Williams Peak

Date: Aug 1, 2022

Participants: Nancy Zenger, Jeff Wallace, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3 (very steep heather, some rock scrambling)

Report: Not to be confused with the Williams Peak above Bralorne that I climbed a decade ago, we decided to make the best of a hot long weekend day to make our way to the prominent Williams Peak in the Chilliwack Valley. It’s summit pyramid is unmissable as you drive towards Chilliwack Lake but somehow I’d never managed to make an attempt on it now, probably due to the massive elevation gain serving as a ready deterrent. Nonetheless…

We set out from our car shortly before 10 and slogged our way up the steep trail and through the heat up to the ridge, which we reached in about 1:45. The heat made it feel slow, but someone had done some very recent trailwork and the trail is in excellent condition up to the ridge. Luckily the heat stayed down in the valley and we experienced much more reasonable temperatures higher up, though with the tradeoff. that there were a lot of bugs about in the forest.

The trail along the ridge hadn’t seen recent work and was somewhat bushy in places, though never bad, and we quickly made our way up to the viewpoint at the end of the ridge, reaching it in just over an hour. Here we had lunch and decided on our route down and across the bowl towards the summit pyramid.

We began our descent into the bowl at 1:15, going straight down the obvious gully down to where there was a fairly obvious ledge heading to the left. From here we contoured across the bowl, following occasional flagging, and despite reports that it was an endless boulder-fest, actually found that the boulders weren’t bad at all and were able to do much of the traverse and ascent through the little heather and shrub forests that adorn the bowl.

At the far end of the bowl is a nasty loose rock and boulder filled gully that Gunn calls a ramp. It is very loose with few solid holds, and at one point we reached a short section with almost nothing to hang on to and where everything was moving under us. Jeff made his way through it, but Nancy and I were sketched out and after losing a lot of time to indecision, I eventually elected to not proceed and rather to descent.

I started back down the ramp, and about 30 seconds into my descent decided that I should check out the heather slopes to climber’s left of the ramp. Sure enough, they are easy to walk up to the top and then traverse over to the top of the ramp. Approximately 3 minutes after giving up on the ramp and starting my descent I found myself safely on top of the ramp looking down on the others.

Long story short, don’t bother with the loose gully / ramp. Go up the heather to its left and skip the whole excitement.

On top of the ramp at about 2:45 we stopped for a quick snack then worked our way around to the south of the pyramid where there is an obvious massive heather gully that leads right to the summit. The gully has no technical difficulty and only needs hands in a few short sections, but man is it steep. There are steps in the dirt in the most part from people who came before, and so it is no problem for the sure footed, but I know many people who would have zero interest or desire to make their way up and down the gully due to the steepness. That said, it is direct, and we were on the beautiful summit at 3:25pm. Perfect temperature and clear views all around!

We began our descent a few minutes before 4pm, were down below the ramp at 4:35, across the bowl and back at the ridge viewpoint at 5:10, at the junction of the ridge trail where the real descent begins at about 6:15, and down at the car at about 7:50 with no damage done except for a badly blistered toe from the descent.

Total elevation gain was somewhere between 1,700m and 2,000m depending on whose trackers we trust, 17.8km and a total round trip time (including breaks) of nearly 10 hours. A big day, but big views! Thank you for the adventure!

Continue ReadingWilliams Peak

Lockdown Reading

Working from home for the past 18 months, I’ve saved between one and a half to two hours per day spent commuting, and that combined with a lack of external pressure to be running around in the evenings to scheduled activities has done wonders for the amount of time I have for kids and housework in normal daylight hours, freeing up time and energy in the evenings and weekends to catch up on reading, both for enjoyment and to sharpen the saw. Here are some micro reviews of the reading I’ve done since the start of the pandemic.


My Struggle, volumes 1 – 6, by Karl Ove Knausgaard: See my post prior to this one. 3,600 pages of Norwegian novel about one man’s memory of his life. The language and description, and shifting times flow effortlessly. 9.5/10.

The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest novels, and while not as good, and certainly not going to leave a similar mark on our culture, The Testaments is an enjoyable follow up, diving deeper into the world of Gilead as a Canadian spy tries to make her mark. 8/10.

Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman: My knowledge of norse mythology is a ragtag assembly of facts gleaned randomly from movies, video games, and Amon Amarth, and Gaiman is a great storyteller so it seemed like an obviously good way to learn the details of norse mythology. Unfortunately, while informative, I actually found the book quite dull, and it failed to convey why anyone would have believed in these beings. 5/10.

General Non-Fiction

Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe: Fantastic work centered around a disappeared mother during the Northern Irish troubles. Well researched, well written, and damning of the central figures. Hard to believe this could have happened in the first world during the last half century. 9.5/10.

Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer: Although I’m familiar with the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) due to reporting in the Vancouver Sun in the last decade, this book predates that reporting. I have personal acquaintances who have left similar sects, and with typically fluid writing, Krakauer shines a light into how these sects operate, and who falls into their clutches. How can someone be so absorbed into their belief that they will kill to defend it? 8.5/10

Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe: Keefe’s takedown of the Sackler family came out just a few months after rI finished Say Nothing, and so I had to pick it up. The story of Oxycontin is much more familiar to me than the troubles, and so I didn’t learn as much, and a few of the arguments late in the book are fairly tenuous (are Sacklers who obtained their money pre-Oxy actually tainted by Oxy?). Nonetheless, the opioid crisis is one of the central tragedies shaping our current society and this book looks straight at its cause. 8/10.

Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson: More hagiography than biography, perhaps in part because all we really have left of Leonardo are the works he left behind, Isaacson does a very compelling job explaining Leonardo’s genius and his myriad innovations. 7.5/10.

Humanocracy, by Gary Hamel & Michele Zanini: If you’ve never had the opportunity to see Gary Hamel speak in person, do so. He’s the literal definition of “man on fire”, speaking with the fervour of the truly devout. What is his belief? Not only is bureaucracy boring and slow, but it is downright immoral and contrary to human nature! Free people to be human again! While this book fails to have the same spark, it is nonetheless full of thought provoking ideas on how a business can operate, and how to unleash people to do their best. 7.5/10.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist: Really, really interesting. Using data from places like the port of New Orleans, Baptist is able to trace the inhumanity of the slave trade and convincingly argue that as an “asset” they were an essential part of America’s rise to economic dominance. 8/10.

Labyrinth Of Ice: The Triumphant And Tragic Greely Polar Expedition, by Buddy Levy: Can you imagine setting out to try and reach the north pole, or barring that to reach “farthest north”, closer to the north pole than anyone else before? Then on that trip, establish a base that would prove to be unreachable by support ships for the next couple years? Greely’s expedition is an epic of hardship, one that most men would not survive, but through hard labour and inspired leadership, a handful would make it through by the skin of their teeth. Gripping from beginning to end. 7.5/10.

The Folly and the Glory, by Tim Weiner: Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes is a modern classic, and Enemies was excellent as well. The Folly and the Glory is not as good, in part because its subject matter is narrower and has been more widely told. The US and the Russians have both been meddling in other countries affairs for the last century. Nonetheless, as a chronicle of the history of relations and manipulations between these two countries leading up to the Russian attempts to destabilize the USA by helping Trump’s election in 2016, this is the definitive account to date. 7/10.

A Knock on the Door: The Essential History of Residential Schools from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: To understand current Canadian political discourse, I needed to educate myself on the residential school system, and where better to start than with the official history from the TRC. Authoritative and blunt, this book lays out the history of the schools, from their inception to their final closure only a couple decades ago. My principal complaint about this is that it was too short in length, and an extra couple hundred pages could have gone a long way to conveying what was experienced by the children and adults who went through the system. 8/10

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation With Indigenous People’s a Reality, by Bob Joseph: After reading A Knock on the Door, I went looking for some more understanding of indigenous views and came across this little gem of a book. Quick to read, but insightful throughout, highly recommended. 8.5/10.

The World Beneath Their Feet, by Scott Elllsworth: Brits, nazis, mountains. This is a peculiar book in that it is written at a low grade level, and explains a lot of basics for people who have no background knowledge of mountaineering, but at the same time provides no maps, and no photos. It was enjoyable enough, but you’re much better off reading books like the White Spider, by Harrer, or Into the Silence, by Wade Davis, to get a sense of the early exploration of the Himalayas. 6/10.

Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife, by Bart Ehrman: Ehrman’s books are almost always interesting, previously diving into topics such as which books were left out of the New Testament, and looking at the wide gamut of faiths and beliefs of the the earliest Christians, before the religion coalesced in the 3rd and 4th centuries to the religion we’re familiar with today. In this book, once again he tackles an interesting question. Heaven is only minimally described in the bible, and hell only a few mentions, yet we as a culture have a rich description and common understanding of heaven and hell. If not from explicit description in the bible, how did these beliefs arise and evolve? Without the rich source material of earlier books (i.e. the entire apocrypha and histories written by early church fathers), he simply has a lot less to work with but it was still interesting to keep me going all the way through. 7/10.

Arthur and the Kings of Britain, by Miles Russell: The title of this book doesn’t describe the book well. Most of the book is a comparison of the handful of early British sources with Roman histories of the conquest of Britain, strongly and convincingly arguing that the British historians of the early middle ages misinterpreted tribal battles in south west England as wars between nations, and misinterpreting different descriptions of the same events by the Roman historians as separate events. To a historian of earliest Britain, it is probably very important to aggregate all sources and cover each individual documented event, but to a reader like me, this would have been better as a long form magazine article. 5/10.

The Neuroscientist who Lost Her Mind, by Barbara K. Lipska and Elaine McArdle: A short memoir of a neuroscientists experience of developing mental illness and severe personality changes as the result of a brain tumour, all the while not being conscious or aware of her changing personality, only to recover from the tumour and be able to look back at who it made her become. A fascinating story, but reads as an extended magazine article, which it effectively is. 7/10.

Narrative Economics, by Robert Shiller: Are economic decisions the result of homo rationalis, an ideal person who calculates an effective cost and benefit function to determine which choices have the best utility? Or are people prone to make decisions based on a common narrative (i.e. “house prices always rise”), with changes in how people make decisions based in changes in these narratives? As an academic concept, this may be a radical way of looking at economics and it makes sense that economists need to learn to look beyond utility functions in their models (wasn’t this what ideas like “industrial organization” also brought to the table?), but as a lay person I found the examples and description to be rather obvious and wouldn’t recommend it to another lay reader. 5/10.


