Like any good trip, this one began with a set of confusing logging roads.
We had a great day of climbing on Old Settler, but let’s not talk about the approach or the leg home. As Bram pointed out, the amount of time spent on bushwacking was much greater than the time spent on scrambling, which was still more than the time spent climbing. The joys of the Coast Mountains. We climbed the West Buttress of the South Peak, one of the top six climbs in southwestern British Columbia according to Don Serl. The buttress is about 400m high, but there’s probably 600m of climbing. The route definitely lived up to the hype, solid olivine-rich rock the entire way up a low-angle buttress, divided by massive ledges. There’s a lot of possible variations on the route, going climber’s left generally made things easier. We simul-climbed the lower two-third, and solo-ed the last third, reaching the summit shortly over two hours.
Chris BL racking up at the base of the west buttress of the south peak of Old Settler
We looked at the time, and decided to try to traverse over to the North Summit and beyond. After some exposed downclimbing and then some enjoyable 4th class sections, we reached the main central summit with the helicopter pad on it. It’s quite confusing looking at the numerous peaks on Old Settler, there’s the North Peak, the three Central Peaks, and the South Peak.
Chris waiting his turn on the 4th class section up to the Central peak
After scrambling up all the Central Peaks, we crossed the contact zone, a massive yellow band of loose rock and dirt and continued onwards to the highest North Peak. With the smoky haze, it was pretty hard to see anything. We could barely see nearby Urquhart peak, and only the top of most other peaks. We didn’t make it very far down the northwest ridge, probably just less than halfway to the highpoint at the end of the ridge. The rock quality was deteriorating to some kind of friable metamorphic igneous rock, we were running low on water, and the days were getting shorter.
Hoping to avoid an epic, we turned around, climbed back up to the North peak, and back down to the contact zone. It wasn’t very much fun descending the chossy contact zone, at least it’s mostly traversing so you can’t quite impale your partners with rocks. Daiphy lake taunted us the whole time down the scree descent. We were running low on time, but went swimming in the lake anyways. The blueberries, huckleberries, and thimbleberries were delicious and abundant, above the forest, making it difficult to leave. The last couple kilometers of the road are heavily overgrown with slide alder. It’s not much fun thrashing through it by headlamp, unless it’s set to strobe mode. Try it next time, it might just keep you entertained enough to tolerate missing the correct turnoff.
The upper half of the west buttress of the south peak of Old Settler.
For future reference, the road is no longer drivable past the 8.6km spur (distance based on Matt’s book) There’s a few sections on the road going past rockfall, including one steep section. You would probably want a high clearance vehicle with a bit of power to get through that. Trust me, hiking the road isn’t fun.