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Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Mount Brew (Lillooet) - Northeast Ridge, July 2021
Following in the footsteps of the "Great Ones" of the SWBC Peakbaggers FB group I've been following lately, I made my way over towards Lillooet for a climb of Brew's NE Ridge. At just under 9500 feet, Brew is considered the 5th highest in SWBC and as such commands an impressive panorama overlooking the confluence of lower Cayoosh Creek, Seton River and the mighty Fraser River. It lies in a rain shadow of the endless valleys and peaks to the west and is predominantly comprised of fractured shale, reminiscent of what one might find in the Rockies.
Considering the long drive from North Vancouver, I car camped the night before next to what appears to be an old quarry over in Cayoosh Canyon, a few clicks from Lillooet. Drove Enterprise Creek FSR some 11 km to the parking area the next morning, fully expecting to be devoured by mosquitos the moment I stepped out of the truck. Lo and behold, NO MOZZIES! Left the head net behind and made my way up (down) the trail. As others have noted, a good amount of chainsaw woodworking went into the making of this trail. Trail is generally well flagged but does become indistinct when crossing through waist-high veggie patches higher up. Keep your eyes peeled for flagging and all will be good. Marked trail ends in a small meadow carpeted in mountain lupine below a headwall. Turned up and left and contoured along the base to eventually gain the broad ridge above the saddle at head of Enterprise Creek Valley.
Now in the alpine, I proceeded up and over various sub summits before finding myself at a notch contemplating the steep rock climb back up the other side. It does indeed look worse than it is but take care here as the first couple footholds crumbled beneath my feet as I started up. Cruiser up from there along the ridge, which becomes progressively narrower and more exposed the higher you go. Bailed on the rotten ridge near its end and cut left across the obvious ledge that spans the upper East Face. Much looseness albeit without too much exposure ensued. Turned up after crossing the ledge and endured an exhausting crawl up the scree treadmill for the final pitch to the summit plateau. 4.5 hours to summit. Bit cool and breezy up top with rain evident further off to the SW. Smoke from Lillooet and Lytton fires visible but remained confined to their immediate areas and/or were being blown eastwards. Returned the way I came and back at the truck for a 9.5-hour day including breaks. All in all, a worthwhile outing with unique scenery and fun scrambling, albeit quite loose at times. Oh, and did I mention NO MOZZIES?
Picked off the low hanging fruit out by Hope on my return from Coquihalla area. Hope Mountain FSR in great shape, a bit loose with softball-sized rocks in places, but otherwise doable in an SUV (as of last Summer at least). Water bars only on the final ~1km stretch. Easy trail up to Hope summit, 2hrs. Outstanding views! Much less smoke than the day before. Couple benches to take a seat and enjoy the views from up there as well as a toilet where one can do the same should nature come calling. Back down after about an hour wandering about and snapping photos. Didn't use the facilities. Wells next, quick but steep up to the meadows. Meadow area is festooned with new flagging, a bit overkill IMO. Traverse up and left to gain shoulder then short steep grunt to summit ridge, a bit over an hour from parking area. Great views from here too with evidence of fires burning somewhere north of Hope, SE towards Manning and a new one to the ESE that mushroomed dramatically while I was up top. Encountered a large buck with rack on my return from the summit, adding to what is an enjoyably casual outing with much to see both near and far!
Checked out the duo out in the Anderson River Group on a particularly smokey day this past July. Coldwater FSR was in decent shape to the Zum parking area, after which things progressively got bushier. Drove as far as I dared stopping about 2km shy of the trailhead and hoofed it from there. Trail generally well-marked to alpine. Some muddy meadows to contend with and still plenty of water sources to rehydrate with despite the overbearing heat. Up to the col and off for Vicuna first. Route seems improbable from afar but reveals itself as one approaches. A rope as well as a chain with extension composed of plastic-coated cable (attached to a bolt) provides aid up through the crux. 2 hours car to summit. Tagged Guanaco next. No rest up on summit there either thanks to mozzies. All in all, bugs were bearable and nowhere near as bad as they had been in the weeks prior, but still made for a continuous movement kinda day. As for the smoke, there was plenty to the east, somewhat less west and blue overhead. Seemed to improve as the day wore on probably due to a change in wind direction and/or sun angle. 6 hours round-trip, then off to my usual freedom camping spot out by Hope Slide in position for the following day's adventure!
Sugarloaf Mountain - East Ridge/Face via Miller Bench Road, July 2021
As with some other peaks in the area, Sugarloaf Mountain is a peak I've previously visited thanks to the aid of a Bell 407 in blue and white livery. Sugarloaf's sheltered north-facing bowl made for a very enjoyable ski/snowboard descent and was the highlight of a fine day of shredding back in December 2015. From an LZ just below the summit, we enjoyed a nice long run down into the valley stopping finally in the basin immediately west of Mount Ross. Not an inkling did I have of my future human-powered trek to the peak, but then this along with most of everything nearby was still very much a mystery to me.