Building Secure and Reliable Systems, by Heather Adkins et al: Google’s newish book on building secure and reliable systems a few weeks ago and highly recommend it to everyone working in modern software development.   There are a few boring chapters around 2/3 of the way through, but overall I was impressed at how much of it was interesting and relevant to anyone building a system that needs to be secure and/or reliable –> essentially anyone. 9/10.

A Philosophy of Software Design, by John Ousterhout: Strongly recommend. It’s a short book focussed on complexity in software and how to eliminate it. Concise, to the point, only took 2 or 3 hours to read, and full of great practical advice on how to write good software that you don’t need to be an elite level developer to understand. When I bought it I thought it was by some random blogger but after reading it I looked up the author and it turns out the author is actually a Stanford prof who was the original author of Tcl back in the 80s, invented a new kind of fie system, and wrote the first VLSI program to lay out integrated circuits. 8.5/10.

Advanced Penetration Testing, by Wil Alsopp: Want to feel like it’s all hopeless? Read this book. Highly recommended for anyone involved in security. Systems are there to be broken. For example, I never knew how to implement a command & control system by reading DNS TXT records prior to reading it.  The author believes that every system can be hacked and shows how.  Scary, scary stuff, but really interesting.. the  author even says that he’d never sleep if he had to be on the other side and figure out how to defend against someone like himself.  Definitely helps to have a background in C++ and Win32 API programming to understand some parts, but lots of the hacks use other techs like Java and lots of instruction on how to stay ahead of the most modern defences. 9/10.

Kubernetes: Up & Running, by Brendan Burns et al: Written by a few of the people originally behind Kubernetes.  It’s a pretty slim tome, but I really wish I read this a year and a half ago when I first got involved in k8s work at Visier rather than spending all my time trying to black box infer what k8s actually does. 8/10.

Clean Agile, by Robert C. Martin: Another Uncle Bob book, this one is not in the same league as the Clean Coder or Clean Architecture. Interesting history of the agile movement and getting down to its core, but I didn’t feel that I learned much that I hadn’t already found in other sources. 7/10.

The Problem with Software: Why Smart Engineers Write Bad Code, by Adam Barr: I can’t recommend.   It’s basically a couple hundred pages talking about problems with old programming languages and shortcuts that devs take, combined with a bunch of anecdotes about working as a dev on Windows NT.   It was mildly entertaining but he never really gets around to explaining how to help smart engineers write GOOD code. 5/10.

Honourable Mentions

The following were read pre-pandemic but that I strongly recommend that everyone read:

Designing Data-Intensive Applications: The Big Ideas Behind Reliable, Scalable, and Maintainable Systems, by Martin Kleppmann: All you ever wanted to know about how Cassandra, Zookeeper, Vault, Kafka, (and more!) work internally and the design trade offs by their authors.   I read that one when it first came out a few years ago and absolutely love it.  Everyone who works on a data processing backend who hasn’t read it should be reading it. 9.5/10.

Clean Architecture, by Robert C. Martin: A great primer on what architecture is and full of useful real world advice on how to design and evolve software systems. Most book on architecture are either too academic or too heavyweight, but this one just gets to the core. Simple, clean, strongly recommended for all software devs. 8.5/10.

The DevOps Handbook, by Gene Kim et al: It says it’s about DevOps, but it’s really about how to efficiently build and deliver software. The line that’s most stuck with me since I first read it: “It’s okay for people to become dependent on our tools, but it’s important they don’t become dependent on us”. Strongly recommended for all software development managers, not only if you’re running a devops group. 9.5/10.

Continue ReadingLockdown Reading

A Life Digressed

Last week I finished a year-long project to work my way through all 6 volumes of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle”. As one of the blurbs inside the book asks: why read a 3,600 page Norwegian novel about a man writing a 3,600 page Norwegian novel? “Because it’s awesome”

I’d read the occasional review over the years as each volume was translated into English, each one describing each volume’s combination of beauty and banality, aiming not to describe life as it should be, but rather life as it is lived and as it is remembered. Nonetheless, it was only re-stumbling across his wondering 2015 article describing a journey to witness an awake craniotomy in Albania that led me to place an order for volume 1, A Death in the Family.

To get things out of the way first, “My Struggle” blew my mind, unlike any novel I’ve ever read before. Knausgaard is not a great man, perhaps not even a good man, but rather a deeply flawed man. Despite his claim near the end of volume 6 that the project has been a failure because he has never come close to saying what he really means or describing what he really feels, he is able to meander through the minutiae of life, minutiae that while specific to Knausgaard are the banality that we all experience, and from the minutiae to jump out to moments of incredible beauty, humour, and insight in a way that I have never experienced before in a work of literature.

While heavily fictionalized in the details (who can really remember what cereal they ate for breakfast on Oct 15, 1993), the novel nonetheless purports to describe his life exactly as remembered. Without so much as a chapter break, he describes scenes of his life, each one leading to thoughts and digressions down other memories and connections to other works, effortlessly shifting between different times, frequently regaining the original line of thought only hundreds of pages later. Although some people call it plotless, I found each volume to be tightly structured, using a specific event in his life — his father’s death, his first divorce, his entry to writing school, etc — to begin a journey into memory, art, friendship, shame, and the simply act of living.

Through this, the novel is full of moments that are burned deep into my memory, from the twist at the midpoint of volume 1 when he visits his grandmother’s place following his father’s death, to his revelation in volume 3 that he has only a single goal as a parent, that his children do not grow up afraid of him, to the moment in volume 5 when he enters his living room to find his brother perusing the book of artful nudes that he’d ordered, to the moment near the end of book 6 when he realizes that he’s the only person who hasn’t clued in that his wife has been institutionalized.

The volumes of the novel range widely in quality. Ranked from best to worst:

Volume 1: A Death in the Family — A masterpiece. The first pages are among the best writing I’ve had the pleasure of reading (“For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops”), and the twist, as it were, near the middle of the book is up there with the twist at the midpoint of the movie “Parasite” in its quality and ability to completely shift the mood of a work of art from light to dead serious.

Volume 6: The End — The masterpiece culmination of the novel, it’s a 1,150 page tome but nonetheless a masterpiece. The first third is plain Knausgaard, nothing too special, as it describes the events around the publication of Volume 1 and his fight to be able to use his family’s real names, and after reminiscing on a priest’s admonition at his father’s funeral to “fasten one’s gaze” and see life for what it is, leads into the boldest move I’ve ever seen in a novel: a 400+ page digression (“The name and the number”) on the significance of names, a deep reading of the poetry of Jewish holocaust poet Paul Celan, the work of Victor Klemperer, followed by a reading of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, analyzing it as the work of a disaffected 20-something year old, putting aside knowledge of what he would eventually become. Once this digression is complete, he powers through the final third of the volume, describing his wife’s mental breakdown, reminiscing on the long term damage done by his project of putting everything out in the open, and concluding his thoughts on the meaning of a name, in a remarkable unexpected twist reveals one last detail about his father.

Volume 5: Some Rain Must Fall — Knausgaard goes to writing school, struggles as the youngest person in the class, works odd jobs like as an attendant at a mental institution, meets his first wife, and lives as a young man in Bergen. The first two thirds are typical Knausgaard. Life. Raw. The final third accelerates into a thriller, as in quick succession his father dies (retelling some of the situation of the volume 1), his first marriage falls apart (setting up the opening to volume 2), and his debut novel is released to widespread acclaim. My favourite line is when an interviewer asks “On the cover it says the book’s about male shame. Could you say a few words about that?”, to be met with “I didn’t know it was about shame until I read the cover”

Volume 2: A Man in Love — The tenderest volume, a description of a man having just left his wife, moving to a city in a new country, meeting new friends, and raises three young children. The blunt descriptions were part of inciting his wife’s depression and breakdown in volume 6, but there is much here that anyone with children or knows people with children can relate to.

Volume 4: Dancing in the Dark — Perhaps the most fictionalized, in this case to protect the identities of the teen’s that he taught, this is the description of a young man grappling with living in a remote town, only a couple years older than the pupils he’s charged with instructing. Well written and kept me going, but like volume 3, largely devoid of tension or deeper insight into life.

Volume 3: Boyhood Island — I guess he had to do this. Describe life as a child. It’s well written as always, but never really reaches any deeper truths or insights except for the one already mentioned, when the memories lead him to realize that for his children to grow up unafraid of him is his only goal.

Continue ReadingA Life Digressed

Which Gunn Scrambles to do in 2021

After reading my ranking on which 103 hikes to do in 2021, a few of you asked about which scrambles to do in southwest (SW) BC, and I’ve decided to do this in two parts. The first, contained in this post is a ranking of the 60 or so scrambles from Gunn’s book that I’ve done over the years, and the second, to come later, will be descriptions of my favourite scrambles NOT found in the popular guidebooks.

As the back of the book says, scrambling is the bridge between hiking & mountaineering, and carries significant risk. Always bring your helmet, ice axe, sometimes a short rope to help with descents, and always be prepared in case a route takes significantly longer than you expect.

So, without further ado…

The Top 10

If you live in southwestern BC, if you haven’t done one of these scrambles, now is the time.

  1. Tricouni Peak
    The standard scramble up Tricouni peak encapsulates the best of BC scrambling. You start high, quickly work your way into the meadows, hike past some of the most beautiful azure lakes in BC, work you way up a bit more meadow, and then have some really fun easy / moderate scrambling on good rock right now up to the summit where there are fantastic views all around. And it’s close enough to town that you can still be home for dinner. All killer, no filler.

  2. Black Tusk
    The most iconic peak in SW BC, only true yahoos go to the true summit of the Black Tusk, which requires ropes and either a downclimb or rappel off of a rubble bollard, but for the rest of us, the false summit is still a coastal must-do and only something like 2m lower. The ascent gully requires 3rd class scrambling on somewhat crumbly rock, so I strongly recommend going up really early or late to avoid the crowds.

  3. Golden Ears
    Right at the easiest end of scrambling, Golden Ears is a must-do regardless due to its prominence from most of Vancouver, variety on the route up, and quality of the summit. Depending on time of year an ice axe can be very helpful. For a great photo, take a few minutes from the main summit to head over to the other “ear”.

  4. Tomyhoi Peak (USA)
    Similar to many of my other favourites, the route to Tomyhoi starts high. After ascending up the hiking trail to the shoulder of Yellow Aster Butte, you spend the next couple hours trekking across beautiful open terrain towards the subsummit of Tomyhoi. From the subsummit, the true summit looks like a serious climb, but as you reach the notch between the two, the (difficult) scrambling route becomes clear and you end up being able to climb the summit spire on good quality rock.

