The Choirboy Circuit

 During our 10.5 hour baggage expedition yesterday, David Crerar, Simon Cowell and I had lots of time to ponder things. The route we had chosen was new to the Bagger Challenge. "What will we call it?" I asked, assuming that, if we were successful, this route would become a classic. 
Many names were put forward for the loop that starts at the Mount Seymour parking lot and includes: Mount Seymour, Runner Peak, Mount Elsay, Rector Peak, Curate Peak and Vicar Peak a descent to Elsay Lake and a return to the car via the Elsay Lake trail. Since the "Seymour Sweep" had been used to describe the bagging of all 11 peaks in the Fannin Range, that name was out. Given that the majority of the peaks on our route involved a religious theme, any name for the route had to make reference to this. We didn't arrive at a conclusion yesterday, but since a particular peak shot Crerar emailed to those who were working in the city below has attracted many comments, I propose we call it the Choirboy Circuit.
Friday 1 October 2010. It's dark out when Simon picks me up around 6:15.  It was a crappy September capped by a cold and wet adventure 6 short days ago, but the weather Gods were smiling today: cloudless skies and hot. Our overreaching goal was not only to score 6 peaks, but to document a new route and get home before dark.  Beer bets were placed as we made our way up to Mount Seymour. Optimistic: 10 hours. Realistic: 11 hours. Pessimistic (me!): 12+ hours.

Here's an outline of our adventure:
  • it's dark and there are no cars in the lot when we arrive at the parking lot at Mount Seymour around 6:45. The lights of the city twinkle below us. There's a purple glow from the rising sun on the eastern horizon that silhouettes what looks like a million peaks
  • off and running at exactly 07:00 by my watch. The sun rises during the hour it takes us to get to the peak of Mount Seymour. What a day! We take a few photos and send them to our pals who are commuting to work
  • we drop off the popular weekend hiking route into the jungle. The route to Runner Peak does not allow a lot of running. Down, down, down to a snowfield then up the slippery frozen waves of ice to a field of sharp boulders and into the sun for a bit of scrambling up a rock face. It's just after 8:00 when we place our rocks on the cairn and enter our summit photos as official baggage claims.
  • back down the rock face, back over the loose rock field, back over the ice and back to the trail. We pause for a snack. A pika throws a pine cone at me.
  • the trail is in better shape than I recall from a year ago. We avoid a couple of traps that cost us time in the past, most notably the big root (go down and around it rather than through it) and the small skree slope (head up it rather than across it as the trail continues from the top left corner.) Back into the sun as we close in on the peak of Mount Elsay. It's now closing in on 10:00 as we pause to take photos and remind our friends that we are currently on top of the world and they are most likely in an office wishing they were here with us.
  • back down the open area, back down the peak trail to the main trail. Very vigilant of the intersection 'cause it's easy to miss the turnoff. Let the bushwhacking begin!
  • the next 3 peaks (Rector, Curate and Vicar) generally follow a ridge-line. The trail is sketchy to non-existent, but it's hard to go too far wrong.  Our shins take a beating. At least Crerar and I have scabs from last weekend to protect us!
  • it's 12:15 when we bag the last of our peaks for this day. We pause to eat beef, either big slabs from a roast, teriyaki jerky, dried farmer sausage or biltong-like chunks. Crerar proposes a toast. We celebrate our 6-bagger with a wee dram, take a few silly photos in priestly garb and soak in the magnificent views.
  • the trail from Vicar to Vicar Lakes is sketchy. Our shins take a hit. At the lake, we find 2 marked routes. We take the one to runner's right marked with new "North Shore Rescue" tape. Good call, as it takes us around the lake and to a saddle that drops down to Elsay Lake. Not much of a trail at all, but the route is well marked and pretty as a peach
  • Crerar goes over on his ankle and lets out a holler. Déjà vu. Neil did same about 500m directly above our current location 6 days ago. Dark talk on the trail about when it would be best to put a bagging buddy out of their mystery with a rock. Thankfully it doesn't come to that as Crerar again takes up the lead, albeit with a bit of a limp
  • 3:00-ish. Arrive at Elsay Lake for the first time in my life. Ponder going for a swim. Work our way around the lake to the emergency shelter and check it out. Not much insulation and no stove to warm things up inside, but definitely a place that could make a rainy night a heck of a lot more comfortable.
  • there's a chorus of "Trail run!" and we open it up on a beautiful stretch of runnable trail next to the creek. Crerar does a lateral drift on a muddy corner and goes down into the goo. Nothing broken.  "Who will slip on the rocks and go swimming at the creek crossing?" I think as I pick my way over first and set up the photo shot. No money shot.
  • long slog up a creek bed. More trail run. We enter a huge bowl in the shadow of Runner and Seymour peaks with intermittent rocky and runnable sections then a brutal grind up, up, up. It's 5:15 or so when we reach the main trail. A hoot goes out, followed by "Trail run!" and we skoot back to the car. It's 5:35... a tie between the 10-hour optimist and the 11-hour realist, so we split a beer.
  • Crerar makes it home in time for a family dinner. Brownie points! I've missed eating en famille, but my dinner's not as cold as it usually is. Simon?
  • as the crow flies, we figure this route is about 25K.  To use an expression of Crerar's, the thing "accordions-out", so actual distance, assuming you don't get too lost, may be almost twice that. Not something you want to bite off on a whim. The slog out of Elsay Lake at the end took the stuffing out of us.  Simon and I spoke of home renovations.
  • something to do at least once before you die... especially on a day as nice as ours. I can see this as being an annual ritual. Note to self: next time bring pruning scissors and flagging tape and duct-tape the shins.

Enjoy the slideshow: