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

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

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


Continue ReadingSockeye Horn and Beaujolais

Cathedral Park 2017

Date: July 28-31, 2017

Participants: Eira Zenger, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger, Ed Zenger, Leslie Zenger, Peter Zenger, Nancy Zenger, Jeff Wallace

Difficulty: 1-3

Report: Ever since Brittany and I climbed the Matriach-Macabre-Grimface traverse from Wall Creek back in 2013 I had the idea in my head to book a cabin at Cathedral Lakes Lodge for the whole extended family and explore the core part of Cathedral Park.  Earlier this year, Brittany and I finally got our act together and pulled the trigger to organize a 4 day trip into the park.

We all met on the night of the 27th at a Keremeos campground so that we wouldn’t have to drive too far the next morning to meet our 10am ride from Cathedral Lakes base camp up to the lodge compound at Quiniscoe Lake, and after a poor night’s sleep due to the sun waking Eira at 4:45am, we drove down Ashnola Creek road to meet our ride in.  Lucky for us, as we were going to be staying in Tom’s cabin, which is a few minutes walk above the lodge we all got to ride in a comfortable Suburban rather than the dusty Unimog with the other campers that morning.  The ride in takes about an hour and was made enjoyable by our driver, Ernie, and by noon we had all our belongings in the cabin and sat down for lunch.

Now, this is my largely my fault for not doing research beforehand, but I had no idea how nice the cabin was going to be.  We had a 4 bedroom cabin with sheets and sleeping room for 8 people, running hot water, as well as a stove and fridge!  True luxury!

As we ate lunch the valley filled with smoke from a fire burning south of the border in the Paysayten Wilderness, and Peter developed a fever that would stay with him for the next 4 days.  However, I was motivated to make it up all the remaining scrambles in the park and convinced my dad, Nancy, and Jeff to head out with me in the smoke to climb the east ridge of Pyramid Mountain.  This is a fun and easy half-day scramble from Quiniscoe Lake.  There is no exposure on the route and we made it to the summit in roughly 2 hours from the lake.  By the time we reached the summit, the smoke had started to subside, and from the summit we rambled along the ridge to Devil’s Woodpile, and down to the col to the south of Quiniscoe Peak.  From here, Jeff and I decided to take the long way back via Quiniscoe Mountain and Red Mountain while the others descended directly to Quiniscoe Lake.  Total round trip time for Jeff and I was about 4.5 hours.

The following day, all of us except Peter headed up to Lakeview Mountain via the Centennial Trail (note: this is not the route indicated in Gunn’s book.  We used that route for the descent).  The smoke had cleared completely by morning, and although it’s very heavy to carry an 18 month old baby all day, we shared the load around and ascended through wonderful meadows on the long gentle climb to Lakeview Mountain.  All day we could see the thick smoke to our south but it never quite encroached on us or severely diminished our views.  From the summit, everyone except for Nancy, Jeff, and I decided to head back down the way we ascended, but the 3 of us descended the south ridge of Lakeview on a good trail and made a quick jaunt up to the summit of Boxcar mountain.  From here we faced a decision of whether to return to the Lakeview-Boxcar col and follow the trail from there down to Goat Lake, or whether to continue to the south and head up Denture Ridge before descending to Goat Lake.  In the end, the decision was simple to head directly down as the smoke was starting to close in, and I found myself as able to justify not going up Denture Ridge because of how close to its high point I’d been on aforementioned trip to Matriarch.  The descent to Goat Lake was quick, and we caught up to the rest of the group not far past the Goat Lake – Centennial Trail junction, at which point I resumed my baby carrying duties.

On the Sunday, Peter was feeling well enough in the morning to join us for the beginning of our hike.  The goal was to make a circle, heading to Glacier Lake, then to Stone City, Smokey the Bear, the Giant Cleft, and then down via the Ladyslipper Lake trail and back to the cabin.  Peter and Leslie only made it as far as Glacier Lake before returning to the cabin on account of illness, but the rest of us continued upwards and made the full loop as described.  Smokey the Bear was worth checking out, but I wouldn’t really recommend people go check out the Giant Cleft.  It’s a neat formation, but if you’ve spent time in the mountains you’ve seen similar features before and visiting it requires significant elevation loss from Smokey the Bear.  In all, the loop took us nearly 7 hours.