  5. Sky Pilot
    Along with North Twin Sister the most difficult of my top scrambles, Sky Pilot is now easily accessed via the Sea to Sky Gondola. Hike a few km up the old Shannon Creek FSR, ascend up the basin to the Stadium Glacier, carefully cross it to ascend rocks on the far side (ice axe often needed, I once witnessed a bad slide on ice here), and up the ridge to the base of the pink slab. Here the scrambling gets more serious, with some challenging moves on the pink slab, and a fair bit of exposure higher up as you ascend the final gully to the summit. Two or three people have died here since the Gondola opened. Someone has installed rap rings above these two most difficult sections and I once used them and a short rope in my pack to lower two Latvians who were stranded due to being too scared to downclimb. Nonetheless, for those capable, Sky Pilot boasts incredible views and great scrambling on high quality rock.

  6. Lady Peak
    Going back to easier routes, Lady Peak is the even-more-fun cousin of Cheam Peak. 2/3 of the route is the same, but break off the Cheam trail to leave the crowds behind and follow nice terrain and an unexposed ledge system right up to the summit block where you have fantastic views of the rest of the Cheam range. Once the crowds below have thinned a bit, drop back down to bag Cheam before you head home for the day.

  7. Frosty Mountain (East Summit)
    Really just a hike, and also in my 103 hikes top 10 list, Frosty mountain’s east (tourist) summit is recommended nonetheless for the eager scrambler due to the quality of trail, beauty of area, and overall situation. Go in early October to catch the golden larches! It might be possible to do a scrambling ascent the true summit of Frosty from the hiker’s summit via the connecting ridge, but I’ve only ever ascended the true summit of Frosty via the opposing ridge and on skis.

  8. Needle Peak
    Another short and sweet trip, Needle Peak is a great introduction to BC scrambling. It only takes an hour or so to reach wide open terrain, and the route up to the summit has number of variations possible, ranging from easy to challenging, but all on great rock.

  9. North Twin Sister (USA)
    Along with Sky Pilot, the most challenging of my top recommendations, North Twin Sister is a full day outing and and a proper 3rd class alpine climb. Bike up the road and trail as far as you can go, scramble up the challenging west ridge to the summit, then if conditions permit, descend the north face on snow (ice axe and good boots required!), bushwhack back to your bikes, and roll back down to your vehicle. Recommended for anyone wanting to see the upper end of “scrambling” and to get a taste of the “I’m way out there” feeling that comes with alpine climbing.

  10. Cypress Peak
    Immediately north of Tricouni, Cypress peak is a great short scramble in the sea to sky corridor. Recommended in early July when the long boulder field leading all the way from the parking area up to the base of the summit ridge is still filled in with snow, rending both ascent and descent quick and easy. Above this, Cypress Peak has a great little summit ridge of moderate scrambling on nice rock.

The Excellent

Not top-10 quality, but should be on everyone’s tick list

  1. Mt. Price
    A great easy hike / scramble above Garibaldi lake, its views are fantastic and its proximity to Vancouver means it can be done in the late season when other destinations are out of reach.

  2. Crown Mountain
    Directly behind Grouse mountain, Crown is many people’s first scramble, and for good reason. It’s very easy to get to, has a couple short scrambling bits on good rock, and a fun summit that feels properly “out there” despite its closeness to town. If you’re up for a stiffer challenge, ascend the 4th class crater slabs route from Hanes valley and descend the regular route.

  3. Chipmunk Peak
    Chipmunk peak and Tenquille north ridge can be done in an easy weekend, camping at beautiful little Opal lake. Mostly a heather walk with a little bit of scrambling near the top, Chipmunk peak is a low-stress wander into a fantastic wilderness.

  4. Mt. Barbour
    My favourite of the trips around Tenquille lake, this is a fantastic half day trip through great meadows and a fun easy ridge on your way in or out of the area.

  5. Saxifrage Mountain
    Valentine lake is one of my favourite camping destinations, and Saxifrage is the main peak above it, featuring about 300m vertical scrambling up the SE ridge. Note that the ridge is a fair bit more challenging than most of Gunn’s other “moderate” scrambles. The moves aren’t particularly hard, but I consider this to be a proper 3rd class alpine climb.

  6. Brandywine Mountain
    While not quite as nice as Tricouni and Cypress, Brandywine is substantially easier. Drive as high as you can, walk through beautiful Brandywine meadows, and wander along the easy alpine ridge up to an iconic summit where you can gaze upon the Cayley massif as well as into Garibaldi park on the opposite side of the valley.

  7. Mt. McGuire
    A short, sweet scramble close to town. The access described in the Scrambles book washed away long ago, so take the newish NE ridge trail up to alpine, then swing across the open bowl to the trail described in the book. Best done in late June or early July when the bowl is snow filled to avoid having too much talus to cross.

  8. Statimcets Peak (Downtown Creek Peak 8700)
    Statimcets itself isn’t a very interesting destination, but the bowl below features some of the best alpine camping in BC. Add on some camping and a scrambling ascent of Linus peak and you’ve got yourself one of the most pleasant weekend trips possible.

  9. Yak Peak
    Yak peak is the unmissable slab on the north side of the Coquihalla highway. Might as well climb it! The short, steep trail ascends climber’s right of the slab, up to a pleasant summit with great views of Alpaca, Vicuna, Guanaco, and the rest of the Anderson river area. Add on a trek over to Nak for a more complete day.

  10. Blackcomb Peak
    After a summer of too many 1500+ metre descents, I’m really into recommending scrambles with easy access, and what’s easier than a scramble with a gondola to within an hour of its base? You won’t find many scrambles with quicker access than Blackcomb (same goes for Blackcomb buttress, its easiest alpine climbing route)

  11. Mt. Sedgwick
    Back to the land of epics, Mt. Sedgwick is a true adventure, beginning with the need to arrange permission to dock with whoever currently owns Woodfibre and arranging a boat to take you there and pick you up. Once this is resolved though, this trip has a bit of everything. Logging road, forest walking, a nice lake, a great camping area near the summit of Mt. Roderick, and a really fine moderate scramble up the long summit ridge. When we were up there the summit register went all the way back to the early 1900s!

  12. Elliot Peak (Twin Lakes SE Peak)
    The area around the Twin Lakes is one of my favourite places in the Pemberton area and I’ve done 3 trips here in the last 7 years. The ascent follows an old road up into the wide open Barkley valley, past a small hut maintained by the local ATV club, and up past the twin lakes. Above here, 90% of the way up Elliot peak is on easy open slopes, with the crux being just a few minutes below the true summit where a fairly loose gully and slope must be crossed to reach the final summit ridge. There’s no shame in stopping at the subsummit, which is what the rest of my party did the day that I went all the way up.

    Highly recommended to bring a bike to save your knees on the descent. Amazingly back in the 60s a group of people decided to move their families up into this valley and survived a few years.

  13. Panorama Ridge
    Lower on this scrambles list only because of its proximity to Black Tusk and Mt. Price, Panorama ridge is my number one hike in SW BC. Really just a hike rather than a scramble, it is one of the nicest trips in our part of the world.

  14. Tenquille North Ridge
    Along with Chipmunk peak, the other trip above Opal lake. Tenquille’s north ridge is a great moderate scramble. A few sections on the ridge are a little looser, but it has really nice position, easy access, and can be easily extended to add on an ascent of Goat mountain.

  15. Grimface Mountain
    This route can be reached both from a camp or cabin at Quinscoe lake, or from the other side via Wall creek. In either case, Grimface is the dominant peak in Cathedral park and a great alpine scramble. Similar to Saxifrage mountain, this is a more adventurous / alpine feeling route than the other “moderate” scrambles with interesting routefinding decisions required.

  16. Sockeye Horn (Mystery Peak)
    For whatever reason, Gunn calls Sockeye Horn “Mystery Peak”. I blame Outward Bound. The scrambling on Sockeye horn is top notch, some of the best I’ve done from the routes in this book. The only reason I don’t put this higher is that reaching the peak requires hours of side hilling in each direction as you traverse around one of the ridges of Beaujolais.

  17. Mt. MacDonald
    Like most routes in the Chilliwack valley, Mt. MacDonald is a long day. You have to take the long trail in to Radium lake, ascent to the MacDonald / Webb col, and then find your way up to MacDonald. Luckily the alpine part of this route is a ton of fun. Make the most of your day by adding on a quick ascent of Webb while you’re up there.

  18. Cheam Peak
    This low on the list only due its proximity to Lady peak, my recommendation for scramblers is to do this only as a two-fer along with Lady. That’s the fun scramble, this is the one everyone sees and knows from the highway.

The Very Good

  1. Sun God Mountain
    The road up Tenas creek is pretty awful, with 90+ waterbars needing to be crossed, but once you’ve made it up the road, a flagged route in fairly good condition leads quickly up to treeline, and from here it’s pleasant boulder walking all the way up to Sun God’s little pointy summit that has great views all around.

  2. Mt. Pelops
    The easiest peak above Lake Lovely Water (well, other than Iota, which you go over on your way to Mt. Pelops), Pelops is a great half day trip. Most people cross the small glacier unroped, but I’ve had enough close calls with crevasses in my mountaineering career that I think it’s worth lugging up your harness and rope for the crossing.

  3. Brunswick Mountain
    Vancouver’s best training hike? By itself Brunswick is just a long training hike, but make the trip more interesting by first going up and over Mt. Harvey to turn it into a fun full day of north shore exploration.

  4. Long Peak
    Honestly it’s hard for me to rank the various peaks on the Stein Lizzie divide, having once spent 7 days in the area climbing the ones in Gunn’s book as well as a few (Mt. Skook Jim, Mt. Cline, Diversion peak) not in there. Nonetheless, Long peak is the one that stands out as the most memorable from our second camp at Arrowhead lake. Long peak features many tarns, a long moderate scramble, and can be extended for an even longer day by continuing on to Diversion peak.

  5. Mt. Outram
    Another long hike rather than a true scramble, Mt. Outram is a surprisingly short trip considering it’s massive elevation gain because it’s just up, up ,and more up. Nonetheless, it has a well developed trail and great meadows at the right time of year.

  6. Tynemouth Peak
    See my comment for Long peak. Tynemouth and Arrowhead can both be traversed for an easy day from a camp at Arrowhead lake.

  7. Arrowhead Mountain
    Indistinguishable in my memory from Tynemouth peak. Do both to be sure you do the best one of the two!

  8. Mt. Webb
    Very pleasant short and easy scramble up from the MacDonald-Webb col. MacDonald is by far the more interesting of the two, but from the footbeds it looks like most people who go past Radium lake just head to Webb. South facing, its route is snow free when MacDonald is still deep in snow.

