Downton Creek Scrambling

Trip Date: June 29-30, 2013

Participants: Alex Le, Ed Zenger, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2 (Statimcets), 3 (Linus)

Report: After the trip to Mt. Sedgwick that I had been planning on going on fell apart late in the week, I hastily arranged to put together a “mellow” but enjoyable trip for the Canada Day long weekend.  Alex had to be back in town to work on the Monday, so the plan was made to head into Downton Creek for the Saturday and Sunday, and then the rest of us would find somewhere else to wander about on the Monday (when we ended up climbing Gott Peak).

Knowing that access should be quick into the Downton Creek drainage, we met up at the Mt. Currie Coffee Company in Pemberton at 10 o’clock, had breakfast, and headed out towards Lillooet on the Duffey Lake Road.  The forecast was for increasing temperatures over the weekend, and some predicted that the Lillooet / Lytton area would record the highest temperatures ever recorded in Canada by the Tuesday, but on Saturday morning the temperatures were still very reasonable.  We reached the Downton Creek turnoff at around 11:30, and everyone piled into my Jeep for the ride up to the Holly Lake trailhead.  Some reports indicate that the road in is 2wd, and that is generally true.  The roadbed itself (dirt and gravel) is in very good condition, but there are a couple places where having an extra inch or two of clearance makes the going a bit easier.  Nonetheless, a standard 2wd should be able to make it to the trailhead with a bit of patience.

We got everything sorted out at the trailhead and departed on the Holly Lake trail at about 12:30.  The trail is in fantastic condition and whoever is maintaining it has earned himself big kudos.  We reached Holly Lake after a bit less than an hour of hiking, and as nobody else was around, we considered setting up camp there, but decided instead to head up to the Alpine.  This was a great decision on our part because that night a stag party set up at Holly Lake (including a keg brought in by helicopter!) and the following day a few more parties came in to set up camp at the lake.  Up in the alpine, however, below Schroeder and Linus peaks there is a huge plateau at around 2100m with a couple small tarns on it, great views all around, and many good tent spots.  Also, being in the rain shadow, this area was snow free even though it was only the end of June.  Up there we were alone all weekend.  Total hiking time to this plateau (with overnight packs) was well under 2 hours.

After setting up camp and taking some quick naps, we decided at around 4:15 to head up Statimcets Peak (Downton Creek 8700 in Gunn’s Scrambles book).  We traversed around Faulty Tower and headed up a moderate snowslope to the South Ridge of Statimcets which we followed to the summit, reaching the summit a bit past 5:30.  With the long days and warm weather, there were fantastic views all around.  After lounging about for a while, we took the East Ridge down easy snow and scree (the route indicated in Gunn’s book) and were back in camp by 7 o’clock to cook dinner and enjoy the long daylight.

On the Sunday, we got up around 7 just as the temperature in our tent was approaching the level of “sauna”.  We set off after breakfast to head up the ridge to Linus peak, ascending moderately steep snow (35-40 degrees) to the low point on the ridge between Schroeder and Linus peaks, and turning onto the ridge to ascend Linus.  The ridge is quite loose and exposed in places, but largely class 2, with a handful of class 3 sections, such as an au cheval not far along (avoidable on an exposed ledge on the right, it’s easier to just go over it).  This was Mr. Le’s first scrambling experience and from this I learned that the ridge is quite scary and exposed for beginners.  Nonetheless, we all made it to the summit in one piece and enjoyed the crisp morning views.  Total ascent time from camp was approximately 2 hours.  A group vote was taken, and rather than continue on the ridge to Statimcets (my vote), we reversed our route back down, returning to our camp in the early afternoon, and from there, down to our vehicle (just over an hour total descent time), and a nice drive out to Lillooet for a meal at the main hotel.

The Downton Creek area is a fantastic basin for scrambling.  We only climbed two peaks, but I’d love to head back in a couple years with a quick party to do the full Soprano to Statimcets traverse.  It is definitely one of the easiest alpine areas to access in SW BC, and at present, almost nobody ventures above Holly Lake!  Highly recommended.

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