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Monday, June 6, 2021
Evans Peak - Evans Peak Trail, October 2020
I was flipping through the online table of contents of 105 Hikes by Steven Hui in search of a good shoulder season summit hike. You know, something a relatively short drive away, not too terribly long or time consuming, doable with some snow up high and above all, good views. Basically, the same discovery process I employed for my preceding
hike, except this time without the view-robbing clouds! 3714-ft Evans Peak out in Golden Ears Provincial Park seemed to meet those criteria, and so on a crisp and cloudless October morning I set out to bag this "beast" of a mountain. I had climbed the park's highest and namesake, North Ear several years back so I guess it seemed fitting to also stand atop one of lowest named summits in the park. Hoo boy!
Not too much more to say other than it's a steep forested grunt of hike before reaching a series of short rocky steps near the top, which by this time of year was coated in verglass and made for some tricky moves. Good views from the summit of the precipitous east faces of Edge and Blanshard peaks as well as Alouette Lake with Mount Crickmer on the opposite side. Usual suspects Mount Robie Reid and Mount Judge Howay also on full display to the north. All in all, a worthwhile Autumn jaunt with a unique perspective on familiar peaks!
Stawamus Chief Mountain - Backside Trail, October 2020
The iconic granitic dome overlooking the town of Squamish, BC, Stawamus Chief Mountain is one of the largest granite monoliths in the world. It is featured in countless movies usually set in places other than Squamish and is a magnet for big wall and trad climbers, and increasingly base jumpers. Prior to this trip I had already frequented "The Chief" numerous times, climbing routes on The Apron, a sweep of lower angled rock below the Grand Wall, as well as an afternoon of sport climbing friction slabs just below the summit of the lower of its three peaks (report and photos here). A relatively new addition to the BC provincial park inventory, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park seeks to protect this geologic marvel as well as the creatures that inhabit its forests, nooks, and crannies. The park also maintains a steep hiking trail on the back side of The Chief, appropriately named Backside Trail. This trail serves as both a descent route for climbers as well as a hiking trail to reach each of the three peaks.
On an overcast but dry October day I set out with my JRT in tow up the Backside Trail to once and for all tag the remaining two peaks of The Chief. Having already been up the lower First Peak, I stayed right at the junction and continued up to the Second Peak. The fixed chains and peg ladder near the top made for an enjoyable "via ferrata" vibe, which ended up being the highlight of the day. It was also a bit challenging being that I was clutching a terrified 17-lb dog in one arm! Lotsa folks chillin' up on Second Peak, so I didn't linger and continued along the wide crest down into a forested saddle before scrambling back up along ledges and ramps to the broad dome that is the third and highest peak. Enjoyed unique views looking north over lower Squamish River Valley and town of Squamish as well as Howe Sound to the southwest. On return, we took the trail from the saddle between 2nd and 3rd directly down to the trailhead for a most enjoyable half-day romp. Not sure how I managed to overlook this gem hiding in plain sight for so long. Highly recommended!
At 8074 ft, Mount Outram is the highest Cascade Range peak north of highway 3 and shortly east of the town of Hope, BC. Part of the Hozomeen Range, Outram boasts over 1000 ft of prominence and is easy to make out from a variety of North Cascade summits in the vicinity of the US-Canada border, including Mount Larrabee, Mount Rexford and the Ensawkwatch Peaks, North Hozomeen and MacDonald Peak, just to name a few. With a trailhead just off the highway, a well-established trail to the alpine and short but enjoyable scramble, Outram makes for a very reasonable 6000-foot, ~20 km day trip.
It is an ideal objective for the Fall being that the entirety of the hike ascends the peak's South Face and thus, remains snow-free later into the season than most other objectives of a similar stature. The autumnal colors, despite some smokiness on the day I happened to be there added contrast that only a transition between seasons can bring. The large talus slope above treeline was easy going as well thanks to a worn path up through the looseness. The scramble to the summit proper offered some mild excitement which unfortunately came to an end much too soon. The views from up top aren't too bad either and give a great perspective on the swath of peaks north of Ross Lake. And yeah yeah, Silvertip Shilvertip...it's impossible to ignore from up there and I know all too well that it too will someday need to be bagged, sufferfest and all. But that pesky 7K'er can wait her turn. Got some other low hanging fruit out Skagit way to attend to first...
We had modest peakbagging ambitions for the remaining week of our trip, complicated in part by crummy weather. Accordingly, Mount Gimli was not to be, but we did manage to sneak up Kokanee Glacier and bag the summits of Esmeralda and Cond for good measure. This is considered one of the southernmost glaciers in Canada, though I think the Border Peaks in the North Cascades for example are more deserving of this title. But anyway. The glacier, after which the provincial park is named, and its highest point, Cond Peak, lies within the Selkirk Mountain Range. Looking to the east one can clearly make out the Purcell Mountains extending north along the east shore of Kootenay Lake. Looking west, the mountains of Valhalla Provincial Park, also in the Selkirks, are easy to make out. To the north lie the remote peaks of Goat Range Provincial Park, while the view to the south into the US of A is primarily forest and low mountains. It is an impressive view from up there and given its location has an "island in the sky" feel to it. The glacier itself is quite large and interesting to explore. Oh, and best of all no smoke!