  9. Cloudburst Mountain
    As a scramble, Cloudburst is pretty mediocre, especially when Tricouni is right next to it. On the other hand, it’s straightforward, short (only 4 hours return to car when there’s still some snow on the route), and as a result I’ve been up there three times in the last 10 years as a place to take friends on their first true off-trail hikes.

  10. Mt. MacFarlane
    Another Chilliwack valley route with a heck of a lot of elevation. The trek up and down from Pierce lake is a real trudge, but the route above is very pleasant, through boulder fields, meadows, and eventually a very nice easy ridge ascent to the summit.

  11. Gott Peak
    Gott peak has some of the best meadows I’ve ever encountered in BC, but it is lower on this list because it’s really just an easy ridge hike rather than a scramble.

  12. Mt. Hanover
    Another route with a lot of elevation gain for what you actually get, Mt. Hanover is significantly more challenging than its neighbour, Mt. Brunswick. The gullies are quite steep, but the boulders were stable enough. Recommended to do it in the early season when they’re largely snow filled as a good place to practice your step kicking and ice axe self belay skills.

  13. Caltha Peak
    On our week long trip to the Stein-Lizzie divide, our first camp was at Figure Eight lake, and Caltha peak was the most pleasant of the easy scrambles near that lake.

  14. Pyramid Mountain
    The nearest scramble to a camp or cabin at Quinscoe lake in Cathedral park, Pyramid mountain is by no means a must-do, but is a very fun and enjoyable half day scramble nonetheless. Excellent choice for a route to do on the day you arrive.

  15. Mt. Rohr
    One of the easiest scrambles in the Duffey area, both in terms of access and difficulty, Rohr has great views to the Marriot basin area on one side, and Joffre group on the other.

The Rest

  1. Rainbow Mountain
    Rainbow mountain is a nice ascent across from Whistler. It’s objectively a good trip, but with so many nicer trips in the same area, it gets knocked down the ranking. Recommended to do it as a crossover from Madeley lake to Whistler.

  2. Lakeview Mountain
    A nice hike through pleasant meadows and worth doing on a trip into Cathedral park, but pales in comparison to the hikes and scrambles on the other side of the vallley.

  3. Birkenhead Mountain
    The upper part of the route up Birkenhead mountain is excellent. Unfortunately the first part involves following a goat trail across a long, steep dirt slope where a slip could be disastrous.

  4. Mt. Burwell
    Another training hike. Do it as a bike & hike via the Seymour valley in early season to get in some exercise and prepare for doing something else.

  5. Harris Ridge
    Just a walk in the south Chilcotins. Beautiful, beautiful terrain, but if you’re going to check out the Chilcotins do yourself a favour and explore on a bike, perhaps doing a drop from a float plane.

  6. Anemone Peak
    A nice peak in the Arrowhead lake area. Nothing wrong with this, just there are better peaks in the area.

  7. Tabletop Mountain

  8. Copper Mound
    A very pleasant half day trip from Tenquille lake

  9. Seven O’Clock Mountain
    Same approach as for Sun God, and easily done in the same day, mostly a long walk across a plateau with a short thumb at its end.

  10. West Lion
    Despite its prominence from Vancouver, I am not a fan of the West Lion. The traverse sketches me out, and the people crossing it even more so. I’m surprised more serious injuries don’t happen here. Harvey & Brunswick are better trips in the same area.

  11. Crystal Peak (Twin Lakes NW Peak)
    A long boulder field hike above the upper twin lake. Nice enough, but if you’re going to just do one peak, go to Elliot peak.

  12. Capilano Mountain
    Long bike & hike from Furry Creek. The trail is pretty overgrown up to Beth lake, and the route above is pleasant but nothing out of the ordinary.

  13. Goat Mountain (Tenquille Area)
    A fun little jaunt over from the summit of Tenquiille mountain that lets you extend your day a little bit.

  14. Grouty Mountain
    A decent early season trip that can be done as soon as the Hurley FSR opens. It’s a very bland, easy route, but has amazing views across the valley to the semaphore lakes range (Locomotive, Face, etc)

  15. Decker Mountain
    A nice extended hike from the Blackcomb gondola

  16. Tundra Peak
    A short easy hike on the Stein-Lizzie divide in the figure eight lake area. Worth doing if you’re doing a camp in the area and not otherwise.

  17. Mt. McLeod
    Dash over here on your way down from Copper Mound. Only takes 30 minutes from the col between the two.

  18. The Boxcar
    Thoroughly non-essential. Do it after an ascent of Lakeview mountain.

  19. The Spearhead
    Like a couple others down here, other than bagging a peak there’s no point in actually heading here after ascending Blackcomb. Best done in winter as a quick diversion while en route to ski something in the backcountry.

Continue ReadingWhich Gunn Scrambles to do in 2021

Valentine Lake & Saxifrage Mountain

Date: Aug 1/2, 2021

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3

Report: A last minute change of plans meant that rather than car camping Friday night and hiking in the smoke on Saturday, Brittany and I decided to leave town mid day on Sunday and take advantage of the long weekend to do our main exercise on the Monday when the smoke forecast called for better weather.

I knew very little about the access to Valentine Lake, but it turns out to be way easier and nicer to get to than I expected. We left Coquitlam just before noon, and drove up the Sea to Sky through quite dense forest fire smoke. Turning off onto Spetch Creek FSR 13km from the stop sign in Mt. Currie, the road starts out flat, then has a steep and very loose section between 1 and 2km up the road. People with 2wd vehicles really need to stop trying to go up roads like this, spinning their tires and turning a perfectly nice logging road into a mess. Past this loose section, just follow the main road up to just past 7km, where find a nice landing with a clearly marked trail starting on the right. The smoke was quite thin by this point, and we could clearly see the peaks above. Amazingly, despite the long weekend there was only a single other vehicle there, with only two people. Guess the smokein town scared everyone off…

Note that there is a new logging spur from the last couple years that heads up to the right perhaps 200m before the trailhead. This could be taken as well, as the trail passes through the trees just past the end of the clearcut. Using this spur would take off maybe 800m of walking each way, but would require a bit of a thrash through the slash to connect to the trail until a proper footbed is established.

Leaving the car minutes before 3:30, the trail briefly ascended next to Spetch Creek, before turning and ascending steeply for up to a few hundred metres of elevation. This section has a lot of minor deadfall that someone with a saw could quite easily remove, but is otherwise in great condition. If you see this, be a good citizen and lug a saw or chainsaw up the first 2km with you 🙂

Above the steep bit, the remaining 4km or so to the lake ascends gently through very pleasant meadows (when dry!) and open terrain, eventually turning left at a pass and soon arriving Valentine Lake. The lake was nicer than I expected. On arriving at the lake, there is a tent pad just to the left of where you arrive and the other party was staying there, so we continued a few minutes around to the north end of the lake where there is a large flat grassy area perfect for a few tents and that has a fresh water supply via a running creek going past. I would recommend staying here rather than at the tent pad for this reason. It was 6:10 when we set our packs down, for a total ascent time of about 2:40.

We made quick time setting up camp, cooking a freeze dried dinner, and enjoying the sunset. By the time the sun went down the smoke had almost completely cleared. The only problem is that the bugs were absolutely atrocious. and I had forgotten my pants down at the trailhead. At least we had some bug nets to cover our upper bodies and save them a little bit…

Monday morning we woke at 6:30, cooked breakfast, and took off shortly after 7:30. The trail continues up the heather & boulder meadows for a short distance but soon peters out and we were left to find our own way up through the meadows and occasional talus fields towards the base of Saxifrage’s SE ridge, which we reached around 9:30. By this point Brittany was not feeling well and she elected to wait at a pleasant vantage point at the base of the ridge while I went to find my way up.

I took off up the ridge proper at about 9:55 and going solo made quick time. Now, Gunn’s Scrambles book says for difficulty “moderate, tricky routefinding”, and while this might technically be accurate, the route is completely out of character compared to the rest of his “moderates”. Really, it’s a proper 3rd class alpine climb.

The route involved plenty of easy 3rd class climbing on good rock, lots of minor backtracking to find ways to skirt difficulties (almost always to the left), a number of loose gullies to cross, and one somewhat exposed 3rd class mandatory downclimb to connect two ledges between the two main gullies. As I was solo, I found this quite stressful, but when I get stressed I climb fast, and I made it to the summit at 10:35. 300 metres vertical of 3rd class scrambling & routefinding in 40 minutes! Phew!

The views from the summit were great, with only a little forest fire smoke obscuring the furthest away peaks. The Place Glacier peaks were clear, as were peaks over in the Cayoosh area. Nonetheless, with Brittany waiting below I lingered only long enough to take a few photos, eat a quick snack, and set off back down again around 10:45.

Knowing the route, the way down the ridge was easy enough, and although I still did not at at like the loose gully crossings and descent I found there were decent enough holds on the rock on the far side to traverse and descend them safely. Despite one minor delay waiting for the other party up there to go through the crux downclimb I made it back to where Brittany was waiting at 11:30, for a descent time almost identical to my ascent time.

From here the ridge across to Cassiope looked like it’d be slow traverse and from our distance the ascent gully looked quite slow, and we wanted to be back in town to spend a bit of time with the kids and put them to bed, so we elected to leave Cassiope for another day and headed back down to camp. We arrived back in camp at 1pm, ate some lunch, packed up the tent, and took off around 1:40.

The descent was pleasant through the meadows, although with our sore feet the steep descent back down to the car couldn’t come soon enough. Nonetheless, we trudged onwards and made it down to the car at 3:55, for a descent time of 2 hour, 15 minutes.

Overall, this was a fantastic hike, much better than my expectation going in. The lake is a really fantastic place to camp at and can be recommended just for that. Saxifrage is definitely an interesting and exciting scramble, and can also be recommended as a worthy destination, just go in with the mindset that it’s more challenging than you’d expect from its rating as “moderate”.

Continue ReadingValentine Lake & Saxifrage Mountain

Which 103 Hikes to do in 2022

Yeah, I’m a lister. My copies of Jack Bryceland’s 103 Hikes, Matt Gunn’s Scrambles, Stephen Hui’s 105 Hikes (& Destination Hikes), Bruce Fairley’s Guide to Hiking & Climbing, Kevin McLean’s Alpine Select, John Baldwin’s Exploring the Coast Mountain on Skis, plus many more are marked up and annotated with which routes I’ve climbed, which peaks I’ve summited, and which regions I’ve completed 100% of trips described.

My adventuring days per year have declined in recent years due to kids & work, but there are a few of these books where I’m nearing the 100% mark, and so on this rainy spring BC afternoon, I’ve decided to put together my opinionated ranking of (almost) all 103 hikes described in the 2008 edition of 103 Hikes in Southwestern BC.