For our final day, a few of us hiked around the lakes near the cabin, and spent the midday rowing boats around Quiniscoe Lake, although both my mom and dad chose to hike the Diamond Loop trail, which apparently has the best flower meadows of any trail in the core park.  After this, we packed up and caught our scheduled ride back down to our cars.  On the way out we stopped as usual at Benji Thai in Keremeos, and then had a terribly long drive home because a logging truck had dumped logs all over highway 3 near Manning Park and we were detoured from Princeton to Merritt in order to drive the Coquihalla to get back home to the Lower Mainland.  Oh well.

In all, this was a terrific trip, and I am very grateful that my whole family was able to join our experience.  The cabin exceeded all my expectations and the staff of the lodge were friendly and very helpful.  Highly recommended for everyone!

Continue ReadingCathedral Park 2017

Macdonald Peak & Mt. Webb

Date: June 17, 2017

Participants: Bill, Ilze, Ove, Miranda, Joseph, Oudi, Nancy Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2/3 (steep snow)

Report: A couple weeks ago I found out that my scheduled BCMC trip to Ben Lomond wouldn’t be possible due to bush overgrowth on the Wind Lake trail from Furry Creek, and I needed to quickly select another destination for my trip.  A flip-through of Gunn’s Scrambles book suggested that Macdonald Peak and Mt. Webb in the Chilliwack Valley would make for a good trip destination at this time of year with the long days.  I haven’t been out on many long hikes lately, and I wasn’t sure how well I’d do on a 2000m day, but the forecast was good enough and decided to go for it.

Most of our carpool arrived at the Chilliwack Lake day-use area just before 8am, although one of our drivers missed the turn and drove part way around the lake before heading back to the proper parking area.  This delayed us somewhat, but we were able to start hiking at around 8:30, down the beach trail towards the bridge and over the Chilliwack River.  From the river crossing, it’s about a 2.5km walk downriver to the no longer existent bridge crossing mentioned in Gunn’s book, and another 500m up to the (well-signed) start of the Radium Lake trail.

The trail up to Radium Lake is long and quite uninteresting aside from the 3 creek crossings: one on a remarkable suspension bridge that would have been a huge effort to construct, one on a flattened log, and the other on a plain old footbridge.  We hustled up the trail without any significant breaks and reached the lake at 11:30 (parking to lake: 3 hours).  Miranda’s flight the previous evening had been significantly delayed and landed at 2:30am, so she elected to sleep on the tent platform by the lake while the rest of us went up to the peaks above.

The flagging indicating the trail up to the Macdonald-Webb col was not obvious to us from the tent platform, and so for the first 10 minutes above the lake we found ourselves bushwacking up the hill before stumbling across a perfectly good trail that we should have been on all along.  We hit snow just before the trail leaves the trees, and with good snow conditions were able to quickly kick steps up to the Macdonald-Webb col where we stopped for lunch and to put on our crampons (lake to col: just under 1 hour).

From the col, we could see that our route up Macdonald would be almost entirely on snow, whereas the south ridge of Webb was 99% snow free.  Macdonald being the larger peak, we decided to head there first, and quickly made our way up to the false summit on snow.  From here, Gunn’s book suggests scrambling up the north ridge, but there was a snow face just to the right of it that appeared to go nearly to the summit, so with our ice axes and crampons we kicked steps up the steep snow slope (~40-45 degrees at steepest point) until we hit rock just below the summit block.  Here we removed our crampons and it was a quick 5 minute scramble on to the summit, which we reached at about 2:05 (col to Macdonald summit: 1 hour, 20 minutes).  We relaxed on the summit for a while, taking in the views of Rexford as the clouds permitted, before starting our way down to the col, departing at around 2:30.

