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 ūüôā

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

Opal Lake Scrambles

Date: Aug 23/24, 2014

Participants: David Carne, Michelle Lappan, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3

Report:¬†Opal Lake has long had my attention as a weekend destination due to the fact that the peaks on either side of it are both listed as 3 star scrambles in Matt Gunn’s guide. ¬†With only a few weeks left in summer proper, we decided to have a go at it. ¬†Setting out at a relaxed pace from the Whistler cabin Saturday morning, we had a breakfast at Mt. Currie coffee in Pemberton and headed up the Hurley and over Railroad Pass to the Hope Creek FSR. ¬†The road is in great shape until about 11.2 km, where we had to park due to severe deactivation. ¬†No worries, even if we had gone through the first big ditch, there are many more and we were glad to have parked where we did. ¬†Regardless, the end of the road is only about a 50¬†minute walk from this point.

Immediately after starting up the road we encountered what we very obviously grizzly prints. ¬†Huge! ¬†We’d see many more prints over the weekend but luckily, no bear. ¬†The road¬†went by quick, and we were pleased to find a flagged footbed through the forest at the end of the road all the way to the crossing of the creek coming down from Tenquille Glacier. ¬†The creek crossing was easy at mid day (more on this later), and although we couldn’t find any path on the other side of the creek, the going was easy through fairly mature forest and a bit of bush, and we quickly wound up at Opal Lake. ¬†Total time from end of road: 90 minutes. ¬†The lake was much nicer than I expected! ¬†This was probably because I had read a trip report that called it a “scum pond” (it’s not), but also because it’s situated in a beautiful alpine pass. ¬†At first we were worried about water, but it turns out that about 50m east of the lake there’s a great little stream with clean running water. ¬†Once at the pass, we set up our tents and prepared to set off for Chipmunk Mountain.

We followed Gunn’s suggested route up the “steep heather” to a gentle plateau leading to Chipmunk, and indeed the heather slope is really steep. ¬†That said, as we found on the descent, all other slopes are steep too and it probably is the best route. ¬†We moved steadily at a moderate pace and in seemingly no time made it up to the summit of Chipmunk. ¬†There was some fun scrambling found near the summit that we elected to take to avoid the loose rock in the gully bottom, but either way the summit is easy to attain. ¬†The ascent took only 1.5 hours from camp, and after a nice break on the summit to eat a snack and gaze over at the Tenquille area to the south, Locomotive & Sampson areas to the west, and Beaujolais and Sockeye Horn (known as Mystery Peak in Gunn’s book)¬†to the east, we made our way back down to camp to enjoy a good meal before darkness fell.

It clouded over in the evening and according to David it rained overnight, but luckily by the time we arose in the morning, the skies were beginning to clear and after a slow morning at camp, we headed up the North Ridge of Tenquille Mountain. ¬†At this time of year, the talus field below the ridge is really loose and not fun to ascend, but once on the ridge proper, the route is really, really nice. ¬†Although at times it looks like the route is going to get really hard, Gunn’s description is easy to follow and all difficulties are easily avoided. ¬†We were a bit slower ascending Tenquille than Chipmunk, but it still took only a little over 2 hours from the lake to make the summit. ¬†Once on top, we had a bit of disagreement over whether to continue on to Goat Mountain or not, but with a bit of arm twisting, David was convinced to join me, and the two of us headed for a quick jaunt to Goat while Brittany and Michelle lounged about and waited in the warm sun on the summit of Tenquille.

Although it looks tricky from the summit of Tenquille, it turned out to be easy to make it over to Goat Mountain, essentially just sticking to the good rock at the left hand side of the obvious cliff bands (and just right of the main gully heading up the face). ¬†Near the top there’s a bit of fun scrambling on good rock, and 50 minutes after leaving the top of Tenquille we stood on the summit of Goat and filled out the summit register (apparently Goat is the only mountain in the region with a register). ¬†From the summit of Goat there are great views of Tenquille Lake itself (not visible from the top of Tenquille Mountain), but we didn’t want to keep our better halves waiting long, and after only a few minutes on top made our way back to Tenquille Mountain. ¬†Although it occasionally threatened to rain at times during the day, it never did and most of the time we had good weather.

The descent back to camp was quick, and after a brief stop over to pack up, we departed camp just past 4pm. ¬†The creek crossing was quite a bit more exciting on the way back due to the increased water flow after the overnight rain and it being later in the day, but we managed to find a reasonable crossing point not far upstream from where we had crossed the previous day. ¬†From there on it was straightforward through the forest and down the road, and we reached the jeep at 6 o’clock sharp. ¬†In all, it was another great weekend. ¬†Thanks to everyone for the great trip, and hopefully there are still a few good weekends left this year!

Continue ReadingOpal Lake Scrambles

Tenquille Lake Area

Date: Aug 1-2, 2014

Participants: Fatemeh Riahi, Ali Kamali, Devin Erickson, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2

Report:¬†Brittany has been asking to go into Tenquille Lake and do a few of the nearby hikes / scrambles for a few years now, but until last week the time and opportunity had never arisen. ¬†Luckily, we’ve spent the last couple weeks on vacation, and what better way to spend the last couple days of it than taking some friends out for their first ever backpacking experience at a beautiful lake and with a perfect weather forecast.

We met up at Mt. Currie coffee Friday¬†morning at 9 o’clock, and drove off towards Birken where we took the Tenquille-Birkenhead FSR to access the area from the east. ¬†Most of the road is in very good shape (probably want a 4×4 all the way from where you leave the Pemberton Portage road), although the last 5km or so has been deactivated and requires a high clearance 4×4. ¬†We departed from the trailhead at about a quarter to 11, and arrived at the cabin at the west end of the lake almost exactly two hours later. ¬†Luckily we were the first to arrive at the lake for the long weekend and had our choice of camping location. ¬†We set up camp perhaps 200 feet from the cabin in a large open area, and sat down in the cabin to enjoy a good lunch. ¬†The lake itself is beautiful and the view to the west is dominated by Sun God (which we ascended a few years ago, it’s easy from this angle to see how the peak got its name).

On our way we were passed by a large party of 18 mountain bikers, all on 2015 Giant Reign’s (disclaimer: I own a 2014 Giant Reign). ¬†Apparently the group was press junket of sorts, a mix of bike company employees and journalists flown in to review the new bikes in a beautiful environment. ¬†They had been dropped off at the head of Barbour’s valley and were making their way by Tenquille Lake in order to descend the trail down to the Pemberton Valley. ¬†It’d be a wonderful place to bike, although I couldn’t help but notice that it would be better to bike there later in the season when it was a bit drier… some of the muddier areas near the lake looked like a war zone after all the bikes had pass through.

After a hearty lunch and setting up camp, we headed up to Copper Mound. ¬†We misread the directions in Gunn’s book and thought that there would be a trail heading up to Fossil Pass from Tenquille Pass, but after hiking up to Tenquille Pass and descending a fair ways down the other side, we realized that that was not the case, and made our way up the open slopes to Fossil Pass and from there up the easy scree and talus fields to the summit of Copper Mound. ¬†The views from the summit were excellent! ¬†There were a couple of paragliders flying overhead, the Pemberton Valley long below on one side, and views of Goat, Tenquille, the Sampson area, Currie, Ipsoot, Rhododendron, and the¬†peaks at the northern end of the Pemberton Icefield. ¬†While the rest of our party wanted to lounge about on top, I wanted to bag another peak, and set off for a quick ascent of Mt. McLeod. ¬†I moved quick and made it summit to summit in 45 minutes, took a few quick pictures, and scurried back to Fossil Pass where I arrived just a few minutes before everyone else. ¬†From here it was an easy descent back down to the lake where we hung out and had a great dinner. ¬†Devin tried out the plastic kayak under the cabin while dinner was being cooked, and while it made for great photos, the kayak turned out to have holes in its bottom and he ended up unexpectedly wet and joined us back in the cabin much sooner than we expected.

On the Saturday we had a slow morning eating breakfast, packing up our tents, and talking to some of the people who had arrived in the area the previous evening. ¬†We set off with all our gear again at about a quarter to 11, and dropped all of our bags except for two small day bags just past the turn off to Barbour’s valley. ¬†The trail up into the valley is in great shape, and following Gunn’s directions we made our way up Mt. Barbour. ¬†The route is mostly hiking, but has a 5-10 minute section of moderate scrambling just below the summit that added to the fun and epicness of the ascent. ¬†Just like Copper Mound, the views from the top were great, but the summit has a much more aesthetic atmosphere than Copper Mound, and there was unanimous agreement that it was our favourite peak of the trip. ¬†We left the summit at about 2:45 and headed down to our bags and from their to the Jeep, arriving at the Jeep just past 6:30.

Two full days of hiking, but everyone survived and at least claimed to have fun ūüôā ¬†We were even down early enough to enjoy a dinner at the Wood in Pemberton before saying goodbye and bringing our vacation to an end. ¬†Tenquille Lake exceeded my expectations with regards to beauty and ease of access and I can see why it’s so popular these days. ¬†The only downside of the area was the massive number of biting horseflies. ¬†I can’t wait to get back up there and ascent the peaks on the north side of the lake! ¬†Thanks to all for the great trip!


Continue ReadingTenquille Lake Area