If this post proves popular, perhaps I’ll be convinced to put together a ranking of Scrambles, 105 Hikes, Ski Tours, or maybe even a list of my favourite trips not covered in any guidebook to date!

The Top 10

If you live in southwestern BC, if you haven’t done one of these hikes, now is the time.

  1. Panorama Ridge
    Approach via Helm Lake to avoid the crowds and the boring trudge up the barrier. The landscape from the campground onwards is stunning, the meadows below the ridge stunning, the ridge ascent enjoyable, and the view that appears as you crest the ridge to get a glimpse of Garibaldi Lake and the glaciers beyond is simply stunning.

  2. Needle Peak
    This half day hike is bite-sized perfection. A short trek through the forest, great views as you ascend the ridge, and a fun short scramble to top it off. Great for a summer day, but can be a great trip in winter too when the summit block isn’t too icy. I’ve done it multiple times in both sets of conditions.

  3. Joffre Lakes
    One of the shortest hikes in the book, there’s a reason hundreds of cars line the highway to visit the lakes on a nice summer day, and it isn’t just that Instagram log at the middle lake. Visit mid week and take your friends to the upper lake to knock their socks off with the easy access to the beautiful lake with the impressive views of the Matier & Stonecrop glaciers above. Please stay away from the snowfields and glaciers though as they are prone to avalanche and icefall.

  4. Frosty Mountain
    Best done at the beginning of October to catch the golden larches, Frosty is a fantastic interior hike with a great trail, great views, and a classic BC parks summit post to top it off. Sure, it doesn’t go to the true summit, which is best done on skis in the spring, but when the trip is this good, that doesn’t matter.

  5. Elfin Lakes
    I’ll be the first to admit that hiking to Elfin Lakes is a slog and not much fun all, but that’s why we invented skis and bikes and once you get to the lakes, the journey will be all but forgotten. Jump on your bike and grind up the road to the top of Paul Ridge and onwards to Elfin Lakes. At the lakes, have a bite, gawk at the views of the Mamquam massif, then either roll back down to your car or stash your bike and head up the saddle trail for a better look at Garibaldi itself.

  6. Mount Seymour
    You might be surprised I rank Mount Seymour so high, but in my book it is another piece of SW BC perfection. You get to start high, the views are great, and there are endless possibilities for variation. Want something more interesting than the regular trail? Take a scrambling line up the face of pump peak or to the right of the main trail between pump peak and second peak, find your way down a gully on the way back, detour via DePencier bluffs or Mystery lake on the way down, or even duck around the summit to add on a tag of Runner Peak. This is the only summit on earth that I’ve ascended more times than I’ve orbited the sun.

  7. Golden Ears
    The initial trek up the west canyon rail to Alder Flats is boring, but the new bridge over Gold Creek can make this a bit better if you instead bike up to the bridge on the east canyon trail. Beyond Alder Flats, the trip is one of the best there is, but give yourself plenty of time because it’s a pretty long day. Nice forest walking, a snowfield to cross, and great easy ridge scrambling. Once you make the summit, be a true completionist and make a quick jaunt over to the other ear.

  8. Cheam Peak
    This is probably the only hike in SW BC where you can be walking through flowering meadows pretty much 100% of the time from car to summit. Amazing views from start to finish but easy enough to bring your extended family and carry your kids up on your back (I have!). The road isn’t in the best shape, so make sure you have a good 4×4 to make it to the trailhead. Highly recommended to take an extra hour or two to tag on an ascent of Lady Peak while you’re up there!

  9. Emma Lake
    A bit quieter than the other trips in my top 10, Emma Lake is both charming and amazing. If you’re lucky to find it free, use the canoe to explore the lake and wander some of the granite slabs surrounding it. The Powell River Knuckleheads just finished a new “Emma direct” trail up to the lake.

  10. Seed Peak
    Formerly a real pain to get to due to road conditions (waterbars & alder), logging in 2019 at the trailhead has rendered access easy. I went up in June 2020 and re-flagged a scarcely defined footbed, loved it, and then went back in September to find that popularity had exploded and the footbed now in good condition and easy to follow. This trip is top 10 for how quickly you access the alpine (20-30 minutes), and how easy it is to get somewhere that feels so remote while being so close.

The Excellent

The next 25-30 hikes, ones that I personally love, and any of them would blow the mind of any guest of yours visiting from out of town

  1. Leading Peak (Anvil Island)
    Find a beautiful spring day, and head to Anvil Island while other hikes are still snowed in. Far and away the best of the Howe Sound island hikes, Leading Peak has great variety, and a nice platform on top to lounge about on to enjoy 360 degree views.

  2. Garibaldi Lake
    I struggled a bit with ranking this so high when I already have Panorama Ridge, but the fact is that Panorama Ridge is a pretty intense day trip for most people, and the shores Garibaldi Lake are already one of the most stunning places in Canada. Take your friends, take your family, take your kids!

  3. Mount Harvey & Brunswick Mountain
    I’m cheating here and combining two hikes as one, and that’s because while each of Harvey and Brunswick are good exercise in their own rights, crossing over the top of Mt. Harvey to take the Howe Sound Crest Trail across Magnesia Meadows to Mt. Brunswick elevates this trip to near the top of my list of best trips to in our corner of BC.

  4. Tenquille Lake
    Don’t do the route described in 103 hikes, but save yourself time by approaching from the east (from roads rising near Birkenhead Lake) to quickly reach one of the most beautiful lakes in SW BC. Use the time saved to wander up to Mt. Barbour and Copper Mound above the lake!

  5. Mamquam Lake
    Want to feel like you’re way the f*** out there? Go to Mamquam Lake. Better yet, combine it with biking up to Elfin Lakes and a side-trip up to the summit of Opal Cone on the way back. The landscape between Opal Cone and Rampart Ponds is out of this world, one of the most incredible trips that you can do in our part of the world. The only downside? The full round trip is loooonnnng. 44km even without the side trip up Opal Cone. I did it as an 8 hours solo round trip from the car but most parties will want a lot longer than that or to do it as a multi-day trip.

  6. Semaphore Lakes
    One of the best bang for your buck hikes in SW BC. Under 90 minutes takes you up to a few beautiful lakes. Find your way onto a rocky knoll and enjoy the views of railroad pass, the train glacier, and locomotive and face glacier. Best done on a weekday to skip the crowds.

  7. Haylmore-Melvin Divide (Twin Lakes)
    I love this area and have done 3 trips in the last decade to the Twin Lakes & peaks above. On a nice summer day, it reminds me a lot of Switzerland. Bring a bike to save your knees from the descent from the little hut back down to your car at the end of day.

  8. Black Tusk
    I struggle where to put Black Tusk because the book expressly says to go to the viewpoint rather than the summit, and while the viewpoint is cool, the summit is cooler. If you’re up for a short bit of crumbly class 3 scrambling, grab your helmet, go early to beat the crowds and avoid getting beaned in the head by rocks knocked by whoever’s ahead of you, and carefully ascend to one of the most unique and iconic places you can find.

  9. Illal Meadows
    Easy access? Check. Plentiful water? Check. Perfect camping pretty much anywhere? Check. Illal Meadows may be my favourite camping destination in the province. Wonderful meadows and no fewer than 3 fun destinations to ascend above them (Coquihalla Mountain, Illal Peak, Mount Jim Kelly).

  10. Stawamus Chief
    Overcrowded, but legitimately great. Head direct to the 3rd peak, cross to the second while taking time at the viewpoints and imagine climbing the faces and buttresses below, and then back down to your car for a quick half day trip. For a repeat trip head up the skyline trail on the backside of the 3rd peak.

  11. Marriot Meadows
    The Marriot basin is perfect for a day or weekend of exploring and scrambling the myriad ridges and bumps nearby. Easy access, the really cool Wendy Thompson Hut (book in advance to stay in it), great flowers, and can combine it with a trip to either Mt. Marriot (hard!) or a wander up Mt. Rohr (easy!).

  12. Elk-Thurston
    One of my favourite places for mountain running. Hustle up past the crowds on the Elk trail and you’ll usually find the route beyond to Mt. Thurston to be quiet despite the great views across the valley to Mt. McGuire and Mt. Slesse.

  13. Russet Lake
    The walk from Whistler summit out along the musical bumps to the top of Cowboy Ridge is world class, with amazing views to either side. Do it as a loop, using the gondola to save yourself some uphill and then take the singing pass trail down at the end of your day, or camp up above Russet Lake and add on an ascent of Fissile for a fantastic overnight trip.

  14. Yak Peak
    One of the most direct routes in the Coquihalla, if you’re lucky you’ll find a few groups of climbers ascending Yak Check just above you and to the left as you ascend the steep trail to the right of the main face. It’s a short trip, so you might as well wander over the heather and bag Nak Peak while you’re up there!

  15. Tricouni Meadows
    Tricouni Peak might be the best easy scramble in BC, but the meadows below are worthwhile on their own, with their lakes a perfect azure. This would be a top 10 route if only the book suggested going all the way up to the summit.

  16. Mount Steele
    A charming introduction to Tetrahedron park, visit a couple small lakes and two huts on your way up to this great Sunshine Coast summit with great views of Tetrahedron peak itself.

  17. Three Brothers Mountain
    A classic of SW BC, Three Brothers is a rare hike in that you start high… and stay high. There’s a fair bit of ground to cover, and the terrain isn’t very exciting, but time it right and you can spend hours in sub-alpine sublimity.

  18. July Mountain
    Much quieter than the more southerly Coquihalla peaks, the route up July mountain spends only a brief period in the trees before passing a nice lake and ascending pleasant ridges up to the summit, where you can take in a view of the Coquihalla from a different perspective.

  19. Rainbow Lake
    Rainbow lake is nice, but to keep things interesting, do this as a crossover from Madley Lake to Whistler, and consider ascending Rainbow mountain while you’re at it.

  20. Goat Mountain
    Easier than Crown mountain in that it doesn’t require any scrambling or descending into Crown pass, Goat Mountain nonetheless is a really nice half day hike that lets one gaze north into the depths of Garibaldi Park and then take the Skyride back down to save your knees. Many years ago I used to take beginners joining the SFU Outdoors club here for their first “real” hike. There’s also a Goat Mountain near Mt. Baker / Glacier, Washington, which is a great hike in its own right. Feel free to ascend it as well to have climbed two peaks of the same name.

