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I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Go here - Athelney Pass


Go here, originally uploaded by RichSo.

Aug 20-22 2007


You have to go here. You start hiking in a wide open creekbed and you end up high in the alpine with expansive views of glaciated mountains.  It’s definitely one of my favourite places in the Coast Mountains.  I’ve wanted to visit this area for a long time now, and finally went there this past summer with Matt Gunn, Dora Repard, Grahame Quan, and Jan McPhee.  Unlike a week ago when I was climbing in the Salal Creek walls, the weather wasn’t very nice. Since my memory was still fresh from last week, I tried to explain the views in the area, despite everything looking like the inside of a milk bottle.

We followed vague flagging tape from the end of the road, and contoured down towards the open creek. Active logging is taking place in Salal Creek, and the logging company will probably continue pushing the blocks further up into creek. Salal Creek has wide gravel bars on both sides, so you're walking on smooth pebbles most of the time.  The exception is when the creek changes direction, and sections of high water, and in those two cases, there's flagging tape that lures you into the slide alder.  The slide alder is never bad, and is far better than getting wet feet. We didn't quite make it all the way to Athelney Pass on the first day, approx 2km before it. The valley up here is nice and wide, with lots of camping spots.  
Usually organizing food for five people is complicated, sometimes people forget items, or bringing too much of something. Somehow Matt managed to divide up the group through email so we could have a mexi dinner and a pesto pasta dinner one night.  Mexi dinner consisted for beans, cheese, salsa, peppers, avocados, and that was delicious! I highly recommend dividing food groups by email, and assigning each person to bring one item. You’ll be amazed at the results.

The weather wasn't very good the next morning. I woke up, looked outside, and it was socked in. Eventually we woke up, and had breakfast sometime around 11am. A good alpine start. To quote John Clark, you’re already in the alpine, and you’re starting, and that’s good enough. From our camp, we walked up the valley, which continued to widen as you get toward the pass. The glacier off Ethelward is quite amazing. It has a classic tongue shape, and there are successive moraines below it, with a moraine dammed lake too! This would be a great place to ski in the early season if you could time it right. You could drive up the road, hopefully ski up the creek, and the Ethelward glacier looks mellow enough to ski on without falling in a crevasse. 

From the pass, we hiked up a steep slope covered in wildflowers to gain the flatter terrain below Ochre Mountain. Along the way to the west ridge of Ochre, we saw approx 20 oil drums sitting in the meadows. I'm not sure if these were left behind by the prospecters, or if they're from heli operations. Regardless, it seems like a bad place to leave oil drums behind.
You can’t miss Ochre, the entire peak has the same name-sake colour.   Ochre Peak is basically a big scree pile, and it’s quite easy to ascend from any direction, but we followed the easy west ridge. From the summit, you can see all way to the headwaters of the Slim, the Lillooet Icefields, and the Manatees. On nice days on top of a mountain, I like to just look as far as I can, and think about all the nice places to visit. At least until it gets too cold and windy.

Afterwards,  Jan and Dora headed back to camp while Graham, Matt and I continued on towards Salal Peak. Along the way, I climbed the Elephant, while the other two waited. The Elephant is an volcanic outcrop, with a steep loose east face, similar to other choss piles like the Black Tusk, or Little Ring Peak. However, getting to the top from the west side is much easier. The summit wasn't very exciting, as it wasn't much higher than the surrounding ridge. 

We continued towards Salal Peak afterwards, hiking along the big glacier on its north face. It felt like ski touring terrain, with the hot sun, the mellow snow, the long slog, except we didn't have skis. We saw heli-ski wands near the top, so it must be good skiing. It was really nice to be high up there though.  From up there, we had really good views of the Bridge glacier. Descending back to camp was much easier. We glissaded most of the way, and then luckily choose a good gully to hike down.  It was somewhat unnerving boot glissading down the steep snow in the gully, not knowing whether it would reach the valley bottom, or end up in a waterfall.

Naturally on the third and last day, the weather was the best. Unfortunately, we had to hike out.  Mount Gunthrum looks like it would be a nice climb, maybe a steep scramble via its north ridge.  It's a bit of a long walk getting out from Athelney Pass, but the views are always great. I would definitely recommend doing this as a three day trip. We finished off the trip by taking a nice dip in the Pebble Creek hotsprings.  Matt is now thinking of doing a "Scrambles and Hotsprings in Southwestern British Columbia."

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