Hector Ferguson Lake

Date: August 27, 2017

Participants: Nancy Zenger, Jeff Wallace, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 1

Report:  Hector Ferguson Lake is certainly the most notorious of the 103 hikes, not least because its published roundtrip distance of 28km is a gross misunderestimation by any measure and also because of its crossing of Gold Creek.  Nonetheless, as an aspiring completionist, it was finally time to head to the infamous lake.

I posted a trip on the BCMC schedule and failed to find any takers, but managed to convince Nancy and Jeff to come along with the promise that they would make a 7pm dinner in town.  This seemed overly ambitious given that we weren’t going to be able to have a very early start and I managed to dig up a trip report alleging a 13.5 hour round trip time, but nonetheless decided to take advantage of the opportunity and have a go at the lake.  To my surprise, aside from a couple km of nearly destroyed trail on either side of the Gold Creek crossing, it’s quite a pleasant trip!

I was picked up in the morning just past 7, and this meant that we were able to be parked at the East Canyon lot in Golden Ears Park and on the trail at a few minutes past 8.  We brought our bikes and aside from being a bit grunty in short sections, had no difficulty making good time up the East Canyon trail.  We passed Viewpoint beach and at about 5.75km stashed our bikes in the bush beside the trail, a couple hundred metres past where the trail ceased to be reasonable for biking.  Total biking time was a bit over an hour, perhaps around 1:10-1:15.

From where we hid the bikes in the bush, the trail is in great shape (with minor exceptions) until past the 10km marker.  However, there is a certain point around 10.5km where the trail rapidly deteriorates.  Soon after becoming bushy, the trail is just above the creek and there is some flagging leading down to it as well as flagging leading straight ahead.  We tried following the trail above the creek, but it’s terrible and quickly backtracked and went down to the creek, following it to a sandbar where the river makes a hard turn to hiker’s left.  This is the only point where the route was not obvious.  You’ll see the trail above the creek descending down to you on your right, but continue straight ahead into the bush to find flagging and a continuation of the trail to the crossing over Gold Creek.

This is where the trail is simply destroyed.  It is only a few hundred metres, but trees have fallen over left, right, and centre.  With a bit of creativity though it was possible to stay on top of many of the trees and make our way across the mess, through a few minutes of badly overgrown trail, and pop out onto the beach just 50m downstream of where you need to cross Gold Creek.  Look for the obvious flagging on the far side of the creek.  I crossed the creek on some logs about 50m downstream of the flagging, and Nancy and Jeff simply took off their shoes and waded through the slightly-above-ankle deep water to the far side.  Total time from car to Gold Creek crossing: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

From the far side of Gold Creek, the trail heads through the bush for a few minutes to the easy crossing over Hector Ferguson Creek, and continues through blow down and berry bushes as it starts its ascent towards Hector Ferguson Lake.  At first the trail is in quite bad shape, but after a short while becomes much better.  The trail is extremely well flagged, and while not too quick due to all of the branch dodging and occasional bushy section, was easy enough to follow all the way up to Hector Ferguson Lake.  Total time to lake: 4 hours, 15 minutes.

I was so happy to be there!  At last, Hector Ferguson Lake!  The lake itself isn’t anything special, just any other lake in the mountain, but it’s pleasant enough and we had a good lunch before starting our descent.

Our descent from Hector Ferguson Lake to Gold Creek was as slow as our ascent.  I attributed this to a remarkable drop in our enthusiasm, but after a refreshing foot and leg dip in Gold Creek we felt rejuvenated enough to head back down the East Canyon Trail to the parking lot.  It took us almost an hour and a half back to our bikes, but other than the initial hill climb just past the East/West Canyon trails connector bridge, the trail is entirely downhill to the cars and we made it back to our car at a quarter to 5.  Total time from lake to parking lot: 4 hours, 9 minutes.

In the end, I enjoyed the trip a lot more than I expected I would.  It’s close to town, features a lot of pleasant and varied terrain, and was a rather nice way to spend a hot day near the city.  The bikes helped a lot, and allowed us to do the round trip in less than 9 hours, moving quickly but never racing (speed at getting over small logs a big plus).  The only real problem with the trail is the amount of bush that is encroaching on it.  The good news is that it’s 99% minor bush, and if a couple parties were to do the round trip with shears in their hands, just clipping away as they travelled up and down, the trail would quickly be in pretty good shape again.  If you’re thinking of heading in, maybe bring some with you and help out your fellow hikers!

Note: For comfort, recommended to bring a GPS track of the trail with you.  The GPS track on open street map of the east canyon trail is complete and appeared to be accurate.

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Golden Ears

Trip Date: August 11, 2012

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2 (minor 3rd for SW ear)

Report: I last hiked to the summit of Golden Ears almost exactly 10 years ago, in the summer after grade 11, and Britt had never attempted it before, so a mid-summer day with a perfect forecast seemed like a great opportunity to head once again to this popular area.  We arrived in Golden Ears park soon after the gates opened and set off on the West Canyon trail shortly before 7:30am.  The trail is easy to follow and well marked, and we made quick time up to Alder Flats and upwards towards Panorama Ridge, and reached the new emergency shelter (put in just a couple months after I last ascended the peak) just before noon.