The initial descent was slow as we kicked steps back down the steep snow, but soon sped up and we headed back down to the col, stopping for another bite to eat.  It was getting late by the time we were ready to start our ascent of Webb and so we left our packs in the col, and hustled up the obvious south ridge of Webb as quickly as we could.  Joseph and I made it to the summit in 21 minutes from the col, and the last of us made it up in 30 minutes.  The views were much better from the summit of Webb than they were from Macdonald, so we stopped to take photos and enjoy the day, but eventually noticed it was 4:30 and that we’d need to hustle to make it back down.  The descent off of Webb was quick and easy, and snow made the descent down to Radium lake quick as well, and we reached the lake at 5:30 for our final major rest of the day.

Like so many other hikes in BC, the final stretch of this trip was a real slog and really not fun at all.  With tired legs the descent from Radium Lake to the Chilliwack River and then the ascent back to Chilliwack Lake and the parking lot seemed to go on forever, but we eventually reached our cars at about 8:20 (lake to parking: 2 hours, 35 minutes).

We were really lucky with the weather as it was great for efficient movement: high overcast all day, never raining and never hot.  As a final note, I would not recommend that anyone ever choose to hike just to Radium Lake.  It’s not a particularly nice lake, and you can’t see much of anything above it.  If you want to go to Radium Lake, I would strongly recommend that you follow the trail up to the Macdonald-Webb col, where the great views start, or even ascent all the way up to Mt. Webb.  Thanks to everyone for coming out with me.  I got to summit two new peaks, and had a great day!

Continue ReadingMacdonald Peak & Mt. Webb

Mt. Hanover

Date: May 14, 2016

Participants: Radmila Bridges, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3 (snow to 40 degrees, some scrambling moves)

Report: Another month, another chance for an adventure.  With a baby at home I have to be more selective than I used to when it comes to getting out these days, and it gives me incentive to pick destinations closer to Vancouver to minimize travel time.  There aren’t many significant peaks near Vancouver that I haven’t climbed, but one notable exception was Mt. Hanover and so I posted a last minute trip on the BCMC schedule to try and find a couple people to head up Hanover with me.

Saturday morning we drove up to the Porteau Rd turnoff on Hwy 99 and seeing that the gate was open to the upper Deeks Creek trailhead, we drove up.  The road is in pretty bad condition in a few places with quite large loose rocks and deep grooves, but the Jeep survived the ascent and we quickly shaved off 3km of boring logging road hiking from the day.  I don’t know how much longer the road is going to be in driveable condition with a regular 4wd that has not been jacked up, but for now it goes.  We parked at the so called “upper parking area” at about 7:50, and shortly after 8, walked up the road another few hundred metres to the “upper upper parking area”, where the trail begins.  In theory someone could drive up these final few hundred metres, but I was not willing to risk in my jeep.

The trail to Deeks lake is in excellent condition, with only a couple minor pieces of deadfall to contend with and we reached the lake at 9:20am and stopped for our first break.  Deeks lake is larger than I thought it was, and there are a couple nice camping spots by the lake.  Nonetheless, we didn’t wait there long and soon turned right, crossed the logjam at the exit to the lake, and continued on the Howe Sound Crest trail around the lake and worked our way through pleasant terrain up towards Hanover Lake.  The creek was running high at the place where the trail crosses to the east side of the creek, but luckily there was a large nearby snow bridge that we used to cross.  At Hanover lake the trail gave way to snow, and above the lake we missed the place where the trail crosses back to the right side of the creek, but it was no problem because at the exit of Brunswick lake there was another logjam that was easily crossed, and just past 11am we were at the Brunswick Lake emergency shelter, where we stopped for our second break of the day.

From the emergency shelter, we followed the HSCT markers towards Hat pass until the terrain became open and there was an obvious location to contour to the left onto a bench and start heading towards Mt. Hanover.  Below Mt. Hanover the snow was mushy and slowed our progress, but we steadily ascending up until the notorious two gullies on the south / south east side of Hanover came into view, and we found ourselves below them at around 12:30.  In summer conditions the left gully is reportedly much easier than the right gully due to some difficult scrambling moves required to get around two chockstones in the right gully.  However, in mid May conditions, the left gully was an alternating mix of rock and snow patches with a few difficult looking gaps in the snow, whereas the right gully appeared to be snow filled completely and so we took out our ice axes and started up the right gully.

