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.


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Watersprite Lake Skiing

Trip Date: Jan 27, 2013

Participants: Lisa Quattrocchi, Dave Scanlon, Ed Zenger, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2

Report: The provincial government granted the BCMC (BC Mountaineering Club) a tenure to construct a hut at Watersprite Lake 3-4 years ago, but no hut has been constructed yet.  There are numerous reasons for this, including that much energy towards hut construction has been focussed lately on the Spearhead Huts project, that it requires a lot of volunteer time and energy to build a hut, and also that the Watersprite Lake area simply isn’t familiar to most outdoors enthusiasts in south west BC.  It is this last point that Dave is trying to remedy by leading numerous trips this winter into the area.

We began our day by meeting at St. David’s just before 6:30, from where we headed up towards Squamish, where we turned onto the Mamquam FSR just past the apron parking lot and headed up the nicely plowed road up to the construction site for the Skookum Power Project.  Until construction is finished, it is important to call ahead to the power project to let them know that you’re coming, and when you arrive, somebody will come down, sign you in, and escort you from the security checkpoint up to the top of the construction area (~3-4km distance), where you can park and start up the road system towards Watersprite Lake (note: 4×4 required to negotiate mud through the construction site).

We departed the cars at 8:30, and made our way up the road system.  Not far from the cars we encountered snowshoe tracks from a party that had headed up the lake a day or two before us, and these greatly eased the need to break trail for much of the ascent.  To get to the lake, you head straight up the road until reaching a flagged branch road to the left (30-40 mins from car), which is followed north as it contours around a ridge.  Once in the valley and above some obvious meadows on the flat bottom, you descend from the road to the meadows, and follow along the north side of the creek on the meadow bottom until reaching the slope at the east end of the area.  From here, instead of ascending up the steep creek bed directly to Watersprite Lake, ascend the obvious lightly-treed avalanche path just to the south (right) of the forest that the creek ascends through, and then traverse through open terrain above the trees back towards the creek.  The proposed hut location is right where you first hit the lake, near its outflow into the creek.  In all, including breaks it took us 3.5 hours to the lake.

At the lake we stopped for lunch, and then, as we had informed the crew at the power project that we wouldn’t be back at the cars until 4:30, we crossed the lake and ascended up to the next basin (to the left of the impressive Watersprite Tower) in order to get in some more exploration and some more skiing.  The lighting was a bit flat, which made for difficult skiing near our turnaround point, but we shortly encountered better visibility and had fantastic powder for our ski back down past the lake to the meadows below.  Interestingly, although the slopes didn’t show any signs of instability on our ski down, as soon as I crossed the creek down at the meadow, the snow bank on the opposite shore (perhaps 3m high) slid down into the creek on a weak layer about 30cm down all as one consolidated slab.

From reaching the meadows, it was quick and uneventful to cross them, make the short ascent back to the road, and then contour back around the ridge to the main road, which is sufficiently steep to make for a fun descent.  In all, I was impressed by the area and think it would make a great location for a hut.  It is close to Vancouver, easily accessible, and with no fewer than 6 peaks to climb as short day trips from the lake, there is plenty of terrain that could be easily enjoyed in winter or summer.  Thank you Dave for taking us up there!

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