We stopped for a quick lunch as the crowds hadn’t yet arrived, and made our way up towards the summit over enjoyable easy scrambling terrain, and reached the main summit at a few minutes before 1.  I quickly made my way over to the lower SW ear (very short section of 3rd class scrambling) to take a few photos, and made it back to the main summit as a couple other parties made it to the main summit.  The day was warm and bug free, and amazingly, while describing the routes up Edge and Blanshard to some of the other people on the summit, I looked over to the ridge of Edge to see somebody (Alexis?) working his way quickly along the ridge, making a solo Blanshard-Golden Ears traverse.  We lounged on the summit for well over an hour before beginning our way down the mountain.

Despite the number of people we saw hiking up the trail to attempt the summit as a day trip, only a handful of parties achieved the summit, as it seems that the majority of day trippers ran out of steam around the emergency shelter.  The route down was pleasant enough down into the forest, after which the mind numbing tedium of the walk out kicked in, eventually leading me to zone out and take a nasty slip on the logging road above Alder Flats.  Nonetheless, we made it out to the car right at 7 o’clock, capping another excellent day in the mountains.

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Blanshard Needle

Trip Date: July 7, 2012

Participants: Jeff Ross (organizer), Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger + 6 more BCMC members

Difficulty: 4.  Mostly a stiff 3rd class, with one short pitch of low-5th climbing.

Report: Easily visible and prominent from many parts of the Lower Mainland, including from the river shore in front of my place in New Westminster, Blanshard Needle has been on my to-do list for a couple years now, but until just a couple days before this trip was scheduled to run I still had no idea when I’d have an opportunity to tackle it.  However, a fortuitous series of events led to Brittany and I signing up for the trip at the last minute and on a beautiful warm Saturday morning we found ourselves driving out to the Golden Ears West Canyon trailhead.

Our party gathered at the trailhead and departed around 8:30.  The first couple km of the route follow the regular west canyon trail towards Alder Flats, but just before the crossing of Evans Creek, there is a trail that heads off into the trees on the left.  The Evans Creek trail is in great shape and was easy to follow, and we made quick time following the trail to its end where it dumped us out onto the creek bed at the bottom of the basin below Blanshard and Edge.  From here, we proceeded to take the wrong route as we followed the obvious, wide creek bed up towards Edge.  Luckily, Jeff didn’t take too long to realize that the route didn’t feel right, and we backtracked right back to where the trail ended at the creek, and found the correct route to follow.  Immediately after making it to the creek, you have to turn left to follow another (smaller) creek bed (there is flagging if you look carefully) up towards Fly’s Gully.

Even in early July, Fly’s Gully was snow filled right down to the bottom, and most of us put on our crampons (even with the summer heat, the gully faces NE and doesn’t see much sun) to ascend the 35 degree gully.  We topped out of the gully at around 12:30, dumped our crampons and ice axes, and followed the easy ridge from the Alouette-Blanshard col up to the base of the needle itself.

At the base of the needle, there is one short pitch (perhaps 12m?) of low 5th climbing that I’m sure some people would be willing to climb unroped, but not me.  Jeff led the pitch in fine style, and by having a few people top rope on the same rope at the same time, it didn’t take long for everyone to make it up the pitch.  From the top of the pitch, it is generally straightforward to find the route up to the false summit, although some of the flagging has fallen away.  From the false summit, we made a very short descent into the notch between the two summits, and although some reports have mentioned the exposure of crossing the notch, I thought it was less bothersome than on other parts of the route due to the ease of crossing the notch (similar to the summit ridge of Mt. Brunswick).  Once across the notch, it is only another few minutes of scrambling up to the main summit.  In all, the route has one pitch of low-5th climbing, followed by a consistently steep (and in places exposed) 3rd class scramble right up to the summit.  It was some of the most enjoyable scrambling that I’ve ever done.

We arrived on the summit around 2:30, and the views were amazing in all directions.  The local peaks such as Golden Ears, Edge, Robie Reid, Judge Howay, and Crickmer were all clear, as was Alouette just to the south of us where we could see a few hikers arriving on its summit.  Further away, we could make out details on Sky Pilot, Baker, and Slesse through the clear air above the haze below.

We departed the summit a bit past 3, and downclimbed the same route that we ascended to the 5th class pitch, which most of us rappelled.  Putting the crampons back on it was a quick and easy descent down Fly’s Gully, with a few of us having some accidental self arrest practice sessions on the softening snow. We did have a scary incident near the bottom where a couple of bowling ball sized rocks came loose from above and careened down the steep gully, narrowly missing some of our party members! From the base of the gully we made good time down the Evans Creek and West Canyon trails, and reached our cars at about 6:45.  A truly fantastic trip!  Thank you Jeff for organizing!

Continue ReadingBlanshard Needle