Not far up the right gully we encountered a significant moat in the snow at the first chockstone, a few metres deep, but not terribly wide, and we were able to bypass it on the right via a few easy scrambling moves on the rock.  Above this it was steady step kicking all the way up to the summit (soft enough to not need our crampons), which we reached just past 1:30.  The gully varies in steepness, but about 2/3 of the way up has a sustained section of 40 degree snow that, while not hard, was somewhat stressful due to the big hole 3/4 of the way down the gully that loomed below us.  It eases off a bit below the summit, and the gully tops out on the literally a few metres from the true summit.  We spent a few minutes taking photos on the summit, and the crossed back over the top of the gully to a nearby subsummit that was snow free and were we could sit on the rocks, eat lunch, and enjoy the views all around.  Total ascent time: 5.5 hours.

The descent down the summit gully was slow as we had to face inwards and carefully follow our steps the whole way down.  At the gap / chockstone, I misplaced one of my poles on the rock and it slipped down into the hole.  Luckily, it landed on a snow lip and I was able to get myself into a position where I was able to fish it out with my ice axe.  That left the chockstone hole unsatisfied and demanding sacrifice, and as Radmila crossed from the rock back onto the snow, she dropped one of her poles into the hole, where unlike my pole it did not land on a ledge and is now waiting to be found by another adventurer.

By 3:15 we were back on the easy snow below the summit block and put away our ice axes.  From here, we motored down nonstop, and reached the car at about 10 to 6, for a total descent time of about 3.5-3.75 hours.  Car to car time was a bit shy of 10 hours.  In all, it was a great early season trip.  I probably could’ve chosen a shorter/easier trip for my first real hiking/scrambling trip of the year, but given my lack of free time it was great to get out and knock off one of the remaining local mountains from my hit list.  Mt. Hanover is quite out of the way, and so I wouldn’t recommend tackling it until someone has already knocked off the more popular local trips (Brunswick, Harvey, Lions, etc), but it is nonetheless a worthwhile outing.  Many thanks to Radmila for accompanying me and providing great company for the day.

Continue ReadingMt. Hanover

Tomyhoi Peak

Date: June 27, 2015

Participants: Alex Le, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 3 (solid 3rd, some exposure, never exceeding 3rd)

Report: Saturday was forecast to be the hottest day of the year… what could be a better idea than to do a long day hike with plenty of elevation gain to a beautiful scramble?  Apparently we were the only people who thought this way, as the crowds that I expected to see up at Yellow Aster Butte and Tomyhoi Peak never materialized.  Tomyhoi was one of the remaining “3 star” Matt Gunn routes that I hadn’t climbed, and aside from severe water loss due to the incredible heat (I went through 5 litres of water and was still dehydrated), we had an amazing day.  Tomyhoi is a great scramble in a gorgeous area.

A few delays led us to not leave my place in New West until about 7:20am, and this meant that by the time we hit the border crossing, the line was long (45 minutes), and so we didn’t make it to the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead until nearly 10 o’clock.  Note that the Twin Lakes road has degraded somewhat from the “excellent 2wd” condition described in Gunn’s book.  It could probably be done in most 2wd vehicles, but a few rough sections could make some people being uncomfortable and I was happy to have brought my Jeep.

We set out from the trailhead at about 10 and the day was already terribly hot.  The switchbacks up the initial slope went quick enough, although we had some confusion before the turn off to yellow aster butte.  The guidebook says to “look for a trail that goes off to the left” and at one point we thought we saw a trail heading left, but it turned out to just be a minor spur to a campsite.  The actual trail to yellow aster butte is very well marked with a big sign and obvious when you get there, just minutes before the trail reaches the pass at the end of the valley.  From the turnoff, it was quick going on the traverse to yellow aster butte, and just as we crested the knoll where you see the route down to the tarns and the ridge leading to Tomyhoi itself, it was apparent how amazing the views on the trip were going to be.

From this knoll there are amazing views of Shuksan and Baker, and the ridge from here down to the tarns and up towards Tomyhoi are extremely pleasant and varied.  It took us a bit under 2 hours to the tarns where we had lunch, and from there about 2 hours to wander up the ridge (pushing the pace, really) to the subsummit (with a bit of annoying up and down along the way).  The subsummit is quite nice, but from there the true summit looks very intimidating!

