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Saturday, June 8, 2019
Mount Harvey - Southwest Ridge, November 2018
Located roughly between Brunswick Mountain and The Lions, Mount Harvey is a prominent peak along the east shore of Howe Sound and seemingly directly overhead of the Village of Lions Bay. Having worked on a project in said village for the better part of a year, I'd grown accustomed to seeing these peaks driving to and from the jobsite. While I've been up Brunswick, West Lion, Tunnel Bluffs, Saint Marks and Strachan before, Harvey remained an enigma to me and inevitably wound up on my list. It made for an ideal mid November day trip, with barely a dusting of snow gracing the north aspects of the tallest North Shore peaks. Winter was certainly off to a late start this past year but sneaking in yet another peak before the weather turned in earnest was too good to pass up. The views from the summit aren't too shabby either!
Capitalizing on the great Indian Summer we had last year, I escaped town for what I expected would be my last hurrah of the season. With the recently renovated Tenquille Lake Hut serving as a relatively cozy basecamp, I set my sights on Tenquille Mountain and Goat Peak. Both are located just east of the Hurley River FSR near Railroad Pass. I was already somewhat familiar with the area having spent an unforgettable day heli-skiing a variety of north facing slopes near Tenquille Lake. I fondly recall shredding down the glacier between Tenquille and Goat for our first lap and dropping from a shoulder on Goat down towards the Hurley for a screamer of run to wrap up the day. There would be no shredding this time, although a healthy dusting of fresh now already graced the large summit plateau of Tenquille and taller Goat Peak.
Described here is a loop trip, ascending Tenquille via its South Slope and East Ridge directly up from the hut, then traversing over to Goat via the saddle between the two. I returned to the hut by taking the obvious and horribly loose gully that descends to the lake basin from the saddle. While either of these peaks don't look particularly exciting when viewed from the south, the views from up top are superb! I had heard that grizzlies frequent the area and am pretty sure I saw their tracks in the snow around the saddle. Unlike the grizzlies however, my post holing through the unconsolidated snow on my way up Goat was tedious to say the least and made for some excitement gaining the exposed summit block. The view from the summit certainly takes the cake, revealing many familiar peaks and far more unfamiliar peaks. One really gets a sense of how large the Lillooet River Valley is from here, from its beginnings on the southern edge of the Lillooet Icefield towards the town of Pemberton and beyond. And then there's Mount Sampson, taunting me from across the Hurley and knowing full well that someday I will be my turn to experience its brushy delights. In summary, the views here are well worth the effort, but be prepared to grow your climbing list as well!
Dreadnought Peak is the highest summit among a small group of peaks surrounding lovely Watersprite Lake. Previously little known to the general hiking public, the area has experienced a popularity explosion in recent years. This trend has been attributed to construction of the BCMC's new Watersprite Lake Cabin completed in 2016, trail improvements and the advent of social media. For me, it seemed like an ideal late season venue, one with a reasonably short approach and without an overly lengthy drive to get to. Trailhead parking here would seem more than adequate for most such trailheads tucked away at the end of a rather longish forest road, but not here, at least on this October weekend. Upon reaching the cabin later that afternoon, I was barred from entry by a territorial gang of Millennials three quarters of a way through a 5th of whiskey. Just wanted to check out the damn accommodations is all, but I accepted their bribe and had me a swig before making my way around the south shore to the tent platforms on the opposite side of the lake. Fortunately, there were still a couple available. The sun went down, I crawled into my sleeping bag with broken zipper and shivered through the chilly Autumn night.
Popular as the cabin and lake shore are, one can take comfort in the fact that nobody seems to go much further. Up from the lake to the obvious saddle just below Dreadnought's South Ridge, where a navigation blunder had me nearing the summit of Watersprite Tower before I realized my mistake. Back down to the saddle, then up a horribly loose gully on Dreadnought's West Face to near where the west and south ridges meet. The remaining bit along the South Ridge to the summit is a pleasant romp with outstanding views in all directions. This is about as close as I have ever been to the elusive Mamquam Mountain, so tantalizingly near at hand and yet such a pain to get to. One day!
I returned to the lake where, as expected an Instagram gong show was once again in full swing. I quickly packed up the tent and got a jump on the herd before they began their return en masse. All in all, a worthy outing with opportunities for further exploration running the ridges from Dreadnought to Watersprite Tower to Martin Peak, BUT don't come here expecting a wilderness experience!
We escaped the Northwest smoke season by making another trip down south to the Eastern Sierra, and across to Colorado, returning via our default I-80-Jackson/Yellowstone-I-90 route. Speaking of, it eludes me when exactly it became the norm by mid-summer for smoke from forest fires to inundate the major metropolitan areas west of the Cascades and Coast Mountains. The smoke was usually confined to the mountains where the fires were burning and well east of the Pacific Ranges thanks to the prevailing Westerlies. Now instead it blows in from the north and east, blanketing much of the West Coast. It wasn't until somewhere around Reno when we finally saw blue sky again. That's about 850 miles of non-stop smoke!
Departing Yellowstone, we had us a long day's drive stopping finally for the night at Frenchman's Coulee overlooking the Columbia River. Reminisced on the early days escaping the rain shadow for a weekend of rock climbing at Vantage and Banks Lake. Not too unlike the chatty bunch knockin' 'em back around the firepit or the juveniles climbing by headlamp late into the night. Besides, it was a Friday night and raining back on the Westside. Duh! An oddly fitting conclusion to a month of roaming and discovering new places.
Friday, March 22, 2019
Mount Gandalf & Aragorn - South Route, August 2018
Akin to a remote group of peaks in the heart of the Buckindy Range of the North Cascades, the naming here follows an obvious Lord of the Rings theme. However, unlike my earlier exploits in which I only ever visited outliers of the range such as Mount Chaval, Snowking Mountain and Green Mountain, my feet (and hands) have touched the tippy tops of these two rock heaps. Well, almost. I chickened-out at the au cheval/arete section of Gandalf's exposed summit boulder a mere handful of feet below the summit proper. I suspect most that come this way are similarly repelled, no Orc's required. Fortunately, attaining the top of slightly higher Mount Aragorn is much less intimidating, albeit more difficult given that it's a boulder problem.
Anyway, the peaks here are predominantly composed of weathered granitic rock and have a distinctly "east-of-the-crest" feel. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the Pasayten Wilderness in the Northeastern Cascades of Washington. Except in place of long abandoned mining cabins, the VOC's lovely Brian Waddington Hut located on the west shore of Long Lake makes for a perfect base from which to explore the area. Nearby Mount Shadowfax also appears to be a popular objective, making for a neat trifecta easily doable in a day from the hut. Note that some maps have Gandalf and Shadowfax inadvertently switched. And beware the blood suckers along Phelix Creek Branch FSR, should you attempt to outrun them most of the way up to the trailhead as I did! Finally, a refreshing dip in nearby Birkenhead Lake and/or Anderson Lake is highly recommended following a sweaty, buggy couple days of rambling in the so-called Tolkien Group.