  21. Skyline Trail East
    I love open ridge rambling, and that’s what this hike brings in spades. Hike from Strawberry flats up to the ridge above and ramble over to Snow Camp Mountain and Lone Goat Mountain for great views of Frosty and the twin spires of Mt. Hozomeen. In order to not have to re-trace your steps, have some friends hike in from Skyline Trail West and swap keys when you pass each other.

  22. Valentine Lake
    2.5 hours access to a gorgeous camping lake? Only 1 hour of that in the trees and the remainder wandering through meadows and open trees? Bring it on! The scrambles above the lake (Saxifrage & Cassiope) are fairly demanding and beyond the comfort level of most hikers, but just wandering up into the heather and boulder meadows above the lake is beautiful and worthwhile.

  23. Helm Lake
    I’m not sure if this even belongs on the list given that my recommended route to Panorama Ridge include this route as part of it, but if you don’t have the time or energy to go to Panorama Ridge, then Helm Lake is still a worthwhile destination. This is the direction that the Black Tusk is most imposing from, and the landscape around Helm Lake is a very interesting volcanic wasteland.

  24. Blowdown Pass
    If you have a 4×4 that’ll get you to within a few km of Blowdown Pass, then this is a highly recommended destination. Enjoy Blowdown lake, hike up to the pass, then turn left to follow the easy ridge up to the summit of Gott Peak before descending through open meadows back to the road below.

  25. Tangled Summit
    From anywhere in the Lower Mainland, the ridge rising east of Buntzen lake looks like any other treed ridge in our province, but looks can be deceiving. In the case of Tangled summit, after passing Lindsay lake the terrain opens up to become a very pleasant open ridge with fun rock slabs and great views all around. Recommended for the end of summer when the day are getting too short to go further afield.

  26. Conway Peak
    So, you’ve climbed Cheam or Lady, the Conway Peak trail up from Wahleach lake lets you climb the southernmost peak in the Cheam range and check out the steep back faces of Welch and Foley peaks. The road at the bottom can be aldery if nobody’s cleared it out lately, but once it opens up as you ascend towards mile high camp, the route is top notch and you’re unlikely to find any crowds.

  27. Hope Mountain
    The road can be a bit of a mess to reach the trailhead, but from it a quick two hour ascent gets you to the summit directly overlooking Hope. I led a work party to clear the trail of bush and deadfall back in 2014, but can’t attest to its current condition.

  28. Brandywine Meadows
    Beautiful by themselves, this route would be ranked much higher if it described going all the way to the summit of Brandywine Mountain, which is where you should go if you choose to visit the meadows

  29. Mt. McGuire
    The route described in 103 hikes is a no-go due to a bridge outage, but luckily there’s another route that’s just as good from the north east. Head steeply up the ridge, cross the bowl to the traditional trail, and ascend a fun easy ridge to the summit. Great views of the border peaks. Go in early summer when the bowl north of the summit is still snow filled to save your ankles from the talus.

  30. Guanaco Peak
    Head steeply up the slopes between Guanaco, past a crazy natural stone staircase formation to the col between Vicuna and Guanaco. If you’re into exposed 4th class scrambling, turn left to go up Vicuna. If you want an easy rambling ridge ascent, turn right and summit Guanaco to get great views of Alpaca, the Anderson River group, and the backsides of the peaks above the Zopkios rest area. My dad made the first ascents of many of the mountains and routes in this area (including of Vicuna) back in the 70s, and so this area has a special place in my heart.

The Very Good

Hikes that are great fun, usually to an interesting destination, but just aren’t special enough to be the best.

  1. Eaton Lake
    Really well built trail to a beautiful lake. Perfect in the late shoulder season when the days are shorter, but would be great as well in summer with time to spend at the lake to swim or relax. If you have the time and energy, continue on from the lake to Grant Peak for a big day.

  2. High Falls Creek
    Go steep up beside the creek, see crazy steep falls, walk down road. Only takes a couple hours total, but worth it.

  3. Mount St. Benedict
    One of the easier trips in the Mission area, Mt. St. Benedict has great views of the peaks north of Alouette and Stave lakes. Can be done as an easy snowshoe as well.

  4. Lightning Lakes
    The hikes around Lightning Lake, Flash Lake, and Strike Lake are some of the best easy hiking around and they’re usually snow free quite early in the season. The trail ends just as it gets to Thunder Lake though and so you don’t get great views of it, especially compared to what you could see from the Skyline trail up above you. I once went around the end of Thunder Lake, crossed the log jam and followed the ridge up to the summit of Lone Mountain but I can’t really recommend adding that on. Instead, go back to the original Lightning Lake and rent a canoe for a bit of extra fun on your day.

  5. Mount Macfarlane
    Really cool views of Mt. Slesse and the other peaks in the Chilliwack Valley. However… it’s a long ways up. I’ve done trip up to Pierce Lake twice and don’t know if I have it in me to do it again.

  6. Mt. Harvey or Mt. Brunswick (Individually)
    They’re fine trips by themselves, but do yourself a favour and combine them (see trip #13)

  7. Mount Outram
    The big peak guarding the entrance to Manning Park, Outram is a great day trip for a lot of elevation with nice meadows if you time it right.

  8. Stoyoma Mountain
    By far the furthest from Vancouver in terms of driving time of the peaks in 103 hikes, do this on your way to or from the interior to do something else. You get to drive pretty much to treeline in the middle of nowhere, from which the summit of Stoyoma is just a quick hike away. The ridges continue a long ways in each direction if you’re so inclined.

  9. Punch Bowl
    Punch Bowl is a beautiful little lake tucked into the northwest corner of Manning Park and worth a day trip. We camped just before the pass and tacked on an ascent of Snass Mountain to make the trip a bit more fun.

  10. Coliseum Mountain
    Rather than follow what 103 hikes says and ascend from Lynn Valley / Norvan falls, ride your bike up towards the Seymour dam and follow the trail up to Coliseum on the east side. This trail is steep(!), but you rise quickly and Coliseum is where you get the best views of Cathedral mountain to the north.

  11. Mount Elsay
    Mt. Seymour too short? Go to Mt. Elsay! Do it as a loop by dropping down to the west between the second and third peaks of Seymour, add in a jaunt up Runner Peak to make your day more interesting, and return from Mt. Elsay via the Elsay Lake trail.

  12. Slollicum Peak
    A surprisingly pleasant ascent above Harrison Lake, this trail had a lot of work done on it in 2019 and also makes for a quality spring ascent when there is still too much snow for higher peaks.

  13. Mount Gardner (Bowen Island)
    The second best Howe Sound island hike, Gardner makes for a great first hike of the season.

  14. Widgeon Lake
    Adventure! Much of the trail to Widgeon Lake isn’t very exciting or in very good condition, but it has four things going for it. First, a really nice canoe ridge through Widgeon slough. Second, you get to stop at Widgeon Falls. Third, the bridge across Widgeon creek is a sight to behold. And fourth, the lake itself is way bigger than you’d expect given how close it is to the city.

  15. Zoa Peak
    Incredibly popular as a ski tour or snowshoe, Zoa is a great short hike as well, although its neighbours are better.

  16. Slesse Memorial
    Highly recommended as a late season hike when the days are getting shorter or higher destinations are snowed in. The memorial itself is interesting, but the NE buttress of Mt. Slesse above it are awe inspiring.

  17. Black Mountain
    Grind your way up from Horseshoe Bay via Eagle Bluffs (consider adding on West Knob on your way), or shortcut up from the Cypress Bowl ski area. Either way, Black Mountain has a great summit with lots of little lakes to relax by.

  18. Statlu Lake
    Go for the views of Mt. Bardean & Mt. Ratney above the lake. The bridge near the trailhead is pretty insane too. I have no idea how they managed to get that log in place. Look online for current directions to reach the trailhead because logging in 2020 realigned the logging roads.

  19. Nicomen Lake
    This is a tough one to rank because to do it as a day trip as the book recommends from Cayuse Flats would be a real slog of ~32km, albeit to a beautiful lake with a wonderful campground, and I wouldn’t recommend it. On the other hand, doing the entire Heather Trail as an epic day trip via Three Brothers, down to Nicomen Lake, and out to Cayuse Flats is one of the most beautiful and wonderful days you can do in SW BC, but it is ~37-39km, so either way is a big, big day.

  20. Hector Ferguson Lake
    You probably think I’m insane for ranking this so high, and maybe I am. 103 hikes notoriously misstates the roundtrip distance as 28km when it’s more like 36km, and the lake itself is nothing special, but I had a great day in part due to the sheer ridiculousness of the affair. A long bike ride to start, a hike through some crazy forest, a creek crossing, a boulder gulley, and then a little lake. This is a trip you do for the variety and to see how fast you can go, not for the destination. We did it in 8.5 hours, how about you?

  21. Vedder Mountain
    Great as an early season hike, I’ve carried my kids up here. I wouldn’t bother in high season, but as a place to get a nice snow-free half day hike in the shoulder season, it’s one of the best options.

  22. Williams Ridge
    The view from the final viewpoint is nice, but it’s a lot of elevation for what you get and there are so many other hikes in the region that are better bang for your buck. If you’re up for some steep heather scrambling and adding ~4 hours to your day, best continue past the viewpoint on to the actual summit!

  23. Mount Strachan
    Nothing against Mt. Strachan, but the other hikes in the area are simply better. Hollyburn is better for carrying little kids, Black Mountain has better lakes, Howe Sound Crest Trail has better views.

The Rest

Do these once if they’re far, or do regularly if they’re close. They’re hikes, often interesting enough, but I’m not going to make any effort to repeat them. Often there’s another nearby hike that’s simply a better use of your time.

  1. Lions (Binkert) Trail
    Yeah, the Lions are iconic, but this trail doesn’t go to the summit, nor is it very safe to go to the summit. Do Harvey & Brunswick instead.

  2. Stein Valley
    The route as described is a day trip up to the suspension bridge. In early and mid-season it’s good exercise next to a really impressive river, but a long ways to go for what it is.

  3. Mount Crickmer
    Good views of Robie Reid, but too much road slogging unless you’re lucky enough to find the gate at the bottom open.

  4. Diez Vistas
    I live near this, so I’ve done it lots. Good for exercise but don’t expect to see much of anything.

  5. Bear Mountain
    Great as a late season hike when days are short and other destination are now covered and does have very god views of the Cheam range. Not worth it in other conditions.

  6. Cerise Creek
    I feel bad ranking this so low, but I feel like other summer destinations in the Duffey are better. Make this worthwhile by continuing beyond it and up to the summit of Vantage peak.

  7. Dennett Lake
    Good exercise close to town, and the viewpoint above Munro lake is really good.

  8. Skagit River Trail
    Essentially just a walk in the park. There’s only one reason to do this trail, and that’s that in early June it has a couple huge groves of wild rhododendrons.