We scrambled down loose ledges to the col between the subsummit and true summit to get a look, and fortunately from the bottom it doesn’t really look so bad.  There’s a groove up to the left, then one from there up to the right, and it’s only from the top of that groove to the top of the ridge (perhaps 8m total) that the going gets quite difficult with decent exposure.  Luckily, this hard part is on the most solid rock of the day and neither of us had trouble ascending it.  For comparison, I’d say that the route is comparable to Sky Pilot, although probably a little easier.  Above this crux, the summit was easy to attain and although it’s a tiny summit, the views from the top were great, with plenty to see in both the US and Canada.  Total ascent time: 4 hours, 45 minutes.  Total water consumed on ascent: 3 litres.

The descent through the scrambling part was challenging for Alex as it was his first true scramble route, but with a bit of guidance and coaching he made it down safely and without too many frayed nerves.  From the subsummit down to the tarns went quickly even though the temperature was still scorching, but a quick dip in the tarns cooled us down and from there it was a tedious and tiring descent back to the car for a total round trip time of about 8 hours, 30 minutes.

In all, Tomyhoi is a fantastic trip and well deserving of the 3 stars that Gunn gave it in his guidebook.  You spend very little time in the trees, so almost the entire ascent is through the alpine, and the trip has plenty of variety including places requiring routefinding and a really nice scramble to top it off!  Sure, I went sweated out at least 6 litres of water over the course of the day, but that just meant that we were lucky enough to be up there on a day where we could have it all to ourselves!

Continue ReadingTomyhoi Peak

Sky Pilot Mountain

Date: Aug 27, 2014

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger, Edzis, Anders

Difficulty: 4 (short 4th section, lots of 3rd)

Report: I’ll keep this short because the route is so popular and so well documented.  Brittany and I saw that the forecast for the long weekend was wet, and we made the decision to take the Wednesday off to get in one last day of nice weather for this August.  We took the new gondola up a bit past 9, and hiked up the newly cleared and well marked “Sky Pilot Valley Trail” and followed it up to the West Ridge route up Sky Pilot.

Just as we reached the Stadium glacier we ran into Edzis and Anders, two nice Latvians living currently in Vancouver and who had seen nice photos from Sky Pilot online.  They didn’t know the exact route, and after a brief chat we loaned them some poles and grouped up with them for the ascent.  As relatively inexperienced scramblers the pink slab was a bit too difficult for them (from base to rap rings above it is 17m), but luckily I had brought a short rope and with the rap rings at the top of the pitch (also there are two rings in the final ascent gully) I was able to give them a quick belay to get down the most challenging parts.  Experienced scramblers will be able to downclimb these sections, but I’d bring a rope if you’re going with anyone less experienced.

Total ascent time was just over 3.5 hours.  One hour 15 to the end of the Sky Pilot valley trail, another hour and a bit to the Stadium glacier.  From the bottom of the pink slab to the summit was about 45 minutes.  The descent was only slightly shorter due to the aforementioned belays that I gave on the two steep parts.  In all, it was a beautiful day, and the rock is just perfect for scrambling on.  Highly recommended even with its popularity!


Continue ReadingSky Pilot 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

Watersprite Peaks

Date: July 27-28

Participants: Dave Scanlon, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2-5

Report: Brittany and I had gone in to Watersprite Lake with Dave and a couple others two winters ago just as a day trip to check out the skiing opportunities in the area, but until now we hadn’t ever been in the area in summer.  The BCMC (BC Mountaineering Club) has a tenure to build a hut at Watersprite Lake, and last week we were given the chance to head in there again with Dave to do a bit of improvement to the trail that he’s been building and to try and summit a few of the peaks surrounding the lake and see how we liked the area.

