The FLATIRON
Route: Snow-covered trail (snowshoes)

JAN
26
2019

TR #: 335

Category: British Columbia/Alberta       Summit Elev: 1,900 m / 6,227 ft

Partner: Sue Abegg

A snowshoeing paradise on the Coquihalla.

A snowshoeing paradise on the flat summit ridge of The Flatiron.

INTRO

The winter of 2018-9 was turning out to be unusually mild in the Pacific Northwest. I had already managed to squeeze in a couple of days of rock climbing at Mt. Erie, and I was planning to go cragging in Squamish on Sunday. Since my parents live in Chilliwack, BC, this seemed like a good opportunity to do a snowshoe adventure with my mom on the north side of the border on Saturday. Every winter my mom and I try to fit in a few snowshoes together. Fortunately she had Saturday free!

I googled a bit and came across the HopeBC website, which had a list of 5 favorite backcountry snowshoe destinations in the area. One of them was The Flatiron, just off the Coquihalla (HWY 5) across the highway from Yak Peak. This route starts with a steep climb up a well-marked trail through forest (totally snow-covered in the winter of course), then follows an gently-ascending ridge to the saddle between Needle Peak and The Flatiron, and from there turns west and heads along an undulating ridge to the summit of The Flatiron. From the saddle on and especially on the summit plateau of The Flatiron, the ridge opens up to fabulous 360° views of the surrounding peaks. In the summer the ridge is all granite slabs and wildflower meadows, but in the winter it is blanketed in snow. Since the route follows a ridge, it is generally safe from avalanche activity. So my mom and I decided to snowshoe to the top of The Flatiron.

It ended up being a wonderful day in the mountains. The skies were clear and calm, the temperatures were mild, and the snow was a powdery winter wonderland. The initial climb through the forest was so beautiful we hardly noticed it was supposed to be grueling, and the open ridges up high were a snowshoers paradise. The views were spectacular. At the end of the day as we romped back down towards the highway, my mom and I were already eyeing peaks across the valley and planning our next winter snowshoe trip back to the area. Also, perhaps some summer day when I am up visiting my parents, we can go on a hike back up to this area, when the winter wonderland has melted and unveiled a new wonderland of granite slabs, meadows, and alpine lakes. 

The following page gives a short trip report for my mom and my snowshoe up to the top of The Flatiron. 

MAP and STATS



gpx file
GPS track.
(GAIA map screenshot)
GPS track.
(Google Earth screenshot)
GPS track.
(File)

Trip totals (from my GPS track): 14.5 km / 9 mi;  +/- 850 m / 2,800 ft
~6.5 hours (5 hours 15 moving time, 1 hour 15 minutes stopped time)

PHOTOS

We parked on a large snowplowed pullout on the north side of the Coquilhalla (HWY 5), just west of Yak Peak, at Exit 217.
The Flatiron is on the south side of the highway, so we walked through the underpass to get to the trailhead.
The snowbound trailhead. We put snowshoes on even before we reached the trailhead, and left them on all day.
This photo was taken about 5 minutes into the hike. Soon the ski track in the photo veered off right (I think skiers tend to ascend to the right of the summer trail), so we were breaking trail ourselves after that. 
We easily kept to the route up the ridge by following the orange reflectors on the trees.  
A view of Yak Peak towering above the Coquihala on the north side of the highway (I'd climbed the steep south face of Yak Peak in July 2017).
Anderson River Valley peaks to the west (I'd climbed Springbok Arete on Les Cornes a in August 2016).
Beautiful light and shadow as the ridge began to open up about halfway between the highway and the saddle between Needle Peak and The Flatiron.
A rabbit helped us break trail for a section.
The gently-climbing ridge leading to the saddle between Needle Peak and The Flatiron. The winter sun is just cresting the ridge of Needle Peak.
A cool wind-sculpted formation on the ridge.
From up here, we had unobscured views of Yak Peak across the valley.
The view south from the saddle between Needle Peak and The Flatiron.
Heading towards The Flatiron.
Untracked windblown slopes on the ascent of The Flatiron.
In the summer there is a lake below The Flatiron. We decided to do a clockwise loop around this lake, which would bring us right over the summit of The Flatiron. Here my mom is starting the ascent up the rolling ridge on the south side of the basin.
Raised ski tracks. These are formed in areas that experience prolonged period of cold, dry, windy weather, punctuated by people with skis. The skier's weight tamps down the snow until it is much harder than the snow around it. As wind sweeps across the area, it whisks away loose particles of snow, leaving behind the compressed snow of the tracks.
More wind-sculpting.
Corniced ridge of The Flatiron's summit plateau.
A look back at Needle Peak. Needle Peak would make a nice winter climb too. The final summit area involves some scrambling, which turns a bit more serious when there's snow, so it wasn't the best choice for a snowshoe with my mom.
The flat summit plateau of The Flatiron.
A chasm along the way.
My mom enjoying the spectacular high plateau, with 360° views of the surrounding peaks.
There is a communication tower on the top of The Flatiron.
My mom enjoying her summit coffee. 
A view to the south, towards the more rugged and familiar (to me) North Cascades.
The corniced summit plateau of The Flatiron, taken as we began our descent down the ridge to the north of the lake basin.
We had seen no one else on The Flatiron, but when we got back to the saddle between Needle Peak and The Flatiron, we saw the tracks of at least one other snowshoer, a pair of skiers, and another rabbit. 
A view of Needle Peak during the descent.
What a beautiful spot. We were eyeing the peaks across the way for future snowshoeing adventures....
(We came back two more weekends that winter to snowshoe first Zoa Peak and then Zupjok to Llama, both across the way from The Flatiron. On both trips, my dad joined us as well, having seen our photos from The Flatiron and not wanting to miss out on the glorious views.)