Gott & Gotcha - via Blowdown Pass, August 2019
Oh joy, another weekend of marginal weather in August. Agata at least had the good sense to schedule her annual trip visiting friends in Wenatchee, WA for this time, rain shadow and all. Hoping to discover a rain shadow of my own here in the South Coast, I gambled with the forecast and set my sights on a couple mildly interesting objectives off the Duffey Lake Road. Specifically, I was curious what all the fuss about Blowdown Pass was, having read reports of folks driving 4x4s up there, doing short afternoon scrambles on nearby peaks and generally enjoying the mountains without too much of an agenda. Similar to Harts Pass Road near Mazama in the WA Cascades, Blowdown is one of the highest driveable passes in these parts and offers quick and dirty access to a collection of peaks of which Gott and its slightly lower neighbor Gotcha are probably the most visited. Both are really just hikes starting from either side of the pass, but the area was new to me and seemed like a reasonable objective considering the weather. In other words, I wasn't going to be too upset if all I saw up top was the inside of a milk bowl.
In the interest of preserving the paint on the freshly detailed truck, I parked on the side of Blowdown Creek FSR directly opposite the spur road leading to Blowdown Pass and biked up. I stashed the bike in some trees at the pass, and waited around hoping the low clouds would lift. The stunted trees didn't offer much respite from the cold west wind and so I didn't linger for long before heading up into the murk, starting with Gott first. A climber's path leads up the grass slope from the pass and more or less goes over a false summit before continuing along the now more defined ridge to Gott proper. Visibility was practically nil when I got there but gradually improved over the course of the day, especially after I departed from the summit. Figures! Interestingly, Gott is really just a sub summit of Moomin Peak a good ~2 miles and countless ups and downs further along the ridge. Whatever, not on the agenda for this day.
The clouds had lifted by the time I returned to the false summit, revealing a range of distant and mostly unfamiliar peaks and glaciers in the remote Stein Valley area. Southwest BC's tallest mountain, Skihist Mountain, is located here and it was an unexpected surprise to finally lay eyes on it. It is reportedly a royal pain to get to and sees very few ascents, if any, on a given year. The peaks here boast SW BC's eastern-most glaciers, which given their size is remarkable considering the source of all that snow and ice, the Pacific, is some 250 miles to the west! Back at the pass, I walked down the road a short distance before starting up Gotcha. Upon reaching a saddle at left, I turned up and followed a wide talus crest up through a bit of a headwall to reach lower angled terrain of Gotcha's broad summit area. More good views towards Stein Valley and beyond, across towards Gott Peak and down Blowdown Creek Valley from where I started earlier that day. Apart from the jeep that drove up to the pass while I was ascending Gotcha, it was just me up to this point. But that was soon to change considering the countless parties plodding up the road with overnight gear as I was riding back down. The "freedom camping" spot off of the highway where I had spent the previous rainy night was unfortunately already occupied by the time I got there, but this ended up being a good thing. I located a better site adjacent to the river and bathed in the afternoon sun; a perfect spot to dry out the tent. It was also close to the Downton Creek FSR turnoff, which I'd be using for the following day's misadventures in the clouds, rain and snow!
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