Six years on and ever on the lookout for day trips that meet my criteria for location, access, views and aesthetic. Sugarloaf stood out, which was surprising really as it isn't featured in any of the guidebooks or appeared to be much talked about in the online forums I routinely scour for trip ideas. That said, with a couple primitive shelters situated along the (east) approach ridge and forest roads that end just below tree line, the only one for whom this is something new is obviously me. I get the sense that this zone is popular with Pemberton area snowmobilers in Winter and is used as a launching-off point for paragliders in Summer. It also happens to feature on the "P600M" BC prominence list, which makes it a required summit for the observing peakbaggers that then spray about it on Facebook, which is finally how I got wind of it.
Anyway, it took me two attempts to reach the summit, thanks to the unbearable heat we experienced during the June - July "Heat Dome" event. I've never turned back for fear of heat exhaustion before, but with the onset of dizziness and fatigue, I reluctantly aborted the hike in a desperate hurry to find shade. Presumably due to the sudden and unseasonable heat, the swarming mosquitos were also unlike anything I've experienced before; worse even than my previous experience in the Wind River Range en route to Wyoming's Gannett Peak, and that's saying a lot! I returned on my second attempt not two weeks later armed with a white pressed button-down shirt soaked in deet and a headnet. It was still stupid hot that day, but not nearly as bad as my previous attempt.
The details: to get there, simply leave the Pemberton Meadows Road shortly after the bridge over Miller Creek, taking a left right before the bridge over Ryan Creek. Follow the unpaved road parallel to said creek for a bit before it begins climbing, and following the main branch (left, right, right, left) to where it ends near the forested crest of Sugarloaf's lower East-Southeast Ridge. An obvious trail starts here and follows the ridge up to tree line where the shelters I mentioned are located. Here the trail ends, but the way forward is obvious - follow the ridge towards the peak just beyond. Up'n over a bump or two before it is straight sailing to the large snow patch on Sugarloaf's SE Face. Up the snow patch for a while, then right over talus and ledges to reach a spur on the peak's east side, which I followed to the summit. Hot damn are the views wicked from up there! Icefields to the west and towering peaks flanking the mighty Lillooet River Valley to the north and east with majestic Rhododendron and Ipsoot stealing the show to the south. Some smoke unfortunately as well, and sadly only the beginning of yet another active fire season, but great bang for the buck given only a 7-hour day round trip!
Ipsoot Mountain - West Route via Rutherford Creek FSR, June 2021
Ipsoot Mountain is a sprawling massif located north of the Rutherford Creek Valley, west of Highway 99 between Whistler and Pemberton. I've longingly gazed upon it so many times over the years, be it from the slopes at Whistler-Blackcomb or countless summits along the Sea-to-Sky Corridor and beyond. During a 2015 heli-ski trip I got the chance to shred a long, low angled pitch of wind-buffed pow from a sub summit at its western periphery before moving on for better snow elsewhere. Ever since that time, I toyed with the idea of bagging the actual summit on foot, but was put off by reports of heinous brush, and long and arduous approaches. All that changed come Spring '21 after reports surfaced on social media suggesting that the peak made for a reasonable day trip thanks to new logging roads having been cut high on its western flank. That's all the nudge I needed to get after it!
Up at zero dark thirty on a warm June morning, driving a short distance past Whistler and taking a left on the well-maintained Rutherford Creek FSR. First time up this way for me and stoked on discovering a new backcountry access route. I eventually left the main road and turned up branch 550 for a steep water bar ridden crawl to a landing at road's end just below the highest cutblock. So far so good and all tires intact! Now on foot, I continued into the forest above and then proceeded up and slightly left to intersect a prominent landslide scar visible on satellite images. Some tediousness over loose gravel and steep boilerplate here, but the scar facilitated for a good ~1500ft of brush-free travel up the west slope before abruptly ending at a cliffy impasse. This I passed by exiting stage right, taking to the trees again for a short traverse before turning back up to gain the toe of Ipsoot's West Spur. It had taken only a little over an hour to get here, and best of all the worst was now behind me!
Now on snow, I continued up and over a few sparsely treed rolls before reaching a point where the rest of the route up the spur was laid out before me. The objective was clear - aim for a minor ridge extending south from the rocky prominence directly ahead. Crossed over this ridge and followed a wide bench now on Ipsoot's south side before turning left and plodding up an aesthetic snow arete descending from the icecap. Big terrain here now as I turned right and traversed the icy expanse for a long slog towards the true summit at its east end. Zigzagged up the final headwall then did some boulder hopping ending with a short, steep snow pitch leading directly to the glorious summit. Holy moly, what a magnificent perch! With the mighty Rhododendron there close at hand, the nearby Pemberton Icefield and more distant Lillooet Icefield, the valleys of Whistler and Pemberton far below and all that lies above as far south as the Tantalus Range and beyond - all on full display! To summarize, a BIG mountain with even bigger views and averaging around 7 hours round-trip, a surprisingly not-so-big day!