Pemberton 2011: Volunteers, THANK YOU!

Over the past month or so, I shared many pictures from my trip back to Pemberton. The hope was to convey the beauty of both peaks, Cassioppe and Saxifrage, as well as to help friends and family understand the type of area that need to be searched for Jon and Rachael. But in reality, this whole search effort and trip on the mountain wouldn’t have happened without the help and support of countless volunteers. This trip, and the whole experience, made us realize how lucky we are to be surrounded by the most amazing people. We have the privilege to know so many people that offered their help and their support to us without asking anything in return. We are blessed with amazingly generous and selfless friends and families. It was showed by the sheer amount of people donating to our cause and by the number of people volunteering to come and help for the searches of August 2011. Obviously, a simple “thank you” is not enough, but this is where it starts for me. While on the mountain, I made an effort to take a portrait of everybody that was involved — I did miss a few. I’m sorry. So, to those who helped, THANK YOU.

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Pemberton 2011: Day 4, Saxifrage’s North col

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Our fourth, and last, expedition took us to the North side of Saxifrage, much closer to the peak, but not quite at the peak. Seeing as this was our last day hike on the mountain, we really wanted to have a chance to take a look at the other side of Saxifrage, the side where we can see the White Lakes. That view gave us another idea of the mountain ranges behind there and gave us a new viewpoint of the uncovered areas in the mountain range. We took a long route (sorry no map), contouring the peak on the west side, through the forest, and then going up a huge bowl behind the peak. In the picture below, you can see the bowl where we walked up, towards the col on the left. The right side is the ridge we walked on our way out towards lake Valentine and camp.

On our way to the bowl, we had the chance to see a few very cool mountain ranges on the horizon, through the trees. Walking through the woods is not always fun, but the views that you get every now and then are magnificent (see below). I loved walking around there , except for the abundance of mosquitoes!

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Pemberton 2011: Day 3, Saxifrage and Cassioppe’s col

After spending a day and a half off the mountain, we all returned for another few days of camping and hiking around Lake Valentine. Luckily for us, we managed to skip two days of harsh rainy conditions. Yep, basically everything we had left up at camp was soaked! Coming by helicopter early in the morning was super cool though because we had to fly very low, under the clouds – a beautiful scene to observe from the helicopter (see below).

Before I continue with the story and pictures of our third expedition, I recommend you read a few of the related articles I’ve posted over the past few weeks, if you haven’t already:

View of the clouds in the lake Valentine area from helicopter.

So, our third expedition took us to an even better place than the first two. As the map above and the image below show, we walked all the way up to the col between the two peaks. It’s easy to see the area from the Lake Valentine pictures, which show the two peaks. It doesn’t look very far in the photos, but as we learned during this trip, mountain walks are always longer than they look. It took us about 3.5 hours to get to the col, but it gave us the opportunity to see the huge cliffs that are hiding behind Cassioppe Peak. We also saw the whole valley behind the col, which is one of the possible exits off this mountain ( though a somewhat hard one due to some swampy areas). We also saw (partially) the glaciers behind Saxifrage, which is another potential route people take on this mountain (en route to Cirque Pique).

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Pemberton 2011: Day 2, Cassioppe Ridge

On our second day on the mountain, we went for a walk around the Cassioppe Ridge, which is south of Lake Valentine and separates Valentine Lake from two smaller lakes on the other side of the ridge. For those who don’t know, Valentine Lake is where we had set-up camp (see image on the left where the red line “starts”). It’s an easy landmark to recognize… (see image below, you can also spot some of the tents on the North side of the lake). In any case, this walk was much better because it offered some breathtaking vistas and also gave us a chance to see the meadows from above very well.

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Pemberton 2011: Day 1, Bushwhacking near Peq Creek

First of all, thank you for those of you who read (and shared) my previous post on the volunteer search efforts that took place this past August (if you haven’t, feel free to read it now!). Obviously, the searches and the interest around our story is very important to us, as it helps us live through this hard experience and, hopefully, helps us find them, to bring some peace to both our families. My family and I were part of the group of people who stayed on the mountain for a few days in August, organizing searches, and hoping for some positive results. These photos were intended to capture some of the beauty of the place and also to help people understand the difficulty and vastness of the terrain.

Before I write about our trip, though, I wanted to point out that Alison Taylor of the Whistler Pique magazine wrote an amazing article, entitled Missing in the backcountry, which gives an excellent overview of the events around Jon and Rachael’s disappearance and explains (in more detail than most media coverage) the efforts made to find them (this year and last). I highly recommend you read it if you want to better understand the intensity of the searches.

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