We met up at St. David’s at about 9 o’clock Sunday morning, just before the church crowd arrived, and piled into Dave’s 4×4 to make our way up towards the trailhead to get to the lake.  We drove up towards Squamish, turned  past the Apron parking lot onto Mamquam FSR, turned left onto the Skookum creek system just past the 13km mark and ascended the road up to the old upper staging area for the recently completed Skookum creek run-of-river IPP where we parked the car and set out up the road just before 10:30 (see image below for route drawn on map, ‘x’ marks parking spot).  Most of the drive in is 2wd accessible, but the last few km are a bit steep and loose.  The first 3.5km or so into Watersprite is on an old logging road, and after our snipping efforts last weekend is reasonably clear of alder and bush.  It took us about an hour and a half to reach the flagged turn off from the road to drop down into the meadows below where Dave has cleared and flagged a trail that can be followed up to the lake.  En route to the lake we helped fix up the trail, did a bit more snipping, and eventually arrived at the camping area / proposed hut location at the outflow of Watersprite Lake shortly before 3pm, for a total time to walk in of about 4.5 hours.


At the lake we set up camp and had a snack, but as the day was still young at around 4:30 I decided to head out on my own to ascend Dreadnought Peak, just to the NE of the lake.  I made my way around the south side of the lake to head up east to the col between Dreadnought and Watersprite Tower.  From here, Dave said he’d heard there was a class 3 route up to the summit of Dreadnought, but despite trying a few approaches to get onto the ridge I was unable to find one that looked like it’d go at anything less than a stiff class 4, and eventually found myself heading up the large obvious rock gully that heads up towards the west ridge of Dreadnought a couple hundred metres west of the col.  The gully was pretty unpleasant, but except for its exit, wasn’t particularly hard or steep.  On the way down I found that the steep exit can be avoided through the bushes on the left (west) of the gully.  Above the gully, pleasant easy scrambling led me to the summit of Dreadnought which I reached at 6pm.  There are three summits of Dreadnought, all perhaps 50 feet apart and all apparently within about 1 foot of elevation.  After gazing at the great view of Mamquam, Garibaldi, Sky Pilot, Tantalus, and the lesser known peaks to the east I descended back to camp for dinner and relaxation.

The following morning we headed up to attempt Watersprite Tower, Dave’s main objective for the trip.  I had brought along a 30m rope and a small set of nuts and cams, but from the sub-summit of the tower we found that our rope wasn’t long enough to rappel into the notch!  Furthermore, the climbing on the far side looked pretty difficult… After much hemming and hawing we eventually decided to give up on finding a way down into the notch and instead decided to traverse the ridge along the south side of the lake around over the high summit south of the lake and over towards Martin Peak.  Watersprite Tower would have to wait for a later attempt.  As an aside, there is a crazy balanced pillar on the sub-summit of Watersprite that couldn’t be moved into place by heavy machinery if you wanted to!

The ridge around the south of the lake is a very fun scramble.  Always interesting, and never too difficult, with a few short 3rd class sections.  The only tricky routefinding was the descent from the high point on the ridge (Peak 1877) to the col between it and the intervening bump between it and Martin Peak.  There was a cliff that we possibly could have rappelled, but we found instead that it was better to drop down heather slopes to the south, into the bowl below, and reascend to the col via heather and talus slopes.  From this point we had the option of continuing to Martin Peak, but as this col is the normal descent route from Martin Peak and we were already getting tired we decided to skip the final summit on the ridge and just descend down easy snow slopes back to Watersprite Lake.  We made it back to camp at about 2pm, so our total round trip time for the loop was about 6.5 hours.

Once back in camp we slowly packed up, and departed camp close to 3 o’clock to make our way back down to the car.  It would take us between 3.5 and 4 hours back to the car (so, so, so much easier in winter), and the final road seemed to go on forever, but we eventually made it and concluded another highly successful and fun trip.  The hiking around the lake isn’t super easy, but with some flagging it would be accessible to most experienced hikers and it is a very beautiful area.  Personally I wish the approach was an hour or two shorter, but apparently most people want a hut that’s a bit farther from the cars… apparently I dislike long approaches more than most, and 4-4.5 hours isn’t that excessive in the summer (it took us only around 3 hours in winter on skis).   Finally, many thanks to Dave for building a trail into the lake and showing us the way in.


Continue ReadingWatersprite Peaks