The unpaved Kokanee Glacier Road leading up to the trailhead is steep and rough in spots and best negotiated with a 4x4 or capable SUV. Starting at the Gibson Lake Trailhead, we hiked the main trail for about 3.5 km before taking the unsigned junction at right onto the Keyhole Trail. This we followed with ease to where the trail officially ends at what appears to be an abandoned mine below a large talus slope. If it was not obvious, a signpost here states "end of trail". The next objective, a notch aptly named The Keyhole is directly above and easy to make out. A tedious grind up talus and large boulders finally saw us to this notch and from where we would first behold a view of Kokanee Glacier. We turned right and completed the short scramble up to the summit of Esmeralda, with me proceeding on my own to tag Cond Peak. All in, it is about 12.5 km round trip to The Keyhole and maybe another couple kms wandering about the glacier and ridges between the peaks. About 7 hrs in total at a moderate just-spent-a-week-houseboating pace. The rain returned by afternoon the following day and put the kibosh on any further gallivanting. Our trip was coming to an end anyway, so homeward bound we went, taking the scenic route along Slocan Lake and the cable ferry across Lower Arrow Lake on our way back. Good times on the road
'splorin' new countrykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenaykootenay
and a great send off to a most productive Summer of peakbagging!
With an impressive 7800+ feet of vertical relief over a scant 5.5 km, Mount Curry towers over the confluence of the Green and Lillooet Rivers where the Village of Pemberton is located. From the imposing North Face rising at the edge of town to the aesthetic glacier cirque at the headwaters of Gravell Creek, one's eyes will inevitably be drawn to gaze upon the peak when approaching Pemberton via three of it's four main arteries - Pemberton Meadows Road, Pemberton Portage Road and Duffey Lake Road. It's also a prominent mountain and easily identified from various spots both near and far, be it Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb Peak 20 km to the south as the crow flies, the significantly more distant Railroad Group to the northwest (Face Mountain, Locomotive Mountain) or the Joffre Group right across the valley to the northeast (Mount Matier, Mount Joffre, Slalok Mountain and Tszil). Basically, if you spend any amount of time hiking, biking, skiing or simply driving up and down the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, you've noticed Mount Curry.
Far from it being my first sighting, Curry got my attention in a big way back in January 2017 when I had the opportunity to enjoy a ripper day heli-boarding her glaciers and those of neighboring Hibachi Ridge. Since then, I hadn't really considered bagging the peak on foot, that is until I got wind of a "new" trail having been sponsored by Pemberton's tourism board in an apparent attempt to attract more tourist dollars. Granted, the trail had been in existence for about 6 years prior to my learning of it, but this was just the nudge I needed to make a go of it. But first I had to endure an epic 7-hour backup just south of Whistler thanks to a serious crash involving a totalled Gallardo and a couple other mangled vehicles. Finally reached my usual "freedom camping" spot off the highway overlooking the Green River at dusk, abandoning any hope of hiking in to camp as I had intended. A 7500-ft day trip it would have to be, I guess!
Got going at first light and finished the short drive over to the "trailhead". Chickened out and parked a kilometer or so shy of where I should have and then walked another kilometer more from there along what remains of the road to an abandoned trail kiosk. The trail starts here in earnest, initially climbing up through a cutblock before entering forest and making a long leftwards traverse above a lake. Surprisingly quick going on smooth tread up some 4000-ft, passing another smaller lake and fork (leads to a lookout) to reach an open heather-and-slabs camping area beneath the peak's West Summit. Following intermittent paths and the odd cairn here and there, I made my way up through a small canyon to reach a grassy bench now on the south side of the peak. Turning east, I traversed along the bench for a while before descending a bit to avoid the worst of the talus. The idea here is to aim for the toe of the large Southwest Spur that descends from the summit area, staying low to minimize side hilling on steep grass. Turned up the large talus apron at the base of the spur, following an exposed path up through a grassy gully system to finally reach an immense talus slope spanning the upper South Face. The grind up from there seemed to go on forever but made it to the ridge crest in good time, enjoying the final scramble to the top.
Morning clouds had mostly burned off by then, revealing phenomenal views looking down the Green/Cheakamus River Valley towards Squamish and Lillooet River Valley to Pemberton Meadows and beyond. Fantastic! Lotsa peeps out on the mountain this day, most of whom had started from the camp area that morning. Also, not sure if the winds ever turned favorable for the paraglider I briefly chatted with up there, but boy was I envious! Okay, enough stalling, time to go down...all 7500-ft of knee-knackering DOWN! Which, much to my surprise went far quicker and far less painful than I was expecting. Back at the kiosk in a very satisfactory ~10 hours round-trip, but dammit Sergio for not parking at the trailhead!