Shadowfax – Oct 8th 2014 On the UBC Varsity Outdoors Club site it states that the use of the Brian Waddington Hut (an area called Phelix Creek near Birkenhead Provincial park – an hour + drive past Pemberton) is discouraged from August 15-October 15 every year because although use is not prohibited during this time it is discouraged as it may be a disruption to the bear feeding activities. We wanted to check out the area in mid September, but decided against it to respect this voluntary closure. We figured it was days away from October 15th and it was a choice of now while the weather permitted, or wait until next summer. So off we went. We have a Rav4 AWD and so we managed to get the vast majority of the way to the trailhead. We parked before a major waterbar and just before the last bridge before the trailhead. I took my shoes and socks off to walk through the water (it was brrrrrrr freezing cold). Shawn walked along a log that was placed to the left of the below picture, it was high enough that a drop would have ended badly and I’m not a fan of crossing on logs.
The trail was overgrown and flattish along the valley, a minor bushwack in parts. Then it began to become a steep uphill and quite the slog with overnight backpacks.
We crossed a metal temporary bridge to the right of the lake (there was a sign that said to take it down when the snow hits because it would not make it through the winter), which I did not enjoy one bit! It was quite narrow, a drop would have been wet, hurt a lot (probably broken bones) and it was shaky. I shuffled along it very slowly. Shawn of course walked across it like it was nothing. We could see the Brian Waddington Hut across the lake. The reflections of the mountains in the lake were awesome!
We got there in 3 hours from the trailhead. The hut was awesome! What a great place. Thank you UBC Varsity Outdoors Club for putting this hut in and maintaining it!
We quickly dropped all our overnight gear, packed up our day packs and headed off to do our first peak, Shadowfax! It was a steep bushwack up to the left of a waterfall, we did come across trail up intermittently. Once we got to a lake, we found some cairns and followed benches up. It was steep and wasn’t too bad a scramble. Definitely had to lift myself up in some parts. It seemed to take forever to get to the top (2.5 hours from the hut up). We saw a ptarmigan on the way up.
Mount Gandalf and Mount Aragorn Oct 9th
Next morning we found that mice had gone through the stuff we’d left on the table. They were obviously looking for food, unsuccessfully cause we left nothing out. They did poop in our plates, which was annoying. We figured they were making their way into the hut through a crack on the bottom of the front door. We witnessed one wiggle it’s way in through there and when we put a cardboard into the hole overnight, a mouse had tried to niggle its way out that way (so must be the only way in and out for them). We had breakfast and two day hikers who were going to check out the lake below Shadowfax came by. We headed along a faint trail to a long lake and then it was a boulder field all the way up. I carefully boulder hopped up, scurrying after Shawn. There was one point we thought it was going to pour rain (it only drizzled) and we found an overhang to hide under. Thankfully, the weather became much nicer after the minor drizzle.
I did not enjoy this “crux” (two photos below) very much but I felt relatively safe as the trail was wide enough so the drop on either side wasn’t so apparent.
We carried on to Aragorn, which was basically an easy hike there, though it was steep and a bit of a slog. We had lunch at the top of Aragorn. I was so happy to tuck into my sandwich, banana and an apple.
We had read a trip report from another hiker who said the col between Mount Aragorn and Mount Gandalf was “unpleasant” and would have chosen another route down. So, we headed north after Aragorn to see if we could find an alternate way down. There was another route; however, it meant some dodgy scrambling moves. Views from the alternate way down were amazing.
So, because of the over my head scramble moves needed, we turned back to the col to give it a try. It was extremely steep, with slippery sand. The other alternative was to go back up Mount Gandalf and go back the way we came. We were running out of daylight. So down we went. Shawn had to coax me and instruct me on every step. I am not ashamed to admit it, but I shed some tears. I was absolutely terrified. I never want to take a route like this again! One could argue that I successfully made it down in one piece and that I “did it” and well done. But, frankly, that was way over my head. It was not fun and it’s not something I want to do again. It sucked! Someone who wrote about their own descent experience online called it a “dirt and boulder hell chute straight to mordor”
After the ugly descent we crossed boulder fields and meadows to the hut. We witnessed a very large rock dislodging from the top of a mountain nearby tumbling down. It was loud and amazing to watch it catch speed as it descended.
We made it down to the hut quite quickly, just minutes before it got pretty dark. Had dinner, went to bed in our sleeping bags.
Next morning we packed up and hiked on out. It only took us just a little over 2 hours back down to our car!
These two days exploring this area for the first time were incredible. Beautiful in all directions, the terrain was challenging and fun (except for a few spots) and I loved it. Highly recommend anyone checking it out. One thing I must add before I close is that I would not have been able to do these hikes without Shawn. He was there to give me encouragement when I was scared and to offer guidance on safest routes up and down. He’s basically a goat when we hike and I’m the scardy cat – quite the contrast in abilities. I’ve been able to venture far outside my comfort zone and see mountains I never would have otherwise seen thanks to him and I appreciate that more than he knows!