other last remaining unclimbed summit in southwest BC
We, no doubt like all others before us, chose to ignore this feature as"not really part of the mountain" (there has been much precedent established on this point) as what looks like rock really has all the consistency of air, thus must be a hallucination. Other hallucinations upon the summit consisted of an old wrecked sled, an abandoned kicker, and much feces and broken bottles. We finished our drinks and returned to our skis.
The current cultural state of affairs on the mountain can best be described in the following photo. On the left is the landing zone of an ubiquitous snowboard kicker, the tell tale sign of another boring photo shoot. In the center is the path of a high marking sledder. On the right are tracks left by the rarely seen "old school". Note the closely linked turns.
After bidding adieu to our valet we returned to the valley and by 2 in the afternoon we were back where we should have been in the first place - the Smoke Bluffs.
The Vulcan's Thumb remains inviolate. No doubt another generation will rise to the challenge. We Canadians have a long tradition of offering up our prized routes, summits, natural resources and women to foreign raiding parties and perhaps this would interest some of the "young international tigers" . Although not quite Sierra granite, the rock provides an interesting texture if molded and packed down with enough moisture. Local wisdom suggest a good solid freeze to further augment this desired texture and ensure a reasonably stable upright position. A good rack of 6 to 10 inch spikes (galvanized and spiral) has been used to good effect here. If anyone knows Mick Fowler, I'm sure this would interest his refined sensabilities.