  9. First Brigade Trail (Tikwalus Heritage Loop)
    The local first nation has done a great job at adding interpretive signs to explain the history of the region, and that elevates this otherwise mundane trail to be one of some interest.

  10. Poland Lake
    A nice lake at the end of a long valley if you approach via how 103 hikes recommends. I liked it, but you have so many iconic hikes nearby that you’ll want to do first.

  11. Wells Peak
    Hope Mountain’s baby brother, another short hike from the same parking area. More wild and can be done in the same day if you have the time.

  12. Hanes Valley
    Good for a trail run or workout, or access to the Crater Slabs route up Crown Mountain.

  13. Tin Hat Mountain
    Lovely summit, but the route is a bit annoying with a lot of up and down, and the fact is that other logging roads will get you a lot closer to the summit.

  14. Flora Lake Loop
    A great workout. I recommend doing it the opposite direction that the book recommends, up past Lindeman Lake, almost to Greendrop, up to Flora Lake and then over the pass for a quick descent back to your car. Parking at the trailhead overnight is not recommended due to risk of getting your car smashed up.

  15. Skyline Trail West
    As mentioned above, best done with a second party doing the complete skyline trail in the other direction. Great views of Hozomeen but if you’re only going to do half, do the other half.

  16. Mt. Amadis
    Very steep, but surprisingly interesting trail above Cultus Lake. A lot of effort for the view, but the ridge itself is more unique than you’d expect. Much of the ridge is near knife-edge, with significant exposure on the trail in places. There are handlines in the worst places, but definitely not for the un-fit or the faint of heart.

  17. Silverdaisy Mountain
    A good safe snowshoe or early season hike on snow, there isn’t much special about Silverdaisy. Nonetheless, it’s one of the better trips to hike in April/May.

  18. Mt. Rexford Trail
    I feel bad about putting this low as the views of Slesse from the trail are jaw dropping, and the alpine is fantastic, but it has a few knocks against it including not leading to a proper destination, being in need of some pruning low down, and that the road has deteriorated, adding ~2km and 250m elevation gain to the trip as described in the book.

  19. Mount Hallowell
    The old fire lookout on the summit is neat, but too much of the route is on road, first clear, then overgrown.

  20. Radium Lake
    Radium lake is a long ways to go for a pretty unremarkable lake. That said, it’s possible to go above to Macdonald Peak (a bit tricky) and Mt. Webb (super easy) to turn this into a grade A day.

  21. Sumas Mountain
    Chadsey lake is reasonably nice, but in the end you’re taking a very long trail to a summit that you can drive almost to the top of.

  22. Mount Thynne
    Beautiful area, but a road all the way up. I didn’t know where to park, so I ended up driving right to the summit.

  23. Flora Lake Loop
    A big day. Not bad at all, and Flora Peak is nice, but still… if you have the time to do this, first tackle the long days higher on this list.

  24. Sigurd Creek
    Crooked falls are really nice, but this hike doesn’t really go anywhere as described in 103 hikes. Instead of the route described, either go just to the falls for a short outing, or buckle up for 1800m of elevation gain and head up to Sigurd Peak itself, the trail to which recently had work done and is in very good condition.

  25. Dilly-Dally Peak
    Use a bike to get to the trailhead to save yourself 5km of walking each way. I actually liked this trip, but I can’t recommend it above Tangled Summit, although if you do go to Tangled Summit and have the energy to spare, you may as well continue on over Dilly-Dally Peak

  26. Blue Mountain
    Road, road, road, road. Decent early or late season trip, but you’re essentially on a dirt biker access road the entire time.

  27. Greendrop Lake
    A nice lake in a nice valley. Very popular, although friends have had their cars smashed up at the trailhead.

  28. Mount Artaban (Gambier Island)
    This is a really short trip, so do it in the offseason as a traverse and add in an ascent of Burt’s Bluff

  29. Gate Mountain (Fraser Valley)
    I spent a day in early July 2022 clearing the bush from the trail up as far as the “notch” viewpoint. A great workout, but hard to recommend until much more work is done on the trail

  30. Alouette Mountain
    Why go to Alouette mountain? I don’t know. It’s a real slog. Evans peak is a 10x better trip for a typical hiker, and even if you are thinking of doing it on your ways to Blanshard Needle, use Fly gulley instead.

  31. Mount Killam (Gambier Island)
    Reasonably nice trail, and a good viewpoint 80% of the way up, but… there’s no view from the summit.

  32. Mount Lincoln
    Ticks, ticks, ticks. Do you like ticks? If so, go to Mt. Lincoln. If not, go somewhere else.

  33. Campbell Lake
    Only a viewpoint half way up of Harrison Lake makes this trip half way worthwhile.

  34. Lindsay Lake
    There’s nothing wrong with Lindsay Lake being in the book, but it’s there as filler. There is absolutely no reason to turn around at Lindsay Lake when the beautiful Tangled Summit is just ahead of you and also described in the book.

  35. Lower Grouse Mountain
    Good for some exercise, pointless as a destination

  36. Burke Summit
    There are simply better hikes in the area, such as to the Coquitlam Lake Viewpoint. I did camp on top once though in order to get access to the peaks beyond.

  37. Ghostpass Lake
    This lake is nothing special. Save your feet from some wear and hike in from behind, from the head of Sowawqua Creek if you really want to get there.
Continue ReadingWhich 103 Hikes to do in 2022

Mt. Hallowell

Date: April 17, 2021

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2

Report: It’s been a quiet year so far for adventuring, with the lack of coordinated activities for the kids sapping everyone’s energy. Nonetheless, I had Friday off from work and the sun inspired me to find a way to get out for a day trip. I only have about 13 of the 103 hikes from the last Jack Bryceland edition still to hike, and in a moment of late afternoon inspiration, decided to find a way to do a trip to Mt. Hallowell.

We drove up the Malaspina substation road early in the morning, turning left just before the substation, and right at the next intersection, meeting the “trail” (i.e. road) a few hundred metres ahead, where we turned left and rather than stop, kept on driving. In our stock Nissan XTerra we drove up the road and parked at a switchback at ~450m, beyond which the road rapidly deteriorated.

We left the car at about 8:20, and made quick time up the old road, past a major washout ~10 minutes from the car, and up towards the peak. We hit soft & slushy continuous snow at ~850 metres, and put on our snowshoes. The road from here was much more challenging than it would normally be as the meltwater created a creek running down the centre of the road and we were constantly climbing down to cross over from side to side to avoid the deep pools and vertical snow walls carved out by the creek. Nonetheless, by 10 o’clock we’d reached the high point of the road, where flagging guided us left and towards the summit of Mt. Hallowell.

The 30 minutes it took to get from the road to the base of the summit block were the most challenging of the trip. I’m sure this is no problem (albeit a bit bushy) in summer, but with soft snow, very spaced out flagging, and lots of alder, the routefinding was quite a challenge, and we had to frequently rely on our GPS to find our way across the terrain to the base of the summit block, which we reached a bit past 10:30.

Luckily for us, as soon as the trail steepened, the snow conditions were very easy, the bush disappeared, and the flagging became frequent and easy to follow. We worked our way up the face, along the ridge, to the base of a steep snow slope ~30m below the fire lookout and summit. Here we followed the flagging steeply up then left across a mildly exposed and sketchy traverse that was out of character for the trip. On the way down we avoided this by descending much more moderate snow about 50m climber’s left of the flagging and would strongly recommend anyone else climbing Hallowell on snowshoes or microspikes to take that advice and wander around to the left for a ways rather than head straight up to the ridge.

Reaching the old rickety fire lookout (exposed nails everywhere!) before Brittany I took a couple minutes to wander over to the view-less true summit that is perhaps 1m higher than the lookout, before returning to where the lookout is located. At a couple minutes past noon we sat down for lunch and to enjoy the expansive views. Total ascent time ~3 hours, 40 minutes.

After 30 minutes on top we started our way down. In the mushy steep snow it took us almost as long to descend the summit block as it had taken us to go up, but from the base had it easy following our tracks back to the road and down to the car, which we reached just past 3pm, for a total descent time of 2 hours, 30 minutes.

It’s hard to read a trail description and look at a map to guess whether or not a route will be suitable for current conditions. Just a few weeks ago I got turned around below the summit of Mt. Amadis due to running into a steep exposed traverse covered in slush. Nonetheless, we made the right call on Mt. Hallowell. It’d definitely be easier to ascend without snow, but at the same time is a very good snowshoe or shoulder season trip, with easy access, nice terrain, and good views.

Continue ReadingMt. Hallowell

Slollicum Peak

Date: May 9, 2020

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2

Report: Travel, work, a surgery, kids, and covid have kept my adventuring to a minimum since last spring, but the stars aligned this weekend to allow for a more significant hike to a novel destination. With a forecast of 100% sun, I browsed through my old copy of 103 hikes to look for the nearest hike that I hadn’t already done and was reminded of Slollicum Peak. Slollicum met my criteria of somewhere that seemed safe, was new, and where I strongly suspected we wouldn’t run into any other people all day.

Slollicum Peak is above the east side of Harrison Lake and features an old Sev Heiberg trail up to its summit. My dad and a friend had done the trail perhaps 10 years ago and told me about an overgrown logging road and rough route up to the summit, so I was expecting to find an overgrown trail in poor condition up to snow line and then to wander via our own route up to the summit. What I was surprised to discover was that the logging road sections of trail were completely clear and the trail itself is in tip-top shape and incredibly well marked.

The first crux of the trip was finding the trailhead. Recent logging in the area has added a couple of junctions to the road. To find the trailhead, turn off of Harrison East FSR at 4.8km onto Slollicum FSR, then turn left at the first junction (~200-300m up the road), ignore the minor branch at the first switchback, and then turn left at the next junction. We parked at a clearing just before a steep section of road with a deep waterbar halfway up it, 300-400m before the end of the road (49°23’1.44″N, 121°44’20.01″W)

Leaving the car at 9am sharp, we walked up the spur right to the end where we found no trail. Consulting our GPS, we realized that the actual trailhead was a couple hundred metres back, about halfway between where we parked and the end of the road. In short, keep your eyes out when walking up this road. The trailhead itself is very well flagged, but easy to miss (49°23’12.37″N, 121°44’21.59″W)

The trail found, we started up the trail proper at 9:12 am, and followed it through the easy boulder field and forest up to the logging road above. I wonder if its possible to drive onto this upper spur, but given the lack of tire tracks the odds seem against its possibility. After 40 minutes or so up the logging road, we reached the trail proper at about 10:20am (very obvious) and set off up through the forest.

