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Sunday, January 24, 2021
Mount Seton - South Face via Saddlebag Lakes, August 2020
A taste of the San Juans of CO right here in SWBC, complete with the endless scree treadmill and top shelf views! I'm speaking of course of Mount Seton - the highest peak in all of the Cayoosh Range. At 9380 feet, the rounded summit rises above most everything in the vicinity, Mount Brew and Whitecap Mountain excepted. The peak sits smack dab in the middle of the hydrological crescent formed by Anderson and Seton Lake, making for a unique position and of course the views to go with it. With the glaciated crest of peaks to the south and west, to the dry and bare mountains to the north and east, the contrast in scenery is apparent. Oh, and is that the elusive Skihist Mountain peeking off in the distance? The highest in SWBC, this was the first time I positively identified the peak from the summit of another. One of these days... One could spend hours up on the summit gawking at all the sights both near and far.
The approach to the picturesque basin cradling Saddlebag Lakes is relatively quick and easy thanks to recent trail work by the good people of Lillooet (you didn't hear it from me). The azure-colored lakes lie directly beneath the peak's towering South Face and just beckon for a swim, were it not of course for the swarms of mosquitos awaiting anyone who dares to get too close. Like nearby Statimcets Peak, the lakes basin is very reminiscent of the CO Rockies with its high-altitude plateaus and rubbly shale slopes descending from the peaks towering above. And speaking of, if it were up to me, I think Seton should replace Statimcets in the SSWBC guide. After all, they share the same FSR approach, the views from Seton are better and approach scenery is more or less the same. Oh, and did I mention that it's the highest in all the Cayoosh? Certainly, both are plagued by the same heinous two-steps-forward-one-step-back scree slopes guarding the summit ridges, so why not make the effort count? All in, it's about 7 or so hours round-trip for a most satisfying day of alpine tramping!
Fast forward 11 years since my previous attempt and off for the mighty Tantalus we go again, this time with Agata the Alpinista and via the classic SE Spur. Excellent snowpack and cool spring meant conditions for early August were about as good as they get, and we reached the base of the rock without much fussing with moats or 'schrunds for that matter. From there, our guide Andrew (Zenith Mountain Guides) led us on the "upper" variation of the SE Spur. With dizzying exposure pretty much the entire time, this is easily one of the more complex routes I have been on. Not particularly technical, but a challenging route-finding adventure with a notorious reputation for...um...interesting situations.
The rock features a bit of everything with some exciting traversing to reach the notch at top of Heart of Darkness Coulior, and again across a ledge below Witches Tooth. A short down-climb into another crappy gully and then up the 5.6 "crux" crack pitch to another notch, which we crossed over and traversed once more into a small cave. Up out of the cave for a steep pitch to the classic knife edge arete and the highlight of the route. Finally, some easier scrambling along ledges and broken terrain led to the summit. Put succinctly, up and right, up and right (and repeat) was the theme of the day. Note that Alpine Select is woefully outdated and there are now bolted stations at all the key raps/belays. In total we did two raps on our way up, 5 raps on return from the summit block, another 3 raps down the gully to Dione Glacier and about as many belayed and/or simul pitches. A 7pm heli pickup completed a very enjoyable ~12 hr day. Big thanks to Andrew and Zenith for making it all possible. Highly recommended if considering a Tantalus climb or anything else for that matter!
A return to "The Chilliwacks" this time up on the crest directly west of Chilliwack Lake. Parked at the prov. park day use area as the trailhead described in SSWBC is off limits due to that thing we'll forever associate 2020 with. Easy from there across lake outflow then parallel to the river before reaching the TCT-Radium Lake junction. Hike to Radium Lake kinda long and boring, despite significant investment into 3 newish aluminum bridges that cross the same creek. Radium Lake not much to look at and just a couple groups camped at the sites nearby. On up to the Webb-Macdonald Pass, then turned right following a bit of a path initially along the left side before gaining the ridge. At the headwall, I went low and right across snow and talus, passing a shitty looking gully, aiming for the rib at right skyline. Later, I saw others go directly up over the headwall - looked like more interesting scrambling, shoulda gone this way. Choose your own adventure.
Turned up the rib and scrambled over blocky terrain to reach a false summit. Down into a notch then back up the other side for a short scamper to the summit proper. Nice views despite the increasing cloudiness, especially looking over towards past Cascadian conquests I could make out through the clouds - Redoubt, Spickard, Luna, Fury, Challenger, Rexford and the Esawkwatch Spires. Good times! Mount Lindeman looked good as well and was beckoning me, but it seemed too far away and the connecting ridge with MacDonald either uncharted or technical, or both. Left it for my next adventure out this way, via the standard Center Creek approach. Took a brief nap a bit lower down on the ridge and decided to pass on Webb as I was feeling pretty pooped from not much rest this past month. Back to the lake shore where the usual gong show was underway with countless boaters and their Tonka Trucks jockeying for a turn at the boat ramp. Hopped back in the car after a 9-ish hour day, luckily escaping the rain which started falling again shortly thereafter.