The trail is easy to follow and in great shape, and we followed it up between two creeks until we hit continuous snow at around 1050m. At this point I had thought we’d just have to find our own way, but the route is extremely well marked with fairly new markers and except for a few places where I had to hunt around to find the next marker (oddly there are far more markers visible heading downhill than uphill) we had an easy time following the route up to about 1450m.

The second crux of the trip (other than finding the trailhead) was figuring out the route after the creek crossing around 1150-1200m. After ascending a broad open ridge, the route drops down to a creek and ascends steeply up the far slope. The first few markers were easy to see, but to us it was not obvious at first that the trail traverses the fairly steep slope hard to climber’s left for ~50-100m to reach a short ramp leading once again to easier and well marked terrain.

Somewhere around 1450m we entered fairly open terrain and lost sight of the trail, but from here we were able to follow obvious open slopes leading up to the ridge just south of the summit. From reaching the ridgeline it was less than 5 minutes of hiking along the open ridge to reach the summit. There is some debate about which summit is the true summit, but my GPS topo map shows the southern summit being a few metres higher than the northern one, and so just past 1:15pm we elected to declare success at the first summit we reached. Total ascent time from car: 4 hours 15 minutes.

The views from the summit were simply spectacular. From the summit there are uninterrupted views of the Old Settler, Mt. Urquart, the Cheam range, the Chehalis groups, Mt. Breakenridge, Mt. Baker. Furthermore, the Coquihalla peaks and many peaks in Manning Park were easily identifiable in the distance.

After eating our lunch and enjoying the views, we started our descent at about 1:40pm, and given the snow were able to make great time, crossing the creek at 2:25pm and arriving back at the upper logging road at about 3:05pm. By this point the heat was becoming quite oppressive but we trudged down the road until we found the trail leading down to the car. Walking down this trail we were reminded that we were in the Fraser Valley by the constant cracks of rifle fire. Luckily neither ourselves nor our vehicle were the object of their shooting practice, and we arrived back at the car a few minutes before 4pm where we enjoyed a cold drink in the blistering sun. Total descent time: 2 hours 15 minutes.

To conclude, this trip greatly exceeded my expectations. I wouldn’t choose to do it in the height of summer when there are better opportunities for alpine meadows and scrambling, but for this time of year this was a great choice. The access was easy, the trail was in good condition, and as predicted we never encountered another person, rendering social distancing trivial.

Continue ReadingSlollicum Peak

Mt. Taylor Traverse

Date: March 2, 2019

Participants: Julie, Jeremy, Alex Le, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3

Report: It’s been years since the idea of doing a day traverse of Mt. Taylor, to ascend via Joffre Lakes and descend via the NW was first put in my head. I can’t remember who first suggested it to me, but after an unsuccessful attempt on Mt. Taylor back in early 2012 (due to fog), I knew I had no interest in once again ascending via the forest on the NW.

As luck would have it, my family was out of town for the weekend and I was able to talk Alex into a trip up to the Duffey, and he roped a couple others into joining us for our adventure.

After meeting at Mt. Currie Coffee in Pemberton, we dropped off my XTerra at the Saxifrage pull out and piled into Julie’s Forester and continued on to the Joffre Lakes parking lot. Amazingly, despite it being 9:30am and completely clear skies, there were only two other cars in the lot! Not complaining about the lack of crowds, we suited up and quickly got going, and with a well packed trail ahead of us we made good time and found ourselves standing on Upper Joffre Lake by 10:50am.

From the lake, we worked our way up the easy slopes towards the Tszil-Taylor col. As we passed the turnoff for the Tszil glacier we stopped to discuss whether we should tack an ascent of Tszil on to the day. After debate, we elected not to given that there were many open crevasses visible on the Matier and Stonecrop glaciers and not knowing the condition of the Tszil glacier, chose to continue directly up towards the Tszil-Taylor col. We stopped for lunch at a quiet flat spot in the valley before reaching the col, which we reached right at 1pm.

From the col, we could see that in theory a direct ascent of Tszil would be possible on a moderate snow slope (perhaps 35 degrees), but we could also see that the ridge directly up Taylor would not be passable on skis and that we would have to traverse around to the west side of the peak and once again chose to head straight for Taylor.

Heading around the southwest side of Taylor meant spacing ourselves out and crossing a couple of moderately exposed slopes that dropped off below us. We hustled and made it to the ridge that descends directly west off of the summit.

At this point, a party of 2 others caught up to us and decided to try to skin up a very steep snow slope, but we left our skis and booted straight up the ridge. The snow was unconsolidated in places, but in retrospect we made the right decision as we later learned that the other couple had eventually had to backtrack, leave their skis, and follow our boot track up to the summit. We reached the summit at about 2:40pm to gorgeous views all around!

The descent to our skis was quick, and we skiied down an obvious opening in the ridge to the bowl NW of the summit where I’d had to turn around 7 years ago due to lack of visibility. The snow was soft and amazing, and we continued skiing down open slopes on the left hand side of the bowl and down the boulder fields below, eventually crossing the creek at around 1300m.

Here we made our big mistake of the day. There is a faint old road that comes through the old clearcut at about 1200m and that leads back to where we left the car. However, the road does not come all the way across the clearcut.

When we hit the top of the clearcut, rather than traversing due north (skiier’s right), we skiied down some open slopes and ended up too low to hit the road. We traversed without skins for a few minutes before putting our skins on and fighting for a good 45 minutes through some of the worst trees imaginable to regain the 60m needed to get onto the road. It was a very good thing we saved time and energy by not ascending Tszil.

Once on the road, we found an old skin track, removed our skins, and were back down at the Duffey Lake Road in just a few minutes. We were back at our car just a bit before 5:30, for a total trip time of 7:45.

Thank you everyone for joining me on this trip. This trip can be highly recommended for a great mix of views, adventure, and skiing. Just don’t go too low to miss the road!

Continue ReadingMt. Taylor Traverse

Sockeye Horn and Beaujolais

Date: July 21/22, 2018

Participants: Volodymyr Koreniev, Dariia Korenieva, Nancy Zenger, Jeff Wallace, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3/4

Report: Beaujolais and Sockeye Horn (“Mystery Peak” in Gunn’s scrambles book) have been in my sights for years, but the opportunity to get in and have a go at them just didn’t come about.  However, with my parental leave coming to an end I found myself with a couple free days and made plans to head up for the weekend.

We met Friday evening and camped in a large clearing off of the Lillooet River FSR, and the next morning drove up the Hurley, then up Hope Creek FSR, and up the east branch towards the trailhead.  There has been recent logging in the area this year, and the bridges are in great shape.  Just after crossing the second, a new branch to fresh logging heads off to the right, so to reach the trailhead, continue straight / left on the older road.  Past this point, the road is water barred and alder is growing in from the sides, so Jeff left his CX-5 at a pullout and we all piled into my XTerra for the final 3 or so kilometres up to the trailhead.  The waterbars are all small, and any stock HC 4×4 will have no difficulty making it all the way up, with the aforementioned caveat that you will be getting an alder bath in places.

We left the car at about 9:55 and followed a faint path down to the first creek crossing.  The creek is not too hard to cross (note: there is a log about 30m upstream that can be crossed if desired), but Nancy slipped and soaked her boot.  Luckily the creek was only about 1 minute from the car and she was able to run back for some dry shoes and socks.

Across the first creek, we *should* have turned about 20-30 degrees to the left and wandered through a small clearing to the second creek, meeting the second creek close to where another creek flows into it from the pass above.  A trail up to the pass begins just to the left of the creek flowing into the second creek, but we only found this on the way down.  Instead, we continued straight ahead after crossing the first creek, and straight ahead after crossing the second, and spent the next 40 minutes bushwhacking up through dense bush before we found the trail just below the pass and followed it up until it crested the ridge.

From here, we followed the trail that branches off to the left, descending slightly to the pass and then rising up on the shoulder that we would contour around to get into the large valley below Beaujolais.  After an hour or so of sidehilling, we crossed a small creek and reached a relatively flat area near a small lake that appeared to be an ideal camping spot, so we set up our tents and hoped that the grey skies would clear.

A bit past 1 o’clock we were all set to go, and departed for our go at Sockeye Horn.  A seeming eternity of sidehilling later (in fact more like 1 hour 20 minutes), we reached the large lake below Sockeye Horn, and after a quick break, went around it and started winding our way up through the talus to join the ridge (as described in Gunn’s) book that would lead us to the summit.  We reached the ridge at 3:35pm, and from there continued up towards the summit.  The ridge is almost entirely straightforward and obvious scrambling, with the only difficult spot being moments before the summit, where you can either make an exposed step right on the ridgeline (as Volodymyr did) or descend a few metres and scramble up a slightly awkward corner to join the other route just a few metres below the summit.  We reached the summit at about 4:15pm to dark skies, and didn’t wait too long to start our descent because we were worried about rain.

Of course, by the time we reached the bottom of the summit ridge, the clouds were almost all gone and the blue skies filled with sun.  Two and a half hours later we were back at our campsite where we all enjoyed a hearty meal in the company of the worst mosquitos I’ve ever encountered in our local mountains.

The following morning, we woke modestly early and departed camp around 7:15am to head up to Beaujolais.  The weather was gorgeous and we were up at the col below Beaujolais by 8:15.  Here the scrambling started and we quickly made our way up the lower ridge towards the crux.  Just before the crux slab the ridge narrows and we got a good view of the slab and the narrow ridge above it.  Volodymyr and Jeff went ahead to check out the route and after a long period of indecision they decided that we wouldn’t be comfortable downclimbing the narrow, exposed ridge above the slab without a proper rope and so we reluctantly turned around, had a long break at the col, and went back to camp to pack up.

We left camp a bit after 11 and made good time on the sidehill traverse, finding a way to avoid some of the bushy parts we’d hit on the way in.  From the pass above the parking area, we followed the trail all the way down to the 2nd creek crossing, and before we knew it we were at our car a few minutes past 1pm.

Despite our non-ascent of Beaujolais, overall this was a great trip to close out my parental leave and return to work.  It was really fun to see a new area that I hadn’t been in before, we had a great camping location, we made it up Sockeye Horn, and of course the company was great.  Thank you everyone for joining me, and I look forward to getting back into the area soon with a rope to have another go at Beaujolais and perhaps to make an ascent of Canine Peak as well!

P.S. The ridge dividing Beaujolais valley from Sockeye Horn (i.e. the ridge to hiker’s right of the ridge in Gunn’s book) is reportedly an easy class 2 hike/scramble for someone looking for an easier ascent of Beaujolais


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